Top 10 Mass Effect Legendary Edition Characters (non-spoiler)
In Celebration of the launch of the much anticipated Mass Effect Legendary Edition, I decided it would be fun to rank the top 10 characters from the series. This will be original trilogy characters only, and a list that is everyone besides Shepard. I can't express enough how excited I am for the release, as in my opinion the Mass Effect Trilogy, is the greatest game series of all time. The ability to re-experience this story with updated visuals will be a real treat as I have not played the series in many years. As much as it is hard to explain some of the most amazing aspects of these characters without story spoilers, I want to keep this list shorter with it being as spoiler-free as possible for those who are going to experience the Remaster for the first time. Also, one thing that Mass Effect really excelled at is their phenomenal characters; therefore, all 10 of these characters would top tier in any other game, so if your favorite is not high enough, please know I think all 10 of these characters are amazing.
To make this list easier, I am restricting it to squadmates. So right away I want to give an honorable mention to Joker and Anderson as they are easily some of the best characters in the game who are not squamates. They are are phenomenal. Joker is funny without being annoying, and you feel a genuine connection with him. Anderson is a mentor, a leader, and someone who just demands respect from someone even as amazing as Shepard.
When Bioware made the amazing decision to let players pretty much completely fail the Suicide mission in ME2 and have everyone die, they wrote themselves into an interesting corner. I don't envy the difficulty of creating the Squadmate line up for ME3 when some characters might not even be there. EDI I think was a clever story arc to add a squadmate from a character we knew already, but who couldn't have died in ME2. I think giving EDI physical form was creative genius.
Not only did it serve to fill out the squad for ME3, but it also gave form to her character arc across the two games. She goes from a faceless orb to a physical person we get to interact with. Since the over-arching story of Mass Effect is about the dangers of AI, and the purpose of the Reapers, placing us next to one AI is narratively great. EDI puts a face to the discussion of "do AI deserve to exist or are they a threat?" that the game is asking. Players can choose to be supportive or not.
If I could make one change to ME3 (besides my idea for the ending...) I would have made EDI a Romance option for Shepard in ME3. Having her be a romance option for Shepard in 3 would have added even more emotional weight to the possible ending choices. It would have added an emotional weight to the overall question of whether or not the Geth or EDI deserved to survive.
Grunt is a lab grown super soldier version of the aggressive and militaristic Krogen. However, unlike most of his species who we meet, the Krogen which are extra-long lived species, Grunt is essentially a new born. He will still be alive for hundreds to thousand plus years after Shepard. It is absolutely a comical sight at times to see his first adventure in the world, and the bond he develops with Shepard is phenomenal. I won't spoil anything here, but in ME3 he has some of the most badass moments and funniest moments in the series.
So many games have the archetype of the "cold deadly assassin". Thane could have so easily been a boring copy and paste character; however, what we got was a well developed, complex, and interesting character. By the time ME3 takes place, Thane gets an absolutely emotional and well done story arc in something I am not sure I am ready to re-experience again. I won't put much here because so many of the best parts of Thane's story are dripping in spoilers, so you will just have to take my word for it and play the game.
I realize that Garrus might be a controversial pick for "only" top 7. Many many fans of the franchise would probably list Garrus in their top 3 if not #1. And I wouldn't really be able to argue with you. Garrus is such a top tier S class character that I think he could hold his own game. He is Shepard's right hand man and best "brother in arms" character. He is loyal, funny, and just well written, acted, and badass. The blowing off steam scene in ME3, sniping with Shepard is still just one of the best little moments in the trilogy. The fact that such a phenomenal character has 6 more characters I just enjoy even more just goes to show the caliber of characters in the Mass Effect trilogy.
I think every one wishes they had someone like Wrex in my life. He's a grandpa, a best friend, a bro, a mentor, a big brother, all rolled into one grumpy old dude. I feel so bad for people who didn't get to experience Wrex in ME2 or 3 because he just excels so much in there. I love the mutual respect Wrex and Shepard have. Wrex is a thousand year old Warrior who is gruff, gritty, and an unstoppable badass. Seeing him again in ME2 and how excited he is to see you just puts a smile on the most Renegade of us. All I can say is if I could have a story that sees Drack from Andromeda, Grunt, and Wrex go on some Krogen space road trip adventure together it would be absolutely amazing. The best part of being friends with Wrex is that the game touches on incredibly difficult ethical dilemmas. Their species suffers from the Genophage which kills so many of their unborn children, imposed upon them from another species, meant to keep the population of a violent race in control. You get to be friends with Wrex, an Ally, or you can only see the worst part of him. It is all up to you. Some players make worse choices and only see him as a negative character.
Mordin is an amazing character. He talks too fast, rambles, and is so lovable in his speech. Despite being such quirky and unique character, he also has one of the biggest character arcs in the entire game. In the span of two games he goes from supporting the Genophage, even so much as being a part of ensuring its continuation, to someone who is against it and actively helping resolve it. He represents character growth. He showcases what it means to change one's beliefs when presented with new information, being open-minded and willing to change. I won't spoil it here, but the way Mordin's story concludes in ME3 is one of the best character arcs in the series and gaming PERIOD. If you played the series, you just know what I mean.
