Main characters of video games are often of the humanoid-variety: You have your Clouds, and your Links, and your Dantes, and your Master Chiefs, and so on. Far too often are the minor characters of such games overshadowed by them, much more in the cases where those minor characters aren’t even human. Or even if the main characters themselves, are, in fact, non-human. That is why it will be my pleasure and privilege to present to you the top 10 video game characters, throughout the span of video game’s existence, that are not humans, but in fact, animals.
**BE WARNED – SPOILERS are contained within. Read at your own discretion.**
#10: Spyro (Spyro The Dragon)
Spyro the dragon – the fun loving, smart-mouthed, purple-skinned, fire breathing dragon that gamers have come to know and love since his first appearance in Spyro the Dragon for the Playstation in September of 1998. Since then, this iconic figure of mayhap and mischief has graced his way into dozens of sequels and spin offs spanning across a variety of platforms. While his adventures are, in essence, very similar, Spyro the Dragon is and will be for a long time a definitive action-adventure hero that stands out beyond the over-populated humans.
#9: Dog (Secret of Evermore)
One of the oldest names on this list, yet still one of extreme popularity to this day, especially among the RPG fans. Bearing no specific name (with the ability to name him whatever you wish), this Dog was not only an asset to your success throughout the world of Evermore, but in many of the parts, was your ONLY means of success. Your ability to shift player-control over to the dog, and the dog’s innate ability to shape shift is what makes this character so outstanding and memorable 12 years after his release.
Sadly, this great game never spawned any sequels or spin offs, and so, the legacy of this dog remains locked away in the world of Evermore for eternity.
#8: Tom Nook (Animal Crossing)
Every self-respecting gamer has or has wanted to play Animal Crossing. Those that have played can easily attest to the game’s addicting play style and light-hearted approach. There is no evil sorcerer threatening to take over the world; no corrupt corporation attempting a nuclear holocaust; not even a single fight sequence. There is only you, a cast of recurring animal personalities, and a town. And among those animals that inhabit the town with you is the most famous of them, Tom Nook.
This character is often mistaken for a raccoon, though his actual genealogy is that of a tanuki, a canine native to Japan; he owns and operates the only shop within the town of Animal Crossing. He provides the player with basic clothing, furniture and other accessories for your house, and as the game progress and so does your relationship with the town, Tom will begin to upgrade his shop. Tom also has a cameo appearance in Super Smash Bros.: Melee as a reward trophy for collecting a total of 1000 spendable coins.
#7: Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong)
The list would not be complete with the irate and often idiotic Donkey Kong. It is because of him, or rather, his game, that the world has to thank for the creation of the character that is Mario. Though often overshadowed by Mario, Donkey Kong is not going to be one forgotten so easily. Spawning a countless number of his own games, and even those spinning off of his success starring the younger Diddy Kong, Donkey Kong has become a milestone for Nintendo’s tremendous success.
He was featured in a number of other Nintendo games, namely the three Super Smash Bros., Yoshi’s Island for the DS, and as an unlockable character in Mario Tennis for the N64. Since his creation, his only article of clothing has been that red necktie, which he still wears proudly today.
#6: Shadow (Dead to Rights)
A name quite possibly forgotten by the mainstream video game industry, this companion to Jack Slate in Dead to Rights is in all sense of the word, awesome. Much like the previous dog on this list, (from Secret of Evermore), the player can assume control of Shadow to perform various tasks in order to get through many of the game’s puzzle locations.
As well, his role in the game is a must, in such scenarios where you must dismantle a bomb that you as Jack cannot reach, or push a release-switch to open a door with a similar blockade. Shadow’s only flaw when compared to Secret of Evermore’s dog is his inability to shape shift; regardless, Shadow’s progress throughout the game’s story and his companionship with Jack makes him a name to remember, or one to learn about if you overlooked this game.
#5: Yoshi (Super Mario)
Another iconic figure for Nintendo’s success, Yoshi’s first appearance was in Super Mario World for the Famicom in Japan. Since then, he has gone on to accompany Mario in many and most of his games, and has even spawned a number of his own games in which you assume complete control over the charismatic and always-hungry dinosaur.
