It’s fair to say that non-playable characters (NPCs) will forever be the secret life force of video games, what with their ability to flesh out worlds and give them more of a life-like touch. Because without them, we’d have nothing more than a shell — an enchanting city without a population. And for what it’s worth, some NPCs are actually more compelling than the protagonists themselves.
We’ve been looking for some of the strangest NPC encounters to ever grace the system, wondering which of the many have made the biggest impact over the years. From the dusky drones to the deranged drug lords, here are the five we just couldn’t help but put forward as the strangest on the market.
5. Al Gore (South Park: The Stick of Truth)
No list would be complete without one of the many South Park folks making an appearance at some point or another. And that’s why I’m inclined to push Al Gore into the spotlight — if only to have an excuse to talk about the infamous ManBearPig for a couple of minutes. Although only having a brief part in The Stick of Truth, his quest chain was still one of the more memorable chapters in the book. Among all the other shenanigans in South Park, of course.
Appearing behind a bush with a pair of joker sunglasses, the man himself ushers you in to join the hunt for the infamous ManBearPig. By enrolling in the expedition, you’re made to mount tracking devices to various locations, all of which supposedly trace ManBearPig’s spontaneous movements. After doing so, Al Gore joins your social media, spams the heck out of you, and, as a result, makes you unfriend him, sparking conflict between himself and your entire party. Defeating him, however, will grant you the opportunity to throw down with the actual ManBearBig. Spoiler: it’s Al Gore. Who’d have thought, right?
4. Gertrude Braithwaite (Red Dead Redemption 2)
The long-standing feud between the Gray and Braithwaite factions play a fairly large part in the middle section of Red Dead Redemption 2, with a bunch of quests being served up from both sides. And while both families share their flaws and oddities, the most disturbing attribute pretty much points towards Gertrude Braithwaite, who can be found locked away in a local outhouse on the allotment.
Disfigured and mentally ill, Gertrude finds sanctum in the tiny outbuilding after the Braithwaite’s make the call to hide her from the outside world, branded with the fear of her deteriorating health somehow tarnishing the family name if discovered. And so, by passing through the allotment, you’re able to spy through the outhouse, pitch in to some otherworldly conversations and witness the tragedy of the Braithwaite’s darkest secret. It’s somewhat heartbreaking, and also pretty disturbing when you think about it. Like the iconic boy in the fridge from Fallout — it holds no real place in the narrative, but it’s a welcome addition nonetheless. An incredibly strange one at that.
3. “Kid in a Fridge” (Fallout 4)
Speaking of Fallout 4 and its ludicrously-placed boy in a fridge scenario, it only makes sense to whack that one in the list of strangest NPCs ever discovered in video games. After all, it’s a disfigured boy…in a fridge…in the middle of a dystopian city among rubble and bullets. And if that doesn’t ring a few bells for you then I honestly don’t know what will.
Passing through the barren wastelands east of Jamaica Plain, you’ll discover the minor locked away inside a ruined refrigerator. Shoot the lock off the fridge, and you’ll be greeted with a speech about how the kid tucked himself away before the Great War began, which was over 200 years ago. He’ll then ask you to escort him home back to Quincy, where his family lay in wait for his arrival. But of course, being a game so fleshed out with options, you’re able to make the decision of whether or not to do the deed, or simply sell him off to a gang for a couple of hundred caps. Either way, it’s a pretty strange situation to be on the fence for.
2. Tingle (The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask)
It’s true, Nintendo aren’t exactly in short supply of weird and wonderful characters. After all, they’ve been a large chunk of the Zelda series for years, with Hyrule’s population mostly made up of residents with one too many screws loose. One of the perfect examples of this is Tingle, the 35-year-old Hylian with an extreme obsession for all things fairy-like.
First showing his face in Majora’s Mask, Tingle offers his services to Link in exchange for an unfathomable amount of rupees. Growing attached to our hero over the fact that fairy companion Tatl follows in his shadows, Tingle both praises and envies the Professional Escort’s way of life. As a result of this, you’re left to make friends with the childish thirty-something wannabe fairy out of pure guilt. Poor guy.
1. Face McShooty (Borderlands 2)
What better way to mop up a few additional EXP than to shoot someone point-blank in the face for no apparent reason? It’s every gamer’s dream, to have experience practically handed over on a silver platter for the simplest thing. And as far as simple quests go — “Shoot This Guy In The Face” pretty much bags the gold. But of course, without Face McShooty, the suicidal psychopath with a raging hunger for a shallow grave, those points wouldn’t have been so easily obtained.
Like the majority of Borderlands — everything is insane. And that really does count for all the citizens dotted around Pandora too. But Mr McShooty, for what it’s worth, is hands down the craziest so-and-so to ever grace the planet. Without any explanation, you’re basically asked to kill the guy at his own request, reap the rewards, and move on as though it never even happened. That’s it. That’s Borderlands in a nutshell. Just mindless carnage and suicide pacts left, right and centre.
So, what did we miss? Are there and NPCs that stand out to you? What’s the strangest encounter you’ve ever had in a video game? Let us know over on our socials here.