Fathers are easy to find in video games. When they're not antagonizing their offspring or killed off in the first level, they often serve as our main characters' major motivation.
In honor of Father's Day, we celebrate dads in video games: from the good to the bad to the "Luke, I am your father kind," that don't fulfill any fatherly duties beyond lopping off a limb. Join us now in separating the Bill Cosbys from the Darth Vaders.
Fathers in… Role-Playing Games
Much like mothers, fathers in role-playing games often are killed early in order to inspire the hero to leave home and avenge dear daddy (and mommy) and the rest of their destroyed village. However, there are some dads who stick around. When they do, they're usually playable support characters their son or daughter's active fighting party, or they show up in flashbacks and hallucinations to offer pep talks and parental criticism. Here are a few of these fatherly figures:
Jecht, Final Fantasy X – Father of Tidus: He's an alcoholic all-star blitzball player who insults his son to toughen him up. Instead, he winds up alienating him. Only after son and father find out they're dead do they make up with a manly high-five.
Kaim, Lost Odyssey – Father of Liram: Kaim believes his daughter is dead, but when he rediscovers her as an old, sick woman, he gets around to some parental duties like making funeral arrangements and babysitting the grandkids.
Pankraz, Dragon Quest V – Father of The Hero: Pankraz travels the world with his son and eventually sacrifices himself to save The Hero from monsters. Alas, he can't save his son from being sold into slavery from beyond the grave.
Walter, Suikoden Tactics – Father of Kyril: Walter goes into exile to protect his lover and bastard son but decides to keep Mommy's identity a secret. He gets turned into a fish monster and attacks Kyril before another party member puts him out of his misery.
James, Fallout 3 – Father of You: Daddy dearest ditches you in Vault 101 and goes to find a cure for irradiated water. When you finally catch up with him, he sends you on a deadly quest and then bites it in the name of science. And, uh, saving you – that too.
Uriel Septim VII, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion – Father of Martin: Had several legitimate sons to stock the throne with heirs, but wisely kept a child out of wedlock just in case a Daedra Lord killed all of his other kids. Instead of fostering the boy to a vassal or something noble, Septim stuck Martin in the church to keep him out of trouble.
Best Dad… Pankraz, because, while he couldn't keep his son from being sold into slavery, he didn't hesitate to take on a horde of monsters to save him.
Worst Dad… Uriel Septim VII, because, really, it was bad enough for Martin to be born a bastard – even worse to have Daedra Lords come after you because of some dude you've never even met. Thanks for nothing, Dad!
Fathers in… Fighting Games
Fighting games have a high volume of fathers. Apparently, popping out a few kids is the thing to do after winning world martial arts tournaments. But no father in any fighting game seems to have thought the decision to become a father and a world martial arts champion at the same time all the way through: Either you're abandoning the kid at a young age so they invariably follow in your footsteps just to find you. Or – worse – you actively train them in your fighting style so they can grow up, follow in your footsteps and then kick your ass.
Raphael Sorel, Soulcalibur series – Foster father of Amy: Raphael got kicked out of his own family for killing some crazy noble and found the orphaned Amy wandering the streets of some French town. He took her in, raised her, trained her and went completely crazy trying to create a perfect world for her.
Frederick Schtauffen, Soulcalibur series – Father of Siegfried: Frederick left his infant son to go fight in the Crusades. While he was gone, Siegfried fell in with a bad crowd and wound up beheading his own father in a misguided act of patriotism.
Seong Han-myeong, Soulcalibur series – Father of Mi-na and wannabe foster father to Hwang: Teaches both children how to kick some serious ass, but winds up favoring Hwang with family heirlooms. When Hwang refuses Han-myeong's offer to adopt him, he tries to marry Mi-na to Hwang. Mi-na runs away.
Cervantes de Leon, Soulcalibur series – Father of Ivy: Somehow fathered the hottest thing in the Soul series and then tried to devour her when she comes looking for his sword, Soul Edge.
Heihachi Mishima, Tekken series – Father of Kazuya: Throws his son off a cliff to toughed him up, throws him down a volcano out of spite and basically does nothing but try to destroy his son for the entire Tekken series.
Kazuya Mishima, Tekken series – Father of Jin: He may not have thrown his son off any cliffs, but Kazuya's revenge aspiration against his own father eventually turns his son against him. Also, it turns his son into a flying demon thing.
