Mass Effect 2 has regularly been recognized as one of the greatest games of its generation, and it isn’t hard to see why. Taking the already diverse and effective sci-fi mythology of the original Mass Effect and re-centering it’s cast of heroes as outcasts and underdogs was a masterstroke, one that made both the returning, and newly introduced, cast of characters all the more relatable.
Today, though, we’re here to find out who’s the coolest. Who’s the best of Shepard’s crew, and who’s the dirtiest of the dozen? Well let’s crack on and figure it out shall we?
(For the record, this ranking goes by the original definition upon release, with Shepard and Joker filling out the cast to make a proper dozen. DLC characters Kasumi and Zaeed will not be included in this ranking.)
12) Jacob Taylor
Sorry Jacob, honestly you’re pretty damn cool, even for the boring straight-man of the group. For one thing your loyalty mission is like an echo of black America in a lot of ways, as an abandoned child seeks to settle the score with his absentee father. Very irreverent and prescient stuff. However, outside of this, your character is kind of the wet blanket of the team, and naturally falls to the rear because of that. Worry not Jacob, it’s like being the least coolest Beatle. You’re still a legend in your own right.
11) Tali’Zorah vas Neema
Apologies to the many (many) Tali lovers out there, but this writer was never quite as on board with her as the rest of her dedicated legion. Tali is likable enough but her hardcore sensibilities and front-and-center sense of duty make her a bit of an eye roll at times. In the end, she’s one of the toughest characters to connect with in this universe, despite the rich lore her character draws from.
For a comic relief pilot who seems to be based on Jamie Kennedy, Joker is a surprisingly effective member of the cast. As the regular pilot throughout the series, Joker is a force who is always present, even when he’s simply manning the ship. His condition, including a visible limp, leaves him a fount of pity, allowing him to be sympathetic even when he’s at his snarkiest. Joker is a much-needed character in a universe that’s as dark as Mass Effect‘s but he’s not the one you’ll remember and wonder about after the journey is complete.
Look, I love the test tube Krogan as much as anyone but at the end of the day, there isn’t much depth to him outside of the brutal killer with an innocent disposition trope. Seriously, though, Grunt is great. Anyone who can slaughter a pile of aliens with merciless joy and then turn around to ask you some very basic questions pertaining to existentialism is a win every time. Simple but effective, Grunt shows another side of the notoriously violent and primitive Krogans.
It hurts me to put Jack this low in a few different ways. For one, she was my love interest of choice in my original playthrough. More importantly though, she stands as an incredibly strong and defiant representation of female badassery, something we are too often lacking in. Jack is the ultimate woman scorned, and her fury is that of a million repressed house wives waiting for their vote to be cast and their voice to be heard. With her over-the-top characterization, Jack is still effective, and someone you want to like even when she’s at her most abrasive.
7) Sir or Lady Shepard
Unless you’re a narcissistic sociopath, you’ll never relate to your own avatar character as much as you will with someone who is developed and written as a character unto themselves. With that in mind, the halfway point is the perfect place for Shepard. Whether he was a man with bad pick-up lines or a gal telling you her favorite place on the citadel, Shepard is only what you make of him/her, and, as such is the best place for a middle ground.
6) Garrus Vakarian
Garrus is like Shepard’s deadly right hand man for the entire Mass Effect trilogy but he’s never cooler than he is in Mass Effect 2, where he’s revealed to have adopted the moniker of Archangel in order to take on several gangs of criminals. Think of him like an alien version of Punisher. Garrus’ calm and cool demeanor do make way for the occasional quip but none of his personality could ever let on to just what kind of a badass sharpshooter he truly is.
5) Miranda Lawson
Though there’s a good argument to suggest that Miranda is only in Mass Effect 2 for the purpose of eye candy (character model Yvonne Strahovski did have her entire body motion captured for the game after all), she is still a very effective force in the game. Her role as both Shepard’s guardian angel, having rescued him from death, and devious demon, for her close affiliation with the morally dubious Cerberus, make her a tough character to pin down. As Mass Effect 2‘s deadliest wild card, one never knows where Miranda will land on any given issue, and that makes her all the more intriguing.
4) Mordin Solus
Mordin is basically what every nerd aspires to be. Both a hyper-intelligent scientific genius, and a highly capable killer, Mordin is the best of both worlds. When you add to that his hilariously detached persona and his penchant for breaking into his own re-worded versions of songs, you have yourself a classic character that will go down in the annals of gaming history as one of its most effective and memorable denizens.
There’s nothing quite like a killer with a code of honor. Samara is brutal and unflinching in her ability to dispatch her quarry but it’s her unwavering belief in a purpose above herself that entrenches her in the player’s memory. Born with a rare condition that was passed on to her daughters, she takes it upon herself to hunt down and kill even her own child, Morinth, when she finds out about her capacity for murder and deceit. Technically you can back Morinth in this storyline (if you’re a sociopath) but Samara is easily the better character, and the obvious choice for those who want to have the best journey through the Mass Effect series.
Legion, like Miranda, is most interesting because he is essentially an enemy in your midst. A hyper-deadly version of the Geth enemies that Shepard faced in the original Mass Effect, Legion is a sort of sentient robot attempting to make sense of the universe and decide for itself who it will be. Made up of 1,183 minds, its adoption of the moniker “Legion” upon another AI’s suggestion, and clipped manner of speech leaves it always feeling like an enigma. As a member of a race that seems to have no place anymore, Legion’s philisophical search for purpose and meaning becomes doubly effective and affecting.
1) Thane Krios
There’s a good reason that Thane figured so heavily in Mass Effect 3. Bioware obviously knew they had something special in Thane: a deeply spiritual killer who prays before missions and asks for forgiveness upon success. The number one assassin in the galaxy, Thane will kill anyone, anywhere, anytime but he explains that he can maintain this profession indefinitely, or at least until his terminal ailment finishes him off. Thane truly sees the spirit and the body as separate entities, and hopes for death to take him away from the chaos and bloodshed one day. Until then, though, he is absolutely the best of the worst on Shepard’s crew.