Being a dad isn’t easy. For starters, kids are kind of awful, and having to take care of them while maintaining your other fatherly responsibilities is hard work. In fact, being a dad can be so tough that years back we, as a society, got together and decided that we should dedicate a whole day just to celebrate them.
But while tackling the pitfalls of parenthood is a challenge in and of itself, these video game dads go above and beyond. Slaying zombies, monsters, or just being a pro skater: these dads manage to juggle everything and look like badasses the whole time.
‘THE LAST OF US’
The Last of Us is rife with tragedy, and perhaps none of it is more sharp and painful than Joel’s. Within the opening minutes of the prologue in The Last of Us, Joel is stripped of his fatherhood in probably the worst way possible. Seriously, it’s pretty heart-wrenching.
But by the time the credits rolled after the somber conclusion to the game, one thing was perfectly clear: Joel had earned a small shred of that fatherhood back. The big question is, at what cost? In reality, not many of us would be willing to go to the lengths that Joel did to protect his travelling companion, Ellie. Saving her might have cost Joel just about everything, but, in the end, isn’t that what being a father is all about?
GERALT OF RIVIA
'THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT’
Ignored by the first two games, Geralt’s fatherhood gets the spotlight in The Witcher 3 as the spark that sets the Northern Kingdoms ablaze. Like Joel, Geralt is an adoptive father rather than a real one, but that makes the emotional bonds that tie him to his daughter, Ciri, no less real.
Geralt is likely one of the biggest badasses in video games. I mean, how many fathers can hold a candle to a guy that can cut a man clean in half? That isn’t even touching on his aptitude with casting spells, slaying vicious monsters, and making even the most frigid sorceresses swoon. Geralt’s story is also quite tragic, which only seems to add to his enigma as the mysterious monster hunter takes on demons, kings, and even destiny itself just to protect his daughter.
When you’re a kid, love is something hard to comprehend. You tend to quantify it in ways that make sense. You open your arms wide and say “I love you this much!” In that case, Ethan Mars loves his kidnapped son the whole length of a ventilation shaft filled with broken glass. Being a dad isn’t easy, but few can say they’ve had to deal with what Ethan has.
When his son is kidnapped, Ethan is subjected to a series of trials in order to prove his love. It’s pretty grisly stuff. Yet this father doesn’t seem to waver in his conviction to atone for past sins and save his only child. Heavy Rain asks the tough questions, and Ethan’s terrified, yet honest attempts to answer them make him one worthy father.
'TONY HAWK’S PRO SKATER’
Tony Hawk is notable for being the only person on this list who, you know, actually exists. More than that, he remains one of the most well known figures in professional skateboarding. Not many of us can say we saw our dad land the first fully documented 900. So yeah, I think Tony Hawk makes a pretty good case. Even better, the man gets to star in his own video games. How cool is that?
Speaking of which, Tony Hawk will be making his return to video games with Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5, due September 29, 2015.
'RED DEAD REDEMPTION’
Alright, let’s clear something up: John Marston is kind of a bad father. There, I said it. On the flipside though, he did once save a man from being hanged by shooting his noose from 50 yards. On horseback. But whether you love him or hate him, there is no denying that Red Dead Redemption’s protagonist is nothing if not a legend.
Being a cowboy is a pretty typical fantasy for young kids to have. So having your father be one of the foremost outlaws of the Wild West is a pretty cool piece of trivia to whip out on the playground. Best of all, no one can realistically argue that their dad could beat up your dad.
Sam Fisher is many things: patriot, veteran, assassin, and spy. After a long day at the office (the office being a secret nuclear facility in Iceland that he infiltrated) Sam just wants to come home and watch some tv with his daughter. So, you can imagine his endless rage when that one thing has been taken from him. Sam was a total badass before, but his quest to avenge and then later save his daughter sees him escalate that to whole new realms of awesome.
Going from double agent to wanted terrorist, Sam Fisher is the kind of hero who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty if it means protecting his country and/or his family.
'METAL GEAR SOLID’
The man, the legend, the enigma: Big Boss himself. If you’re looking for a badass gaming dad, look no further because Big Boss has it in spades. Hero turned villain turned hero turned villian turned decrepit old man, Big Boss is the kind of character James Bond hopes to be when he grows up.
If building your own private army and forming your own mini-nation weren’t cool enough items on your resume, how about offering up some of your DNA to be used in a program to clone super soldiers as ambitious and powerful as yourself? Big Boss might not be a father in the typical sense of the word, but since when has this renowned soldier ever done anything by the books?
The good news here is that, in just a few months, we’ll get our chance to play out another chapter of Big Boss’s incredible story with the launch of Kojima’s epic conclusion, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain.
Even if most dads will never be as formidable and lethal as these video game fathers, we can all respect that being a parent is no cake-walk. So if you’re able, remember to give your dad a call and let him know he’s a badass at heart.
Steven Messner is a freelance writer with a zealous passion for good beer and good video games. He also enjoys taco night, games about space, and forgetting to take out the garbage. You can find his work at GamesRadar, Rock, Paper, Shotgun, and Paste Magazine. Alternatively, you could just add him on Twitter @stevenmessner and say hello. He likes that.