BioWare’s Mass Effect trilogy took gamers on a captivating science fiction journey that will not soon be forgotten. It is why there’s so much anticipation surrounding the upcoming release of Mass Effect: Andromeda. While there are many things that make Mass Effect stand out among video games, one of the reasons why it's such a memorable series is because of its characters.
From the protagonist, Commander Shepard, to the side characters you meet along the way, the trilogy would not be the same without its fantastic cast. Many of the most beloved characters are the ones who find their way onto your squad in the three games. These companions not only accompany you aboard the Normandy as you try to save the galaxy but they fight at your side on missions, comment on what’s happening around them and add a whole new layer to the role-playing experience. Some become friends, and others become enemies depending on your choices.
We probably won’t know for a while who will be going with us on our journey in Andromeda, but until then we can at least look back and remember the squad mates who had our backs while we tried to stop the Reapers in the original trilogy. Here’s my ranking of the main companions in Mass Effect!
Finding Morinth is part of Samara’s loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2. The Asari justicar is Morinth’s mother and is after her because Morinth is an Ardat-Yakshi. During the mission, Shepard is offered the choice to side with Morinth instead of Samara. Unfortunately if you do choose Morinth, adding her to your squad doesn’t add much to the game. There’s not much difference between her and Samara, especially since she poses as her mother so as not to cause trouble with the rest of your squad. While there are little differences like some on the Normandy noticing a change with “Samara,” overall it feels like more could have been done to make her an interesting member of the team. There really isn’t much that makes her stand out as a companion worthy of picking over Samara when it comes to combat or the story. Even her fate in Mass Effect 3 doesn’t have much impact since you never have any chance to interact with her in the game.
Thanks to her backstory, Samara is a better squad member than her daughter. Introduced in Mass Effect 2, through her we’re able to learn new aspects of Asari culture as she tells us about the justicars and the Ardat-Yakshi. How those connect to her personally make her an intriguing character and her loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2, and the mission where players’ run into her again in Mass Effect 3, quite emotional. She doesn’t rank higher on my list though because after awhile how rigidly she sticks to her code stops being interesting. As a result, she’s a character I rarely spent a lot of time with or would take around on many missions.
Jacob was a character in Mass Effect 2 that I liked at first. The fact that he was ex-Alliance and now a member of Cerberus led to some interesting conversations about the reasons behind his actions and what he thought of the organization and its people like the Illusive Man and Miranda. He was ok to bring along on missions, but beyond that the games never seemed to take advantage of Jacob’s potential. He clearly had a lot going on and yet at some point he just becomes a bit bland and even his loyalty mission isn’t all that great. Even in Mass Effect 3 it feels like a lot more could have been done with him, especially considering what was done with the other characters.
I like EDI a lot as a character, which is why she’s where she is on this list. However I honestly was never a fan of her suddenly becoming a squad mate with a physical body. We first met EDI in Mass Effect 2 as an artificial intelligence on the Normandy SR-2 seen occasionally as a blue sphere hologram. Then in Mass Effect 3 she takes control of a female robot body that becomes the primary way the crew interacts with her. Having her in a body added a new element to her discovering her humanity and to her relationship with Joker. Yet she didn’t really add anything when bringing her along off the ship. Basically it was an excuse to sexualize the character for no good reason. EDI doesn’t earn the last place spot though because despite it being unnecessary for her to become a squad mate, her character is great. She’s funny and is given an interesting path in the story, as she becomes much more than just an AI.
James probably wasn’t the most interesting choice they could have gone with for adding a new squad mate into the mix in Mass Effect 3, but talking to him throughout the game reveals there’s more to him than what at first seems like a rather stereotypical soldier character. I liked how James slowly opened up to Shepard as the game progressed and how he goes to you for advice. He’s new to being a part of all the craziness that comes with being on the Normandy which can make him fun to bring along on missions to see how he reacts to things we’ve seen before but he hasn’t. He was funny, often direct despite Shepard being his superior officer, and could be useful in a fight. I was surprised by how much I liked occasionally swapping out one of my favorite squad members to bring him along.
