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An Ode to Player 2: The best sidekicks who deserve their due, from Luigi to Samwise

Player 2 has entered the game. Celebrate sidekicks with us as The Super Mario Bros. Movie wins at the box office.

By Brian Silliman
Luigi in The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

Would Mario have gotten far without Luigi? It depends on how good the person holding the second controller is. In certain Super Mario Bros. games, Luigi can win the day by himself if he’s in the right hands. The new animated hit, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, features him as a character that needs rescuing, but he’s still who we think of first when we picture someone who has Mario’s back. He's the quintessential sidekick.

Mario and Luigi may be twin brothers, but sidekicks can form all kinds of bonds that have nothing to do with blood. In order to give proper recognition to Player 2 characters everywhere, it’s time to run through nine of our favorite sidekicks. Press any button to join in.

Luigi Mario (Super Mario Bros.)

The Super Mario Bros. Movie Trailer

He’s the whole reason that we’re writing this list! Luigi Mario (his full legal name) is not usually seen alongside his brother in their video games, but he is one of the titular “bros” whether the games function like that or not. Animated shows have featured the lankier (and jumpier) plumber smashing bricks alongside his brother, and as we’ve already said, their sibling bond is at the core of Mario’s quest in The Super Mario Bros. Movie. We expect more one-on-one Mario/Luigi time in the inevitable sequel.

Chewbacca (Star Wars)

Is there a more loyal friend in the galaxy far, far away? The fly-or-die of Han Solo, the Wookiee Chewbacca is an accomplished pilot and a frightful warrior. Don’t get him angry, he’ll pull your arms right out of their sockets. If you earn his love, then you’ve made a furry bond for life. When Han Solo meets his end in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Chewie’s reaction shows you just how deeply his love goes. When General Leia Organa passes two movies after that, you feel the loss even more.

Garrus Vakarian (The Mass Effect series)

No slight to the other heroes of Mass Effect, but when it’s time to leave the Normandy for a mission, Garrus is always on our team. It doesn’t matter what the mission entails, it feels wrong to go anywhere without him. He’s a fierce ally for all three Mass Effect games, and a highlight scene comes in the third entry when he loudly borrows a now infamous line from Commander Shepard. If you are playing a female Shepard, then these sidekick relations could turn romantic… How much do you love your most trusted gun?

Dick Grayson (Batman)

There’s a lot of sense in depicting Batman as a solitary crimefighter who is lost in the darkness, but the issue there is that it ignores an entire “Bat Family” that has grown larger every year in the pages of DC Comics. Among the family are many versions of Robin, with our favorite being Dick Grayson. An orphan thanks to the death of the “Flying Graysons," Dick becomes Bruce Wayne’s ward. He joins Bruce on his nightly jaunts in the comics, in the classic Adam West television series, in the glorious Batman: The Animated Series and in the movies Batman Forever and Batman and Robin. Dick is sometimes necessary to keeping Bruce’s more emo tendencies in check. As far as the Adam West/Burt Ward dynamic went in the television show, it was just plain fun for days.

RELATED: "Who is King Koopa in Mario lore?"

Dr. John Watson (Sherlock Holmes)

From the pages of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, to movie adaptations, games and television, there is hardly a version of the most legendary detective of all time that doesn’t have the good doctor by his side. When Holmes is being a petty imp, Watson is thankfully there to puncture his ego. When Holmes needs a medical expert, Watson’s the man. Some backup muscle? John has some chops. As both a friend and sparring partner, Watson is always there. Holmes loves showing his brilliance off to Watson and he does this every chance he gets.

Tails (Sonic the Hedgehog)

Sonic used to run as a lone hedgehog, but Tails joined him for his second game in 1992. Whether he was controlled by another player or by the game itself, Tails provided an interesting extra dimension to the gameplay. Tails also made us feel like we weren’t alone on our speed-demon quest, as crazy as that sounds. As his name suggests, his tails are very useful. The furry, spinning appendages have saved us on more than one occasion.

Lydia (Skyrim)

Why? We don’t really know, but we always end up traveling through Skyrim with Lydia. She might as well be an official sidekick because everyone asks her to join them at some point, even if she’s just carrying half of your stuff. She’s the first companion character that becomes available, so she usually joins our compulsively repetitive playthroughs toward the beginning. She’s good in a fight, and as she herself says, she is sworn to carry our burdens. Players can marry her if they wish, but that is assuming she hasn’t died or been shouted off of a mountain already. Depending on your play style, the Dragonborn’s relationship with Lydia can be quite toxic. 

Short Round (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom)

Indiana Jones has Marcus Brody and Sallah and we love both of them dearly. That said, these days it’s hard not to get caught up in the joy of Academy Award-winner Ke Huy Quan, who got his start as Indy’s sidekick in Temple of Doom. Should Indy be taking a kid through deadly traps and caves full of weapon-clad villains? Not at all, but Short Round holds his own, and he always does it with a quip and a smile. We dearly love Marcus Brody, but he got lost once in his own museum. We have Ke Huy Quan fever, so long live Short Round! 

Samwise Gamgee (The Lord of the Rings)

Samwise the Brave is the greatest sidekick of all time. A very good case could be made that he isn’t a sidekick at all, because Frodo Baggins would never have made it out of the Shire without him. He may begin as a sidekick, but he’s an equal partner in the end. No one but Frodo could suffer the effects of the One Ring as long as him, but ultimately all of Frodo’s effort goes into that defense. He can’t walk or crawl when he gets to the slopes of Mount Doom. Samwise has to literally pick him up and carry him to the end, and if that’s not the ultimate depiction of love, service and sacrifice, then what the heck is? Frodo would not have gotten far without Sam, and he knows it. Samwise may very well be the most essential hero in the story. 

The Super Mario Bros. Movie is now playing in theaters everywhere. Tickets are on sale here!