The Wasteland is a dangerous place. Luckily, you don’t have to trek across it alone if you don’t want to. Littered across every Fallout game are companions you can recruit under specific conditions to help you in your journey. A lot of them are cranky, others a little too cheery given the bleak conditions—and some aren’t even human.
Here are, in chronological order of first appearance, the most interesting, peculiar and dependable buds in Fallout.
Dog is man’s best friend, even at the end of the world. Dogmeat is the companion character who shows up the most in series with the canine in Fallout 3 being a descendant of the original dog from the first game. He’s pretty useful in combat, if not the strongest character, but oh my god look how cute he is. How could anyone turn down that face? And it looks like you’ll be able to play fetch with the dog in Fallout 4. Fetch! Forget saving the Wasteland. I’m just going to build me and my dog a house and we’re gonna sit on my porch and grump at every ghoul and raider that stumbles across our lawn.
Ian is likely the first character you come across in the original Fallout that you can recruit. He’s good with pistols and melee weapons but also kind of dumb and likely to get himself killed in combat or, better yet, shoot you by accident. Still, one of the most interesting things about Fallout’s companion system is that a lot of them can die permanently at anytime—Ian included—so it adds an extra layer of complexity to a game about surviving the post-apocalypse. Not only are you trying to keep yourself alive, for either tactical advantage or out of affection, but you’re also attempting to keep your companions in one piece as well. Ian, moron that he is, is the best representation of that quality. Also, he has a cool leather jacket you can loot if he dies.
Katja is camped out with some religious cult called The Followers of the Apocalypse, though she appears to be squatting with them instead of actually being one of their number. Katja is a great soldier and an invaluable companion. She can pick locks and decimate foes with the power fist. The best part? All you have to do to get her to join you is ask her. That’s it! No strings attached.
Fallout 2 built upon the foundation of the original game, creating a wasteland that was thriving with life and featured more developed companions you could recruit who had their own interesting backstories instead of just being people who stood around, waiting for you to find them. John Cassidy is a man who’s endured a lifetime of violence but is actually a kind old soul who will travel with you only if you’ve got positive karma and haven’t enslaved anyone or killed any children (surprisingly high standards for the Wasteland, sadly). Cassidy is also loud about his distaste for drugs which, considering if you give him a dose of any of Fallout’s stronger narcotics he dies from a heart attack, is pretty fair.
A narcotics chemist and proponent of slavery, Myron is one of the most disgusting and fascinating characters in all of Fallout. He’s essentially an adolescent Walter White, having created Jet, the most damaging and addictive drug in The Wasteland, and is just a disgusting, horny little dude all around. That said, the game lets you inflict an amount of deliciously horrible things to him. Killing him yourself means that you get the Childkiller penalty applied to your reputation, which gravely affects your interaction options. However, there are plenty of other options to dispose of this asshole, including letting him get killed in combat or even sacrificing him to a machine that forcibly removes his brain. If you’ve kept him alive out of curiosity, a Jet addict stabs him to death while he’s drinking a beer in the epilogue of the game—a poetic ending for such a terrible man.
Skynet (yes that’s its name) is a robot you can recruit in Fallout 2 that looks exactly like B-9 from Lost in Space. It’s a bit of a pain to get the machine functional but he’s worth the investment, being skilled in nearly every combat category and capable of carrying a lot of equipment. A great companion, especially if you’re going for a combat-heavy run.
Marcus is the sheriff of a settlement called Broken Hills that’s comprised of mutants, humans and ghouls trying to work together to achieve an easier existence in the harsh Wasteland. He’s one of the few mutants to try and extend an olive branch to humanity and will join you on your quest. He’s great for offloading explosive and energy weapons that you can’t use if you’ve invested in other weapons, turning him into devastating, walking artillery. Marcus also shows up in New Vegas as well, serving as the sheriff another settlement. Though you can’t recruit him as a follower, it’s still a nice Easter egg for fans of Fallout 2
Butch, leader of Vault 101’s Tunnel Snakes, is a jerk when you first meet him, bullying you and your best friend throughout all of your childhood. When you meet up with him again later on in the game, assuming you didn’t kill him earlier, you can recruit him into joining your party if your Karma is neutral. He’s a pretty good fighter, especially with his fists or a pistol, and—bonus!—he can cut your hair anytime, which is an amusing reference to Butch and his gang’s callback to the greaser stereotypes seen in movies like Rebel Without a Cause and, of course, Grease. An essential companion for Fallout 3 if only because Tunnel Snakes rule.
Fawkes is a powerful mutant you rescue from a Vault in the main questline of Fallout 3. He can be recruited as a companion if your karma is high enough and he’s great backup in a fight. He’s also a fairly interesting character, finding violence distasteful (“In all things, a calm heart must prevail”) in spite of his knack for it and constantly judging the player and only working with them if he finds them worthy of his assistance. Fawkes is also pretty controversial for refusing to go into the radioactive chamber at the end of the game, even though he’s immune to radiation, and instead sends the player to their Chosen One death, thus making the whole thing feel like arbitrary bullshit if you have him there. Luckily, the Broken Steel DLC fixed that, allowing you to send him into the chamber and continue the game from that point.
RL-3 is one of the floating Mister Gutsy robots with octopus-like tentacles you encounter throughout the game. He’s programmed for combat, using plasma and flame-based weapons. What makes RL-3 memorable isn’t his armaments but instead his personality, a hilarious send-up of Patton, R. Lee Ermey and Bill Kilgore. He’ll often charge into battle shouting some hilarious overzealous nonsense. It’s the best. Here are some choice lines:
“I cannot wait to find you, so I can kill you as a personal favor to Uncle Sam.”
“Typical chicken shit commie maneuver!”
“There’s nothing I like better than making some other poor bastard die for his country.”
Boooooneeeee. He’s one of the grumpiest, no-nonsense characters in all of Fallout, but it’s not difficult to understand why. An NCR sharpshooter, Boone met a lovely woman named Carla and married her. Later on, she was kidnapped and sold into slavery. When he found her, she was being auctioned off. Unable to save her, he put her out of her misery with a shot to the head.
Boone is a sympathetic character with a lot of depth, never wholly good or evil, but always fascinating to talk to or try to understand (the revelation of his part in the Bitter Springs massacre is heartbreaking). That he’s great in combat with a rifle doesn’t hurt either. Just don’t take him anywhere near Caesar’s Legions if you want to avoid a firefight.
Rose of Sharon, AKA Cass, is actually John Cassidy’s daughter. She’s equal parts funny and deadly. She joins the player on their adventure in the Wasteland in order to earn some cash, always ready to dispense pearls of wisdom like “Who you are comes from the choices you make when life gets tough” alongside ejected rifle rounds.
The Nightkin are basically souped-up, elite mutants who have become schizophrenic due to their reliance on Stealth Boys, devices that briefly grant their users invisibility. In New Vegas you’re often fighting against them until you meet Lily Bowen, who was a 75 year old grandmother living in a vault before she was captured and turned into a mutant. In New Vegas, nearly 200 years after her capture, she’s battling schizophrenia with medication from a doctor. In one of the series’ more interesting moral quandaries, you can convince her to stop taking her medication to better function in battle but in the process she gives herself over to the manifestation of her schizophrenia, Leo, and becomes a raging monster. Bowen might be the best representation of Fallout’s unique combination of tragedy and schlocky sci-fi.
Javy Gwaltney devotes his time to writing about these videogame things when he isn’t teaching or cobbling together a novel. You can follow the trail of pizza crumbs to his Twitter or his website.