The other week, Grace released a list of the 5 Best Cats in Video Games. It’s a good list, and you should definitely read it. However, here at goto.dogs (formerly goto.cats), we think it remiss to not speak to the animal we take our name from. Why did we change the name? Because ten is a bigger number than five, dogs are cool and good, and I’ve already changed the signs out front.
So, here we go! In no particular order, here are ten of the best dogs in video games.
There have actually been three Dogmeats throughout the Fallout series. Which is the best one? That is a trick question. They are all very good boys indeed. It gets lonely out there in the wasteland, and let’s be honest: while the likes of Tandi, Sulik, Fawkes, Nick Valentine and more can prove to be useful, they’re fickle, with their own wants and needs: so much so that you may find yourself assuaging their concerns, or even railroading your own progress just to keep them happy.
Honestly, life out there in the wasteland is tough enough without having to deal with the whimsy of a pesky human (or synth, as the case may be). Dogmeat’s loyalty, on the other hand, is unconditional. He doesn’t need you to complete his special sidequest, and he doesn’t care whether you’re the saviour of the wasteland or more despicable than Metzger: he just wants to be by your side.
Yes, he’s prone to playing fetch with proximity mines. And, yes, it may leave you legless more often than not, but working limbs are a small price to pay for the kind of companionship Dogmeat offers. You can keep your Three-Dog, Bethesda. I only need my one dog.
Missile: Ghost Trick
Shu Takumi, director of DS cult classic Ghost Trick, decided on a whim to put his pet pomeranian Missile into the game. Why? Because he’s the director of the game, and because he said so. Missile’s introduced as a bit part player at first: a companion you briefly encounter after he’s cruelly shot (something which he takes remarkably well) — but he winds up being one of, if not the most important characters in the game.
The best part? He never stops being a dog. His permanently sunny disposition and determination to protect his family at all costs is spot on. And, realising what (or who) he becomes later in the game is one of the most genuinely touching things you’ll ever come across in a video game. Can’t even make a joke out of it. It’s just nice.
In a wonderful (and heartbreaking) moment of art imitating life, the real Missile passed away late last year, but not until after Takumi returned home from a business trip. “Maybe you were waiting for me to come back”, he tweeted. Missile may be gone, but if Ghost Trick is anything to go by, he’ll follow Shu Takumi around forever making sure he’s okay. Plus, I think that warrants the title of Goodest Boy.
Sif: Dark Souls
“What’s the hardest boss in video games”, you ask? Mike Tyson? Penance? C’Thun? Nope, all wrong. Wielding his dead master’s sword, the giant wolf Sif may not be the hardest mechanically speaking, but good luck mustering up the courage to actually kill him. As documented by Can You Pet The Dog? on Twitter, you cannot pet Sif. Unlike so many of the other enemies in the game, Sif doesn’t want to hurt you (in fact, Sif even takes a liking to you), but she knows you want something she’s protecting, and damn it, she’s going to fight until the last to make sure you don’t have it. Oh no, Sif, we have to fight, don’t we?
And, just when you think that you’ve managed to get it together long enough to bite down and start swinging, FromSoft twists the knife by having Sif limp, visibly slow, and sometimes fail to swing its sword once you’ve wounded it. Everyone bangs on about Souls games being an exercise in masochism, but if I could choose between stepping on Sif’s tail once, or being constantly dismembered by angry skeletons in the Undead Burg, well, let’s just say that I’d give an arm and a leg to see her happy and safe. I’m sorry, buddy.
Isabelle: Animal Crossing
From Copper and Booker, the ever-watchful crime-fighting police dogs, to K.K Slider, the slow-jammin’ canine from Club LOL, there are many, many good dogs in Animal Crossing. However, Isabelle holds an auspicious title that no other character in the history of video games, dog or otherwise, can lay claim to. She is the only beloved tutorial character. Ever.
Whether you like to admit it or not, Isabelle is in the same basket as Navi and the Old Man from Pokemon who forcibly insert themselves into your gameplay experience to tell you how to play the game you’re already playing. But where “hey, listen!” is right up there with loud chewing or tinnitus in terms of noises I want to hear right now, the gentle tinkle of Isabelle’s hair tie, and her tirelessly cheerful demeanour is just so damn endearing. Thank you for your concern, Isabelle: I’ll go tend to the weeds now.
While not strictly a dog, in that Amaterasu is actually the Shinto Sun Goddess in wolf form, I submit: which dogs are not, in one way or another, godlike? However, the fact remains that Ammy brings joy wherever she goes. Dank hovels become vibrant grottos, wastelands become lush plains, and the many people she meets along the way, briefly as it may be, are happier for having met her. Hell, flowers literally sprout wherever she walks. If that isn’t enough reason to have her on this list, I don’t know what is.
