“Everybody knows how to raise children, except the people who have them.”
The day fast approaches when I’ll be able to hold my newborn baby boy and kiss his flabby cheek. Becoming a father for the second time has been a thrilling, exciting, and terrifying experience! That being said, I had a conversation with a neat blogger I just met today (wakalapi) about how we can make correlations between video games and other non-video game things. As an art form, video games can inspire us to see the world from new and different angles, just like film, poetry, and canvas. So I thought: What can I learn about parenting from parents in video games?
Below are some of the worst and best parents I could think of, starting with the worst.
Xenomorph (Alien: Isolation)
Probably the absolute worst mom at your parenting support group, the epitome of raising ill-behaved and parasitic children. The Xenomorph is completely uncaring about how many cups of grape juice its kids overturn on your carpet, or how many times they burst out of its house guests’ chest cavities. The Xenomorph just lets their kids do whatever they want, and worse, the Xenomorph treats sex as a means to make more children to collect more government cheese and selfishly proliferate its alien race. The Xenomorph is a terrible parent. Don’t be like the Xenomorph.
The Queen (Ico)
The evil Queen who presides over the castle in the mist literally sacrificed everything to gain more power. She keeps her daughter imprisoned in a suspended cage and is fiercely protective of horned boys helping her escape. That’s straight up child abuse. If this is anything like you, you need to be put in cuffs, you monster. Children are meant to be free. There’s a reason why overbearing parents are typically villains in the stories we tell. The Queen makes Cinderella’s wicked stepmom look like Mother Theresa.
Heihachi Mishima (Tekken series)
Submitted by Raccoon Daddy!
When it comes to dear ol’ dads, Heihachi isn’t winning any annual awards. CEO of the Mishima Zaibatsu corporation, master martial artist, father to Kazuya Mishima and grandfather to Jin Kazama. (All of whom were taught in the same art as their father.)
When we first meet his son Kazuya, he’s fighting in the “King of the Iron Fist Tournament”, to remove his father from power in the company.
Defeated and powerless Heihachi exacts a vendetta on his own son in a second tournament and captures him.
As a way to ensure his position is never challenged again; Heihachi carries his unconscious son to the peak of an active volcano and drops him in. Yup…hot mag-ma, Dr Evil much?!
Needless to say, he’s made other attempts at being a better role model. He took in his grandson and raised his pet grizzly bear and trained it to fight like him. (I’m dead serious, his name’s Kuma.) Which he failed, because well…he’s evil. Badass, but evil.
That and everyone in the tournament hates him. Including a teenage school girl Ling, whom he promised to build an amusement park for her. Only to build in his image and likeness. What..A…d*ck!! (See video)
Mother Brain (Metroid franchise)
Mother Brain is unliving proof that having all the knowledge in the world can’t make you a good parent. Facts, studying, training, reading, ridding the galaxy of disorder… all those things are important, especially for a new parent but brains won’t do you any good if you don’t have enough heart to give to your children, too. Otherwise they’ll probably just turn out to be ugly space pirates. Some parents are cold biomachines that rule over families where everything is in order and no one is happy. Being a parent means being much more than being an AI. It’s a matter of the heart and sometimes children need love and grace more than rules.
King of All Cosmos (Katamari Damacy)
The King of All Cosmos might not just be the worst dad ever, he’s probably the worst person ever. Sure he could be a good parent if the standard for being one meant wiping out all the stars in the sky in one careless night of drinking and cavorting. Constantly pointing out his son’s diminutiveness and comparing everything he does to how much better the King could do it himself all but ensures he will never get a visit someday at the galactic senior home. I hope none of you make your kids clean up after you, unless you just want to be a big omnipotent man-child. Hey but at least the King is a fabulous dresser.
Mama Luigi (Super Mario franchise)
Luigi already has some serious self-esteem problems playing second-fiddle to his arguably far more popular brother, so I can’t imagine that he would make a great dad. Or mom. He brings home a different girl named “Daisy” every night, leaves out nothing but half-eaten mushrooms, and he’s got a greasy mustache that smells like a beer. Does he even change those overalls after spelunking through the sewers all day? Worse yet, he was played by John Leguizamo. He’s the kind of try-hard dad who thinks they’re doing okay but is still just everyone’s second choice. I feel like he’d be the kind of dad to buy their kid a copy of Wii Sports because they know they like to play video games. Even though they don’t own a Wii and Wii Sports is like fifty years old now.
