Let’s face it: life is better with a Player 2. Quite literally, when it comes to video games. Although most games focus on controlling a single individual until the journey’s end, many offer a second pair of hands with which to conquer the game.
From Mario and Luigi to Ellie and Joel, saving the world and beating up baddies has always been easier with a partner. Dynamic duos let different personalities and abilities shine, allowing for varied playthroughs and exciting stories intertwining in a way that makes the overall video gaming experience that much more memorable.
Having each other’s backs goes a long way in keeping out of danger. Just ask how Ratchet would fare against enemies without Clank’s expertise. Would Donkey Kong be able to take down the Kremlins without Diddy?
Let it be clear: the great gaming duos don't include sidekicks. The best duos are defined by teamwork, with each member of the duo being essential to the other’s success. Only one duo per video game series is eligible to make the top rankings, with emphasis placed on gameplay elements involving both members. The importance and longevity of a franchise are considered here, too – more appearances together lead to a higher ranking.
10 Wander and Agro (Shadow of the Colossus)
Link and Epona. Yoshi and Mario. Adventurer and riding companion have been a video game stalwart throughout the years. A question does arise, however: should they be considered a video game duo?
In the case of Wander and Agro in “Shadow of the Colossus”, the answer is a resounding yes. Perhaps not in the traditional sense, but in a game devoid of living characters besides massive stone behemoths, Wander and his loyal steed form quite the team, riding across vast expenses of land in order to fell each of the 16 Colossi that serve as the game’s only antagonists.
It’s a primal bond between Man and animal. They keep each other company in this solitary world as Wander attempts the impossible: defeating the Colossi so that he may revive his deceased lover.
The duo does not interact through words; gamers are not guided by some script or dialogue into understanding their relationship. It’s a simple, organic build through actions and gameplay that have created a memorable pairing in Wander and Agro.
9 Ellie & Joel (The Last of Us)
The most recent entry on the list, Ellie and Joel from “The Last of Us” are a force to be reckoned with.
Although not related, these two form a duo that follows a father-daughter dynamic trying to survive in a world that has ended following a deadly fungal outbreak. While players will control Joel for most of the journey, Ellie is also playable during some portions of the game. Together, they fight off these zombie-like creatures as well as hostile humans.
Through pain, loss and suffering, the two form one of the strongest bonds in gaming. It isn’t simply a matter of having each other’s back; these two need to rely on each other in order to live.
8 Sam & Max (Sam & Max Series)
Part of a media franchise that released multiple video games, comic books and even a cartoon, Sam & Max have been around the block for the past 25 years.
Sam, an anthropomorphic dog wearing a noir-style suit and his crazy partner Max, a hyperkinetic rabbit, fight crime as part of the Freelance Police. Tackling weird missions assigned over the phone by the Commissioner, the pair made their gaming debut in the 1993 point-and-click adventure “Sam & Max Hit the Road”. Gamers would spend endless hours solving mysteries and cases as the level-headed, sweet-toothed Sam and the energetic, hyperactive Max.
Fans are eagerly anticipating this odd crime fighting duo’s latest adventure, following their wildly successful episodic series created by famed developer Telltale Games.
7 Banjo & Kazooie (Banjo Kazooie Series)
An anthropomorphic bear and a “breegull” – some sort of whacky bird – are the next video game duo on the list.
Making their debut on the Nintendo 64, Banjo and Kazooie are two polar opposite buddies who rely on one another to save the inhabitants of the game’s world from the evil witch Gruntilda. Banjo’s a goofy, loveable, well-mannered bear while Kazooie is a sassy, wisecracking bird with an attitude that spends most of her time in Banjo’s backpack.
The game introduced a unique concept, where players would take control of Banjo while relying on Kazooie to perform certain tasks such as gliding and jumping higher than the bear could. Banjo could even use Kazooie as a weapon while they glided, swam and pecked their way into gamer’s hearts everywhere.
6 Jak & Daxter (Jak Series)
Naughty Dog hit it out of the park when they created the dynamic duo of Jak and Daxter, the original world-saving pair on the PlayStation 2.
Getting your best friend transformed into a weird otter-weasel hybrid after spelunking around a mysterious island is a great way to kick off a franchise. This is poor Daxter’s fate after he and Jak sneak off to Misty Island against their elder’s wishes. Without this conflict, however, there is no plot, and so our heroes embark on their epic tale to get Daxter back to normal. A sense of wonder and adventure permeated throughout their original trek, with Jak’s heroic personality and Daxter’s unending humor driving their journey.
While Jak and Daxter’s story started off light-hearted, the storyline definitely matured in the sequels as a now angry and reckless Jak sought revenge after he was a test subject for eco experiments.
