Borderlands, whichever game you play, isn’t short of amusing NPCs to interact with. These can be mission givers, people you need to recruit to your team, or even just strangers wandering around in the settlements. Whoever they are though, they all have something to say.
And normally when they speak, it’s worth listening to. With so many people to choose from across the multiple games, it’s hard to narrow the field of best non-playable Borderlands characters down to just 5. But that’s what I’m going to attempt to do here – list my favourite NPCs in the Borderlands series and explain briefly why I think they deserve their place.
Obviously this is my personal preference and I could have easily left the list at “all of them”, but here we go. The voice actors in each of these roles deserve recognition for the personality that they inject into the roles too, as the voice work across the Borderland universe has always been stellar.
So, kicking off with the honourable mentions, and there are just so many people in these games that made me laugh. Mad Moxxi, Ellie, Dr Zed (and Dr Ned), Marcus, even the heroes from the first game return as NPCs in the second title. Bad guys like Flesh-Stick, Captain Flynt, and monsters like Crawmerax the Invincible could make a case for being on the list. In no particular order though, here are those that made me laugh the most in my playthroughs.
Just be aware that there may be the odd spoiler in the words ahead.
Mister Torgue Hi-Five Flexington is his full name and that really says all you need to know about this character.
As the founder of the weapons manufacturer Torgue, he started early, according to his backstory. Torgue guns famously cause explosions, and his first effort at making a gun was a Jakobs rifle with dynamite strapped to the barrel. That went about as well as you’d expect, and after multiple iterations and near death experiences, he sold his designs to the Torgue board, for $12 and a hi-five.
As the public face of Torgue, he goes on to front a whole DLC addition for Borderlands 2 – Mr Torgue’s Campaign of Carnage. In this DLC, Mr Torgue finds a new Vault in the Badass Crater of Badassitude, and stages a contest to find a worthy Vault Hunter to open it. The first time I played it, I loved the way that Torgue always shouts, and is actually incapable of swearing, due to having a device inserted into his voicebox that automatically bleeps out any naughty words. As an example, his exposition for this extraordinary way of talking is thus: “A LOT OF PEOPLE BEEN ASKING ME WHY MY VOICE BEEPS ALL THE BEEPIN TIME. THE TORGUE SHAREHOLDERS WIRED MY VOICEBOX WITH A DIGITAL CENSOR SO I CAN’T SAY STUFF LIKE BEEP, BEEP, OR BEEP BEEPIN’ BEEPBALLS! THAT’S HALF MY BEEPIN’ VOCABULARY, IT’S GODDAMN BULLBEEP!”.
Another of my favourite stories of his comes when he gives you a mission to find a sponsor in order to enter the contest. He explains: “I probably shoulda set you up with a sponsor beforehand but I am BEEPIN’ DISORGANIZED AS BEEP and was busy suplexing a shark wearing a bolo tie when I should have been setting up sponsors. You may ask, “Who was wearing the bolo tie, you or the shark?” Answer: “YES.”
His full throated impressions of guitar solos, general over the topness and hilarious dialogue put him firmly in my top five.
Say “CATCH A RIIIIIIIIIDE!” to any gamer and they will instantly know what and who you’re talking about.
But say it to a non gamer and you’ll get all sorts of funny looks, so just something to bear in mind!
As the inventor of the Outrunners that are vital to getting around the huge expanses of Pandora, Scooter’s exaggerated Southern accent and *ahem* interesting turn of phrase makes him endearing to all. Walking up to a Catch A Ride station and hearing his voice blaring from the speakers makes me smile every time.
The missions that he gives are usually entertaining as well, with a particular one sticking in my mind. As we are sent to rescue Lucky Zaford, he explains that he “was the man that wrecked my momma’s girly parts!” Painting pictures with words, eh Scooter?
In a move that surprised me the first time I heard it, Mad Moxxi is revealed as Scooter’s mom, and he also professes feelings for his sister, Ellie. He’s quite a mixed up guy, when all is said and done. In the second game, he’s been promoted to the Mechanic for the whole of Sanctuary, and he also pops up in Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands. It was actually quite emotional seeing him meet his (presumed) end in that game, riding a rocket off into space while yelling “Catch a Riiiiiiiiiide!” before it explodes.
But is he really dead? Can anything kill Scooter? I for one really hope not!
Tiny Tina first appeared in a mission in Borderlands 2 where we had to use two of her “Fine Ass Ladies” to stop a train. The Fine Ass Ladies in question were two toy rabbits stuffed with more explosive ordinance than you could shake a stick at.
