Mass Effect: We rank 20 of Commander Shepard’s team members from worst to best
Mass Effect is one of those game series that just cannot get old, no matter how hard it may try. With the new game in the series to come out in March, it is nice to remember the original trilogy in preparation and excitement. Its rich lore and backstory, intense gameplay and the freedom of choice (as well as countless internet memes) have gained it the status of a modern classic. But one thing that sets the series apart and what all the other things would simply be worthless without is the characters. We all love Commander Shepard, Paragon or Renegade may they be, but a commander is nothing without his squad, so we have looked at all the companions Shepard has ever had and ranked them from least to most memorable, although even the least memorable squadmates are pretty damn memorable.
For the sake of this list, we have excluded temporary squadmates such as Aria or Nyreen, as they have only appeared in specific DLC missions. Everyone else, however, is fair game. Please note that the list contains spoilers from the whole trilogy. All other calibrating aside, let’s roll on the list!
During the Samara’s loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, the player actually gets the choice between her and Morinth, Samara’s seductive daughter. Should Shepard manage to resist Morinth’s charms, they may get a choice to kill Samara and recruit Morinth in place of her. If that happens, Shepard is forced to hide the truth from their squadmates, as everyone else believes that Samara is still aboard the Normandy. The reason this character has taken the last spot on the list is simply because most players would rather choose Samara over her, and even a Renegade Shepard would usually not go as far as to betray Samara. Sorry, Morinth, but we love your mummy more.
19] Kasumi Goto
If you have never played Mass Effect 2 with its DLC pack, you have never actually encountered Kasumi. If you have, however, you have been treated to this Japanese space thief who accompanies Shepard throughout his journeys trying to stop the Collectors. She offers a really fascinating, albeit frustrating loyalty mission, as well as humorous dialogue. But the lack of unique interactions with the character as well as little to no connection to the main plot puts her at a lower spot in the list.
18] Zaeed Massani
Similarly to Kasumi, Zaeed is only available through downloadable content in Mass Effect 2. An old bounty hunter and mercenary, Zaeed encounters Shepard on Omega, where he offers up to join the Normandy’s team as part of a contract by Cerberus. Taking Zaeed into battle or talking to him in his room aboard the Normandy can provide the player with humorous one-liners, but unfortunately, just like Kasumi, he does not provide much more than that in regards to the story itself, earning him this spot on the list.
Another DLC companion, Javik has a little more to offer than the previous two. Being the only survivor of the fabled Prothean race, he provides the player with insight into the ancient times and how the Protheans were wiped out by the Reapers, helping Shepard fight the modern Reaper battles. While the character enriched the Mass Effect lore, some players felt that adding an actual Prothean into the game ruined some of the actual mystery behind the ancient race, especially since Javik proved to be a rather stereotypical bigot, albeit on a sci-fi scale.
16] Jacob Taylor
Shepard first encounters Jacob in the beginning of the second game, as a member of Cerberus, the organisation responsible for bringing Shepard back to life to deal with the Collector threat. Alongside Miranda, he is a highly effective squad mate that had saved Shepard’s ass multiple times. Shepard, in return, helps Jacob to reunite with, and let go of, his father. Jacob proved to be a great partner and friend (and possibly a lover) for Shepard during the second game, for which we’re forever grateful.
15] Kaidan Alenko
It might be a little surprising of me to place Kaidan into the 15th spot only, and that might be a personal thing, for which I do apologise. It’s simply that during most of my playthroughs I saved Ashley over him, leaving him to die on Virmire, meaning I don’t share that many memories with Kaidan. Nonetheless, Major Alenko is a valuable companion and a long-time friend of Shepard regardless of your choice in the first game, and it pains you every time to leave him to die. No one should have to experience the death of a friend multiple times, and yet Mass Effect gives you that opportunity. What a cruel, cruel game.