Marshall Law, Tekken series – Father of Forest: Law sees more of the insides of restaurants than he does of his own son, but he stops at nothing to pay the hospital bills when Forest wrecks his motorcycle.
Lau Chan, Virua Fighter – Father of Pai: Abandons his daughter to fight in the World Fighting Tournament and has the nerve to act surprised when she devotes her martial arts career to kicking his ass.
Bass Armstrong, Dead or Alive series – Father of Tina: Two words sum up his entire parenting technique– over and protective.
Fame Douglas, Dead or Alive series – Father of Helena: Fame knocks up a world-famous opera singer and then doesn't marry her; but he does leave his daughter his effed up company, DOATEC, after being assassinated. Thanks, Daddy!
Raidou, Dead or Alive series – Father of Ayane: Raped her mother. ‘Nuff said.
Dhalsim, Street Fighter – Father of Datta: Dhalsim serves as a father to his entire village by entering the World Warrior tournament to raise money for them.
Best Dad… Bass, because he loves his daughter too much to let her dress like a slut – unlike Cervantes.
Worst Dad… Heihachi, because he throws his son off a cliff and into a volcano; and he imprisons his grandson. Somebody call Child Protective Services!
Fathers in… Action Adventure and Survival Horror Games
It's hard to feel warm and fuzzy about fathers in these types of games because they're almost always an antagonist. Even the well-meaning Dads who just want to protect their offspring usually wind up doing the opposite by turning evil, letting work consume them or by losing the family farm to a rival rancher. But, even if they're real jerks, they're still fathers and they deserve their due on this day.
Joe Hayabusa, Ninja Gaiden – Father of Ryu: Leads an entire ninja clan and raises a badass ninja son.
William Birkin, Resident Evil 2 – Father of Sherry: The guy's got no time for parenting – he's so married to his work he becomes the last boss.
Mr. Burnside, Resident Evil: Code Veronica – Father of Steve: Not only did he raise his son to be a whiny loser, but Mr. Burnside also thought it'd be a great idea to steal from the Umbrella Corporation, thus getting his wife shot full of holes and landing him and his son on a zombie-infested prison camp island. Great going, old man.
Harry Mason, Silent Hill and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories – Adoptive father of Cheryl and possibly Alessa, depending on which ending you get: Harry probably shouldn't have picked up a strange child on the side of the road, but damned if he doesn't do his best to hang onto her – even when the monsters start showing up to kill him.
King Zora XVI, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Father of Princess Ruto: He loves his daughter, but is too fat and lazy to go save her when she goes missing inside a giant fish monster.
Talon, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – Father of Malon: Talon is a narcoleptic rancher who makes a good living for himself and his daughter on Lon Lon Ranch; but unfortunately, he has poor taste in employees. Pro tip: don't hire somebody with the hots for your daughter.
Deku King, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask – Father of Deku Princess: Overprotective doesn't quite sum it up – this is a guy who tortures small animals when his child goes missing instead of looking for her himself.
Bowser, Super Mario Bros. series – Father of Bowser Jr. and seven other Koopalings: He lets his kids run wild with pirate ships and magic zappy wands. Not exactly parent of the year material.
Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong series – Father of Donkey Kong Jr.: He'd rather hang out with his nephew, Diddy Kong, than his own son. What does that say about his fatherly reputation?
Kratos, God of War series – Father of Calliope: He's away from home a lot, fighting wars and when he does come back, he kills his kid in a God-induced rage. She goes to heaven and he tries to visit, but that would kind of break the world, so he leaves her be.
Kento Marek, The Force Unleashed – Father of Galen, aka Starkiller, aka Vader's Secret Apprentice: He escapes the Jedi purges with his wife and young son and hides out on Kashyyyk. Vader shows up, kills him and takes his son to train/raise.
Dr. Light, Mega Man series – Father of Mega Man: Okay, so he didn't provide Mega Man chromosomes; but Dr. Light built him and raised him. So he's like both father and mother to Mega Man.
Nate Harlow, Red Dead Revolver – Father of Red: If nothing else, the old man sure taught his son to shoot.
King of All Cosmos, Katamari Damacy – Father of The Prince: His binge drinking wiped out the world, and he sent his son to clean up the mess. What a role model.
