This is probably the hardest question yet, as I’m stuck between 3 characters – Mendicant Bias, 343 Guilty Spark and Cortana.
See, Mendicant Bias is one of the most fascinating characters in the series. He’s been around for over 100,000 years in the lore and has a very compelling storyline – betraying his creators, the Forerunners, to the Flood and talking to the Timeless One for 43 years, then seeking atonement when he’s defeated and sending John to Requiem as an instrument of his absolution.
One of the most interesting things about Mendicant Bias is that he never has a physical presence in the games. He is always behind the scenes, working towards his goal of redemption for the horrible things he did during the Forerunner-Flood war to billions of people. In another post of mine, I’ve commented at length about his potential future involvement in the story.
343 Guilty Spark is my next candidate, though I only really started to like his character in 2011/2012 when Kevin Grace wrote the Terminals for Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (the complete series of which can be found here) and Greg Bear revealed much of his backstory in Halo: Primordium, book two of the Forerunner Saga. I felt like Bungie treated this character as a bit of a joke, he was notorious among the community for being an “annoying” character in the original trilogy and it wasn’t until CEA and Primordium that the true depth of this character shone through. Like Mendicant Bias, Spark’s role in the story is far from over as he’s stolen an ONI ship to go and find Chant to Green, who he has discovered is alive (believing that she is the Librarian).
And, finally, Cortana. One of my favourite characters of all time in any game, book, and just about any other piece of media you can name. She’s a character whose journey I’ve followed for 12 years, ever since I was 7. She’s incredibly well written (except in Halo 3 where she’s sadly neglected by the narrative outside of plot convenience), her dialogue is witty, she’s intelligent and serves very much as the anchor for John’s humanity throughout the series. Her arc and death in Halo 4 was so well-written, so beautifully executed, just thinking about it right now has enabled me to make my mind up.
Interesting trivia for you about Cortana’s arc in Halo 4, as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, a lot of credit has to go to 343 Industries’ creative director, Josh Holmes, who is responsible for a good deal of her story and development in the game.
Holmes’ mother was suffering from severe dementia. Imagine going to work every day, sitting in your office, knowing that while you were sat in a room somebody you love is suffering like that.
What did Holmes do? He transformed his grief into passion for the writing of the game, at the time there were difficulties with Cortana’s storyline which were being considered for getting cut altogether but Holmes kept pushing for the story to be put in because he his own experiences gave him the inspiration for tackling such an emotionally-driven issue. I have to express a huge amount of gratitude to Josh Holmes for this because without this aspect of Cortana’s arc, John would almost certainly have remained the stoic, unrelatable brick he’s been in previous games. Props to Jen Taylor and Steve Downes as well for the amazing work they did voicing these characters and bringing them to life.