Mass Effect is a sci-fi action RPG that puts you in the shoes of Commander Shepard, hero of the galaxy and puncher of annoying reporters. Thing is, even with all those conversation wheels, it can be difficult to see Shepard as their own character; they don't develop all that much across the trilogy, and you can have them making such wildly different decisions from scene to scene that it's hard to discern any character outside of 'good at shooting things'.
Fortunately, that's where BioWare have you covered, with a galaxy full of endearing and badass teammates who bring all the character you could ever need. With only a small handful of duds and so many great companions, ranking is nigh-impossible. We gave it a go anyway.
Note that the Andromeda squadmates are also here; they rank pretty low, though that's mostly because they haven't had two extra games, a bajillion comics, and a hilarious comedy DLC to give them life. Not yet, anyway. Here is Every Mass Effect Squadmate, Ranked Worst To Best.
WARNING: Spoilers for the original trilogy below!
Morinth lands herself right at rock bottom, since she’s the only squadmate in the franchise who will straight up kill you for fun and profit. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Morinth is an unrepentant serial killer, essentially an alien vampire who’s left a trail of dead bodies across the galaxy for hundreds of years. Her status as an Ardat-Yakshi means that Morinth has become addicted to sexing her victims to death, but don’t expect her to show any remorse; instead, she seems to think her particular brand of murder is doing people a favor.
Fortunately, you can only recruit Morinth by betraying her mother during their confrontation, a choice no sane player would ever make outside of sheer curiosity (and with a save file handy). Morinth then goes on to impersonate her mother for the remainder of the game, helped by the family resemblance and her (almost) identical set of skills.
There’s really no reason to go that far, however; Samara and Morinth have the same stats. The only difference is that one is a powerful, experienced and utterly loyal space cop, and Morinth… well, she just wants to make Shepard her next snu-snu victim.
25 Jacob Taylor
Human teammates often get the short end of the stick across the Mass Effect franchise. That said, there’s not too much to say about Jacob ‘what are these things you call personality and usefulness’ Taylor, a member of evil science organization Cerberus and a mandatory squadmate for ME2.
On paper, Jacob seems grand: a solid combatant, biotic, experienced and emotionally stable. In the game? He’s a blank mannequin whose major claim to infamy comes if you inexplicably choose to romance him. Cue Jacob showing up at Shepard’s quarters and referring to her as "the priiiize". He’s not all that great in combat either; a jack-of-all-stats with no solid specialties, and in a game where you have a total of thirteen squadmates to choose from who aren’t generic Call of Duty NPCs, you probably won’t be taking Jacob along too often.
And the nail in his character's coffin? Jacob is the only character in the franchise who cheats on Shepard, and he's not even sorry about it.
24 Cora Harper
Cora Harper is our first Andromeda character on the list, though with her barely ranking above a psychopathic murderer and a shop mannequin, it’s not looking good.
Look, Cora could be worse. She’s a biotic, experienced in combat and has a chip on her shoulder from being discriminated against and treated as different. And yet, it’s hard to like her. Maybe it’s because Cora wears an unsettling mini-smile most of the time, when her entire character makes it clear that she’s seething inside from being passed over for that big promotion to Pathfinder. Her character development is also rushed and doesn’t tell us all that much about her; Cora is a person who respects rules and the chain of command…we guess? Probably?
A neutral point is her having the same last name as the Illusive Man, which has led to a plethora of wild fan theories from ‘she’s totally his daughter and they’re working together!’ all the way to ‘they have the same last name because it’s a RELATIVELY COMMON SURNAME’. Jury’s still out on that one, though; at the moment, Cora is just another one of those human teammates that BioWare apparently doesn’t want us to get all that attached to.
23 Liam Costa
Speak of the devil.
Meet Liam: he’s a supposedly elite, handpicked soldier who shoots at corpses for fun, slags off alien races every chance he gets and walks around the ship without a shirt for no adequately explored reason.
Liam actually gets a bit of development later that rounds off his character, but since most players were turned off his character by the end of the first mission, he’ll likely spend the average Andromeda play-through stashed below deck, wondering why he’s never allowed outside. It doesn’t help that all his teammates are just more interesting, either by virtue of being alien or just being more solidly fleshed out.
