Mass Effect Legendary Edition is here, and it’s the best way to revisit BioWare’s beloved series – or to experience it for the first time. Ever since the game debuted, the Tom’s Guide staff has spent a lot of time diving back into the adventures of Commander Shepard and their motley crew of soldiers, scientists and aliens. And, naturally, we had a lot of opinions on which party members we liked to bring with us, and which had to stay behind on the Normandy.
We asked the Mass Effect fans on staff to choose their favorite and least-favorite party members from the first three games. And, just to keep things interesting, we stipulated that we couldn’t have any repeat characters; everyone had to choose two different party members. Here, then, are the best and worst Mass Effect Legendary Edition party members, according to the Tom’s Guide staff. Who was part of Shepard’s squad in your game?
If this is your first time playing through the trilogy, be wary of spoilers below.
James Archer, audio editor
Best: Garrus Vakarian
Garrus is very much introduced as the hero of his own story: a capable maverick tempered by a strong sense of justice. Even so, Garrus matures into a trusted brother-in arms, the kind of level-headed-yet-lethal comrade who’s always at your side when your allies are idiots, and your enemies are immortal spaceships. His revenge plot in Mass Effect 2 got a little dark, but it felt good to drag him back into the light, and it was heartwarming to hear about him reconnecting with his father in ME3. Who’d have thought that one of the most human characters in the series would have talons and mandibles?
Worst: James Vega
I’ll be honest: I had to Google what this guy’s name was just so I could make fun of him. In a trilogy that seems to tokenize one dull human male squad-mate per game, Vega isn’t the most lukewarm shade of beige (sorry, Kaidan). But after showing up in ME3, he’s just kind of… there. I get that he’s supposed to be an audience surrogate for new players, but this doesn’t quite work, because the narrative is never told from his perspective. And in a ship full of likable allies with interesting, often shared stories, the most fascinating thing about Vega is his improbably wide neck.
Shabana Arif, news editor
Best: Mordin Solus
Putting aside everyone’s favorite Mass Effect character (and love of my life) Garrus, Mordin Solus is next in line to take up the mantle of the series’ most outstanding character. A scientist through and through, Mordin has a tendency to act in favor of the greater good, regardless of the consequences. He also played a significant part in perpetuating the deadly Krogan genophage. But we all make mistakes, and Mordin eventually redeems himself by beavering away on a cure. Of course, that makes it all the more devastating when he sacrifices himself to ensure the Krogans are cured — an unavoidable fate, which no amount of walkthrough-reading could offer an alternative to. If you spent time with Mordin aboard the Normandy, the absolute heartbreak of his final moments becomes even more tragic when he starts singing his Gilbert and Sullivan “Scientist Salarian” ditty. If you feel like bawling your eyes out, my fellow Paragon Shepherds can relive his final moments right here .
Worst: Thane Krios
Thane. Where to even begin with this guy? There are a slew of annoying characters in Mass Effect, from space racist Ashley Williams, to Kaiden Alenko, my first love, and an absolute arse who made Shepard’s death and subsequent resurrection all about him.
But my dislike for Thane is simply based on the fact that he’s so incredibly dull. So much so, in fact, that I totally blanked on his name when we were discussing this article. Henceforth known as “the lizard alien guy who dies in the hospital,” the prospect of hanging out with a cool-as-a-cucumber assassin seemed so alluring. Putting aside his ridiculous justification for how he reconciles his spirituality with his profession, exploring the romance prospects with the Drell (a girl needs options!) just confirmed what a wet lettuce he is. I recall Thane giving off serious Reply Guy vibes that put me right off pursuing him. Coupled with his overall zen schtick, he’s just a bit much — while simultaneously offering very little. The most boring paradox ever.
Marshall Honorof, senior editor
Best: Tali’Zorah nar Rayya
Call her Tali’Zorah nar Rayya, or Tali’Zorah vas Normandy, or even just Tali. But no matter what you call her, Tali is a steadfast friend and ally for the whole Mass Effect trilogy, as well as a crack shot in combat and a brilliant engineer outside of it. On her own, Tali is charming and sincere – part adorkable tech geek, and part conflicted adventurer from a race of bitter survivors. Where Tali really shines, though, is as a member of the mysterious and tragic Quarian race, who have already lost the best part of their civilization to a synthetic race, and can’t bear to let it happen again. Whether you romance Tali or keep it platonic, she’s a friend you’ll want by your side for all three games.
Worst: Zaeed Massani
At the risk of hedging my criticisms, I don’t actually dislike Zaeed Massani. In fact, I included him in my party quite often, appreciating his excellent combat skills, his gruff demeanor and his magnetic performance by the late, great Robin Sachs. No, my issues with Zaeed are purely of a petty and personal nature.
