If you’re like me, you’ve been sinking hours upon hours into the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition, which dropped on May 14th. It is one of the most beloved and highly regarded sci-fi gaming franchises out there. While the ending to the original trilogy and the follow-up game, Mass Effect: Andromeda, have divided the fanbase, the games hold a special place in many gamers’ hearts, myself most definitely included. Taking on the role of Commander Shepard, players embark on a galaxy-spanning adventure full of action, drama, comedy, romance, and more.
Having finally just completed the long, arduous mission of saving the Milky Way Galaxy from the villainous and genocidal Reapers, I got to thinking about arguably the most crucial part of the franchise: Your companions. One of the big reasons Mass Effect remains so popular is that fans loved the characters, identified with their struggles, and laughed and cried alongside them.
Bioware achieved something extraordinary with these characters, and even though much of your crew were fictional alien beings, they felt as real as anyone you may encounter in real life. Whether it be the rogue space cop and ultimate bro Garrus Vakarian, the eccentric scientist Mordin Solus, or the academic researcher turned information broker Liara T’Soni, each of these characters were valuable members of a squad assembled to save the galaxy.
With all that being said, some squad-mates were simply better than others, and throughout three games with 20 potential companions, some were bound to be more memorable. Here are all 20 Mass Effect companions, ranked from worst to best.
Putting Morinth last on the list is sort of cheating since she is an optional squadmate and one that only truly renegade players would choose to join the squad.
Morinth is, well, a serial killer, one whose only mission in life is to seduce and then murder her victims. She is a powerful biotic (Mass Effect‘s version of magic), so she is, hypothetically, a potentially very useful squadmate. Morinth is also the daughter of Samara, another potential squadmate, and Morinth first appears in Samara’s loyalty mission. Players are confronted with a choice: Side with either Samara or Morinth. Most players tend to choose Samara, so at the end of the day, we never truly get to know Morinth but are you really going to choose to side with someone that has no qualms about murdering innocents? I sure hope not.
James Vega gets a bit of a bad rap in my eyes. Voiced by Freddie Prinze Jr., he’s a new squadmate that gets added to the last game in the trilogy (Bioware has said that he’s supposed to “represent” players that are just starting to play the games), and he doesn’t get much to do in Mass Effect 3 outside of being a space jock.
He’s a soldier through and through but in a game that already has so many other quality characters, it’s just hard to get invested in Vega’s story.
Zaeed Massani is a legendary space bounty hunter that is willing to do whatever it takes to get the job done. He gets shortchanged in these games simply because he was a DLC character in Mass Effect 2 and, much like Vega, sort of feels like he was brushed aside.
He is a gruff guy that’s seen it all and done it all, but when his conversations boil down to non-cutscene interactions, how are we supposed to care about what happens to him?
One of your very first squadmates in Mass Effect, Kaidan, lands with you on Eden Prime in the franchise’s very first mission.
As the game progresses and your squad begins to expand, Kaidan felt less important as a squadmate during my playthroughs.
Put it this way: When the player reaches Virmire and is forced to decide whether Kaidan or Ashley Williams dies, I’ve never had too much of a moral dilemma in siding with Ashley.
Ah, Jacob Taylor.
A character who should have been much more interesting than he ended up being, but I place that more on the writing, and the voice actor, Adam Lazarre-White, has nothing to work with.
He is a human biotic who serves as one of the major players in Cerberus, the human-centric organization that Shepard works for in Mass Effect 2, and, similar to Kaidan Alenko, he’s just a rather bland character.
I take no pleasure in ranking Kasumi this low on the list because she suffers from the same problem that Zaeed does: She is a DLC character in Mass Effect 2.
Kasumi, the galaxy’s greatest thief, is an interesting character who, unlike Zaeed, has a great backstory. Her partner in crime, and love interest Keiji, was murdered by arms dealer Donovan Hock and she enlists Shepard’s help to pull a heist to get some of her equipment back.
The mission is a ton of fun and a nice change of pace for the third-person shooter game, which helps Kasumi greatly.
Ashley Williams, another one of the earliest squadmates available to you and the other potential survivor on Virmire, is an Alliance soldier that believes wholeheartedly in the organization’s mission.
Bemoaned as a “space racist,” Ashley mistrusts the alien crew members on the ship and even goes so far as to say, “I can’t tell the aliens from the animals” at one point. However, once you get a better idea of her backstory (her grandfather was the first human to surrender a garrison to an alien force), her misgivings, while still wrong, become a bit more understandable.
She’s a soldier through and through, but her lack of trust in Shepard throughout the second and third games can make her seem unreasonable.