As Tina herself says: “This here’s Mushy Snugglebites, and this is Felicia Sexopants. These fiiiine-ass womens could stop that train for yas, but I’ma need their badonkadonks first, and they got stoled by the bandits a few days ago. Go get ’em!”
Badonkadonks of course being rockets!
As a 13 year old explosives experts, Tina is driven by revenge from the very first time we meet her, as she and her parents were sold to Handsome Jack to be experimented on. After her parents were killed, Tina escaped with a grenade she had hidden in her skirt (at her mother’s insistence) and is now looking to settle a score with the man who organised the sale, Flesh-Stick. Obviously, it’s down to us to get Flesh-Stick to Tina’s tea party, keeping the generator safe until finally she gets her revenge.
Her dialogue is interesting as well, slipping effortlessly from an inner city American drawl to randomly murderous and violent expressions, via Upper Class English and little girl speech patterns. She will go from talking about “shanking bitches” to “nap time” and go and have a sleep.
She really comes into her own though in a content add-on for Borderlands 2 – Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep. Based on a variation of D&D called Bunkers and Badasses, Tina plays the role of Bunker Master and sets up missions for us to play; this is where her grief over the death of Roland comes to the fore, with her trying to insert him into the game in an attempt to keep him alive. It’s actually really touching to hear her do this, and even the bunch of reprobates I normally play Borderlands with were hushed as they processed what she was going through. Turning Tina from an almost comic relief character to a character whose grief is palpable is a master stroke of writing and acting, in my opinion.
I couldn’t mention NPCs of Borderlands without mentioning CL4P-TP.
I mean I literally can’t, as Claptrap is our esteemed editor’s favourite gobby robot and when I was pitching this article, a strong undercurrent was the superiority of Claptrap over all other characters.
Luckily, Claptrap is strong enough as a character in his own right, and more than able to stand up alongside the others, so all is good.
I did have to turn this one over in my mind a few times though, as in the Pre-Sequel he is actually a playable character, but in all the other games he’s an NPC, so on balance I say he qualifies.
Claptrap is the first character we have any interaction with at the start of our Borderlands adventures, as he shows us around the town in the very first mission of the very first game. He forms the basis of one of the DLC bits for the original Borderlands – Claptrap’s New Robot Revolution – undergoing a transformation into Interplanetary Ninja Assassin Claptrap, who goes on to lead a full blown Claptrap revolution (or Robolution, as he would have it).
In the second game, he wishes to exact vengeance on Handsome Jack after he ordered the destruction of every other unit, and takes us on as his minion in order to make this plan a reality. Despite the Claptrap unit’s boisterous personality and programmed over confidence, in quieter moments he reveals a softer, more lonely side that gives us more of an insight into him. However the next minute he’s doing his famed “Look at me, I’m dancing! I’m dancing!” routine and all is well with the world again.
Having been tortured by Captain Flynt, marooned on Aegrus and saving the world by taking down the death barrier surrounding the Bunker, Borderlands would have been a poorer world without the inclusion of this funny little robot.
I couldn’t do a list like this without having at least a token baddy on it, and Handsome Jack is so evil, and so over the top, that in my mind it has to be him.
Based on a moon base in Borderlands 2, he has taken credit for the opening of the Vault at the end of the first game, and tied it into his Hyperion brand of guns. He has killed the old president of Hyperion, taken over the firm, declared himself dictator of Pandora, and has decided to eradicate any resistance to his rule. He has dubbed anyone not on his team as “bandits”, including the residents of Sanctuary, and is doing his level best to get rid of all the people.
Of course, we have to stop him!
With hilarious asides including how he has bought a diamond horse called “Butt Stallion”, named after us, to his relationship with his daughter Angel, who is a Siren like Lillith, and so on. Overall this makes for a deep back story and motivation to his character. He appears not only in Borderlands 2 but the Pre-Sequel and Tales from the Borderlands, where he seems almost to be able to possess Rhys and adds a welcome story strand to the proceedings. Again, voice acting plays a very big part in why Jack’s character works, and as such is, I feel, the most rounded bad guy the Borderlands universe has to offer.
So, there we go then, 5 of my favourite NPCs in the Borderlands games and some of the best going. I must have changed my mind a hundred times in the writing of this article, moving Moxxi in, Jack out, and so on, but this is my final list and I’ll stand by it. So, in the spirit of discussion, did I get it right? Who should have been included? Who is your favourite character from the Borderlands universe? Let us know in those comments!