He also sings...and that's just worth it right there.
For some, I might have Miranda ranked a little high on this list for you, and that's ok. I just really enjoy her character, her character arc, and her personality. She also represents a really real character disguised as a character that could have been very boring and one note. Players might be put off by her or give up getting to know her too easy. Initially on paper she is a pretty cold person. You could be tricked into thinking there is nothing there. However, she can open up, cry, be real, be vulnerable. She easily is one of the most vulnerable characters in the franchise as she suffers from self-esteem issues, family issues, and her own struggles. She was genetically created by an abusive father, and her loyalty mission is very emotional. She has many character weakness, and family issues that just come across genuine for someone who could have been a boring "female super soldier". I think people are too hard on Miranda because they are quick to dismiss or don't spend time getting to know her character. Once you do, it is worth it.
Miranda also represents the only time I broke my rule on reloading a save my first time through. For me she died in ME3 the first time, and I just couldn't allow that. No one kills Miranda. If I could make another change to ME3, I wish we could invite her on board the Normandy as a Squadmate after her story missions are complete, but I understand the struggles of squadmates who "could be dead" being difficult for ME3's development so they had to focus, and they picked Tali, Garrus and the Virmire survivor. Still, it would have been great to have her aboard again, having her help in taking down the very organization who she once defended so passionately.
3. Liara T'soni
Ranking the top three was really difficult for me as all ten of these character represent some of the best characters in gaming, and some of my all time favorites. I even at one point put Liara at number 1. Liara is one of the best characters in the franchise, and one of Shepard's closest companions. He owes his life to her as she is the one who gave him to Cerberus to save him. She is incredibly loyal, funny, and sweet. She also has one of the better character arcs over three games; we get to see her go from innocent sheltered scientist to strong connected warrior to close friend. Liara is incredibly important to the universe because she is the one character that comes up with a solve for the Reapers and also actually comes up with contingencies in case Shepard and everyone fails. Without Liara, ME3 wouldn't be possible. She is the one that comes up with the Crucible, and she is instrumental in the Andromeda Initiative, and even creates a time capsule box for future generations in case they fail. She is not just Shepard's best friend, and one of the best romance options, but she has three plans to save the galaxy and that's amazing.
Liara was the first character I ever had Shepard romance through out the trilogy, and she is just incredibly well acted and written. One of my favorite real life Mass Effect memories was getting to actually meet and talk with Liara voice actress Ali Hillis in real life. Meeting one of the Mass Effect heroes herself was absolutely phenomenal.
"Shepard Commander, Does this unit have a Soul?"
Gosh, words are hard to describe how amazing Legion is. It is such a shame that he is acquired so late in ME2 because I just want more of him. I also think he, like Mordin have a similar incredible two game arc as both characters are fighting for the survival on a single race. Legion's way of speaking, the body language, even his unintentional humor, just make him not just one of the best characters in Mass Effect, but also one of the best examples of a an machine, artificial life form in fiction. I think Legion is up there in the ranks of those like Data in terms of quality written artificial intelligent characters. Legion's fascination with humanity and Shepard make him incredibly relatable. From wearing Shepard's old N7 armor and picking a name from Earth's mythology, he is just adorable in the fandom of his own way.
I also love this character because he stands as the Exception. Legion is someone you trust right away. He is humble, innocent, has no ill-intent. He represents the good that AI can be even more than EDI does. In a story about the dangers of AI, the inevitable doom of AI, Legion represents the idea that AI could choose to be good. They can chose to want co-existence with their creators. Legion always want to just be allowed to exist.
I really truly struggled for who to rank number one. Not because Tali isn't an obvious candidate, but because again the caliber of the cast is just so phenomenal. That being said, Tali is one of if not the best character in Mass Effect. She is easily the sweetest, nicest, person in the galaxy. She is innocent and defendable, yet can hold her own and talk back to someone who mistreats her. For some players she is the little sister best friend, for other players she is the best romance option for Male Shepard.
Tali has the best Loyalty Mission in ME2 and I don't want to spoil any of it. More importantly, she is just one of the most loyal characters in the series. She is one of the few characters that join Shepard in all three games. There is one thing that really stands out to me in a character and that is when they will help you no matter what. So often in games is the trope of recruiting people who will help you after you complete a series of tasks, or who eventually take on other priorities. I think Liara, Wrex, Legion, Mordin, Miranda are all amazing characters, and I'm not saying what they were working on wasn't important, but Tali would walk away from anything to help you. In ME1 she abandons her Pilgrimage and joins Shepard's squad because she saw his mission as more important. In ME2, she quickly completes her mission and basically tells her superiors she is going to go help Shepard whether they like it or not. In ME3, she again, quickly joins Shepard as soon as she can to help him stop the Reapers. When almost everyone else gets caught up in situations, she is loyal to Shepard, and for that reason I think she is one of the best characters in Mass Effect.