Throughout the years, Bioware has blessed (and cursed) us with the power of choice. In both Mass Effect and Dragon Age, players can choose their squad and develop relationships with their team members. What Bioware wasn’t expecting was players falling in love with their characters and cursing them for having to make hard decisions. The Mass Effect trilogy has been known for its incredibly diverse characters. Over three games, we got to know assassins, scientists, and soldiers, each with their own distinct personalities and pasts. There are so many different reasons to like a crew member from their fighting skills to their romances.
I’ve taken all 20 members of the trilogy and ranked them based on combat, love, and overall likability. Most folks will agree with the last and first choice, but the rest is subject to heated debates.
20. Jacob Taylor
While most of Mass Effect’s human characters have some redeeming qualities, Jacob Taylor has nothing to get excited about. His only purpose is to literally show that not everyone in Cerberus is bad. The only thing going for him is some bizarre daddy issues and his desire to give up space travel entirely to start a family. You can find steamier love scenes on Lifetime but none have as great of dialogue as this. Also, he’s the only one who cheats on Shepard if she romances him in Mass Effect 2. Not cool, not cool at all.
19. Zaeed Massani
I wanted Zaeed Massani to be badass so badly, but Bioware let me down. On the surface, this DLC exclusive character was a snarky assassin. He had great one-liners and clever wit but not much else to make me care about him. Unfortunately, his battle scars didn’t make a compelling backstory.
Again, Bioware lets me down with these super interesting characters. One of Mass Effect’s major plot points revolves around an ancient race, the Protheans, and their technology. We finally see one in the flesh and can even have him in our squad! However, it was a mistake to introduce this character in a Mass Effect 3 DLC. If Javik appeared in the very beginning, he could have be a part of some very pivotal plot points. Instead, he’s reduced to a lame side character that no one remembers.
17. Ashley Williams
I can already feel readers’ hatred seeping through my screen as I write this entry. Some are probably wondering how I could dare made Ashley lower than Kaidan on this list. Well, I have to admit, it was pretty damn easy. From the get-go, Ashley was unbearable. Usually, it’s fine if a crew member disagrees with you, but Ashley always did so with such snark. She always judged your actions and was very xenophobic. When it came to that dreaded decision on Virmire, I didn’t think twice on who to kill. Sorry, Ashley, but if you weren’t so unlikable, then maybe you would have been spared.
16. James Vega
To this day, I still don’t know what’s the deal with James Vega. He was such a random addition to Mass Effect 3 and didn’t really add much in terms of combat or story. He seemed like a fine love interest for Female Shepard but he wasn’t even an option! After the beating the shit out of each other and doing shameless flirting in Shepard’s bedroom, Bioware literally cockblocks us. They attempt to fix that by making him a romance option in the Citadel DLC, but it’s basically Female Shepard pressuring him into sex. I would have loved to get it on with a guido Freddie Prinze Jr. but not in lieu of good writing.
If you went full on renegade and killed Samara while on her loyalty mission, then you can choose to recruit her daughter, Morinth who murders people through an orgasm (yes, you read that right). There’s nothing special about her combat-wise; she’s pretty much as powerful as her mother. The only reason you would want to keep her around is her sex scene. Morinth’s romance scene is literally doing what Samara feared—death by orgasm. Morinth gives Shepard an orgasm so intense that it literally kills him and sends you to the Game Over screen. Bioware certainly stays true to their characters, even the minor ones.
Kasumi is, hands down, one of the most interesting characters in the series. Her Stolen Memory DLC is one of the best DLCs in the Mass Effect trilogy. Kasumi is an invisible thief who is hurting after the death of her former partner. In her loyalty mission, Her Stolen Memory, Shepard helps Kasumi get revenge on her partner’s killer. It’s jam-packed with action and then gut punches you at the end with emotion.
Kasumi is pretty useful in battle as well. Her Shadow Strike ability makes her vanish and reappear behind an enemy to attack them. She’s one of the more visually appealing team members.