Jecht/Sin (Final Fantasy X)
The ultimate dead-beat dad. Jecht got so far away from his son, a young Tidus, that he even traveled to another world, went on a pilgrimage, and ended up becoming a total monster. He was also such an arrogant braggart and bully toward his son that Tidus grew up powerfully resenting him. Lesson? If you act like a monster, someday you’ll become one. Figuratively. And your children will have to put you down. For Jecht, it was too late to mend his relationship with his son, no matter how much he tried afterward. And put a shirt on, dude.
Hojo (Final Fantasy VII)
Submitted by the Shameful Narcissist!
Hojo from FFVII is probably the worst father in any narrative I’ve seen. I completely agree that Jecht is a total a**hole, but we all could name quite a few dads (fictional and real) like that. They’re not good by any means, and they screw up their kids, but Hojo didn’t even consider Sephiroth his child, used him as an experiment/to further his own twisted, scientific ends, and not only messed up his life, but the life of his actual mother Lucrecia. Now, you could definitely argue and I’d be hard pressed to retort that Lu wasn’t winning any mother of the year awards seeing as she abandoned her son to his psychopath, Josef Mengele-esque father, but there’s a great deal of implication that she was regretful/remorseful, and it’s not like Hojo was a prize husband anyway and could very well have forced her out (there’s also a very messed up and dark implication in Lucrecia’s name, but I’ll leave that alone). Not to mention he didn’t even bother to tell Seph who his real mother was, which is debatably a catalyst for the entire mess and certainly a factor in the fallen general’s insanity. 😡 Sorry for the rant, Hojo is like my #1 hated character in the Final Fantasy series, but in a “good” way? Like I don’t hate him because he’s poorly executed. I hate him because Squeenix managed to make a complete monster who was human and the potential cause of so many woes. This is what happens when science forgoes ethics.
Mrs. Ketchum (Pokémon franchise)
What kind of a woman sends her 10-year-old son who can’t even reliably wake up on time on an aimless journey through the wilderness? The kind of woman who wants her son out of the house so she can get some [insert Pokémon innuendo] time with Professor Oak. Seriously, why are they always together? Don’t be an irresponsible parent that cares more about your kid’s clean underwear than them being eaten/gored/poisoned/stabbed/trampled/bludgeoned/burned/frozen/sliced/strangled/drowned/electrocuted by wild animals or hunted down by gangsters. Also, make better decisions in life than owning a Mr. Mime and maybe your kids won’t be embarrassed by you.
Big Boss (Metal Gear franchise)
You might be a legendary soldier with some amazing CQC skills but if the only influence you’ve had in your child’s life is the fact that they ended up with your genes, then you’re a bad dad. Go ahead and found FOXHOUND. Build Outer Heaven. Create a free nation for soldiers. Refuse to shake hands with the president. You never taught your little enfant terribles how to play catch and now he’s a jaded, disillusioned, angry, cynical, chain-smoking mercenary just like you. I wouldn’t want Big Boss as my father. Plus I’d be kind of weirded out if my dad’s code name was “Naked Snake”…
Cranky Kong (Donkey Kong franchise)
While technically a grandparent, he’s still a parent. Cranky Kong is the shriveled, gibbering husk of the legendary arcade menance, the original Donkey Kong. His burly grandson (Donkey Kong with the red tie) romps through the jungle in his place and Cranky Kong is a little peeved about that. No one wants to become an anachronism, especially one that is constantly griping about how horrible it was in the good ol’ days. But old age is creeping up on all of us. If you want to be a good parent, be sure to watch out for irrelevance! Remaining an active part of your kids’ lives as they and you grow older will help you to avoid reenacting the scene above, complete with rickety rocking chair and ZZ Top beard.
Phone-in Dad (Earthbound)
What does Ness’ dad look like? We never get to find out. For all intents and purposes, he’s just a black rotary telephone that Ness answers to hear his dad’s voice. Phone-in Dad deposits money into his son’s bank account and is certainly an encouraging guy over the phone, but the shock of his absence has rendered Ness completely mute. True story. Ness never talks. Never. Maybe his dad should’ve listened to Harry Chapin’s Cats in the Cradle a few more times because money can’t buy love. You can’t just throw money at your children. They want your presence more than your presents.
