It’s Father’s Day today, which means it’s time to give the paternal figure in your life a call, send him a card, or patch over years of festering resentment for failing to live up to his expectations with a gift card to Lowes. To help celebrate the most important men in our lives, I thought I’d take a look at a few video games that are just as much about making your father proud as they are about saving the world.
Sure, this is essentially the same list that has been compiled by video game websites around Father's Day for years, but did those other lists include Norman from Pokemon Emerald? Probably not, so put off talking to your dad for a few more minutes and enjoy!
Bioshock – Andrew Ryan/Frank Fontaine
Father to: Jack
Fathers/Sleeper Assassin Relationship: Like an art deco My Two Dads, Bioshock’s silent protagonist is torn between two terrible fathers at war with one another. There’s his biological pop Andrew Ryan who, while entitling him to the keys to a pretty swanky collapsing utopia, murdered Jack’s exotic dancer mom in cold blood. Then there’s criminal mastermind Frank Fontaine, who bought Jack as an embryo from said exotic dancer, but only to raise him as an artificially-aged killer trained to obey an innocuously polite trigger phrase.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad?Disappointed Dads. While Andrew Ryan is able to use his illegitimate son to get brained by a golf club on his own terms – and even manages to impart some fatherly advice on his way out – no healthy parent-child relationship ends with a brainwashed assassination. Nor does it end with a consciously planned one, as Jack also puts down an ADAM-jacked Frank Fontaine in a Feat of Strength that would put even Frank Costanza to shame. But, hey, in a game that’s all about killing Big Daddies, what’s two more to the pile?
Fallout 3 – James
Father to: The Lone Wanderer
Father/Wasteland Messiah Relationship: Now who wouldn’t want Liam Neeson as their dad? In addition to being known to punch wolves in the face and foil Batman, the man once took down the entire Albanian mafia just to rescue his daughter from sex traffickers. James doesn’t initially appear to be a badass in the usual Neeson mold, ditching Vault 101 and his kid just to focus on a science project. But he eventually proves his chops when, in a typical display of Neeson heroics, he locks himself and the colonel of the totalitarian Enclave in a chamber of lethal radiation just to buy his child enough time to escape their clutches.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad? Either. Since Fallout 3 is all about moral choice, you can validate everything Daddy Neeson sacrificed by successfully activating the water purification system he was working on. Or you can be a huge jerk and use your father’s work to spread a genetically engineered virus and eradicate all life outside the Wasteland’s vaults. Granted, James dies before he can witness your decision, so any resulting guilt or approval is provided solely by the game’s poorly spliced together ending.
StarFox – James McCloud
Father to: Fox McCloud
Father/Fox Relationship: Despite putting as much effort into naming his kid as people put into naming their goldfish, the elder shades-sporting McCloud had a close relationship with his equally ace offspring. The Arwing pilot and founder of the Star Fox Team heavily influenced his son’s career path, and the two would have torn up the Lylat System like some kind of cosmic Sanford and Son if James hadn’t been tragically shot down by the nefarious monkey scientist Andross first.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad? Proud Papa. Though, either James influenced his son a little too much or the Cornerian Army is severely lacking in a half-decent grief counselor. Despite being killed before the events of the first Star Fox game, James has appeared throughout the series as a product of his son’s war-addled psyche. In Star Fox 64, Fox hallucinates his father leading the way out of Andross’s self-destructing base, and in Star Fox Command James shows up to help the team without anybody ever acknowledging that he’s there piloting a military-grade starfighter from beyond the grave. Fox constantly seeking encouragement from his dead dad would be worrisome, but this is a game where the primary antagonist is a giant sentient chimp face, so all bets are off.
Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald – Norman
Father to: Player’s character
Father/Trainer Relationship: In a series that’s notorious for absentee fathers, Norman is the rare exception... sort of. While he is the only dad of a Pokémon trainer we ever get to meet, his job as Petalburg City’s Normal-type Gym Leader means he’s away from home more often than not. So he’s as emotionally distant as any other father in the franchise, and as only the fifth Gym Leader the player faces, he’s kind of small potatoes to boot.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad?Proud Papa. Considering it took Pokémon fifteen years to address the ethicality of forcing animals to fight for our amusement, the game’s limited moral spectrum doesn’t allow Norman to be anything other than overbearingly supportive. But no dad is immune to the sting of getting beat by their kid for the first time, and I can’t imagine the number of late night beers in the garage it takes to get over the fact that your ten year old is better at your profession than you are. I’m just surprised Norman doesn’t threaten disownment if the player dares to use a Fighting-type Pokémon against him.