Liam isn’t necessarily terrible- he has actual flaws, a great loyalty mission and is no slouch when it comes to a firefight- but he’s just destined to be overshadowed and ignored to the point where it’s easy to forget that he’s still hanging around somewhere. Also, his battle quips are some of Andromeda’s lowest points.
22 James Vega
A testament to the strength of Mass Effect’s characters is the fact that James Vega has ended up all the way down here, since he’s actually pretty likable. Unfortunately he’s late to the game, only appearing in ME3 and spending most of his time as the naïve player-surrogate (i.e. he needs things explained to him, a lot).
The most damning thing about Vega is how suddenly he pops up at the start of the game, with all us players seemingly expected to know who he is, why he’s there and his entire backstory (and if you want all that info, you have to shell out a few extra bucks for some mediocre DLC and a short comic). When we’ve had two games packed to the brim with awesome teammates and some random human is shoved into our squad, you can’t exactly blame players for booting James out of the ensemble at the first opportunity. He’s climbing an uphill battle to be relevant, though to Vega’s credit, it could’ve been far worse. The Citadel DLC expands on his character, giving him a few endearing traits… plus, just look at the guy. In combat he can soak up as much damage as a Krogan and send it right back.
21 Kasumi Goto
Kasumi is great; it’s just that we don’t get enough of her.
Introduced in ME2 as a DLC character, Kasumi Goto is the galaxy’s most skilled thief and an expert in hacking and infiltration. She’s not perhaps as useful in a straight fight, but if you need someone to sneak around the back of the enemy while cloaked and shank them in the back, Kasumi’s your girl.
Jovial, friendly and slightly eccentric, Kasumi isn’t your average sneak thief only looking out for number one. She may be serving her own interests most of the time, but she definitely develops into a loyal squadmate, albeit one with some kleptomaniac tendencies. Kasumi got a bit more development in the sequel, as well as the Citadel DLC, in which she’s shown enjoying the party in Shepard’s apartment in her own way (rifling through draws, sneaking around cloaked and filming people without their permission).
Combining some great voice acting with a few unique skills, it’s a shame that we never get to see quite as much of Kasumi as we’d like.
Andromeda’s answer to Liara, Pelessaria B’Sayle- PeeBee- is a scientist working to uncover ancient artefacts. That’s around about where the similarities end, however, since PeeBee is a far feistier, willing to strike out on her own and much quicker to the trigger when she thinks that shooting your problems is the best course of action.
PeeBee is essentially the anti-Asari character, coming along and annihilating all the stereotypes about their race being cultured, demure and sophisticated. She’s still a skilled marksman (marks…Asari?) and a keen researcher, but will otherwise buck the trend as much as possible, drinking any human under the table and generally not giving two stuffs about what people think of her.
Of course, this all adds up to an odd package that grates on the nerves of the player at times, especially when PeeBee lapses into irritating Buffy-speak or her bubbly diatribes cross the border the obnoxious. However, overall she’s just a fun presence to have on board, and she meshes well with Andromeda’s lighter tone.
19 Nakmor Drack
Everyone loves a good Krogan on their side, and Nakmor Drack is one of the most experienced you’re ever going to find. Over 1400 years old, he’s the grandfather of the team, but you wouldn’t exactly know it most of the time; he’s just as enthusiastic as the month-old Grunt when hurling himself into a fight, shotguns blazing.
Alright, to be fair, Drack is a bit more of a family man than your average Krogan. He’s clearly pretty fond of his granddaughter, and otherwise seems to treat the crew like members of his extended family. On the other hand, in most other ways he embodies everything we know about his race: tough, gruff and raring to tear off some heads. Like Wrex and Grunt, Drack is a damage-sponge who can soak up enemy fire and tear through bad guys with brute strength alone.
He gets the occasional funny line, though he can come across as a bland stereotype if you don’t read much into his personality.
Jack might verge on being a total psychopath, but unlike Morinth, she gets better. Also, she never tries to murder you at any point- not sincerely, at least- so there’s also that.
