11 Parents in Video Games, Ranked From Worst to Best
My old man, keeping away my pixelated blues.
With the heavily-anticipated sequel God of War Ragnarök coming out soon, I’ve found myself pretty excited about one aspect of the game in particular: how Kratos is going to handle being a parent to a teenager. It sounds like Atreus will be pretty reasonable as far as teens go, but the father-son bond was such a central point of the previous game, and it’s what got me interested in the franchise in the first place.
I still hope to have kids of my own someday—call it a fatal flaw that in this economy, but them’s the brakes. As a result, I’ve always found parenthood in video games to make for interesting plot points. Games have the potential to be so much more than just stab-happy kill fests, and the best games tend to explore the nuances of all relationships—especially parenthood. Everyone’s got some sort of baggage regarding their folks, whether it’s the standard ol’ emotional trauma, or a level of comfortability and security that could never be matched in the “real world.” And I find, in media, a good parental story is where the juiciest narratives tend to come from.
Of course, “good” parental stories don’t always revolve around good parents. With that being said, I’ve rounded up the central players in some of the most compelling parental narratives in video games, ranked from worst to best. If you don’t see a certain person here … well, either I haven’t played their game, or their narrative was one-dimensional as hell. Sorry, Daddy.
This man had unprotected sex, pissed off for twenty-odd years, and then reunited with his son by ripping his arm off. Okay, bet.
Knowing Vergil, he probably had no idea how sex worked and didn’t realize that not pulling out would result in a child. And, knowing Vergil, he probably was too dense on his quest for devilish power to see all the very obvious signs that Nero was his kid. It took a literal beating to the head for him to get it, and even then, all he could say was, “Oh damn fr? Lol been a while.”
And then he goes on to slap his kid around a little bit, but I’ll give that a pass since that’s just how this weird family operates. Maybe one day we’ll see Vergil try a little harder, instead of his only sign of affection being the gifting of his dead, hotter self’s notebook. I wouldn’t hold my breath, though. After all, this hotter self was only born because Vergil thought shedding his humanity would make him stronger.
Again, man, that’s not how it works. When you shed your humanity, you create a baby. Someone get this guy in a sex ed class before he creates another traumatized quarter-devil, please and thank you.
Miss Ma’am is the child-killing MILF of the Wilds. Horrid sentence, I know, but every line of it is true. Flemeth is one of the most compelling characters in the entire Dragon Age series, but she certainly won’t win any awards for parenthood.
For several generations, she kept herself alive by possessing the bodies of her daughters, although apparently the truth is more complicated than that. According to Flemeth, “a soul cannot be forced upon the unwilling.” Alright, bet. It’s still pretty dubious, especially since, if Morrigan’s upbringing is anything to go by, she’s a pretty shitty mom.
Flemeth would use Morrigan to lure men to her hut, either to brutally murder or have sex with (before brutally murdering). And when she wasn’t conspiring with the forces at large, she’d “parent” her daughter by slapping her when she was disobedient, breaking her prized possessions, mocking her for her dreams, or, most often, simply ignoring her, for hours and days on end. Yes, Flemeth had grand ambitions that went far beyond the mortal plane, but she also royally messed up Morrigan’s emotional psyche in the process. I mean, when you give Morrigan a gift, she starts to mentally malfunction, asking what you want in return, or what your end goal is.
The only reason Flemeth is above Vergil, and not below, is because she did ultimately love Morrigan, and as messed up as it is, it shows. Plus, I dunno, compared to Flemeth, Vergil is such a loser.
9. Joyce Price (& David, Technically)
I don’t hate Life Is Strange’s Joyce by any stretch of the word, and unfortunately, I think it’s hard for any recently-widowed parent to make things work on their own. However, as much as you can feel sympathy for a person’s situation, you can’t deny the mistakes they make. And although Chloe was a “difficult” kid after losing her father, she still was a kid who needed more than she got.
Joyce dealt with William’s loss by shacking up with David Madsen, an army-vet-turned-cop, who keeps guns in the house, sets up surveillance cameras all over the property, and harasses local high schoolers on suspicion of “deviance.” The guy is an abusive douche that the prequel tries to exonerate (which I still find to be a poor choice in writing, considering how much it deviates from the original narrative), yet Joyce will bend over backwards for him instead of defending Chloe.
Now, David has his moments where he does buck up and become a better man, but I’m mostly focusing on Joyce here because she was the one who invited him in and allowed him stay, well past the point of reason. Yes, he was a good husband. But he was horrible to Chloe. He verbally berated her constantly, and instead of being empathetic and understanding of her situation, he’d double-down on her sass as if it was a crime that, god forbid, a traumatized teenage girl get a little sassy. And Joyce allowed it. Even when he’d snap and hit her daughter, Joyce allowed it.