The last voice of the Protheans.
Javik, another DLC character, should have been included with the main game as his appearance fleshes out a ton of lore in the Mass Effect universe.
The Protheans are a long-extinct race whose beacons help set the stage for the entire saga of Mass Effect. However, Javik was placed into cryostasis for 50,000 years and is awakened by Commander Shepard, and he joins the crew of the Normandy.
He has no time for compassion or mercy and believes that one must be ruthless to survive the Reaper onslaught. When asked by Shepard why he is like this and if he has any sense of honor, Javik replies with one of the best quotes in all of Mass Effect: “Stand in the ashes of a trillion dead souls, and ask the ghosts if honor matters. The silence is your answer.”
One of the biggest surprises in Mass Effect 2 was the fact that a Geth, a race of synthetic machines that Shepard had killed thousands of in the original Mass Effect, would be joining your crew. He saves Shepard’s life on board a derelict Reaper and proves his loyalty by helping the commander defeat the Collectors.
His efforts to achieve peace between the Geth and Quarians in the third game help showcase just how far he has come as not just a sentient being but as a friend.
EDI, which stands for Enhanced Defense Intelligence, is Normandy’s Artificial Intelligence in Mass Effect 2. So she isn’t a physical member of the squad, but once she is unshackled during a Collector attack on the Normandy, her abilities increase dramatically.
In Mass Effect 3, she takes control of the body of a Cerberus operative who had been upgraded with Reaper technology, allowing EDI to take physical form.
This was an enormous criticism of Mass Effect 3, given that the body that EDI was given was highly sexualized for no particular reason (something the entire franchise is guilty of when it comes to its female characters.) However, she is a great character in her own right, and much like Legion learns what it means to be human and, literally, not just a robot.
Samara is an Asari Justicar, think an agent of justice that believes in her code above all else. She is an extremely powerful biotic, and when she is first encountered by Shepard, she is hunting down her daughter, the aforementioned Morinth.
Samara has a tragic history, all of her daughters suffer from the same disorder that drives them to kill, but Morinth is the only one who acts on it. Still, she lives a lonely life moving around the galaxy rooting out evil, forcing her not to hold many attachments.
That is until she meets Commander Shepard and becomes a loyal member of his/her crew.
An accidental member of the team, Grunt is a cloned Krogan bred in a tank by a rogue Krogan scientist. Shepard initially arrives on the planet looking to recruit said scientist, but upon being ambushed by mercenaries and finding the scientist dead, decides to bring Grunt along.
Grunt is a perfect Krogan soldier who is tough beyond belief and never backs away from a fight. However, he is just a teenager in many ways and is shunned by his species as inferior because he’s a clone.
Shepard helps him defy those odds and shows the galaxy that Grunt is not to be messed with. Grunt is one of the funnier teammates and, if he survives Mass Effect 2, is found leading the legendary Aralakh Company in its fight against the Reapers in Mass Effect 3.
Genetically engineered by her villainous father to be perfect in every aspect of her life, Miranda Lawson is Cerberus’ second in command when Shepard first meets her. Though she begins as a cold, calculating, and no-nonsense operative, Miranda gradually opens up to Shepard about her past.
Shepard begins to help Miranda see that Cerberus isn’t what she believes it to be, and by the end of Mass Effect 2, she leaves the organization behind and goes on the run.
Much like some of the other female characters in the franchise, Miranda is hypersexualized to the point that the developers literally edited scenes from Mass Effect 2 when making the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition to cut down on it.
Those issues aside, Miranda is one of the most well-written characters in the game and has one of the best arcs in the whole franchise.
“The psychotic biotic.”
Jack, aka Subject Zero, was kidnapped by Cerberus as a child and experimented on in a secret facility where she was tortured to fully test her capabilities. She broke out of the facility and went on the run where she did anything to survive and was eventually captured and placed in a private prison run by mercenaries.
Shepard arrives to recruit her for the mission against the Collectors, and their relationship gets off to a rocky start, to say the least. Jack butts heads with Miranda, whom she calls a “Cerberus Cheerleader,” and their relationship never truly improves until Mass Effect 3, but only ever so slightly.
Thanks to her efforts to stop the Collectors, Jack takes a job as a teacher at a school for biotics, helping to bring her arc full circle. Much like Miranda, she learns to outgrow her mistakes and move forward, and not let the past define her.
The shy academic researcher turned ruthless information broker, Dr. Liara T’Soni is a fan favorite, and for good reason. Liara begins the series as someone who is unsure of herself, whose mother is a companion to the first game’s primary villain, Saren.