Jack is one of Mass Effect’s most polarizing characters, with some players outright loathing her due to all the angst, attitude and violent nature. Others point out that she’s had one of THE most traumatic backstories of all, tortured and experimented upon since early childhood to forge her into the ultimate human biotic weapon, so a bit of antisocial behavior is justified.
Jack definitely has a solid and consistent character that continues to develop as she takes on a teaching role in ME3; it’s up to the player as to whether they choose to accept it. While she’s an unstoppable biotic force of nature in cut-scenes, Jack sadly doesn’t quite match up in actual gameplay, falling behind Samara in power and not being overly proficient with firearms. Still, she’s far from useless, and Jack’s Warp Ammo skill can have Shepard tearing through biotic foes like tissue paper.
17 Vetra Nyx
She might seem like the female Garrus at first glance, what with her underworld connections and years’ worth of experience dealing with a galaxy of scum and villainy, as well as the DBZ scouter fixed over her eye.
Fortunately, outside of ‘is good in a firefight’, that’s where the similarities end. Vetra is the dashing space rogue archetype, street-smart to the ways of intergalactic criminal enterprises and fiercely loyal if you happen to get on her good side. Her power armor comes in very handy when you’re under some heavy fire, though she doesn’t quite have the killing power of some other squadmates.
Vetra is also defined by her relationships and personal quirks, not by her race; the fact that she’s a Turian doesn’t come into play all that much, with most of her story tied up in Vetra’s concern for her sister. It’s a crucial humanizing element to her character (or…Turian-izing?) that makes us keen to see more of Vetra Nyx, if Andromeda does well enough to warrant sequels.
16 Jaal Ama Darav
Seems like every Mass Effect game needs that token teammate who’s truly alien. Not just a regular old alien who in every way except visually could pass for a quirky human…no, these are the ones that really give you a feel for the vastness of the cosmos in how different they act from the others.
Andromeda has Jaal, a member of the new Angaran race. He’s perhaps the bottom of the pile when it comes to the token weird teammates, as he mostly comes across as quiet, reserved and your garden variety fish-out-of-water in his interactions with the rest of the crew. Nevertheless, Jaal scoops himself up some surprisingly funny moments, and in the trend of his people, has no trouble expressing his emotions and opinions.
Jaal excels in long-range combat, speaks in a smooth growl and is generally just a lot of fun to have around, even if he doesn’t know it. Out of all the Andromeda teammates, this package makes him perhaps the one you want to see more of.
All the way up here at number 15, and we’re already in elite territory. No wonder people say you play Mass Effect for the story and not the gameplay.
EDI is your friendly on-board AI, manifesting as a cool-voiced female as seems to be the sci-fi trend. Efficient, professional and occasionally snarky, EDI very steadily gains greater awareness until she finally develops into her very own character, complete with sleek robot body. She’s a decent squadmate on missions, able to spawn a decoy and reinforce your armor, but EDI’s true contribution to the game is her ever-evolving personality.
If the Normandy can be considered a true character, EDI is its extension, living and fighting alongside Shepard in the crew and learning what it means to be alive. Helping matters is her odd romance with Joker, which escalates through the roof when EDI takes on an actual bodily form…as you’d expect. As robot bodies go, you can sort of see why Joker would like it.
“Bah! In my cycle, list articles were far greater! Throw it out of the airlock!”
So speaks Javik, the walking meme with itchy airlock control fingers, always moaning about how things were better back in his day like some kind of crotchety senior citizen. And he is old (well over 50,000 years), being the only survivor of the ancient Prothean race. Thawed from cryostasis, Javik has to come face to face with an entirely new galaxy, where appetizers have become politicians and cavemen control massive empires.
Despite an abrasive personality, Javik was a great addition to ME3, playing the role of a wise general who’d lived through the horrors of war and genocide. Bringing some impressive stats and biotic powers to the team, Javik is one teammate you’ll always want to bring along on missions, if only to get his cynical take on any given situation. He’s also a fascinating window into the past, as well as a living relic of the Reapers and their brutal genocide.