She’s otherwise a great mother, who did her best under the circumstances, but I really do think she failed Chloe by allowing this guy to run their lives the way he did. Chloe deserved better than what she got.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses as a whole isn’t a great example of parenting, but Jeralt is, in my opinion, the most complex and interesting parent. Oh, sure, Seteth is protective, Alois is silly, and Gilbert is a loser, but Jeralt has layers to him that make him worthy of discussion.
He was sharp enough to realize that Rhea had dubious intentions for his baby, and he was crafty enough to create a scene that he could reasonably flee from, without being followed. He then raised that baby, Byleth, under careful protection, and away from the prying eyes of the Church. But in doing so, he also raised that baby in a completely unconventional, and arguably ineffective, manner.
Jeralt became a mercenary, leading a band of mercenaries, doing mercenary things, and that meant Byleth was exposed to violence and roughness from a very young age. And even though Jeralt would note how odd it was that Byleth was so unemotional, the guy wasn’t exactly a model for how to relate to other people. He’d drink himself into oblivion and put on a tough-guy act because it’s what he was used to. Beyond the simple act of keeping his baby alive, he didn’t really seem to understand how to parent Byleth any further.
To his credit, he acknowledges this in both Three Houses and Three Hopes, and laments how he didn’t try harder to introduce Byleth to other people their age so they could grow. I guess, even 20 years too late, a start is a start.
As Fire Emblem’s first good DILF, Chrom gets a perfectly middle-ish spot on this list because he could have done better, and he could have done worse. For one, his S-supports really vary wildly in quality, meaning he either shacks up with someone he’s genuinely grown alongside and come to love (Sully, Maribelle, or Robin), or he lets his stomach/neener do the talking (Sumia or Olivia). That’s leaving a 50/50 chance that Lucina either grows up with a stable mom, or a mom who doesn’t know the difference between detergent and mouthwash. And no, I’m not hating on Sumia or Olivia; I just think their S-supports with Chrom are abysmally stupid.
But for another, regardless of his choice in baby momma, Chrom is a pretty good dad who clearly left a strong impression on his daughter. He taught her how to fight and be a badass, all while doing his best to lead a struggling nation at war. Chrom was smitten with his baby girl from the moment he met her, and even when he met future Lucina, he never felt torn between the two of them; like he told her, she was always welcome as his daughter. And yes, it’s a little tropey in an anime sort of way, but I still was struck by how much effort was put into Chrom’s portrayal of fatherhood. He goes from an earnest young man to a dutiful, loving father very quickly, yet it all feels very natural. That’s a true, home-grown DILF, right there.
6. Ethan Winters
I felt a little torn as to whether Chrom or Ethan should take this spot, because Chrom is such a delightful himbo of a man, while Ethan is painfully swagless. But when it comes to parenting, it cannot be denied that Ethan really went and charred his entire flat ass in Resident Evil Village just for the sake of his daughter, Rose.
Off the top of my head, I remember that Ethan got squashed, shot, impaled, shot again, lifted onto a hook, his fingers cut off, his arms cut off, his legs cut off, and then shot once more for good measure, and the man just wouldn’t take a hint. He just kept going! My god, he even went through all the layers of hell, Bodacious and Horrific, just to collect the literal pieces of his baby daughter to put back together, and he still somehow held himself together.
Yeah, Chrom is a DILF, but Ethan Winters is built different.
5. Harry Mason
I’ll start this off by saying that Silent Hill’s Harry could have done Heather a favor and filled her in on the whole “cult-origin” thing way sooner. Sure, it’s a tricky bind to be in, but honesty might have spared him a painful death, and therefore spared Heather having to go through all she went through alone. Plus, Harry even admits that it took him a long time to consider Heather his “real” daughter, debating strangling her as a newborn on suspicion that she wasn’t really his.
But goddamn, all the hell that Harry went through, just to find one little girl? Silent Hill is not for the faint of heart—hell, it deliberately lures the darkest of hearts for its own ends—yet Harry really just said “yeet” and went in there anyways. Of all the protagonists in the franchise, Harry was, in my honest opinion, the bravest and most clever to traverse the town. And he did it all for his daughter, who in the end, he loved above all else. He literally killed for Heather, protecting her as best he could from the cultists that tried to find her, and in the end, it was this love that did him in. Harry Mason, you were a real one.
4. Geralt & Yen
Sometimes the family you need and deserve are the ones who aren’t even related to you.