But if you do need more: Amaterasu cosplay is exactly as perfect as you’d expect it to be.
D-Dog: Metal Gear Solid V
He has an eyepatch. D-Dog has an eyepatch and you also have an eyepatch and that means you’re legally obligated to be made for each other.
MGS5 was a contentious title in many ways, and it spelled the end of Hideo Kojima’s tenure at Konami, but he left us with a truly wonderful gift: being able to ride shotgun with D-Dog in a jeep. It’s the buddy cop duo of the century.
Trico: The Last Guardian
Okay, so perhaps Trico isn’t a dog in an explicit sense. It’s more of a dog-cat-bird-giant. But Trico is a triumph of nuance in animation: a bundle of polygons that feels more real than almost any other animal in any other game, ever. He’s never completely stationary, grooming himself, scratching, twitching his ears, or just watching on with muted curiosity as I bumble around and fail to get anywhere.
It’s occasionally disobedient, and occasionally a bit dense, but so are dogs, and so that’s just fine. Unlike most dogs, those moments of disobedience can lead to you falling down deadly chasms, but what’s a minor transgression leading to death or dismemberment between friends?
To be frank, so long as you feed Trico the occasional barrel and treat him well, on most occasions, he’ll gladly fly you from place to place and shoot lightning from his tail. Y’know, like any dog would.
Lesser + Greater Dog: Undertale
54 times. That’s how many times you can pet Undertale’s Lesser Dog until he reaches peak excitement. While the actual limit on actual dogs is substantially higher than this, likely sitting somewhere in the thousands, I understand that production and technology constraints meant that Toby Fox had to draw the line at a paltry 54. Still, considering that video games typically force us to, as the old saying goes, demolish the dog and move on, it’s a welcome change to meet two canine enemies that you can deal with in the appropriate fashion.
For all of the great things that happened in gaming in 2015, Lesser and Greater Dog were one of the first breakout stars of one of the year’s most unexpected critical hits. Let’s spare a moment for all the game devs of its time who poured their heart and soul into 100+ hour campaigns with stunning open worlds and elegant, refined gameplay — and we were all busy, spending our time petting dogs until their heads disappeared off the screen.
That’s video games for ya.
Growlithe + Arcanine: Pokemon
From Houndour to Manectric, Stoutland to Rockruff and everything in between, there are, like, a lot of dog Pokemon. All of them are excellent, to be certain, but one evolutionary line of dogs stands above all others as the most memorable: Growlithe and Arcanine.
These fire types are so stately, in fact, that they’re often referred to as “pseudo-legendary”. I would argue that point, as all dogs are absolute legends. But, I suppose in a world where “legendary” equates to “literally the God of Pokemon”, I’ll begrudgingly accept the partial credit that Growlithe and Arcanine receive.
And the fact that you can ride Arcanine in Pokemon Let’s Go is just the cherry on top. Time to walk the dog? No. Time for the dog to walk you.
What is it with Irish Wolfhounds and Skyrim, anyway? It’s not to say that they’re bad dogs (as they are, in fact, very good dogs) but the pervasiveness of the Irish Wolfhound specifically suggests that either no other breed of dogs has made it to the Throat of the World, apart from Bran the husky. Though there are many good boys that are present in the game, such as Meeko and Stump, Barbas is perhaps the most memorable for two reasons.
Firstly, as a Daedra — a race of supernatural beings that are scattered across Tamriel — and Clavicus Vile’s loyal companion, he is a rather important dog: a point he impresses upon you quite early in the piece, since he can talk. Secondly, he is the centrepiece of a sidequest where your options are to either hand Barbas back to his master for Clavicus Vile’s Masque, or recover the Rueful Axe and use it to kill Barbas. Oh, to be a developer for this quest! Imagine being tasked with writing the closing stages of this quest, knowing no one will ever see it because no one would ever kill Barbas!
Imagine modelling the mask knowing no one will ever wear it! For you see, you can simply grab the axe and never use it to kill Barbas, and you’ve got yourself a very happy and very invincible doggo for the rest of the game. Oh, I’m sorry Mr Vile. This is your loyal companion? No, you do not deserve him. This is my loyal companion.
Honourable Mention: All Other Dogs
Yes, that’s right. Every dog that has ever or will be in a video game. No one told me that was against the rules, so that’s my answer. Whether they’re a loyal companion, a fierce enemy, or just a friendly canine doing their best in this big, crazy world, all dogs in video games are good dogs, which is more than you can say for cats, because those awful Chester Cheetah games from the 1990s were absolutely a mistake.