Caught between family and duty, Liara remains loyal to Shepard and is forced to help kill her mother, who had been brainwashed by the Reapers.
Her experiences with Shepard changed her as a person, causing her to embrace a new role as an information broker on the world of Illium. Shepard helps her take down the Shadow Broker, one of the great forces of the galactic underworld, and Liara assumes the role herself before joining Shepard once again to finally defeat the Reapers.
Thane is a terminally ill assassin that is recruited for one last job: To stop the Collectors. He’s lived a life full of regrets, and it is only through absolution that he ever hopes to find peace. His species, the Drell, can vividly recall every one of their memories. During Thane’s conversations with Shepard, he often breaks away and describes his kills and experiences perfectly.
Before meeting Shepard, Thane had planned to mend his relationship with his estranged son Kolyat, whom Thane had neglected due to his life as an assassin.
Thane survives until the events of Mass Effect 3, provided he hasn’t been killed on the mission to the Collector base, and it is there that he makes one last heroic sacrifice. He prevents Cerberus assassin Kai Lang from killing a member of the Citadel Council. A life full of mistakes and wrongdoing, redeemed in the service of the greater good.
“I am the very model of a scientist Salarian, I’ve studies species Turian, Asari, and Batarian.”
An alien scientist with a passion for musical theater, who is also able to help you defeat genocidal monsters? That’s just Dr. Mordin Solus.
Inherently funny and eccentric, Mordin is full of memorable lines and quotes, none more so than his rendition of Gilbert and Sullivan.
At the beginning of Mass Effect 2, Mordin is running a clinic on the crime infested world of Omega, where he is attempting to cure a plague that is ravaging the alien population there. He then aids Shepard in defeating the Collectors, and along the way gradually comes to terms with his own past, a member of the Salarian special forces who helped forcibly sterilize the Krogan population.
Now you might think Mordin is a monster based on this description, but (if you follow the Paragon path) he helps to cure the bioweapon that is causing this problem with the Krogan, at the cost of his own life.
“Had to be me. Someone else might have gotten it wrong.”
Tali Zorah, along with Garrus, is the only character who is a squad-mate in all three entries of the Mass Effect franchise and has, arguably, the most significant character arc out of all the characters that join Shepard.
In the first game, she is a scared, young Quarian (think Space nomads forced to live in bio suits), and by the third game, she is an Admiral brokering peace between organic beings and synthetics.
Engineer, strategist, and loyal companion, it is a true testament to the writers of these games that Tali becomes such a fan-favorite character, and you never even see her face (unless you form a romantic relationship with her, and even then it’s only in a picture.)
Her arc is so impactful for players because she, much like all of us, is genuinely experiencing this universe for the first time. The rest of the squad-mates in Mass Effect are all veterans or seasoned spacefarers. Meanwhile, Tali is just getting to know other planets and species, much like us.
Urdnot Wrex is what happens when you take a gruff, old, angry alien and force him to join a crew dedicated to saving the galaxy, one that has done next to nothing for him or his species. In fact, the other species are forcibly sterilizing his kind, slowly killing them off.
However, he commits to Shepard’s cause in Mass Effect, helping the commander stop Saren from unleashing the Reapers upon the galaxy. He’s similar to Garrus in many regards, a guy that has seen it all and done it all, and while he isn’t the nicest guy in the room, he is dedicated to doing the right thing.
He just doesn’t mind killing a few people to get that done.
Wrex is a born leader, and in Mass Effect 2 and 3, we find him leading his species. He wants to cure the sterility plague that is affecting the Krogan at any cost. Wrex also intends to repair the image of the Krogan and how they are seen in the rest of the galaxy. To do so, he adopts more progressive policies and leaves the old ways in the past.
A gruff guy, Wrex is also hilarious, fiercely loyal, and one that would gladly take a bullet for Shepard if asked to do so.
“Not sure if Turian heaven is the same as yours, but if this thing go sideways and we both end up there, meet me at the bar… I’m buying.”
The undisputed GOAT. The best space buddy anyone could ever ask for, the one and only, Garrus Vakarian.
It sounds almost like a cliche, but Garrus is a rogue space cop that doesn’t play by the rules and is the embodiment of “getting things done.” He has no time for rules and regulations that get in the way of his mission and becomes frustrated by bureaucracy, which is a big reason why he joins Shepard’s crew in the first place.
Along with Tali, he is a crew member for all three games and is loyal to Shepard until the very end. He’s funny; he’s deadly in combat, and you know you can always rely on him.
Say it with me, everyone: “There is no Shepard without Vakarian.”