Most people see the Halo franchise’s overarching story as one about Earth’s battle against the covenant, but I’d beg to differ. I think if you really look at it (at least the main numbered installments), Halo is really a love story. Master Chief is an unstoppable fighting force, but without the guidance of Cortana he would be nothing. He depends and confides in her, he loses her, he goes through hell to get her back, and eventually he rides (er, floats) into the sunset with her. In a game filled with numerous people and conflicts, his connection with an AI is the most real relationship that the Chief ever develops. There’s a reason that the last moments of the main Halo trilogy aren’t of Chief with civilians thanking him or military personnel honoring him. They’re of John and Cortana finally finding some peace.
I don’t know how they do it, but as this list can attest to, Valve is pretty darn good at creating non-human characters that have more personality and draw than most human characters in other games could dream of. D0g started out as a humble bot to protect Alyx Vance in the world of Half-Life 2, and was slowly upgraded by Vance into a formidable combatant. It isn’t hard to see how he got him name. He’s loyal to a tee, not afraid to put his own well-being at risk in the blink of an eye to protect Alex and Gordon, and will instants later be looking to race, play fetch, or dance around. It’s this combination of loyalty, blissful ignorance, and nonchalance that will make anyone who’s had a dog in real life (as in the furry quadruped, not the 2.5 meter tall robot) instantly fall in love.
Oh Amaterasu, you were just too beautiful to live. I don’t know if it was your non-traditional gameplay, your non-Westernized setting and story, or the fact that you released among the height of PS3 pre-release hype, but you didn’t receive anywhere near the attention you deserve. For those who don’t know her (shame on you), Amaterasu, the protagonist of Okami, is actually the sun goddess appearing in the form of a white wolf. Amaterasu possesses such a beautiful grace that it’s impossible not to completely and fully get behind her and keep her going forward to defeat the evil dragon Yami. Though I’ve played as characters that I related with more, understood more intimately, or saw as more lifelike, I’ve rarely (if ever) felt more hit when a character was in a position of pain or loss that I did in the climax of Okami. Even though Okami was far from a financial hit, I can only hope that that the recent Okimiden and Marvel vs. Capcom aren’t the last we’ve seen of our white-furred heroine.