And that’s The Witcher’s Geralt and Yennefer with Ciri, 100%. That poor girl went through so much hell, and ultimately, it was only her foster parents who gave a real shit about her. It’s unfortunate that they couldn’t always be there for her, but they did their best in the messed up world they lived in, and it’s apparent that Ciri knows how loved she is, ultimately. I mean, the reunion scene, when Geralt finally brings her back to Kaer Morhen, says it all. It’s an unconventional little family, sure, but it’s without a doubt a family built on love for one another.
And I guess Triss is there, too, but like, whatever.
3. Joel Miller
Why do you think all the gamerz got so pissed when Joel hit da bricks in The Last of Us 2? I don’t mean to make light of the scene; I still can’t watch it without my gut clenching. I just think fandom is silly, and a little overzealous at times. But in any case, people got as mad as they did because Joel was that good of a character.
We saw him grow from this hollow, violent, closed-off shell of a man into someone who learned to care again. By the time of his death, it makes sense that he’d slip up, because he’s softened. He finally got a chance to live the fatherhood that was stolen from him, and it was his entire world, being Ellie’s dad. He took her on trips and tried to give her as much normalcy as possible. And what really earns him points, in my book, is that he took her anger at him and allowed it to just be, because he was wise enough to understand why she was angry, and loved her enough to let her process it on her own terms.
And even then, after being told that they’re “done,” he still looked out for her, making sure that she was okay and defending her from the resident apocalyptic homophobes. Joel was as good as it gets in the zombie apocalypse, and while he wasn’t exactly a good person, he certainly was the best father.
That being said, when it comes to these Playstation Dads, I do think God of War’s Kratos narrowly inches higher on the scale of Dad-dom. It’s very narrow, and comes down to technicalities: While many parents on this list either neglected their children or hid too much from them for “their own good,” Kratos, for the most part, allowed Atreus to experience the world alongside him, because he had the wisdom to know that it’d truly be the best way to raise him.
And he had this wisdom even without any preexisting idea of how to raise a son on his own. He’d already had and lost his first family, tragically, and I think the horrors surrounding their deaths made him extra cautious and knowing when it came to his second child. Yes, there was quite a lot he hid from his Boy, but he was also quite open about sharing the truth when it finally came to light. He allowed Atreus to prove himself, and really struck a golden balance between talking to Atreus as equals, AND making sure to parent him like a father.
Yeah, Chrom is a DILF, but Kratos is Daddy, without a shadow of a doubt.
THAT BEING SAID: Even though he inspired this list, I’ve gotta say, Kratos still misses by a hair when it comes to …
1. John & Abigail Marston
Maybe I’m biased and just have a soft spot for this franchise over any of the others on this list, but goddammit, John and Abigail of Red Dead Redemption really went above and beyond just for the sake of having a family. And it took a long time, with a lot of pain and sacrifice, but they still found a way to make it work!
People are really harsh on Abigail, but I always admired her for knowing what was the smartest course of action when laid before her. Why on Earth would she approve of staying in a gang when she had a boy to raise? She saw that she and John could make a family work if they just tried harder, and while John was (understandably, I suppose) initially put off by this insistence, he did see the light eventually. And then they worked hard, and harder, and harder still, to leave behind their criminal lives and start anew.
And yes, there were a lot of hiccups and bumps along the way, and obviously they could have done better, but my god, these two get the top spot on this list because it never got any easier, yet they accomplished so much. They went from orphans with no choices other than thieving and prostitution in order to survive, to homeowners on a beautiful ranch, with a son who got to (eventually) grow up away from all the horrors of the west.
Now, you might be pushing up your dirty-ass glasses to say, “Well ACKshully Madeline, they did a BAD job, because John *************!” And to you I say, first of all, clean those damn glasses, you’re scaring the hoes. And second of all, Red Dead Redemption is ultimately a tragedy about how life is unfair, things can change beyond our control, and the past will always find ways of sneaking up on you, and therefore, it’s up to one’s own sense of self and direction to figure out where to go from there.
And what makes John and Abigail beautiful characters (and parents) is the fact that they were as real as it gets: They tried, as best as they could, to move forward, but still, they couldn’t help but be affected by the past. And I’ll be damned if that isn’t how parents are. They’re infallible, and they’ll let us down more often than not, but if I’ve learned anything by now, it’s that the mark of a good parent isn’t how consistently squeaky clean they are. It’s how hard they try, in spite of it all, and how much they learn along the way.
So cheers to all you parents reading this, do right by your kids, do right by yourselves, go play God of War Ragnarök, and for god’s sake, don’t cut your kid’s arm off in order to regain control of the Yamato.
(featured image: Sony Santa Monica Studios)
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