I’ve been sitting on this post for a while, and after years of thinking of how to write it I still have no conclusive plan but to jump in and finally do it. Now, my enjoyment of the Mass Effect series isn’t a new or surprising thing, and not really having ever jumped on the Star Trek/Star Wars bandwagon, the series could very well have been my first serious venture into the sci-fi genre. However, as this blog has discussed before, sci-fi is full of some pretty shitty tropes, and Mass Effect isn’t as much of as an exception as one would hope. I think where this is clearest is concerning matters of the asari—one of the main alien races in the game, and the one that presents as wholly female. As a culture, the asari are complex and compelling; however, a lot of their biology and presentation leave me wondering if Bioware didn’t know what to do with them outside of a very narrow label.
While watching Game of Thrones a couple nights ago (yes, I’m late to the party, don’t judge) I had a startling revelation: I never finished my ‘Top 5 Side Characters’ series for Mass Effect. D’oh! But stay in suspense no longer, for I have returned after playing the latest DLC—Citadel—and my Mass Effect writing muses are ready and raring to go.
As in previous installments (found here and here) I defined a side-character as a character who is “not involved in the main quest in any way what-so-ever”. For Mass Effect 3, this standard becomes essentially impossible because even the hordes of stupid scanning side quests still directly affect the main quest. As it stands, the third installment of this series is so narrow (which is fitting since the galactic war is coming to a head) that I’m going to have to say “influences the main plot the least”, but even then I can’t keep my own rules as you’ll see soon enough. Also, as this is the final installment in Shepard’s story, the cameos from past games are so numerous that many of my favorite side-characters are not from Mass Effect 3, but have made a return from the previous games. It also stands to reason that there aren’t that many interesting side characters unique to this particular game anyways.
Not like that stopped me from having way too many favorites to begin with—narrowing down the list was still difficult and I’m still not entirely happy with it, but I don’t think I’d ever be satisfied with a ranking until it became “Top 100 Characters” or something. No one wants to read that. If you think I missed someone or if you agree/disagree with me, leave me a message in the comments and let’s chat.
Finally, the glow of Mass Effect 3 has worn off and after getting my ass thoroughly handed to me by three banshees in multiplayer multiple times, I can safely return to contemplating the meaning of life—I mean, ranking the side-characters in Mass Effect 2 (it’s like the same thing, right?). In my previous ranking for the first Mass Effect, I defined a side character as not “involved in the main quest in any way what-so-ever”, however this is somewhat more difficult to define, since loyalty missions—a new inclusion in ME2—can be ignored despite the fact that your teammate will end up dying from it. However, for my sanity, I won’t be allowing the inclusion of those in this list either.
Forming this list was still extremely hard as Bioware really upped the ante in terms of likable characters. Even in ambient dialogue! And with three new hubs/cities to explore, finding out more about the races in and of themselves was so interesting. Now I’m digressing (and this could go on for ages) so I’ll just start the list. Disagree? Remember someone I might have forgotten? Leave me a comment and we’ll chat. Oh, will we chat.