Non-playable characters (NPCs) make the world go round. They take empty levels in video games and turn them into thriving worlds that keep us immersed and busy in some of our most beloved games. No matter what their specific role may be, we know that no game would be complete without some element of the uncontrollable in the form of these hilarious and incredible characters.
Hit 'X' To Talk: 10 Of The Most Unforgettable NPCs In Video Games
This list is dedicated to the encounters that, while brief, leave lasting impressions and become symbols of the games themselves right alongside the protagonists.
Beware: Character descriptions may include some spoilers!
10. Jasper Gein From Silent Hill 4
Jasper Gein (named for Ed Gein) is one of the first people that you run into after wandering through the hole in your bathroom wall. Jasper’s fascination at that moment is meeting the devil... and chocolate millk:
After you get the latter for him, the only thing left for him to do is to set himself on fire. Which he does, thus becoming one of the fastest and deadliest ghosts in the game. In the afterlife, his body remains ablaze and he wields the same candlestick he used to light himself (and carve his victim number into his skin) as a weapon! Jasper (turned Victim 17) is truly unforgettable.
9. Mr. Resetti From Animal Crossing Series
Known to appear in all of the Animal Crossing games, Mr Resetti is a grumpy mole that absolutely hates it when you reset the game without saving. The more you do this, the angrier he gets, and it certainly shows!
The speeches he gives after each reset can be quite vexing, often getting longer over time. Eventually, he may even ask you to repeat certain lines to make sure you've really understood how important it is to save your game.
In later versions of the game, Mr Resetti graduates to occupying the Resetti Surveillance Center. While there, he often interrogates the player post-reset in an attempt to find out why the player let it happen—why didn't you save? Soon Resetti doesn't even have to ask anymore because the real question becomes:
Save the game (and your nerves) or suffer the wrath of Resetti?
8. Moogles From The Kingdom Hearts Series
Ironically enough, Moogles are among the easiest to forget on this list of memorable NPCs. However, doing so would be tragic because Moogles are consistantly on our side in Kingdom Hearts, while the rest of the world (or worlds) have nothing but Heartless to throw at us.
Moogles help you turn all of that junk that you find in chests and in-between worlds via Gummi Ship levels (raging just thinking about it) into weapons, accessories and a range of other useful items. They are beacons of light (literally holograms, sometimes) in some pretty dark worlds and, when you see them, you know that, at least for a second, everything is going to be alright. Kupo!
7. Tingle From The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
I couldn't really imagine this list being complete without Tingle. Tingle does have some usefulness—he provides Link with self-made maps to various areas in the game. But what really makes him memorable is his obsession with wood fairies; something that we are unable to forget thanks to his wood fairy costume and balloon backpack that allow him to float just like his fairy idols.
According to Nintendo, Tingle was born from the idea that the player needed a way to get maps in-game. Thus they invented a character that could draw them up while flying over a specific area, surveying the landscapes. But what type of person would that be? Zelda producer Eiji Aonuma reveals the reasoning in an interview with Kotaku:
"[..] As we got that far in the process, we realized anybody that would fly through the air making a map has got to be a really weird person. So at that point we decided, okay, we'll go with this and make him a really weird guy."
So, yeah—Tingle's weird... but he's weird with love!
6. Cranky Kong From The Donkey Kong Series
Cranky Kong is just about as iconic as the main man himself. According to Rare, Cranky Kong is the elderly version of the Donkey Kong we see in the original arcade game. After passing the torch on to his grandson (the DK we know now), he became cranky. And old. While he's been playable in a few installations, his appearances as an NPC in the the likes of Donkey Kong Country and Donkey Kong 64 are some of his greatest moments.
In Donkey Kong Country, Cranky Kong periodically provides advice for the player regarding various features and locations. In Donkey Kong 64, we can really look forward to seeing him whenever his shack spins up from the ground, as it usually means we can add a new power or ability to our selected Kong's arsenal.
5. Johnny From The Metal Gear Solid Series
Johnny is the ultimate comic relief NPC in what is generally a gritty universe. Known for his struggles with Irritable Bowel Syndrome and his general incompetence, Johnny leaves his mark in a way that no other character on this list can match.
Johnny's constant drive to be as good as his teammates is usually marred by his inability to complete tasks without having to run to the bathroom. These issues paired with his penchant for being distracted by beautiful women (most memorably, Meryl) make for some dependable comedy gold.
4. Harold From The Fallout Series
Harold is easily our most tragic inclusion on this list. We meet Harold as a human-turned-mutant in the first Fallout game. During your "friendship", you help find pieces of his body and rely on him for information about the mysterious disappearance of wasteland Caravans. As the series progresses and we see Harold again, his mutations continue to advance until, eventually, the tree growing on the side of his head overtakes him.
In Fallout 3, we are given the choice to "free" Harold by killing him or adhere to the wishes of either his wife or a strange cult that wants to confine Harold and his growth to the Oasis where he's found. It's not often that an NPC's story is brought full circle this way over so much time, and that makes Harold quite special.
3. The Burglar & Miss Crumplebottom From The Sims
Yep, I went 2-for-1 on this one. One thing that The Sims games have always been good at is populating their highly customizable worlds with NPCs. Miss Crumplebottom is one of the classics. Appearing first in The Sims: Hot Date, this widow shows up every time your Sims participate in any kind of PDA. Some lines of note:
How dare you! This is a public area! Have you no sense of decency? We have standards in this town you know!
The NERVE of some people! Public displays of affection in MY town? Not on my watch! Behave yourself!
Cute at first, but if you're anything like me (flirt-to-marriage in 24 Sim hours flat), her nagging is actually pretty damn annoyi- I mean, memorable.
And the burglar! If you're lucky enough, you'll be able to get your Sim out of bed fast enough to apprehend this rascal or try to call the cops. If you're not, he will steal your couch and put it in a... money bag. I prefer the burglar-alarm-placed-outside method—the super sketchy way of making the game treat the entire outdoor portion of the lot as a room so that the cops are instantly called the moment a burglar arrives.
2. Joker From The Mass Effect Series
Joker is a really great combination of comedy and bad-assery. Born with severe fractures to his bones known as Vrolik syndrome, Joker has has plenty of time to process and build an incredible amount of confidence. So much confidence, in fact, that it usually reveals itself as good old fashioned arrogance:
“I’m not good. I’m not even great. I’m the best damn helmsman in the Alliance fleet.”
Throughout the series, Joker continues to be a source of important information (and clapbacks) for the Commander and the rest of the team. With a game like Mass Effect, it's tough to chose just one NPC, but Joker's show of resilience, brains and brawn, despite his condition, make him the cream of the crop.
1. The Merchant From Resident Evil 4
Not gonna lie, the first time this dude popped up in RE4, I thought I was toast. After all that you see up until the point of his introduction, it's hard not to assume that he's not going to try to cut your head off or blow you up. But he turns out to be a pretty great guy! The teleporting merchant with his eerily calm, blue-flamed torch is always there when Leon needs him. Of course, no NPC shopkeep is free from the occasional scumbag move.
No one is quite sure why he's around, what he's been up to, or even why he is stocked with mountains of ammo that he refuses to sell to you. What we do know is that, despite his creepiness, the Merchant's schtick is just too damn catchy to land him anywhere but in the top spot on this list.
Honorable (Super Specific) Mention
The guy that you steal the bike from in the second Vice City mission where you take that woman to the yacht party. Good Guy Biker has been letting us steal his bike from him every time for the last 14 years. Nice one.
Who are your favorite NPCs from over the years?