Parents. Everyone’s got them, in some shape or form – be they biological, adoptive, or some other sort. They’re the wellspring from which all of us begin, and often the formative figures in our own coming of age stories. Many video games don’t feel a need to include this aspect of their heroes’ (or villains’) lives, but the ones that do tend to leave an impression — for better or for worse. We’re here to count down some of the best and worst child-rearing skills on display in the digital worlds.
We’ll start by looking at some of the worst examples of parenting that the gaming world has to offer. From simply not being there for their offspring to outright violence against their own flesh and blood, these terrible parents should have really considered whether they were really prepared for the journey of parenthood.
5. Kratos (God of War series)
Okay, maybe this one isn’t particularly fair given some of the circumstances, but let’s be real: if you’re so busy off fighting wars and wreaking carnage on behalf of the gods that when you do finally make it back home to check up on the family, you end up slaughtering them in a blind rage of divine wrath, maybe it would have been best to leave the squabbles of the denizens of Olympus to themselves and carve out some bonding time. Just sayin’.
4. Every parent in the world of Pokémon
Sure, they’re a product of the world they live in, but anyone who normalizes abandoning school at age ten to roam across the land, unsupervised, battling vicious monsters against other ten-year-olds and adults is seriously not thinking this “teach them responsibility” thing through. Sure, some of these parents are involved enough to check in every now and again to see how the little tykes are doing, but for the most part? It’s hands-off at the cutoff age, and maybe we’ll let you back home once you’ve collected enough badges.
3. The King of All Cosmos (Katamari Damacy)
Some really bad fathers struggle with substance abuse and serious issues with speaking properly to their children or expecting them to clean up the mess left in their wake, but this guy takes it to incredible heights. After obliterating nearly everything during a binge, this foul-tempered patriarch forces his son to try and patch up all of the celestial bodies. To top it off, he spends the whole time berating the little guy with insult after insult about the kid’s stature, appearance, efforts, and anything else he can think of to lash out against. Yikes.
2. Samara (Mass Effect 2)
What would you do if your child was born with a genetic trait that effectively turned them into some kind of succubus? Most of us might try to steer the kid’s moral compass, or find some way to cure the condition, right? Well, Samara here decides instead to let her daughter run hog-wild for years before finally enlisting the help of the most famous (and/or feared) figure in the galaxy to track down and legally murder her wayward kin in the privacy of her own home. That’s just cold, mom.
1. Heihachi Mishima (Tekken series)
Topping this list isn’t an easy thing to do, but throwing your five-year-old son down a ravine to toughen him up, adopting another son just to piss off the one you have, and orchestrating a series of tournaments culminating in your taking the opportunity to throw your own flesh and blood into the gaping maw of an active volcano pretty much seals the deal. Heihachi never even stopped to remember Kazuya’s birthdays.
With that nastiness out of the way, surely there are some times that the gaming world has shown us the good side of this coin, right? Let’s step back for a moment and appreciate just how great some of these parents really are, and the ways that they step up for the bundles of joy they brought into the world.
5. Ness’ Mother (Earthbound)
The counterpoint to the Pokémon parents above, Ness’ mother allows her young son to run off on an epic adventure, but only so long as he remembers to check in with her to make sure she knows he’s doing alright. Not surprising that a series that’s actually called Mother would include a prime example of good parenting; Ness’ dad is less involved, but still an overseeing and gentle presence throughout the game.
4. Joel (The Last of Us)
We only see the briefest glimpse of Joel’s time as an actual parent, but it seems pretty clear from what we get that he’s doing his best – and his best seems pretty good. While it takes some time for him to warm up to his ward, Ellie, there’s a definite paternal instinct that kicks in pretty early on, and he puts on a good display of protecting her despite his gruff, cynical exterior. Maybe he’s not her dad, but he fills the role pretty well, all things considered.
3. James (Fallout 3)
Okay, sure – James left his child behind to go off on some crazy science-experiment journey, but he meant well, and from the introductory scenes we know that he first made sure the youngster was well-prepared for life in Vault 101. While he’s a bit cold later on when the traveller catches back up to him, he ends up not only coming around again, but making a pretty significant, selfless sacrifice in order to ensure a better world and future for his kid. What more can you ask for?
2. Big Daddy (BioShock series)
Definitely not a father figure by any traditional sense, these soulless husks still engage in one of the primary roles of raising a daughter: he overzealous use of giant power tools to defend their precious girls from anyone who could do them harm. Maybe they’re a little too into it, sure, but I think their theoretical heart is in the right place.
1. Harry Mason (Silent Hill, Silent Hill: Shattered Memories)
I’m not saying he’s the absolute prime example of what a dad ought to be, but anyone who’d go through the hell that Harry endures for the sake of their adopted daughter is doing a pretty bang-up job in my book. Throw in that he’s more than willing to fight through all of that for an orphan he found on the side of the road, and there’s some quality Dad of the Year material going on here.