At the end of the day, these games were filled with great weapons, awesome platforming and original puzzles. Best of all, the series featured one of gaming’s finest duos.
5 Ratchet & Clank (Ratchet & Clank Series)
Who would have thought a Lombax – a humanoid, cat-like creature – and a sophisticated talking robot would make such an incredible duo?
Alongside Naughty Dog’s Jak & Daxter, Insomniac Games’ Ratchet & Clank set the standard for 3D platforming in the 6th generation of console gaming, becoming the new PlayStation mascots. Ratchet & Clank were ranked a notch higher than their Naughty Dog counterparts because they have found continued success with more quality sequels and spinoffs.
Following the tried and true formula of furry heroes with personality and skill, Insomniac introduced the cool mechanic Ratchet, whose awesomeness is matched by the jaunty yet adorable robot Clank. Together, they travel through the universe, saving it from various baddies.
Playing off of each other’s strengths, they tackle hordes of enemies while solving puzzles and crossing through tough terrains. The player controls Ratchet while Clank offers support with gadgets and puzzle solutions.
These two have forged their own video game legacy with plenty more sequels on the way.
4 Sonic & Tails (Sonic the Hedgehog Series)
Physics need not apply. The fastest hedgehog alive teams up with a flying fox to take down enemies such as long-time rival Dr. Robotnik, gathering the Chaos Emeralds and saving the world in the process.
The Sega mascot that kick-started the war with Nintendo in the ‘90s, Sonic the Hedgehog was a cool, slick alternative to a certain Italian plumber. After nailing his debut as a solo act, the team behind Sonic upped the ante by introducing best friend and sidekick Miles “Tails” Prower in the beloved Sega Genesis sequel, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2”.
Tails had become a franchise staple, always adventuring alongside the fastest video game character ever created. Players would plug in a second controller and take control of the flying fox, allowing for twice the action and speed.
Although multiple new allies have introduced themselves in following games, Sonic and Tails remain the primary duo in this awesome franchise.
3 Mario & Luigi (Super Mario Bros Series)
It’s a-me, Mario! And Luigi!
As iconic a duo as it gets, the brothers Mario have graced our television sets for decades, providing endless memories, laughter and fun. The famous plumbers have been on all sorts of adventures together, from saving Princess Peach from the hands of Bowser to playing sports and everything in between.
Although Mario is Nintendo’s mascot, Luigi doesn’t merely play second fiddle: he has grown in popularity over the years, starring in his own games while further establishing his place alongside his brother. Many gamers prefer playing as Luigi, who is known for jumping higher and being a little quicker than his bro.
From duelling it out in the Mario Kart franchise to teaming up in their very own RPG series, Mario and Luigi are the quintessential video game duo. Thousands of coins have been collected. Hundreds of Goombas have been stomped. Numerous failures have resulted for Bowser. All because of two mustachioed plumbers in overalls.
2 Pokémon Trainers & their Starter Pokémon (Pokémon Series)
I choose you! Whether it’s a Grass, Fire or Water-type Pokémon – or maybe the odd Electric rodent – chances are your very first buddy will stick with you until the very end.
The starter Pokémon won’t necessarily be the favorite by the time all is said and done, but what’s a virtual guarantee is that gamers will definitely grind it out with their first Pokémon in the beginning, creating a strong bond between trainer and pocket monster.
While definitely one of gaming’s best duos, it was difficult to put trainer and starter Pokémon at the number one spot because the choice of companion changes over time and with each new instalment in the mega franchise.
With a motto that states “Gotta Catch Them All”, it’s a bit counterintuitive to place so much emphasis on a single Pokémon. There is, however, something undeniably special about the one Pokémon you didn’t catch that’s been at your side from the very beginning, sharing in the player’s heartbreaks and triumphs.
1 Donkey Kong & Diddy Kong (Donkey Kong Series)
If there were ever two characters that defined what makes a great video game duo, it’s Donkey Kong and his nephew Diddy Kong. These partners cover all the bases: important video game franchise? Check. Multiple appearances and longevity? Check. Gameplay that includes both characters’ participation? Check.
In 1994, Nintendo brought fans a new platforming franchise that took the world by storm. Donkey Kong Country offered awesome gameplay that featured a tag-team system in which players could switch between Donkey Kong’s strength and Diddy’s agility. The transition was always seamless, creating a unique and addictive gaming experience that saw these monkey partners take on the evil King K. Rool and his Kremlings.
Nintendo had struck gold, spawning many sequels that featured different ape pairings, such as the awesome combo of Diddy and girlfriend Dixie in Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest. At the end of the day, however, Donkey Kong & Diddy will always be the definitive teammates in the Donkey Kong franchise, with the partners standing atop the list of best video game duos.