God of War – Zeus
Father to: Kratos
God/Son Relationship: You know how the story goes. Dad has son. Dad is too busy being Olympian god to raise son. Son is tricked into murdering his wife and child and starts down a long, winding path of vengeance that ends in him claiming the throne as an Olympian god just like his dad. And the cat’s in the cradle and the silver spoon...
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad?Disappointed Dad. Zeus must have not been a fan of theater, because all he had to do was take a look at any Greek tragedy to know that trying to prevent a prophecy is usually the surefire way to fulfill that prophecy. Zeus kills Kratos to keep his son from offing him like he did his own dad, Cronos, but in doing so inadvertently ensures the complete destruction of Olympus and his own demise. Maybe if he hadn’t been too busy banging broads as a swan to notice the small nation’s worth of gods, titans, and mythical creatures his son had already slaughtered, he would have realized that killing Kratos would only make him angry. Remember to always take an interest in your children’s hobbies.
Mega Man series – Dr. Light
Father to: Mega Man
Scientist/Boy Robot Relationship: Dr. Light is like Geppetto, Dr. Frankenstein, and Santa Claus all rolled up into one. He initially created Mega Man to serve as his robot assistant in the year 20XX, when it apparently became socially acceptable to build servile automatons that look like eight-year-old boys. Dr. Light then used his mechanical “son” to combat his rival Dr. Wily’s evil robot army. Some may question the child-rearing abilities of a dad who sends their kid to single-handedly defeat a legion of homicidal machines, but when most people describe their children as “special,” they don’t usually mean he has a laser cannon for an arm.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad?Proud Papa. Dr. Light has plenty of reasons to be proud of his precious Blue Bomber, considering he’s been saving the world from total robot annihilation for the past 25 years. And it’s a good thing he has, because the only thing Mega Man has accomplished lately has been getting left out of Marvel vs Capcom 3 and having both his upcoming games cancelled. At least he still has an Archie comic to his name, otherwise Dr. Light might start offering all his equipment upgrades to Roll.
Final Fantasy X – Jecht
Father to: Tidus
Sin Monster/Imaginary Son Relationship: Ahh, Jecht. For a JRPG, there’s something so quintessentially American about Tidus’s washed-up drunk of a father. Like the middle-aged All American who never went pro, Jecht spends the days past his prime taking the frustration over his withered dreams out on his son. He (accurately) nicknames Tidus “crybaby,” and instills him with the kind of barely suppressed inferiority complex that results in a teenager getting his ears pierced and wearing denim overalls in public.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad?Disappointed Dad. Sure, there’s a last minute stab at resolution after Tidus and his friends defeat Jecht when he transforms into a Sin-infused demigod sporting an Axel Rose bandana, and the two do get to bond over their mutual nonexistence in the game’s closing cutscene. But I don’t think any of the latest studies suggest that years of emotional abuse and constant belittlement at the hands of an alcoholic father can be worked out with a single bro five. Plus, unless you’re one of those psychotic completionists who actually mastered the arcane rules of Blitzball, Tidus never did become a star player like his old man.
Katamari Damacy – King of All Cosmos
Father to: Prince of All Cosmos
King/Prince Relationship: The King of All Cosmos is that cool dad you were jealous of your friend having as a kid. You know, the one who let your friend stay up late watching blurry Cinemax movies and was lousy with keeping the liquor cabinet locked. But then your friend secretly hated him because he was actually a neglectful alcoholic, and your friend was always the one who had to put him under a cold show after he came home blackout drunk every night. Kind of like that, only as a tall as a planet and wearing a codpiece.
Proud Papa or Disappointed Dad?Neither. To be capable of disappointment or pride the King would first need to acknowledge his diminutively-sized son as anything more than a punching bag. Not that anyone can really blame him for ignoring his son, seeing as how the Prince is one of countless other equally goofy looking star children. But still, you’d think rolling up entire Japanese communities to repopulate the cosmos with stars would earn a slap on the back or a firm handshake or something. That the only way to get the Prince noticed is by making a katamari big enough to roll up the King is as fitting a metaphor for father/child relationships as you can get.