13 Miranda Lawson
A lot of players didn’t know what to make of Miranda when she was introduced in ME2. Sure, she was a useful teammate and was brimming with a lot of information, plus her connections to Cerberus make for one interesting story. And yet, there’s the whining. So much whining. You’ll be hearing quite a few times how hard it was for Miranda to be genetically engineered to be perfect, and how much of a jerk her father was. This is most of the reason people can’t figure Miranda’s character out, with some disliking this side of her (along with the blatant fanservice and uncanny valley facial features) and others agreeing that yeah, she’s had a pretty trashy life trying to live up to a standard of perfection. Oh, and then there’s the backseat driving, with her constantly giving orders and forgetting that Shepard is the one calling the shots.
ME3 did a great deal to redeem Miranda in the eyes of the indecisive, giving her a decent character arc and showing a much softer, more compassionate side to her personality that won her a good chunk of fans. Good luck saving her life, however; BioWare really make you work to stop Miranda from suffering one of several violent deaths.
12 Zaeed Massani
You know that grumpy grandpa who complains about everything, but is actually a decent family man underneath? Give him a load of guns and explosives, and you’ve got Zaeed: badass mercenary, bounty hunter and far more effective than Boba Fett could ever hope to be.
Zaeed’s DLC status means we don’t learn quite as much about him as some squadmates, but if you do some digging you’ll turn up a surprisingly complex backstory. As one of the oldest squadmates in the franchise, Zaeed has certainly been around the block, tangled with every race and creed, and probably sworn at them a few times while lobbing grenades in their general direction. It’s his thing. He might seem like your average grizzled bounty hunter, complete with a beloved named firearm by his side (Jessie), but that doesn’t stop Zaeed from showing some unexpected character depth, such as putting off his quest for bloody vengeance for the good of the mission.
Naturally, Zaeed is a force of nature in combat, armed with heavy weaponry and grenades to annihilate the toughest of armored foes.
11 Ashley Williams
Ashley was always a polarizing character, with fierce debates raging over whether her or Kaidan deserved to die on Virmire. Then ME3 came along and she seemed to take a slight dive in popularity, mostly because BioWare gave her a Barbie-doll makeover in a ham-fisted attempt to push the fanservice.
Many have pointed out that style-over-substance armor, a long hairstyle and larger, uh…assets are all pretty impractical for a combat zone, especially since Ashley is supposed to border on super-soldier proficiency and really shouldn’t care about looking hot when the future of the galaxy is at stake.
Outside of this, she’s been criticized for some xenophobic views on alien life and generally being abrasive, certainly a far cry from Kaidan and his Canadian politeness. And yet, Ashley supporters will point out that her racism is more mistrust stemming from genuinely negative experiences- the First Contact War- and the fact that she grows to trust aliens over the course of the series makes for some intriguing character development. Coupled with the fact that she’s an extremely useful teammate, it’s enough to redeem her in the eyes of many who were put off by early-trilogy, pre-development Ashley...if you aren't too put off by the makeover.
10 Kaidan Alenko
Ashley’s parallel in many ways, Kaidan spent most of the first game as the token boring human teammate, with only the occasional flash of personality. His biotics were useful enough, but with Ashley not particularly well liked at the time either, the Virmire choice for many was simply a matter of choosing between two flat characters.
Then we got ME3, where Kaidan is again available as a squadmate and shows a far deeper side to his character. Many a fan realized that he wasn’t just ‘boring’ in the same way as someone like Jacob, but instead simply understated. Underneath the calm, easy-going exterior was a man with an extremely traumatic past trying to keep it together (‘it’ being both his emotions and his phenomenal psychic powers), with a sprinkling of charming character moments that showcase his innocent, childish side. Kaidan also gets some major combat upgrades focusing on his biotic barrier abilities, which when upgraded make him nigh-invincible to harm and a stalwart companion in a firefight.
Overall, Kaidan’s main crime is that he’s just a genuinely decent, chill guy stuck in an ensemble of interesting screwballs. Take him or leave him, but should you choose to let Kaidan survive until ME3, he becomes very hard to dislike.
