Corporations play a huge part in the Mass Effect series. Some of them take on more passive roles, like creating weapons and armor. Others, however, like stirring up trouble with their shady little schemes—or simply get in trouble often. Here's a look at the corporations which had the most profound effect on our adventures. Note: Plenty of spoilers follow!
Who they are: These corporations supply the tools of war in the Mass Effect series. Most of them dabble in every equipment type there is, but a few, such as the Asari Serrice Council, have specific target audiences for their equipment—in their case, biotics.
Role in the story: During the course of Mass Effect 1, Shepard can purchase licenses from shopkeepers to be able to purchase the wares of a particular manufacturer via the Normandy's quartermaster. In the sequel, Shepard has the ability to, somewhat famously, endorse shops on the Citadel for a discount.
Alliance News Network
Role in the story: Shepard meets Emily Wong, one of ANN's reporters, and has the option to help her out with her research on two occasions in Mass Effect 1. She later dies while reporting on the Reapers' attack on Earth at the start of Mass Effect 3. Also in ME3, Shepard can allow ANN correspondent Diana Allers onto the Normandy to let her report from the front lines of the war.
Role in the story: In addition to selling star maps to Shepard which can be used to explore the galaxy further, Shepard has to settle a dispute between a racist (speciesist?) Baria Frontiers representative and the colonists of Feros in Mass Effect 2. Also, Liara's search for the Shadow Broker leads her to the company's main offices on Illium, which ends in a spectacular shootout.
Who they are: A company specializing in biotechnology and genetic engineering. They are based on Noveria.
Role in the story: Both Saren and his co-conspirator, Matriarch Benezia, had strong ties to the company. On their orders, Binary Helix began to breed Rachni at Peak 15 using an intact egg they found on a derelict ship. By the time Shepard arrives to Peak 15, the Rachni are already in control of the facility.
Who they are: A galaxy-wide mining corporation.
Role in the story: Before joining Shepard, Zaeed Massani agreed to liberate an Eldfell-Ashland facility on Zorya. In a Mass Effect 2 loyalty mission, Shepard can agree to accompany Zaeed on this job. Upon their arrival, the facility and its workers get caught in the crossfire between Zaeed and his rival, Blue Suns founder Vido Santiago. Later, Shepard receives an assignment to free yet another Eldfell-Ashland facility on the planet Helyme.
Who they are: A company dealing with planetary exploration and colonization. They founded the Zhu's Hope colony on Feros.
Role in the story: Before Mass Effect 1, an ancient plant-like parasitic organism with mind control abilities called the Thorian was found under Zhu's Hope. Exogeni exposed the colonists to the creature's influence on purpose to study its abilities. After learning that a Geth attack killed most of their workers, Exogani planned to purge the colony. Ultimately, Shepard takes care of the Thorian and helps decide the fate of Zhu's Hope while searching for Saren on Feros.
Noveria Development Corporation
Who they are: The company that owns the entirety of the planet Noveria. They appoint the administrator responsible for governing the planet.
Role in the story: Before the events of the first Mass Effect, the NDC appointed internal affairs agent Gianna Parasini to investigate the current Administrator, Bel Anoleis, who was suspected of corruption. When Shepard arrives to Noveria looking for Saren, Parasini asks for Shepard's help with the case.
Role in the story: Westerlund News reporter Khalisah Bint Sinan al-Jilani attempts to interview Shepard in each game of the series, asking a series of loaded questions and trying to slander him/her. While she maintains this attitude throughout, by the third game she can be convinced to help out with the war effort instead.
With the release of the final piece of DLC, the Mass Effect trilogy has finally concluded. And so we've decided to spend a week taking a look back: It's Mass Effect Week at Kotaku. All week long, we'll be revisiting the last five and a half years of galaxy-saving heroism, cross-species romance, and awkward dancing with new articles and some classics from years past. You can follow along here.