For the Love of NPCs

Double Jump Kris MiiBeing the hero of a video game is one of the best parts of playing. Many boot up a console to escape the real world for a while, to fall into a fantasy where you help to save the world.
Along the way, you generally meet many NPCs…
Non-playable characters, or NPCs, make up the bulk of video game worlds. Generally, they’re there to help point you in the right direction if not to just decorate the scenery. Not many have lives, if you will, outside of being in a convenient place for the hero.
Then there are others who, for all intents and purposes, have a life outside of the hero’s role of the game. For example, there’s Malon of LonLon Ranch from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As Child Link, you meet her in Hyrule Castle Town and she gives you an egg that will hatch into a cucco (or chicken, for those of you who many not play the Legend of Zelda games) to wake up her father who is blocking your entrance to the castle.
Honestly, that’s really the only required interaction with Malon in the game. Any other interactions, either as Child or Adult Link, are optional.
Of course, the majority of players go out of their way to visit the ranch in order to gain Epona the horse later in the game. If you do go through with these interactions, you learn about Malon’s backstory, about her mother, her father, and the ranch’s farmhand Ingo. As an adult, she stays on the ranch despite the hardships of it being under Ingo’s control because she wants to protect the horses. She’s an NPC in the game, but she has a backstory and life just as the main character does.
She’s a hero of her own story, even though she doesn’t directly impact Link’s. I think it’s an awesome development for her part, considering she’s an NPC. To give that kind of depth to an NPC is one of the many reasons why Ocarina of Time holds a special place in my heart.

What do you think of NPCs? Do you have any favorites?

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Readers Comments (4)

  1. I really loved the Moogles in FFIX. The mail system was a fun little side story to follow along with, and I’ve always thought that they were super adorable.
    I also really liked Marin from Link’s Awakening. As a kid, I used to root for her and Link to hit it off and really loved the Ballad of the Windfish in all its 16-bit glory as well. One of my favourite parts of that game is when you “get Marin” and Link lifts her up like any other item, followed by the potential for a lot of hilariousness to ensue depending on what you do while she’s following you. It’s really endearing!

    • I’ve heard of the Moogles, but I’ve never actually finished a game of Final Fantasy (I should fix that). They are cute, though!
      Marin was a fun character, too! I should replay Link’s Awakening soon. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. I like NPCs that are story-important or at least progression-related as in Malon’s case. But my favorite ever NPCs have to be every one from Majora’s Mask. Everyone follows a set schedule throughout those three days. Everyone has a story to tell, and they all have real feelings about the moon falling down. They’re wonderful characters, and it’s a joy using the Bomber’s Notebook both to follow their lives and help them. Other Zelda NPCs in general are also great, like Marin which hungrygoriya mentioned and Malon, which is sort of like Marin actually, haha.

    • Everyone in Majora’s Mask had their own purpose — it was really brilliant of the game’s writers to hash out the life of every NPC in that game! It’s a great example!

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