Bound is one of those incredible games that leaves an undeniable impact on you. It’s an emotional story told through symbols that are both beautiful and harsh as a knife. Sadness, anger, regret, at the heart of it all is a woman’s journey to wrestle with memories and forgive her father for leaving the family. Divorce is one of the hardest things a child could go through and they are the real victims of a split. It’s a cry for all of us to put aside ourselves and learn to love again so that we can provide our children with the stability and care they crave. What we learn from the father in Bound is that no man is an island. Our decisions can have a powerful effect upon our kids, for good or bad. That’s sobering.
Bowser (Super Mario franchise)
Thanks to a recent trailer for the Nintendo Switch parental controls, we’ve all finally realized just what a boss Bowser is… at being a parent. He may be a ruthless womanizer and kidnapper and suspected rapist but he’s got a heart of gold when it comes to raising Bowser Jr. The Koopalings, by the way, are not his children. Bowser also exhibits complete determination in the face of defeat, again and again and again and again. And again. He’s a good role-model in that respect. When life dumps you in a pool of lava, just climb out and try to murder that Italian again.
Dr. Light (Mega Man franchise)
As parents, we begin to realize that we won’t live forever. We’ve got to start thinking about not only our future but our kids’ futures. That’s what Doctor Thomas Light did after he build his super fighting robot, Mega Man. In the dim, dystopian future of Mega Man X, Dr. Light is no more but he’s ensured that he has left helpful upgrades and encouraging messages behind for his greatest creation. We’ve got to leave a legacy for our children. It’s a fact of life. The kind of legacy that we leave will say more about the kind of people we were and the kind of heart that beat within our breast than perhaps anything else ever could. We will someday be our childrens’ memory.
Thomas and Martha Wayne (Arkham series)
Speaking of mortality, Thomas and Martha Wayne are best known for doing one thing: dying. All of the humanitarianism and wealth is secondary compared to the impact their senseless deaths had upon their son. True, he now leads a tortured, hopeless, endless crusade against the superstitious and cowardly lot but there would be no Batman if Bruce’s parents hadn’t instilled in him a strong sense of absolute right and wrong. His father’s words in his last will and testament are a bold example of his wish for honor, justice, destiny, wisdom, and righteousness for the life of his son. That’s what makes the Arkham games’ Batman so great. Oh? Batman is based on a comic book? …Oh.
King Regis Lucis Caelum CXIII (Final Fantasy XV)
SPOILERISH! I’m nowhere near finished with Final Fantasy XV so maybe my opinion on the monarch of Lucis will eventually change. As it stands, my understanding of the late King Regis is he sent away his son Noctis before his impending death at the hands of the crooked imperials to protect him, without saying good-bye. In a moment of clarity, he was tenderhearted toward his son and he dropped the weight of the crown for the humble mantle of a boy’s father. It was the way he wanted his son to remember him. We might be a great many things in life, professionally and vocationally or by reputation, but if you have children you will always be their father or mother. Always. That is the most important thing you can be to them, more so than if you were the King of Lucis himself.
Yoshi (Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island)
Without the Yoshi clan, there would be no Super Mario. Yes, one of the biggest icons in gaming wouldn’t exist without the friendly dinosaur. Yoshi carried Baby Mario on his back and came up with an elaborate relay system to reunite him with Baby Luigi and defeat Baby Bowser, all without a second thought or asking for a reward. Yoshi is the unsung hero of Nintendo. There are a lot of unsung heroes among parents out there. Many millions of moms and dads forgo sleep to watch over a sick child, give up careers for the sake of their children, work themselves to the bone to provide for them, putting their child’s happiness and well-being at the top of their list of priorities. Self-sacrifice is what parenthood is all about. It’s dying slowly so that another human being can live, without thanks, without recognition, but not without reward.
Joel (The Last of Us)
Submitted by The Timely Mage!
As a result of a traumatic event that happened during the outbreak, Joel tried to shut away the parent in him in order to survive. As he discovers during his travels with Ellie, once you become a parent you’ll always be a parent. Having a child whose life and love depends on you will bestow a completely new perspective for most. No matter the hardships we endure, putting the needs of others above our own is where we’ll find the greatest fulfillment and purpose.
So we hope some of that helped or inspired or just gave a few laughs to all you courageous parents out there. And also those who don’t have kids. We love you too. Just don’t ever complain to me about how tired you are. Are there any other parents in video games that deserve a mention? Well that’s what comments are for, people! Leave ’em! Tell me about those mums and dads worth talking about!
-The Well-Red Mage