Today is that special day of the year where we pay special tribute to fathers worldwide – those special men who have helped shape us into the people we are today. It’s a time to reflect on the guidance they have offered and the sacrifices they make all out of the unshakable love they hold for their children.
Of course, none of our writers wanted to talk about their fathers. So instead, we bring you the next best thing – a collection of our favorite fatherly figures from throughout the video game world. Some of them are memorable for their greatness… others not so much. Some were our adopted surrogates, standing in for a missing patriarch. Regardless of the situation, these are the digital dad’s that have left the biggest impact on us.
Hit the break to check out our picks.
You know what my favourite part about my dad is? He’s not in any position to get drunk, wipe out all the stars and planets in the sky, and then make me fix his mess. And the whole paying for my stuff growing up and teaching me valuable life lessons was cool too. In Katamari Damacy, you play as the son of the King of All Cosmos who is… the king of all cosmos. He gets drunk and blows everything up.
Then you get to fix it while he constantly judges you with things like “It is not your fault. It is our fault for believing in you.” Gee, thanks Dad. At the very least, though, he does let you play with your various cousins and display your work in the most public space possible, even when your fix is pretty substandard, so that all can see what his son can do. So I guess he has his good side.
Ryan Larrabee – Kaepora Gaebora
Growing up was a bit rough for me. I never had a grandparent with Alzheimers to tell me a story and instantly forget they did so. This is where Kaepora Gaebora came in. He bestowed upon me fatherly advice, helped me pave my way toward becoming a man, and if I didn’t immediately confirm I understood what he said, he’d repeat it all over again like it never happened. Initially I just thought he was making extra sure to get his message across, but as time went on, it became much more obvious that something there was just not right. This realization drove us apart, and was a large part of my rebellious teen years.
Sure, we still saw each other, but I slept through his stories. I just didn’t care anymore. He’d speak and speak, and everything he said would go in one ear, and out the other. Finally his speeches became rarer and rarer, then stopped completely. I grew up and out of my rebellious phase, but the speeches remained absent, and… oh God Kaepora, I’m so sorry.
Dr. Eli Vance – that guy led a resistance, made peace with the Vortigaunts, and designed one of the greatest weapons to ever feature in a video game. And yet, he still made time to be a pretty awesome dad.
After losing his wife, his daughter Alyx becomes the only family that he has left, and he makes it very clear that he’d do anything to protect her. However, he doesn’t try to hide her away from the world; he instead embraces the fact that she wants to join the fight. He teaches her how to look after herself, which includes becoming proficient with a handgun and learning how to hack into Combine technology. He helps her build a giant mechanical dog that will eventually save her life on more than one occasion. He even encourages a relationship with a crowbar-wielding scientist, who’s yet to utter a single word. Eli Vance is a very understanding guy. He’s also a fantastic father.
Happy Father’s Day, Eli.
EarthBound is a game that rifts on all aspects of Americana. From the Runaway 5 who personify the rise of the Blues in America, to Ness using a baseball bat as his main weapon, the rib poking of America is spot on. One peculiar novelty of the game is Ness’s interaction with hid Dad. All communication takes place through a large black phone, similar to the one distributed by Bell in the early 1900′s. While you never see Ness’s dad because he’s always “out on business,” he still maintains a close relationships and even tries to persuade Ness to take a break from “adventuring” every now and then. It’s all very tongue and cheek, but it hit me very close to home.
Growing up, my dad spent more time in other cities than he did at home. Much of our interactions were through the wonders of the telephone. My explanation of the latest game I was about to beat, or my current school project would travel through the phone line, thousands of miles to reach my dad. Playing a game where that all-too-common relationship was replicated was astonishing. Ness doesn’t say much to his dad, but his father is still very helpful. While he’s away on business he’s eager to accept a call from Ness at any time of day and deliver sage advice to his adventuring lad. Ness’s father is quick to spout of encouraging advice, “Good Luck, m’boy! I feel like such a hero! Well, the father of a hero, at least.” he says to Ness after hearing about his adventures. That’s all a father really wants. Is to have a son that achieves success. Whether it’s saving the world or finding a nice job.
Somehow EarthBound is able to capture that spirit using a simple device. I was always eager to pick up the phone and dial Ness’s dad hoping to hear some inspiring words. Phrases like, “Just remember, I’m always behind you 100%. Don’t be afraid!” and “‘I know that you’re brave. You can do it!” still give me goosebumps of inspiration. Truly, Ness’s father is the best father.
Matt Wells – Ethan Mars
To me, one of the more significant fathers in gaming is Ethan Mars from 2010′s Heavy Rain. While Heavy Rain’s the overall story certainly has some flaws as well as a few plot holes, I find that Ethan’s story is certainly what makes the game so damn memorable.
Ethan’s descent begins with Jason, one of Ethan’s sons, dying in an automobile accident. As you can expect, Ethan and his wife’s relationship is torn asunder by this and they separate. As Ethan attempts to be a father to his remaining son Shaun and get his life together, Shaun is kidnapped. What follows is Ethan’s journey to retrieve his son safe and sound. Along the way, the kidnapper provides Ethan with multiple tests which involve bodily injury, self-mutilation, murdering another human being as well as being arrested and, depending on the ending, being gunned down by police.
While it’s hard for any parent to go through the loss of a child, or their abduction, Ethan endures both and does what he can to ensure his son lives. It’s hard for me to think of a stronger father figure in gaming that goes through more for his children than Ethan Mars.
King Zora XVI is Princess Ruto’s father, best known for his uncomfortably long attempt to scoot himself to the side. He’s not the best father—in fact, he doesn’t believe that his daughter has been eaten by the Zora patron deity despite the fact that (a) she’s responsible for feeding him everyday and (b) Link presents him with a note, presumably written by his own daughter, which reads, “Help me. I’m waiting for you inside Lord Jabu-Jabu’s belly.”
Complacency over his daughter’s disappearance not enough to convince you he’s a dad worth reckoning with? King Zora XVI also decided to make his throne the exact place where fresh water is brought into Zora’s Domain, meaning most of it is flowing through and around his naked lower body.
He does, however, have his moments. When Link saves him from an icy fate, he rewards him with the Zora Tunic (or, if you already own it, he’ll give you a kiss). At the end of the game, as the camera cuts to different places in Hyrule, you can see the King and Mido sitting alone at Lon Lon Ranch, presumably lamenting the losses of their respective daughters—the only family they had left.
It’s one of those gaming moments that still has the capacity to give goosebumps even some fifteen years later. If you manage to battle your way through Star Fox 64’s hardest route and approach Venom through the merciless Area 6, you have the opportunity to battle Andross in his “true” form. As the battle ends, the mad scientist lashes out desperately, filling the underground lair with explosions as the screen fades to white. Then a single communication comes through:
“Don’t ever give up, my son.”
The screen fades back in, and Fox finds himself weaving his battered Arwing through the crumbling ruins of Andross’ fortress guided by none other than his legendary father, who was presumed killed years ago. James takes the opportunity to give his son a few words of encouragement, letting him know just how proud he is before disappearing as Fox reaches safety.
Was it a hallucination? A ghost? Or was it really James? The answer is never made explicitly clear, but that doesn’t diminish the impact of the scene. It’s the perfect ending to one of the greatest shoot-‘em-ups in history.