Wolves hold a special place in many of our cultural milieus. Many Native American peoples revered them as masters of the hunt and celebrated them for their courage and resourcefulness. Early Europeans held a much more skeptical view of their lupine neighbors, warding their towns and villages against the predators with iron and flame. Credited by ancient Romans for fostering Romulus and Remus, fathers of the entire civilization and shunned by ranchers in the American Midwest for preying on livestock, wolves have stalked humanity through its very development, as much a symbol as an animal companion.
It only makes sense, then, that a wide representation of amazing wolves can be found in our videogames. While all wolves are pretty great, here are some of the ones that stand out the most, in no particular order.
She’s a wolf. With a sword.
While very little more needs to be said here, the fact is that Sif captured the hearts of gamers as a bright spot in the otherwise bleak and unforgiving landscape of Dark Souls. While the inevitable boss fight with the Great Grey Wolf tested players’ skills and reflexes, it’s her tragic backstory, further explored in the game’s DLC, that cements her place in lupine immortality.
Ward and protector of the Knight Artorias, she’s dedicated her life to protecting the grave of her fallen master, pledged to save the last remnants of humanity from succumbing to his same grim fate. That is, until you show up and mess everything up. For a character who never even speaks, her sad howls and desperate limping as you coldly snuff her out of existence had otherwise stalwart Dark Souls-ers preparing to cry.
Also: She’s a wolf. With a sword.
No pantheon of digital lupine royalty would be complete without Amaterasu, protagonist of Capcom’s beautiful epic situated in feudal Japan. Ramping up Sif’s “wolf with a sword” motif to the proverbial 11, Amaterasu—Ammy, for short—can wield any number of weapons, from swords to whips to perhaps the most iconic weapon of all, the Celestial Brush.
Normally the power to literally paint things into existence would turn a few heads, but she’s the Japanese goddess of the sun donchaknow, so like, no big, right?
Wolf O’Donnell, better known to the Lylat Galaxy as Star Wolf, blasted his way into the hearts of fans in 1997’s Star Fox 64. Andross may be the big bad of the game, but it’s Wolf and his squad that stole the respect of the players. Ever the Boba Fett to Fox’s Han Solo, he and his team had a habit of showing up at exactly the wrong time to throw a wrench in the works.
Every bit as skilled a pilot as Fox and smarmy to boot, you may be tempted to say there are other wolves more deserving of a spot on this list…but I can’t let you do that.
Few things are harder to shake than a bad reputation, and Bigby Wolf knows this better than most. Hard-working sheriff of Fabletown, Bigby is a man (wolf?) who just wants to do right by his citizens, keeping them safe from the mundies outside their borders and the creeping horrors within them.
Poor old Bigby just wants to do his job and stay on the straight and narrow, but he battles political corruption and bureaucratic indifference every step of the way. And the poor guy is just this close to retirement, too.
Sometimes badass wolves come in the two-legged variety, and Sniper Wolf is definitely one such example. FOX-HOUND’s resident sharpshooter, Wolf is as cold as the frozen Alaska base she’s helped overtake. Known for waiting motionless days or even weeks to make her target, the professional assassin hides a secret—a soft spot for her pet wolfdogs, not to mention awkward Otaku engineers. Don’t forget to thank her for her handkerchief!
Bethesda’s latest entry in the Elder Scrolls series features countless quests and rewards, but one of the greatest in the game isn’t a +15 Sword Of Asskicking or an Enchanted Cuirass Of Plot-Armor, but rather a special ability. Get in good with the affable Companions of Whiterun and they’ll let you in on their little secret—the Companions are werewolves, and they want you to join the butt-sniffing party.
As one of the few games that lets players take on the role of a legendary lycanthrope, I find myself returning to Skyrim long past its shelf-life just to feel the wind in my full-body hair as I tear into a wild elk. Or a villager. I’m not picky.
If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if Wolverine went through a goth phase, look no further than Dota 2’s Lycan. Renowned among professional-level players for being one of the most devastating hard carries in the game (if you don’t know what this means, don’t worry—neither do most of us), the real appeal here is his ability to summon two pet wolfies on command. Later-game Lycan can even turn into a wolf himself, prowling the jungles of Dota and howling at the moon. Or attacking towers and bases, I guess?
Fantasy werewolves are pretty great, and wolves with swords are awesome, but when you get right down to it, nothing beats the real thing. Wolf, a 1994 DOS game from Manley and Associates, Inc, cast players in the role of a real-life wolf, roaming around a simulated sandbox environment or hunting food, building a den or carrying out other menial wolf home tasks.
Players could work their way up the ranks of the pack, vying for the coveted Alpha position, proving that being a wolf was super cool way before Game of Thrones did it.
See what I did there? Get it? Because it has wolf in the…never mind.
Anyway, along with BJ Blazkowicz and Nazis, the titular holdfast from the decades-old shooter franchise is one of the longest running fixtures in the first-person shooter genre. While undoubtedly a silent character, its hidden passages, grand paintings of Hitler and mysterious healing floor-chicken have served as the backdrop to countless extemporaneous quests to end World War II throughout the years. Whether players are fighting magic Nazis or stomping Mecha-Hitler, Castle Wolfenstein is always there, and we seem to always find ourselves returning.
As part of EA’s eternal quest to capture every element of the real human experience in as lurid, true-to-life detail as possible, the Supernatural expansion for The Sims 3 gave players a taste of what it was like to walk on the wild side.
More than just a resistance to haircuts, such lycanthropic sims were able to hunt for hidden items much more easily, tire less quickly and even live 1.5 times as long as their non-wolf counterpart. Of course, you’d have to make sure to keep them on their roommates’ good side—heated altercations more often than not resulted in, let’s say, their less social side coming out. The last thing anybody wants is to try and explain a man-sized hole in the wall to the landlord.
Patrick Lindsey is a Boston-based game critic and occasional developer. He writes his bios in the third person because that’s what everyone else does. He reluctantly claims responsibility for what you will find on Twitter @HanFreakinSolo.