The Mourning King, Prince of Persia – Father of Elika: He makes a deal with the dark god Ahriman to resurrect his daughter, sends his men to capture her and then unleashes pure evil by destroying the Tree of Life.
Best Dad… Harry Mason, because he could have adopted some other orphan, but no – he went through Silent Hill for his Cheryl. That's a dad who cares.
Worst Dad… Steve Burnside's dad, because, while Kratos might've killed his kid, too, at least his daughter went to heaven instead of a zombie-infested prison camp island.
Fathers in… Shooters
Dads are the stars of shooters. Even if they're not the main character, they very often drive the plot even from beyond the grave. This is probably because a lot of cultures have a manly mythos of the son surpassing the father and it's bled right into the manliest of video games. Even with all that testosterone, there's room for really great dads. And some really awful ones, too.
Eli Vance, Half-Life series – Father of Alyx: Eli lived the simple life of a scientist at Black Mesa Research Facility with his wife and young daughter. Then things explode as they often do in the profession and his wife dies. He eventually falls in love with another woman, but to his dying day, he never stops loving his daughter.
James McCloud, Star Fox series – Father of Fox: Clearly James did something right in parenting Fox; he inspired such filial piety that his son hallucinates him during boss fights.
Andrew Ryan, BioShock – Father of Jack: Andrew had Jack out of wedlock with stripper/dancer Jasmine Jolene and didn't get to spend any time parenting him. Mommy Dearest sold the embryo off to Andrew's enemy. Ryan Sr. might make a big fuss about a man choosing; but, the truth is, you can't choose your children.
Big Daddies, BioShock series – Father of Little Sisters: Big Daddies have no blood relation to Little Sisters and probably no soul, either. But they do what all good daddies do: protect the bejesus out of their babies with power tools.
Roy Campbell, Metal Gear Solid series – Father of Meryl: He lies to his daughter and says he's her uncle for most of her life, but then relents and calls her his "pride and joy" at the most inopportune moment. Later, he gives her away at her wedding.
Jack Raiden, Metal Gear Solid series – Father of Rose's son: To his credit, Raiden probably would have been a great dad if his wife had lied and said she miscarried the baby. But, since she did lie and tell him that, he let himself be turned into a high-tech version of a Ken doll and now his son is really going to have daddy issues despite his parents getting back together.
Big Boss, Metal Gear Solid series – Father of Liquid and Solid Snake: Daddy must be so proud of his clone sons. One of them is a chain smoker with a terminal illness and the other one keeps trying to bring about a nuclear holocaust. He probably should have spent more time raising them instead of trying to kill one or both of them.
Adam Fenix, Gears of War series – Father of Marcus: Supposedly he's some kind of genius and like James McCloud he must've done something awesome to inspire filial piety that borders on insanity. His son winds up in prison for abandoning his post to save Fenix Sr. during an alien invasion.
Sam Fisher, Splinter Cell series – Father of Sarah: Sam is so devastated by his daughter's death he spends an entire game avenging her. Drunk drivers and assassins beware a bereaved father, especially one who's a secret agent.
Best Dad… Eli Vance, because he loves his baby girl without smothering her independent spirit.
Worst Dad… Big Boss, because one lousy man-hug does not make up for the sheer number of times he tried to kill his son.
Shinnok, Mortal Kombat – He's only Raiden and Shao Kahn's dad in that awful movie, Annihilation, so he doesn't count as a video game dad.
Homer Simpson, Don Corleone, Darth Vader – They've all got a presence in video games, sure, but their status as good or bad fathers comes from the shows and films they're from, not from the games they appear in.
Dr. Tenma, Astro Boy – Father of Astro Boy and Tobio: Like a lot of Dads, Tenma was married to his work until the day his nine-year-old son Tobio died in a car accident. Then, he turned his work into his son, created Astro Boy as the son that would never die. Unfortunately, he wouldn't age, either – so Tenma sold him to a robot salesman.
You, Fable II, The Sims games and Harvest Moon games - Just as with moms, even if you play as an upstanding paragon of parental vigilance as a dad, you're going to be guilty of neglect at least half of the time.
That does it for dads this year. Think we missed somebody important? Drop a line in the comments. And don't forget to call your dad on Father's Day!