It’s a little strange how EDI evolved from simply an AI voice to a robot hottie. Her rambunctious body quickly caught the eyes of the Normandy’s pilot, Joker. Are we being hypocritical for thinking that plot line is weird even though we want to bang these sexy aliens? It’s a question that I find myself asking from time to time.
Regardless, that story line is as far as it goes for EDI. She has some decent dialogue options, but as far as AI characters go, Legion is far more interesting to talk to.
Deep down, Samara is a tragic character. After living a life as a mercenary, she settled down and had three children—only to find that they all were Ardat Yakshi (Asaris that kill their mates during melding). After having to give up her children, Samara became a justicar and devoted her life to the Justicar code. Justicars do not see anything as morally grey; they are either right or wrong. However, in Mass Effect 3, we can see Samara struggle with those decisions, especially when it comes to killing her other children. If Shepard doesn’t intervene, she will kill herself out of guilt for not performing her proper duties and killing her child. Samara may not bring anything combat or romance-wise to the table, but her tragic backstory is enough to get invested in her character.
At first glance, Miranda doesn’t seem like much more than a James Bond girl. She’s cold, calculating, and has an ass that you could bounce a coin off of. At first, she’s very distrusting of Shepard because she thinks of him/her as Cerberus’ pet. But once she starts to question Cerberus’ true intentions, we can finally see under that icy facade. We see how deeply she cares about her sister and how far she will go to save her from their evil father.
Jack is one of Mass Effect 2’s more interesting characters to come into your squad. She’s considered one of the most powerful biotics in the galaxy and is kept in isolation for human experiments. Throughout your interactions, you can see imprisonment has deeply affected her. People trash her for being the angsty stereotype with a bad past, but, after all she’s been through, she deserves to be. If she survives in Mass Effect 2, she’ll briefly show up in a mission in 3. She channels her anger into activism, caring deeply about the biotic students that Shepard is trying to save from Cerberus. It’s great that Bioware decided to do more with her character rather than just keep her as an angry victim.
People love to debate on who is the better krogan. While Wrex usually wins the argument, there is a lot to love about Grunt. He’s the baby of the squad, literally being brought out of his tank for the first time in the Normandy. Grunt is a fascinating character study and brings some insight into the genetically engineered krogan super soldiers. Grunt lacks the honor and upbringing of a proper Krogan which makes him violent and unpredictable. He considers himself weak and not a true Krogan because of his genetic birth. His loyalty mission involves bringing him to Tuchanka to take part in the traditional Krogan rite of passage. Besides that key character moment, there isn’t much to him besides punching and yelling.
The Geth are one of Shepard’s most common enemies in the Mass Effect trilogy. Created by Quarians as laborers and tools of war, the Geth turned on their masters and attempted to exterminate them. Legion is introduced on the Derelict Reaper, where it helps Shepard fight against husks. Legion helps presents the other side of the Artificial Intelligence debate. The Geth’s uprising made AI look like a dangerous addition to society, but Legion assures Shepard that Geth are mostly apathetic towards organics.
Behind those big doe eyes lies a cold, calculating scientist. Mordin Solus is as anti-hero as you can get. He’s a consequentialist, believing that the ends justify the means. He was one of the minds behind the infamous genophage which is wiping out krogans at a rapid pace. The scary part is that he genuinely believes that what he’s doing is right. As he travels with Shepard, he’s forced to watch his virus unfolded. No other character has faced a moral dilemma as big as Mordin.
This leads up to his tragic end in Mass Effect 3, where he owns up to his mistakes and sacrifices his life to end the genophage once and for all. He’s the only character to have such a satisfying character arc and leaves you sobbing at the end.