Props to the ME2 team for giving us an Asari squadmate who could not be more different from Liara. Unlike the shy, curious and slightly geeky Doctor T’Soni, Samara is a proud, confident warrior with almost a millennium of experience in using her biotic abilities. Poker-faced and utterly ruthless, Samara is bound by the Justicar code, making her loyalty and sense of duty absolute (and good thing too, since she threatens to kill a Renegade Shepard several times and it’s only the code that holds her back).
Aside from being a biotic beast in a fight, Samara is a stabilizing element to the ME2 mission, completely focused and not interested in any of this human romance business. Just to clarify, Samara has spent hundreds of years tracking down her murderous daughter, only to be devastated by what she had to do once the job is done.
In many ways, Samara represents the best of the Asari race: she’s possibly the strongest biotic in the whole series, a stoic warrior and the truest of companions. And if you really felt like you were missing out in ME2, the sequel lets her and Shepard have some tender moments together.
Grunt is Shepard’s teenage son. That’s it.
Sure, he might be a genetically-engineered super-Krogan woken up from a tank with zero experience of life and a strong desire to kill things, but still…teenage son. Still finding his way in the brave new world of ‘the time in between killing stuff’, Grunt is an eloquent youngster full of curiosity about everything from philosophy to dinosaurs. Like every Krogan, Grunt respects power, but he also shows another side to the race due to the unique circumstances of his birth.
Naturally this makes Grunt a powerhouse in combat, what with being bred to fight; aside from being nigh-unkillable to begin with, Grunt can even use skills that make him more durable, so feel free to let him soak up damage while you take a breather behind cover.
But perhaps his finest moments come in the Citadel DLC, where like so many teenagers Grunt sneaks out for a night on the town with his friends, breaks things, goes joyriding, gets picked up by the cops and has to get his parent (Shepard, of course) to bail him out.
7 Thane Krios
Thane is one of the mascot characters for ME2, and it’s not too hard to see why. He’s appropriately ‘alien’, a badass assassin (try saying that three times fast) and to top it all off, he doesn’t even enjoy it. Thane is just a pious Drell trying to atone for all the killing he’s done in his life by…killing more people? Okay then! But at least he prays over the bodies of his victims, right after he drops from the ceiling and beats everyone up, Batman style.
Thane is still torn up about putting his son on the wrong path, and is constantly trying to make up for his mistakes while battling a terminal illness. As if this didn’t make him nuanced enough, we also learn than Thane is seeking death as a way to redeem himself for past sins; the only problem here is that he’s too good at his job.
Fans instantly took to Thane when he was first revealed, what with his interesting design and statuesque features that made him a popular romance option. His heart-rending sacrifice, plethora of skills, gravelly tone and understated persona have done pretty much nothing to damage that popularity...as you'd expect.
6 Tali'Zorah nar Rayya
Tali is available as a squadmate in every game of the main trilogy; a pretty good effort, considering she’s fighting alongside a bunch of super-soldiers and biotic demigods. Still, Tali’s technical skills are some of the best in the galaxy, and her status as engineer means that she brings a lot of utility to the table in a fight.
But combat aside, Tali is truly beloved because of her character. Cute, awkward and out-of-her-depth in all the right ways, this Quarian quickly wormed her way into the hearts of players and is possibly the most popular romance option (or at least top 3), despite her interactions with Shepard leaving her with a hefty case of the sniffles. And then just wait until you see Tali get drunk.
Regardless of whether she and Shepard hook up, Tali remains a strong companion with an interesting story of her own running parallel to the main tale. Though the details depend on your choices, you get to watch Tali go from shy engineer to a paragon of the Quarian race, all the while bringing her quirky brand of charm to the Normandy.
“Does this unit have a soul?”
When it comes to Legion, the answer should be obvious. Legion stands out as one of Mass Effect’s best and deepest characters, quite an achievement when it’s supposedly just a bunch of computer programmes buzzing around in a metal shell.
Legion is the first truly sentient Geth platform, created to interact with the rest of the galaxy and deepen the Geth’s understanding of organic life. It has a cool robot voice, a unique metallic design and is just generally adorable in its own strange way, fumbling its way through interactions like a curious child, always keen to learn more about the meaning of life. As a representative of the Geth race, Legion was the first time we as players were properly able to see them as more than enemy drones, and its steadily-developing personality quickly won Legion a ton of fans.