Late in Mass Effect 2, Shepard and their party embark on an impossible “suicide mission,” where you assign various party members to head up specialized strike teams. During the course of the game, Zaeed went on and on about all the impossible missions he pulled off as a mercenary team leader, and I figured, “Yes, that’s the guy.” But, as it turns out, Zaeed is all talk, and putting him in charge led to Tali getting shot in the head. That’s what I get for taking old war stories seriously.
Rory Mellon, staff writer
Best: Urdnot Wrex
Wrex is one of the first squad-mates introduced in Mass Effect. After you encounter the mercenary tracking a target on the Citadel, he agrees to join forces and in turn, come aboard the Normandy. Even putting to one side that the Krogans are by far the best alien species in the entire franchise from a design perspective, Wrex stands out from the get-go.
The hardened bounty hunter slowly opens up as he observes Shepard’s combat prowess. Eventually, he’ll tell you the tragic backstory of not just the Krogan race, but of his fallout with his own father. At this point, why the big guy presents such a gruff exterior starts to become clear. Underneath that thick armor and leathery skin, there’s a genuine heart of gold. It’s just buried very deep.
I’m not ashamed to admit it: I reloaded my save file to replay that scene on Virmire. A Mass Effect universe without Wrex is one my Shepard refuses to live in.
Worst: Jacob Taylor
While some squad-mates in the Mass Effect trilogy are bad, most of them have at least one memorable quality or scene. Jacob has none. He’s a complete non-entity for the entirety of Mass Effect 2 and 3. (Mercifully, we are spared his presence in the first game.)
It’s mandatory to have him as a squad-mate for the opening section of Mass Effect 2. But I’d bet a not-insignificant amount of money that the majority of players swapped Jacob out of the party the second they were able.
Even Jacob’s loyalty mission does very little to make you care about him, When I get to my Legendary Edition replay of the second game, I’m seriously considering just skipping it, and letting him die on the suicide mission. Sorry Jacob, but in this case, I’d happily leave a man behind.
Roland Moore-Colyer, UK editor
Best: Miranda Lawson
On the surface Miranda seems like a character who’s all about tight-fitting costumes, femme fatale sex appeal and little else. But ignore how the original ME2 drew focus to Miranda’s rear, and dig into her story and background. There, you’ll find a nuanced and interesting character. Not only has Miranda been engineered to look the way she does, but her character arc – from being cold toward Shepard, to being a reliable first officer – is subtly intriguing. It feels like one of the more realistic stories of the sci-fi space opera. And come Mass Effect 3, you find that her story arc leads to one of the darkest, and yet most interesting, segments in the game. Liara will always be at my Shepherd’s side, but Miranda is the colleague and friend he wants when the proverbial manure hits the FTL drive.
It would be easy to pick the meathead James Vega or dull duo Kaidan and Jacob as my least favorite characters. But EDI is one of my least favorite characters in a more subtle way. EDI’s story and evolution is great, but something rubbed me the wrong way she was placed in what’s basically a sexy robot suit. Miranda had lore behind her looks, while EDI’s physical presence seemed more to appeal to lusty gamers. I much preferred when EDI was in virtual form, particularly as voice actor Tricia Helfer gave the floating ball a surprising degree of heft. EDI was also a bit useless in combat, meaning I didn’t use her that often in my squad. Maybe if I gave her more of a chance, I’d warm up to her a little more. I guess that’s a compelling reason to give Mass Effect Legendary Edition a go.
Jordan Palmer, phones editor
Best: Liara T’Soni
Liara starts off the Mass Effect trilogy as an innocent, naïve archaeologist who helps Shepard out of professional curiosity. But when Shepard is resurrected in Mass Effect 2, she has suddenly become a powerful, confident information broker. Gone is the “young girl” of the previous game, and she refuses to join Shepard’s fight against the Collectors due to her new responsibilities. But when you help her overthrow the Shadow Broker — allowing her to take his place — a little of the old Liara shines through. Liara is a fan-favorite party member for her down-to-earth nature and curiosity, but also for her strength of character and loyalty to her friends. I love having her (and Garrus) beside me as I take on the Reapers.
Worst: Kaidan Alenko
Kaidan is up there with Jacob and James as my least favorite character in the entire Mass Effect trilogy. He’s bland — dare I say milquetoast — and an absolute bore of a character. He’s not even that useful in combat. I made the decision in one playthrough years ago to save him instead of Ashley on Virmire, and I regretted it. Once he comes around again in Mass Effect 3, he’s a party member I refuse to interact with. (I kinda wished he’d just stay in the hospital on the Citadel.) Ever since that ill-conceived playthrough, I always choose Ashley, who’s grown on me over the years. Kaidan has little depth and seems to lack the drive to do, well, anything. At least his voice actor, Raphael Sbarge, gives a good performance.