6. Kaidan Alenko
I will fight anyone who tries to tell me that Kaidan Alenko is a throwaway character. He may not be a great fighter in battle, but he is one of the best romances by far. If Mass Effect was ever made into a film with a FemShep lead, Kaidan would probably be her love interest. He is incredibly loyal to Shepard and backs every decision she makes. Their romance is quite the rollercoaster ride but really leaves its mark in Mass Effect 3 where it’s more fleshed out. You can tell Shepard and Kaidan have seen their fair share of death and war and realize that they should spend their few free moments with each other. Their relationship has the elements of a great love story, whether it end in tragedy or happiness. Kaidan may not be a bad boy with emotional baggage, but he exhibits the characteristics that most women would want in their potential lover.
5. Thane Krios
Thane Krios was the proof that people could fall in actual love with aliens. His deep, raspy voice and sensitive personality was a big hit for Female Shepards across the globe. He’s the world’s greatest assassin who works on a deeply spiritual level. He prays for his victims before and after he makes the kill. However, he doesn’t necessarily carry any guilt from killing because he believes that his body is just a vessel for killing and his soul is in the right place. His sacrifice in Mass Effect 3 was one of the games (many) punches in the gut. And if you tell me that you don’t go weak at the knees when he calls you “Siha,” I won’t believe you.
4. Urdnot Wrex
If you want a team member who never goes down in battle, Urdnot Wrex is your man. The krogan is the best tank character in the squad, using fatal headbutts and biotics as his methods of killing. Wrex is notorious for being incredibly difficult, aggressive, and just a dick in general. But despite his tensions with Shepard (and anyone in general), they grew to become best friends. Shepard could calm down Wrex and make him see reason in any dire situation. If you were a dick and just decided to kill him in Mass Effect 1, then you didn’t get to experience the emotional reunion between him and Shepard in the sequel.
It’s a shame that he could never be a squad member again after the first game; Grunt and James were fine replacements for the tank position but neither quite had his “charm.”
3. Tali’zorah vas Normandy
Tali was always the little sister of the group. She could hold her own just fine but could be naive at times. Like Kaidan, Garrus, Wrex, and Liara, she is one of the most loyal squad members of the series. She will do anything to help her friends out, including putting herself in danger. I will never forget hearing her scream about how she’s burning in Mass Effect 2’s suicide mission. She strives to show everyone that quarians are not just sleazy thieves or creators of the Geth. They’re not perfect, but then again, what species is?
She has some of the greatest random encounters on the Normandy from her drunken moments with straws (or as she calls them: “emergency induction ports”) to walking in on her and Garrus making out. Long story short, it’s impossible to be not be entertained by Tali.
2. Liara T’soni
Liara is considered one of the canon romances in the Mass Effect trilogy. She’s one of the only characters who you can have a romance scene with in all three games, and they feel genuine. Like Kaidan, it’s obvious that she love’ll Shepard no matter what. Even if you don’t romance her, there are still sparks present. What’s not to love about her though? She’s a scientist who studies ancient prothean technologies, she’s hot, and she has a loving personality. But under that soft demeanor lies an asari who means business. Not only is she a scholar, but she’s also secretly the Shadow Broker, dealing in the universe’s deepest secrets. There’s nothing that Liara can’t handle.
1. Garrus Vakarian
I don’t think there’s a debate on who the number one squad member should be. Let’s face it: Garrus Vakarian is the ultimate bro. Whether you’re playing a male or female Shepard, Garrus will always have your back. He left the C-sec to help you fight Saren because he knew that it was the right thing to do. All of your back and forths feel so natural as if you have known this fictional character for years. Whenever I’m determining my squad, I always ask, “who’s coming with me and Garrus?” He’s great in combat and rarely ever goes down. His sarcastic one-liners always help set the mood as well.
Garrus also has one of the better romance stories because he’s in all three games with Shepard. They have experienced so much together, it makes sense that they would fall for each other eventually. His tough guy facade goes away whenever he’s around Shepard and it’s so adorable to watch. I could watch them perform their dirty dancing routine over and over again. As Shepard says, “there’s no Shepard without Vakarian” and she’s damn right.