With the holidays upon us, I started thinking about how NPCs in video games rarely really thank the playable character for things they do. It always feels scripted, forced, perfunctory. But no, there had to be someone who was truly and unexpectedly grateful for the things you do for them. And there are, because, as we know, NPCs are secretly real. So here's the short list of video game characters who were unexpectedly grateful for your actions (or, once, the actions of others).
4. The Boss From Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater
The Boss is a talented and fierce warrior, and a motherly figure to Snake/Big Boss, but no one seems to truly know anything about her. She keeps her personal life tightly locked away behind strict military training and a grim expression, but the Boss is still human. At the end of the game, she opens up to Snake about her past and tells him about the child that was stolen from her by the Patriots. After she finishes her monologue, the Boss cracks a shy smile. "I've never talked about myself this much before." She looks away, touched and almost embarrassed. "Thanks. Thanks for listening to me. I feel — content."
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You can never know how thankful a person will be for you truly taking the time to listen to them.
3. Midna From The Legend Of Zelda: Twilight Princess
I was going to talk about Midna's final moments in #Hyrule, with her comments that she seemed intent to make sound off-handed, but a pivotal moment in Midna's character development is after #Zelda chooses to sacrifice herself in order to save Midna. The usurped princess of the Twilight Realm had, up until that point, been flippant toward Zelda and concerned only for her triumphant return to her kingdom. But with her dying breath, she beseeches Zelda to tell them how to rescue Link from his curse so he can save Hyrule.
After a lengthy conversation, Zelda eventually passes her life force on to Midna in order to save her. Midna is shocked, touched, and motivated to now save Hyrule, regardless of whether she is ever able to return to the Twilight.
"Zelda," she murmurs to the empty room in Hyrule Castle. "I've taken all that you have to give — though I did not want it." While Midna never exactly says the words "thank you," her gratitude at the second chance is evident as she begins to truly act in Zelda's stead, defeating Zant/Ganondorf once and for all and freeing both the Light and Twilight Realms.
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You can never know how thankful a person will be for a second chance.
2. Jack From Mass Effect 2
Jack's the "psychotic biotic" of the crew, and she can be absolutely abrasive. She's a convicted criminal, charged with murder and kidnapping among other things. She challenged Shepard to become a pirate and comes across as ungrateful to every nice — or even polite — gesture Shepard makes toward her. When Shepard takes a genuine interest in learning more about the enigmatic woman, she is met with a slew of insults. But as Shepard finishes the conversation and prepares to leave, Jack drops this on you:
"Hey, Shepard, no one's ever asked me about this shit. It's strange to talk about. So f**k you. And thanks for asking."
You can never know how thankful someone will be when you don't let them push you away.
And my No. 1 unexpected instance of gratitude goes to:
1. Morrigan From Dragon Age: Origins
Morrigan gets the top spot because the first time I played Origins and gifted the gilded mirror to Morrigan (one of her "special gifts"), I expected the perfunctory gratitude of an NPC, followed by the necessary snark of Morrigan. But that didn't happen. Instead, after being assured it truly is a gift given freely, she says this:
"I have never received a gift, not one which did not come at a price. I suppose I should say thank you — for the gift. 'Tis most thoughtful. Truly."
This is why Morrigan takes my top spot. She has no experience with friendship, love, or any semblance of true, kind, human connection. She is unsure what to say and her words come off as stilted, but she gives up the swaggering, brash tone of the Witch of the Wilds in favor of the stammering, uncertain gratitude of someone who is only beginning to think that there are people worth trusting in the world.
Because sometimes, it's not the most eloquent or grandest expression of thanks that is the most true.
What other times have video game characters been unexpectedly touching?