While comedic in most cases, Yoshi is still an asset to Mario, and a wonderful companion to have at his side. Whether he’s eating up Koopas and spitting them out or running at full-speed into enemies, Yoshi is a legend and will always remain as such.
#4: Epona (The Legend of Zelda)
While only being featured in three of the many The Legend of Zelda games, Epona is a wonderfully aesthetic and beautiful creature which aids in Link’s quest to save Princess Zelda and the world. The name was taken from Celtic mythology, in which Epona the Great Mare was a goddess and the protector of horses, donkeys and mules.
In the three featured Zelda games, Epona acts as Link’s means of quick transportation throughout Hyrule, and though you’ll eventually come across even faster means, there is no justice done to travel outside of riding on Epona.
#3: Chocobo (Final Fantasy)
The large, emu-like birds which have become a staple to the Final Fantasy series made their first appearance in Final Fantasy II, originally colored white (though later re-colored yellow for the remade editions of this game). Since then, the Chocobo race has expanded and become a larger role in each successive Final Fantasy game. While the appearance is relatively similar overall, slight changes have been made with each version.
Final Fantasy IV was the first of many to include the multiple colors and uses of the Chocobo; the standard yellow Chocobo, capable of quick land travel: the black Chocobo, caught later in the game, capable of flying between forested areas: and the white Chocobo, which can restore MP. As well, this was the first game which featured the Chocobo as an actual summoned being.
The role of Chocobos throughout the Final Fantasy series has been monumental, going so far as generating several Chocobo-themed spin-off games such as Chocobo’s Mysterious Dungeon and Chocobo Racing (a mini-game first featured in Final Fantasy VII). Who knows where this giant bird will show up next.
#2: Agro (Shadow of the Colossus)
No other video game animal has brought more emotion and heart to a title than this loyal steed. Agro is your companion till the end, through thick and thin, day and night, life and death. Sporting a brilliant aesthetic design, the intelligence to respond to the player when the two are separated, and its tremendous use throughout the various Colossi fights in the game, Agro may not be my number one pick of video game animals, but he’s easily the greatest non-human companion character to ever grace a video game.
It truly brought a tear to my eye when the player is crossing the final bridge to the game’s sixteenth Colossi and the bridge collapses. The prospect of Agro falling to his death made the final fight all the more satisfying, once dealing the final blow. But then, even after all of the struggles, the pain, and the turmoil, Agro comes limping back to his master’s side – albeit far too late, for the corruption and betrayal of Dormin had finally bested his master. Agro – here’s to you.
#1: Okami Amaterasu (Okami)
Okami is the Sun god incarnate. How can you beat that? Seriously…She has the ability to manipulate the very realm of nature, to contort and shift the landscape at her – or, rather, your – whim. Accompanied by her own animal companion, Issun, Okami is in her own right the greatest video game animal ever. Her beautiful white fur adorned with the ritualistic red markings, her loveable-yet-voiceless personality, and of course her unyielding power over nature.
Okami graced our television sets in late 2006 on the platform of the Playstation 2, boasting remarkably artistic visuals, a beautifully cell-shaded world, and as alluded to earlier, the unique mechanic of the Celestial Brush. It’s only fair we pay our respects, homage, and bow down to this animal icon – this future-legend of video game history.
There are quite a few names excluded from this list that may anger some of you: Bowser, Sonic, Pikachu, and others. They are iconic in their own right, but their lack-of-presence in this list is merely due to the fact that they are almost TOO iconic. Any one of those would clearly overshadow the rest, and as well, their presence in this list would push out several of the other names I have listed – names which I personally feel deserve the spot more. It’s subjective, you see; these are the 10 names that I personally believe to be the greatest video game animals ever. Some of you may agree, many more of you may not – but whatever the feeling, I can truly say that without any of these listed-names, some of our gaming-history would have never been the same.