14] James Vega
Introduced to us in the last game of the trilogy, James Vega is an earth-born human, new to the political game of the galaxy. This ripped man provides some interesting contrast for Shepard, as (s)he sees themselves in James when they were that young and inexperienced and ready to battle whatever came their way. Moreover, James has the gut to question Shepard’s orders sometimes, which puts Shepard into their place if needed. As time goes by, James and Shepard warm up to each other and become trusted friends. He stays there until the very end.
13] Miranda Lawson
Introduced to us alongside Jacob, Miranda served Shepard as an informant while he was working for Cerberus. Genetically engineered to represent a ‘perfect’ human, Miranda had had a difficult time trying to live up to the expectations of her father. Eventually Shepard helps her to overcome her father, which might or might not result in her death. She might also be romanced by a male Shepard in the second game. With Yvonne Strahovski being her face and voice model, it’s a character that’s hard to forget.
12] Thane Krios
This ever sad, ever collected Drell was recruited by Shepard to help in the fight against the Collectors during the second game. Said to be the best assassin in the universe, Thane also proved to be a very good friend. Thane is also a deeply spiritual man, who believes he has to pray for forgiveness after each kill. Shepard gains Thane’s complete loyalty after helping Thane reunite with his son and get his forgiveness. With his unique characteristics and voice, Thane is definitely a memorable character in the trilogy.
Approaching the mid-point of the list we have Grunt, an artificially created Krogan super soldier. This character stays in our memories as having very teenage-like character qualities (which are emphasized even more in the Citadel DLC, where he ravages the Citadel while wasted with his mates), as well as his insatiable desire for violence. Grunt eventually becomes Shepard’s ‘bro’ type of friend, especially after Shepard helps him to complete his Rite of Paassage and be accepted as a Krogan.
This asari justicar with extremely powerful biotic abilities was encountered by Shepard on Illium, where (s)he recruited her as instructed by the Illusive Man. Samara was always one to provide Shepard with wisdom and advice, and in return, Shepard helped her to tie some loose knots of the past concerning one of her daughters, Morinth, which can in fact become a squadmate instead of her, as mentioned earlier in the list. But most of us would choose Samara over Morinth any day because some people (or asari) simply can’t be replaced, and our Samara is one of them.
9] Ashley Williams
Going into the upper half of the list, we have Ashley, someone who was with Shepard since the very start, and, quite possibly stayed with them until the very end. If you didn’t save Kaidan in Virmire over her, that is. It is nice to imagine a world where both Ash and Kaidan survived the first game and worked alongside Shepard together, but unless you’re one of those people that like mods, the reality is quite different. Should you choose to save Ashley, however, you will reunite with her once more in the third game, where she will rejoin the Normandy and serve as a connection to the past for Shepard, someone to recall the old days with, and, possibly, someone to share a strong romantic bond with as well.
Ah, EDI. Introduced first as an AI installed into the Normandy to help Shepard in the crusade against the Collectors, she gained a physical form and became a companion in the third game. At first detested by Joker, who saw her as an interference to the calm, everyday job of piloting the Normandy, the two became infatuated in time. Joker and EDI’s unconventional romance was one of the greatest things to follow in the games. Alongside EDI’s dry, robotic wit, it was a great comic relief, and gave us unforgettable lines such as “I enjoy the sight of humans on their knees… that was a joke.” I’m sure it was, EDI.
Representing the Chaotic Neutral in the trilogy, Jack was a punky, rebellious, angsty squadmate of Shepard in the second game, where she resided in the cargo hold of the Normandy, mostly staying away from everyone. Having been broken out of jail by Shepard, she was reluctant to form any bonds with them at first. However, Shepard helps her to return to the planet where she was conducted experiments on, and blow the living hell out of the place, which earns Jack’s (mostly) unwavering loyalty. In fact, thanks to Shepard, Jack manages to start leading a decent live and teach biotic children to control their abilities, as seen in the third game. It is one of the most interesting character arcs in the trilogy, and that’s why Jaack stays with us.