I always thought Ashley was fine in a fight, but often found that someone other than her was more useful or fun to have on my squad. I usually leave her to die on Virmire and find aspects of her character annoying, especially her dislike of aliens. That being said, when I do let her live through all three games she definitely adds an intriguing element to the story as she gets used to the aliens around her and offers a different perspective on things. Like Kaidan, you can develop a unique bond with her in the first game that makes her Horizon encounter in the sequel an emotional one and that continues when you’re reunited in Mass Effect 3. Ashley’s family and their history also added another dimension to her character that brought an interesting extra element to the story.
Jack, a.k.a. Subject Zero, was kidnapped as a child and forced into numerous Cerberus experiments due to her biotic abilities. She grew to be a violent criminal who won’t shy away from telling you exactly what she thinks in both Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3. The fact that she is so harsh and untrusting means you really have to work to get to know her. Considering her history with Cerberus, Jack is a great addition to the squad with a good loyalty mission and all too short appearances in the last game. Jack is even more interesting in the last installment of the series in my opinion where all of her development seems to be paying off, which makes it disappointing that she wasn’t around more. Her biotics were always great to have on the team too though I did usually feel I could get the same help by replacing her with another character.
In Mass Effect 2, Thane offered a welcome twist to the deadly assassin character. There’s much more to the Drell than his ability to kill people as part of your squad which makes his conversations, loyalty mission, and appearance in Mass Effect 3 some of the best given to a companion. While helping Shepard face the Collectors, we learn he cares deeply for his son and is quite spiritual. He’s dying from Kepral Syndrome, an aspect that was not something brought up and then ignored which I really liked. It seemed fitting in the final game to see him at a point unable to join Shepard and then dying doing what he could to help. I know his death in the last game can be a bit of a sore subject for fans, but it is one of the most moving moments for Shepard and stuck with me long after I finished the game. All of this makes Thane an unforgettable Mass Effect squad mate.
Part of me always feels guilty for liking Miranda a bit more than Jack, but honestly even though she has that annoying “cheerleader” attitude—and a horrible tight outfit—I always felt she was more interesting to bring on missions and many times more useful. I also like how her character grew throughout the games. She may start out as a firm believer in Cerberus and the Illusive Man, but all of that changes over the course of events in Mass Effect 2. It also felt like you could form a true friendship or at least a grudging respect with her no matter where you stood as Shepard. Seeing how Miranda struggled with being genetically engineered and what her connections were to her father and sister, all meant she not only had an interesting loyalty mission in Mass Effect 2 but she had a great arc in Mass Effect 3 as well.
Kaidan seems to the be the one fans leave behind on Virmire a lot in the first game, but for me he was the one I tended to save the most whether or not I romanced him. I like what he added to the squad on missions and find him to be a much more interesting character than Ashley with a better story arc over the course of the trilogy. Kaidan offered insight into human biotics and their implants and it seemed much easier to develop a friendship with him than Ashley in the first game, making his appearance in Mass Effect 2 and then Mass Effect 3 more powerful. He also has some interesting things to say about Cerberus, his family, and the results of the various missions in the third game that usually make me keep him around.
Legion has been one of my favorite squad mates ever since his great entrance in Mass Effect 2. Adding a Geth to the squad after they were an enemy in the first game was a brilliant decision. Legion allows us to learn a lot more about the Geth and see them in a new light as well as play more with the idea of whether synthetics can be alive. The Geth was also at the center of some of the most emotional moments in the last game, offering excellent responses no matter what path you chose. Add to that Legion’s humor and quirks like wearing a part of your N7 armor and he was one of the most unique squad members in the series.