This all culminates in Legion doing its very best to give its race the same level of awareness, finally gaining true sentience and individuality at the end of its life. For many a player, Legion’s sacrifice is one of the series’ most tear-jerking moments, no matter how it goes down.
4 Urdnot Wrex
As we’ve mentioned, everyone loves a good Krogan. Wrex just happens to be the original in terms of joining your squad, and he’s quite the credit to his race.
Despite being a hired mercenary, Wrex sticks around through the original Mass Effect due to his desire to be where the action is…and he definitely ends up getting his fair share of the stuff. As one of the few remaining Krogan Battlemasters, Wrex is able to combine all the classic features of his race (taking a ton of damage, dealing a ton of damage) and combine them with biotics for one truly devastating package.
As with all the best characters, Wrex has two major things going for him: the first is undying loyalty as a teammate and a solid friendship with Shepard. The other is a major character arc, which sees him taking over as Krogan leader, uniting the clans and getting really busy with repopulating their race, all the while being a gruff uncle to the rest of the cast. Wrex also has a habit of threatening to eat his enemies, is a total ladies’ man (if you cure the Genophage) and makes it his mission to annoy your teammates into submission, should they ever make the mistake of joining him in an elevator.
What’s not to like??
3 Mordin Solus
If you were to sum up Mordin in a word, it'd probably be 'lovable'. He might be a Salarian scientist with a shady past, but right here and now, Mordin is your team's resident biology whiz and one of the franchise's best conversation partners.
He sings, he thinks aloud, he gives you relationship advice; you never quite know what you're going to get when visiting Mordin in the science lab, though the results are always entertaining. He's not too shabby in a fight, either, with a set of science-based skills that can both freeze enemies in their tracks and incinerate them... uh, also in their tracks.
And then after they've spent two games making you love Mordin and all his quirks, ME3 has him go and give his life to secure the future of a race that hated him. It's possibly the best heroic sacrifice in the entire game, made tearfully poignant by Mordin giving one last reprise of 'Scientist Salarian' before his death...if you talked to him enough during the previous game, that is. And if you didn't, then you're playing Mass Effect wrong.
2 Liara T'Soni
Even those who’ve never played Mass Effect probably know about Liara; she might as well be the mascot of the entire franchise, being a blue alien woman (sort of) with sparkly powers who appears on all the box art. And for good reason, since she’s easily one of BioWare’s most beloved characters and a great teammate to boot.
Only a youngster Asari at the tender age of 106, Liara is a scientist fascinated with the ancient Prothean race who proves invaluable to Shepard’s mission to stop the Reapers. No stranger to combat, Liara is one of the strongest biotics around and isn’t too shabby with regular weapons either.
Perhaps more than any other character, Doctor T’Soni develops over the course of the series, going from shy, socially inept archaeologist to a powerful information broker capable of influencing events across the galaxy. Above all, Liara truly cares for Shepard as a person, regardless of whether you choose to romance her. She’s a powerful combatant, pretty great at her job, and crucial to the survival of the galaxy in the Reaper war… plus at the end of the day, just a really good friend.
1 Garrus Vakarian
Could #1 have been anyone else?
No, it could not have been, because Garrus is the ultimate squadmate and the gold standard for video game companions. You love him, the players love him, Shepard loves him, heck, even BioWare loves Garrus, judging by how they gave him all the good lines.
Garrus works so well because he’s the perfect blend of everything every other good squadmate offers. He’s an alien, but being a Turian doesn’t define him; Garrus is his own person, with his distinct personality and goals. He’s snarky, but never so much that it gets on your nerves. He’s totally loyal to Shepard, but it doesn’t reduce him as a character. Instead, you get the impression that the two of them became the best of space-bros, genuine friends even in the military setting. If Liara is the confidante and possible romantic interest, Garrus is the guy you’d invite over for a beer to shoot the breeze and talk about old times. He’s just this awesomely badass, likable package, topped off with a stellar voice performance and a deep commitment to his beloved calibrations.
Oh, and with the right setup, you can comfortably crouch behind a crate for the entirety of the game while Garrus swiftly murders every bad guy in the galaxy. What a pal.