The sweet, albeit rather naive Tali was with Shepard since the beginning, flying on the Normandy at first as an engineer, and later simply because her and Shepard become very close friends. In fact, Tali is one of the two squadmates that fights alongside Shepard in all three games. Her story is a long and sad one; going on a pilgrimage for her race, then being charged for treason by her own people, and, finally, dealing with Legion. In a dark, dark timeline there is a possibility where Tali dies after a certain mission in Mass Effect 3, but we do not acknowledge this outcome. Tali is alive and well as far as we’re concerned, always.
5] Urdnot Wrex
Beginning our top 5, we have everyone’s favourite Krogan. Travelling with Shepard in the first game, he was there because he wanted to be in the middle of the action in the fight against Saren. His loyalty wavers on Virmire, where Shepard is forced to deal with enraged Wrex after he founds out that Saren is working on a cure for the genophage. If the confrontation is handled badly, Wrex has to be killed. But if you manage to get around that (and hopefully you do), you get a good friend for the next two games. The character shines most in the third game, where he is in the thick of the action trying to cure the genophage and save the Krogan race, which earns him the title of Champion of the Krogan. And rightfully so. “I AM URDNOT WREX AND THIS IS MY PLANET!”
4] Mordin Solus
This very model of a scientist Salarian is our favorite morally grey alien geneticist, partly responsible for the Krogan genophage. Mordin’s story is very interesting to follow, as he comes in terms with his dark past and eventually manages to redeem himself by curing the genophage and sacrificing himself in the progress. Mordin’s death is probably one of the most gut-wrenching and epic moments in the entire trilogy, and we really feel it because we’re so connected to a character desperately trying to fix his past mistakes just so he can have some peace in his final hour. We miss you, Mordin, the very model of a scientist Salarian.
“My name is Legion, for we are many.” Approaching the top of the list, we have one of the most enigmatic, complex and iconic characters of the trilogy. A geth, who was created to investigate the places Shepard had visited, but eventually joining Shepard because… well, because there’s more to Legion than there appears to be at first glance. He plays a large role in being the key to figuring out the way the Geth work and recruiting them in the fight against the Reapers. And he wears a piece of Shepard’s old N7 armour, because, well… that’s up to you to decide. Raising hypothetical questions about artificial intelligence, Legion stands out as one of the best-written characters of the trilogy. One of such questions is “does this unit have a soul?” After playing the Rannoch mission, we are sure it does.
2] Liara T’soni
Liara is another character that stayed with Shepard since the beginning. An expert on Protheans, she was a valuable asset to have on the Normandy at first, but grew to be a long-time friend for Shepard, as well as the other crew members. After the first game, she is barely seen in the secone one, unless you play the Shadow Broker DLC, which is highly recommended. The DLC shines a different light on Liara’s character, showing her darker side and not just the innocent girl that we saw in the first game. As a result of dealing with the Shadow Broker, Liara becomes a much harder woman, which can be seen in the third game as well. Although she still retains her kind heart, she is much more ruthless to her enemies. Should Shepard choose to romance her, she serves as someone Shepard can spill their guts to and talk to without any restraint. She is an emotional rock that Shepard can lean against in their darkest moments. And that’s the essence of Liara’s character, and that’s how we remember her as well – as a little bit of light in the darkness.
1] Garrus Vakarian
I suppose there was no doubt that Garrus would be the #1 choice for this list. Shepard’s best friend, comrade, companion, mate, bro and pal (and possibly a lover if you play a female Shepard), Garrus remains in our memories as the most iconic Mass Effect character of all. Since the very first game, Shepard could turn to Garrus should (s)he wanted to speak about anything. He was there when Shepard fought Saren, he was there when Shepard fought the collectors and he was definitely there when Shepard fought the Reapers; alongside Tali, Garrus is the only other character to have Shepard’s back in every single game. Garrus had also become a fan-favourite, sparking numerous pieces of fan art, and his quotes, such as “I’m in the middle of some calibrations” had defined the Mass Effect zeitgeist. There is no doubt that the one character that defines the trilogy, apart from Shepard, is Garrus Vakarian.
And that about concludes our list. What are your own favourite Mass Effect squadmates? Let us know. Hackett out.
Image credits: BioWare