It is not at all rare to find side characters in video games and other popular media that eclipse their protagonists in popularity. In many cases it almost seems intentional that character designers do this, create characters with less screen time or dialogue but purposefully make them more enjoyable to interact with. Then, make it that much more painful when you have to leave or end up killing them.
There’s bound to be some psychological explanation for why it is oftentimes easier to find yourself drawn to characters that are not the focal point of a story (perhaps one based on relatability and wanting to find value in yourself thinking you’re a side character in somebody else’s narrative). However, I’m going to chalk it up to the fact that you’re almost always playing as the protagonist. This sets you up to get more of a human interaction with side characters in games, and makes it that much easier to get your heart stolen by them.
Without further ado, here’s the top ten side characters in video games to get painfully attached to.
10) Loot Ticks - Apex Legends
While this might be more of a contentious addition to this list, given they’re not characters that you interact with much in Apex Legends past blasting open for that good, good loot, they’re very easy to empathize with. They hide on rather secluded parts of the Kings Canyon map, and let out a series of friendly beeps to indicate to players where they are. When you find them, hidden in a corner, or on top of some box, they tremble, seemingly fearful of the fate that you are going to ascribe them to. They’ll definitely draw some motherly feelings out of you and make you want to do nothing but protect them, but when you need that loot, you need that loot. That doesn’t mean you won’t feel bad about it, though.
9) Maria Renard - Castlevania Franchise
A vampire huntress, and recurring character in the Castlevania franchise, Maria is very well beloved. Her age progresses throughout the series, her introduction being made at 12, and moving on until she’s into her adult years, you do get to see change in her as she grows more empowered. She’s a relative of the Belmont clan, and one of the most powerful of the playable characters in the game. Proficient in the use of spells, and being able to call on animal figures, and the four celestial beasts for assistance, she is a force to be reckoned with. While you see how strong of a force she is, you also get to see a bit of a softer side of her in Symphony of the Night where she worries for her cousin Richter Belmont, and finds love with the son of Dracula, Alucard. As an early representation of a powerful woman character in a video game, she was very easy to fall in love with.
8) Napstablook - Undertale
While there are far too many characters to empathize with in Undertale, Napstablook is one you’re more likely to want to protect with your life, even if you choose to do the Genocide run of the game. When you encounter them for the first time, they see you and pretend to sleep hoping you’ll leave them alone, eliciting an interaction where you try to move them and find that as a character, they are pretty lonely and self deprecating. While your first interactions with them may elicit more pity, the more you progress in game on certain routes, the more you’ll grow attached, finding that they operate a snail farm, and love to make music. If you make your way to their house, you’re bound to have a really pleasant experience listening to DJ Napstablook’s ghostly tunes, and then bond by laying on the floor with them and “feeling like garbage.” No matter the route you take in the game, you’ll always want to spare them.
7) Toad - Mario Franchise
Many of the characters in the Mario franchise are iconic and lovable in their own right. However, Toad definitely holds a special place in people's hearts as a funky little guy with little time in the spotlight. A timid but cheerful member of the Mushroom Kingdom, and a loyal subject of Princess Peach, he shows his devotion to her and her friends consistently throughout the franchise. The most obvious reason however for why he is so beloved would certainly have to be his goofy design and the hilariousness of his expressions and sounds. There are some characters you certainly don't really need a deep level of reasoning to enjoy, and he is one of them.
6) Alcibiades - Assassins Creed Odyssey
A hedonistic delight, and one of the possible romance characters in Assassin's Creed Odyssey, Alcibiades is certainly one of the side characters where falling for him is more on the painful side. While charming, seductive, and easy to love, he’s also incredibly self-serving and uses your character often to complete tasks that he needs for his rise to power. While it should be rather clear nothing serious is going to come out of the romantic interactions with him, it still makes you almost jealous to see him with other characters. Ultimately, while he does have his downsides, he tends to make up for them in his good conversation, the desire to please, and always knowing the perfect way to relieve stress. He’s definitely comparable to a partner you broke up with months ago that you just can’t seem to stop seeing.
5) Nurse Joy - Pokemon Franchise
While Nurse Joy is more of a group or concept rather than just one individual person, any Nurse Joy you come upon in the Pokémon franchise may immediately steal your heart. There’s inherent aspects of supporting characters that make them that much easier to fall for, and Nurse Joy is no exception. She is a hard working, selfless, and joyful woman, who puts her all into making sure your Pokémon are well taken care of. You don’t get to have many interactions with her though unfortunately, outside of seeing her at the Pokémon Center, at least, until Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. In this game, you do have the option to grab a drink with this game’s iteration of Nurse Joy. Being able to interact with her in this way was a nice touch, and absolutely a reason to fall that much more for her character.
4) Blathers - Animal Crossing
Next up on the list is Blathers from Animal Crossing. He’s a wordy, intellectual museum director who will info-dump the second you give him the chance, but is also polite enough to give you the option to opt out of his rants. Considering the quirky nature of this character, he’s definitely one that’s easier to get attached to in this game, and you’ll constantly want to bring him more gifts to add to his collections. There’s an almost reverent sort of behavior that many players tend to take on when referring to working with him, given the term “the first one always goes to Blathers.” This is of course, in reference to the many bugs, fish, fossils, and art pieces that he seeks to collect in the museum he runs on the player’s island. The first one you find, no matter how cool it is, must always go to him.
3) Claptrap - Borderlands 2
Like a screeching R2-D2 but with gut busting one-liners, Claptrap rightfully deserves a spot on the list. Some may find this character more annoying than endearing, but the humor that they bring will always make you eager to see them again. Truly, nothing is ever boring when they’re around, you’ll find them in situations like being worshipped as a god by savages, or go on a quest with them to find them the dwarven beard that will complete their transformation into a wizard. They bring about an endless sea of laughs and self-deprecating humor that you’ll come to adore, and comparatively, they might feel to you like an incredibly stupid, boisterous younger sibling, who you love but also want to throttle.
2) Hypnos - Hades
It’s genuinely appalling that despite having the option to romance a few of the characters in Hades, you do not have the option to do so with Hypnos. At the end of a run through the different levels of the Underworld, the frustration of having died is usually tempered by the interactions you can have with him upon return to the House of Hades. Hypnos always has something to say, whether that be advice, support, or a jab at your expense, you’ll almost be happy you died in order to have these sort of teasing interactions with him. Along with the comic relief he provides from the oftentimes serious nature of the game, as sleep incarnate, he’s a character that’s easy to identify with. Frequently making sarcastic remarks, appearing to place the utmost importance in comfort with his blanket cape, and constantly taking nap breaks, he would clearly be a cool person to hang out with. Having a character that you genuinely feel like you could befriend if they were real, makes them far too easy to latch on to.
1) Prince Sidon - Breath of the Wild
When it comes to side characters that you’ll fall head over heels for, Prince Sidon from Breath of the Wild is the absolute best. Appearing to have been hit with the himbo ray, Prince Sidon is a strong, enthusiastic, and supportive character that constantly cheers you on and does whatever he can to help Link with their tasks. Initially, it’s getting to Zora, his father’s domain, and then, the fight with the Divine Beast Vah Ruta. He’s eager to help in battle and allows you to ride him across the reservoir where Vah Ruta resides. Among other things, Prince Sidon cares deeply about his family and the people that would be affected by the problems caused by Vah Ruta. He defends Link tirelessly against one of his father’s council, with support he seems to derive from knowing the love his departed sister had for him. Truly, the endless good qualities he has makes him very easy to simp for, and in turn makes him one of the most popular side characters out there.