NPCs breathe life into the game worlds players inhabit. Cannon-fodder, quest-givers, or trusty shopkeepers, NPCs exist for immersion and entertainment. Legions of players would admit that these non-playable characters are used and abused on a regular basis.
What’s rare is for an NPC to disrupt this established status quo. The paradigm shift rests on many factors. It could be an NPC’s seeming omniscience of a game world and its events. It could be their mysterious or unexplained origin, lending these characters a strange, alien quality. They may also exist as devices, potential outlets for meta-commentary by game developers.
In their debated causes and effects, these mysterious and enigmatic NPCs stay with players long after the game ends. Here are the most mystifying of all.
M’aiq. Or rather his father’s, father’s, father (according to him) has wandered Tamriel since the events of Morrowind. His long lineage only adds to his mystery and otherworldly nature.
The Dragonborn can encounter M’aiq on the roads of Skyrim. It’s unclear whether he’s the font of all knowledge or just a charlatan as his name suggests. What is clear is that he knows something. He purports there’s a distinction between Alduin and Akatosh, as well as giving clues as to why the Falmer are blind. How does M’aiq know these things? Perhaps players will never know.
6 Ulysses – Fallout: New Vegas
From the outset of Fallout: New Vegas, the player has to contend with the sense that important information is being withheld. The Courier is blown around by forces much larger than themselves. Ulysses is the personification of this mystery. His existence is drip-fed through encounters in the main quest, as well as the DLC. This figure has orchestrated significant events in The Courier’s journey.
He clearly has a personal stake in the protagonist. As another courier, he nearly takes the job to deliver the platinum chip but refused when he realized the player character was up for the same job. He sought out Father Elijah and the scientists at the Big MT, again mirroring The Courier’s actions. Eventually, he invites The Courier to find him in the desolation of The Divide. All is revealed in this ravaged place as The Courier walks this road, alone.
5 Blind Man Cassidy – Red Dead Redemption 2
Blind Man Cassidy. This prophetic and mystical figure had the insight of a shaman. For the reasonable price of a dollar, he would regale Arthur with clues to his fate.
He notes how Arthur’s “Father” has been coerced by the one with the “forked tongue.” There’s no doubt that he’s referring to Micah’s manipulation of Dutch. He even predicts Arthur’s death: “The man with no nose is coming for you.” The grim specter of death approaches. His biblical undertones and attuned insight give him a foreboding presence. He reacts to the player’s honor level and their decisions, so he serves as a device for Rockstar to comment on player action.
4 The Lutece Twins – Bioshock Infinite
Bioshock Infinite eviscerated the brains of many, to build them back up, only to shatter them back into a million pieces. Constants. Variables. Timelines. Parallel universes. The Lutece twins sit at the heart of it all.
They beckon Booker to “Find the girl, wipe away the debt.” This directive leads him to the upturned chaos of Columbia. Turns out Booker is a younger version of the antagonist, Comstock. Elizabeth, the girl Booker’s seeking, is actually his daughter. Also, the Lutece twins are parallel versions of the same person, Rosalind Lutece. Rosalind created the technology that makes all this time-hopping possible. The encounters with the twins convey that the events of the game have been carried out an innumerable number of times, with innumerable outcomes.
3 G-Man – Half-Life Series
Seriously, what’s in that briefcase? G-Man. Government man? God man? Not who is he, more what is he? His strange intonations, unchanging appearance, and time-stopping abilities all hint he’s definitely more than man.
He appears in mind-bending, dreamlike sequences, often praising or mocking Gordon and Alyx. He then references his seemingly metaphysical “employers,” before offering a choice. He has orchestrated events since the resonance cascade, setting the wheels in motion for The Combine invasion of Earth. His nature, allegiances, and wants are still a mystery to this day.
2 Mendicant Bias – Halo Trilogy
Mendicant Bias is more integral to shaping the Halo universe than The Chief himself. Players will be forgiven for not being aware of the AI’s existence, or its hand in the orchestrating of cataclysmic events. The intelligence plays a large role in the more esoteric part of Halo’s lore, but discerning players can encounter them in the original trilogy.
Players can directly encounter Mendicant in the third installment, where it reveals it’s assisting The Chief as a way of securing atonement for its past actions. Namely, siding with The Flood after succumbing to a logic plague eons ago. It propels The Chief and Cortana towards Requiem at the end of Halo 3, leading to the awakening of The Didactin Halo 4. The sheer scale of the repercussions of Mendicant’s actions, coupled with its indirect presence, cements the allure of this titanic figure.
1 The Strange Man – Red Dead Redemption
God? The Devil? Death himself? An innumerable number of theories have been devised to try and ascertain the identity of this NPC. There’s no doubt that the entity is metaphysical, other than that, its origins and motivations can only be speculated. He refers to himself as “an accountant,” seemingly weighing up the morality of others.
John Marston encounters The Strange Man in the original Red Dead. It’s clear he knows John, his criminal past, and his cynical outlook. He’s also aware of concurrent events taking place, giving him an omnipotent aura. John becomes more frustrated by the man’s tales and commands, electing to finally shoot him on their third meeting. The bullets take no effect, John curses the man, to which he replies, “Many have.”
MORE: RPG Worlds That Must Be Hell For NPCs