Being a dad isn’t easy and that’s doubly true for video game dads. If there’s a father in a video game, chances are his child or spouse has been killed or kidnaped or he's raising his progeny during an alien invasion, a post-apocalyptic fallout or bloody siege. It’s no wonder so many games are based around fatherly revenge.
Luckily, there are some guys who, even at the darkest of times, manage to succeed as father figures. Some characters take in orphans, others struggle with fatherhood and strive to be better while some pass down wisdom on the best way to eviscerate an enemy. Regardless of the situation, these characters achieve true dad status - and all without busting out dad jokes or bad dance moves.
Joel’s entire story in The Last of Us is defined by his role as a father. The prologue of the game sets up how much Joel loves his daughter Sarah by showing him pull her out of a burning car and carry her through the collapse of civilization. That’s a hardcore dad move, but Joel tops himself towards the end of the game.
After Joel loses Sarah to a trigger happy soldier, his entire life and the entire country fall apart. He finds hope in Ellie, a young girl who is immune to the infection plaguing that is decimating the rest of humanity and apparently immune to the cold shoulder Joel gives her. She slowly becomes the surrogate daughter Joel never wanted and by the end of The Last of Us Joel’s natural paternal instincts return. When Joel realizes that Ellie won’t survive the procedure to extract a cure from her body, he goes on a rampage, killing doctors and soldiers to protect his “daughter.” In a moment of pure unadulterated dadness, Joel dooms humanity to save one girl.
Kratos is the latest character to enter the pantheon of good video game dads, and he’s already carved out a space for himself as a stern and struggling single father. Although Kratos initally refuses to call his son Atreus by his name (instead opting for the instantly memeable “boy”), the ice around Kratos’ heart melts as he learns to accept himself and his son. It’s a heartwarming story full of monster slaying and tough love.
Kratos might struggle to connect with his son emotionally, but he clearly loves Atreus. What other dad would give his son a piggyback ride up a sheer cliff face? Sure, he might not be able to reach out and comfort his son (physically or emotionally), but Kratos dads when it matters most. He’ll leap into combat to protect Atreus at a moment’s notice, expressing love through the only way he knows how: rage and violence.
Witcher hero Geralt is all gravel-voiced sarcasm and tough guy bravado until he meets Ciri, a young woman who breaks through his tough, monster killing, exterior. Like all witchers, Geralt is sterile, making Ciri the closest thing he'll ever have to a child. With her, he breaks his tough guy act to show some genuine emotion between hunting and destroying ancient creatures and demons.
Geralt even finds time to joke around and engage in impromptu snow ball fights while trains Ciri in the art of monster slaying. But when his adopted daughter disappears, Geralt spends the third game in the Witcher series searching for her chopping up any skeleton warrior, wraith, demon or other creature that steps to him.
Big Daddy (BioShock)
OK, the Big Daddies aren’t technically fathers, but the bond between a Big Daddy and the Little Sister, human girls in the underwater world of Rapture, is just as intense as the one most fathers have with their biological daughters. The heavily-armored and explosively hostile Big Daddies are genetically designed to protect their Little Sisters with their lives and heavy weapons.
The Big Daddies might be a little overprotective, but in a place like Rapture that’s necessary. If anyone lays a finger on a Little Sister, that finger isn’t the only thing that they’ll be missing. A swipe or a spin of a Big Daddie's giant arm drill can dismember or disembowel someone with ease and a Big Daddy isn’t afraid to do that if it senses its “daughter” is in trouble.