Wrex might seem like just a tough Krogan mercenary when you meet him in the first game, but it doesn’t take long to realize that even though he left his planet he still wants more for his fellow Krogan. Excellent in a fight and eager to help his people, this path sets Wrex on one of the best story arcs in the game. Throughout the series, Wrex grows as a leader of his people while keeping his charming Krogan attitude. His opinions of species like the turians and salarians offer an interesting look at what Krogans think of the rest of the galaxy and provide room for fun interactions between Wrex and the other members of Shepard’s team. Seeing him in Mass Effect 2 truly felt like running into an old friend and felt like a fitting place to find the character, something that continued and was built upon well in the final game.
Grunt barely edges past Wrex on my list because while I’d put them on the same level when it comes to bringing them with you to fight in your squad, Grunt’s personality wins me over more than Wrex. Let’s just say when Shepard states “I love you, Grunt” in the Citadel DLC it definitely echos my feelings. The tank-bred Krogan appears in Mass Effect 2 and is focused on figuring things out once you release him. This means you develop a type of mentor relationship with the powerful Krogan and through his loyalty mission onwards it’s hard not to become attached. It felt like he was a sort of little brother by the end. How he shows up in Mass Effect 3 and what Wrex thinks of him in the game are fascinating and offer even more understanding into how the Krogan are moving forward.
How can you not love the singing Salarian? The more you talk to Mordin in Mass Effect 2 and bring him on missions, the more you learn about the awesome character. Whether it’s discussing his connection to the genophage or listening to his hilarious advice about your romance, his loyalty mission and arc was one of the best and I always loved having him in my squad. His continued story in Mass Effect 3 also felt perfect for the character. Through Mordin’s coming to terms with his choices we are also forced to think about the morality and consequences of such tough decisions. His ending in the final game was one of the most touching and hit me harder than almost any other choice in the series.
From the very beginning of the trilogy, Tali is an extremely skilled and invaluable member of the team who is not only great to keep in your squad but overall just an exceptional character. You don’t need to see her face to feel like Shepard becomes friends with the Quarian in the game and that Tali cares just as much about you. She is one of the only members of your squad willing to work with you in Mass Effect 2, allowing her arc to grow even further with a fascinating loyalty mission through which we learn even more about the Quarians and Geth. Her loyalty to Shepard really deepens the connection you can have to the character and that continues in the final game. Helping her reach her homeworld, seeing how her relationship with Legion ends, and how willing she is to still help Shepard fight the Reapers is perfect for her character. Plus it’s a lot of fun to see her in the last game chatting with everyone else on the Normandy she has had prior relationships with, adding another layer of history and connection to the game.
Liara was always one of my core squad mates in the series. She was always handy in a fight and useful on missions. Like Tali, her being around since the first game also made her one of the most interesting characters. I loved her arc in the trilogy, whether or not you romance her. Starting out as a naïve Asari archaeologist and forced to change when Shepard dies. It’s great to see her in the second game and also hard to learn about everything she’s been through. I was thrilled to have her back in the squad in Mass Effect 3, continuing to grow as the Shadow Broker and continuing to offer interesting story elements due to her knowledge and personal and professional connections. Her dedication and loyalty made it possible to feel like she truly was one of your best friends in this crazy galaxy.
Can there be any Shepard without Vakarian? I don’t think so. Speaking of best friends, there’s no better friend than the Turian C-Sec officer turned Archangel turned Reaper advisor. Garrus was always part of my squad in the three games. The best friend element starts easily enough in the first game due to the circumstances you’re both thrown into. It’s what makes the reunion in the second game all the more emotional as Garrus continues to show his loyalty and offer his support to Shepard. Things changed for Garrus between the two games and I love how that’s explored in his loyalty mission and beyond, which also makes it perfect that he’s available as a romance option. I’ll admit, once I romanced the Turian I found it hard to pursue anyone else! This continues in the last game where you’re thrown together for a final time only now you’re both in very different positions than when you first met. Throughout the trilogy it feels like you really grow with Garrus and despite all the changes you both experience, your friendship never falters. Plus he always keeps the Normandy’s weapons well calibrated! What's better than that?
Who are your favorite Mass Effect squad mates? Tell us in the comments!