Video games are chock-full of fathers, and when they aren’t killed off in the opening cinematics, they tend to be primary motivators for some of our favorite characters. Some are biological parents, some adoptive, and some blur the lines a bit when it comes to traditional fatherhood, but they all have quality where it counts.
So whether they’re goofy, strong, smart, or literal gods, here’s our list of the 10 best dads in video games.
Eli Vance — Half-Life 2
Not only is Eli impressive because he’s one of the few scientists to have survived the Black Mesa incident, but he’s also a pretty emotionally competent dad. Eli remained steadfast in keeping his daughter, Alyx, safe throughout his life (and by that, I obviously mean he built a giant robot dog to protect her).
Despite his role as leader of the Resistance against the evil Combine, designing the Gravity Gun for Gordon Freeman, and losing a frickin’ leg in the process, Eli is still more loving and devoted than most fathers you’ll find.
Bowser — Super Mario Bros.
You might bristle at the thought of King Koopa being on this list, but hear me out. Not only is he a single father to eight… EIGHT kids, but he’s always finding fun and innovative new ways to involve them in the family business. Hell, in Super Mario World, he gave each of the older koopalings their own castles.
“But he’s a bad guy,” I hear you saying, “and he’s turning all of his kids into baddies, too.” Look, we’re talking about a family of fire-breathing turtle dinosaurs here. Their career prospects were a bit limited, to begin with.
Kratos — God of War (PS4)
One of the more recent good dads of video gaming, Kratos takes a while to warm up to his role as a single father, which can easily be seen in his general unwillingness to use his son’s name (instead, calling Atreus “boy” throughout the majority of their journey). As their bond grows over the course of their battles, though, it’s impossible to miss how the god’s icy heart begins to melt.
God of War explores the ups and downs of parenthood in a way few other games have, and despite his tough exterior, Kratos is a loving father who is constantly balancing his desires to both keep his son safe and to raise him into a proper warrior (and person, in general). Plus, it’s hard not to love Atreus when he’s one of the few AI-controlled partners in video games who doesn’t completely suck ass.
Harry Mason — Silent Hill
Harry is a bit of a snooze-fest personality-wise when compared to some of the other dads on this list. He’s clumsy, awkward, and writes boring non-fiction books for Pete’s sake, but he ‘s also a devoted father who truly loves his adoptive daughter, Cheryl—hell, he must if he’s willing to brave the nightmarish city of Silent Hill after she goes missing.
After facing true horrors and battling literal monsters, Harry finally rescues Cheryl and promptly changes her name to Heather in an attempt to keep her safe. Considering the several Silent Hill sequels, I’ll let you guess how well that plan worked.
King Rhoam — Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
In most Zelda games, King Hyrule is a pretty lazy parent. Sure, he has a kingdom to run or whatever but when his daughter eventually goes missing, he kind of does the bare minimum before tasking a little green-clad kid to take care of things for him.
Breath of the Wild’s King Rhoam is another character completely. Not only does he sacrifice himself trying and protect Zelda when Ganon attacks, but he waits around for a century as a ghost outside of the resurrection temple waiting for Link to reawaken. He knows that, without proper guidance, Link won’t know what’s happening or where to go and Zelda’s mission to defeat Ganon would be lost.
King Rhoam might not be the hands-on dad that we all like to see, but he’s doing whatever he can to help his daughter, even after he’s frickin’ dead.
Big Daddy — Bioshock
Sure, he’s not a literal ‘daddy,’ but Mister Bubbles is a valiant protector to all of the little sisters in the city of Rapture… that’s pretty fatherly. Plus, he has a kickass drill arm.
Oh, shut up. My list, my rules.
Mike Haggar — Final Fight
Gruff and tough Mike Haggar can do it all. He’s a former champion wrestler who decided to hang up his colorful spandex to become mayor of crime-ridden Metro City, but above all, he’s always been a father first to his daughter, Jessica. Maybe the resident criminal gangs should have thought of that before kidnapping Jessica to use as a bargaining chip against the newly sworn-in Mayor Haggar.
Sure, Haggar could have informed the local authorities of the situation, but instead, he does what he does best: rips off his shirt and beats the hell out of an army of street thugs. The only thing stronger than Haggar’s shredded bod is his heart of gold… oh, and his lead pipe (not a euphemism).
Joel — The Last Of Us
Joel’s entire story arc in The Last Of Us is defined by his role as a father. From the prologue of the game, where he tries his best and ultimately fails to protect his daughter, Sarah, from a trigger-happy soldier, to the meat of the game where he does his best to redeem himself by escorting a new daughter-figure, Ellie, across the zombie-infested country, Joel exemplifies the sacrifice, courage, and love that it takes to be a good dad.
When Joel ultimately finds out that he delivered Ellie into the hands of people who would sacrifice her in order to save humanity, he goes on a rage-fueled dad rampage, killing scientists and former allies alike just to save the life of one person whom he considers a daughter.
All in all, Joel is great at being a dad. But terrible at saving humanity.
Dr. Light — Mega Man
The best dads aren’t always biologically related to their kids, which is definitely the case with Dr. Light. As much as we’d like to think the good doctor was getting freaky in his off time, his greatest creation and surrogate son, Mega Man, was instead formed out of his own ingenuity.
Sure, most dads don’t have children for the sole purpose of fighting against the robotic forces of evil, but at least Dr. Light built his little blue son in a way that he can modify his hardware with the remains of his fallen enemies. I bet you hadn’t even considered teaching your kids that.
John Marston — Red Dead Redemption
Just because you’re a badass cowboy doesn’t mean you can’t be a good dad, but when John Marston decided to turn his back on his life of crime to pursue the family man gig, the U.S. government had other plans. The newly-formed FBI “motivates” John into helping them track down members of his former gang by kidnapping his wife and son as ransom.
The good news: John does the government’s bidding and gets his family back, finally showing players a softer side to the leather-clad outlaw.
The bad news: The G-men ultimately decide to tie up their final loose end. John is brutally gunned down in a blaze of glory, sacrificing himself so his family can escape and survive.
Thanks a lot, Federal Government.