We may be past the height of the daddification of games discourse, but bad dads are eternal. This month, in celebration (?) of Father’s Day, we’re returning to our series of listicles in which we nominate our favorite (?) bad dads and our Patrons vote on which bad dad reigns supreme.
What constitutes a bad dad? Well, that’s up to our writers. Bring us your deadbeats, your jackasses, your cool guys who are trying their best but nonetheless kind of suck at it. And if you’re a Patron, don’t forget to vote on which bad dad you think wins the title of “worst.”
William Birkin from Resident Evil 2: Remake, nominated by Kamie Wootan
While many fathers fall short of ideal, William Birkin from the Resident Evil series stands out as particularly awful. He not only fails as a parent, he also bears responsibility for the disastrous outbreak in Raccoon City. What a jerk!
Birkin, a virologist for Umbrella, was the lead researcher at NEST and oversaw the G-Virus project, which involved the creation of Golgotha as part of a eugenics program. William and his wife Annette had a daughter named Sherry. They felt she was a liability and could be used against them to gain information on their research. Birkin altogether neglected his daughter to focus entirely on his research.
It is believed that Birkin grew suspicious of Umbrella having no plan to promote him to an executive role. So, he decided to sabotage the company internally. This resulted in the outbreak of the infection in Raccoon City. Birkin was shot by the military, but he managed to inject himself with the G-Virus. Unfortunately, the virus did not work as expected, and he transformed into a G-mutant instead of a G-human.
Birkin tried to find a way to reproduce his parasitic larvae in the sewers but then turned to his daughter, Sherry. Since they were blood relatives, she would be a viable carrier. If this act of fatherly devotion doesn’t deserve a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug, I don’t know what does.
Birkin searched for a carrier at the Racoon City Orphanage and, lucky for him, found that Sherry was being held hostage there by Chief Irons of the Raccoon City Police Department. Thankfully, Claire Redfield arrived and rescued Sherry, taking her to the sewers where they were pursued by Birkin. It was evident that Sherry had been parasitized, and she was promptly brought to NEST.
Fortunately, the DEVIL vaccine proved effective in treating Sherry, and she, along with Claire and Leon, made their getaway by boarding the train at the bottom platform of NEST. Daddy wasn’t ready to give up, however. He was on board the train, rampaging through the rear carriages, eager to recover his daughter to implant another parasite. He was finally put to rest with a climactic explosion.
Ethan Mars from Heavy Rain, nominated by Zainabb Hull
Whatever your opinion of Heavy Rain, Quantic Dream’s 2010 trash-terpiece, you can’t deny that Ethan Mars is a truly bad dad. Not because he manages to lose track of his son in the mall like twice in ten minutes—look, is it a bit dodgy, sure, but kids wander off, and Ethan’s incompetence at least provides us with the absolutely iconic “JAY-SON.” No, Ethan deserves the title of worst dad because of how he treats his other son, Shaun, the one who’s actually alive for the majority of the game.
Guilt- and grief-stricken, Ethan has no idea how to talk to Shaun, and the player has two choices for the brief part of the game where the two are together: provide Shaun with the most depressing after-school routine possible, or completely ignore him. You can sit around in silence while Shaun watches TV until it’s bedtime, or you can force Shaun to do homework and then put a grey microwave meal in front of him and just sit across the table, watching, waiting for Shaun to finish eating.
This is what makes Ethan a bad dad to me. I intimately understand the strange ways that grief and depression can affect us, but the sheer discomfort I felt, in my many playthroughs of this game, every time I helped Ethan babysit his own son, is why I’m nominating this bad dad. Ethan, please, yell “SHAUN” at your son, buy him loads of sweets, eat dinner with him—just do anything at all besides being a warmed-up, uncanny valley corpse in the same room!
Hades, from Hades, nominated by Nola Pfau
Jecht from Final Fantasy X, nominated by Maddi Butler
I am an Auron truther, in that I believe Auron is the only character in Final Fantasy X worthy of being considered a dad. (Even though he’s a 35-year-old parenting a bunch of teens.) Jecht is simply the worst.
Odin from God of War: Ragnarok, nominated by Cress
Mimir: One thing to remember about liars, lad—they lie. They do it on principle. No issue too big or too small. They lie about anything they can get away with, and some things that they can’t just to demonstrate their power over reality. You must always bear that in mind.
The All-Father of fathers, Odin, spends his time leading around Atreus with lies, verbally berating his sons and keeping his ex-wife ensnared in certain realms. He may come across charming and rational, but he’s nothing but a controlling creep who refuses to take any accountability.
While Atreus’ relationship strains with his father, Kratos, Odin swoops in as a voice of reason and possible kind ear to the lost boy. He seems generous and even gives Atreus a sword from his own collection. This is all a con, though, since Odin needs Atreus to do certain tasks he himself can’t do or is simply unwilling to do because of the risk.
If someone in his life fails to meet his extremely high expectations or simply doesn’t do as they are told, he rejects them or constantly belittles them for the rest of their days. He can’t abide by things he can’t control. Having him as the foil to Kratos sets up a true test of what being a parent means. Will you trust your child to make their own decisions? Or will you try to control everything?
Archibishop Thordan VII from Final Fantasy XIV, nominated by Ennis Bashe
In my opinion, Final Fantasy XIV has not only the best community you’ll find in a MMO, but also some of the worst dads you’ll find in any video game ever. (Spoilers through Shadowbringers below!).
First off, there’s Archbishop Thordan VII, whose overall position as an antagonist can best be described by the “church sucks because they won’t let you fuck dragons” meme. When the illegitimate son he actively refused to claim asked him to stop committing war crimes, he not only refused, but also had him imprisoned and tortured.
Varis zos Galvus from Final Fantasy XIV, nominated by Ennis Bashe
There’s also Varis, the emperor of Garlemald. His parenting philosophy was “My twelve-year-old son is actively being pursued by assassins? Skill issue. Git gud, son.” When his son was killed and his corpse possessed, he visibly didn’t care. It’s very satisfying when said son comes back from the dead to murder him. Play shitty dad games, win shitty dad prizes.
Booker DeWitt, BioShock Infinite, nominated by Melissa Brinks
(Spoilers for BioShock Infinite below, but really his inclusion on this list is kind of a spoiler, so… sorry? You’re not missing much.)
There are so many things that suck about BioShock Infinite. I tried to think of a bad dad that hadn’t been nominated yet, and thought, “Hey, didn’t that guy from BioShock Infinite kinda suck?” Reader, Booker DeWitt doesn’t just kinda suck. He sucks in ways I completely forgot about. Among his many transgressions are: war crimes, kidnapping, being a Pinkerton, (sometimes) being a religious zealot, (sometimes) being a white supremacist, murder (in the normal video game sense), murder (above and beyond the normal video game sense), and—in a small but no less frustrating crime—being fucking annoying.
He’s also really bad at being a father. In fact, most of his above shortcomings are directly related to his being a father or not knowing he’s a father due to time/universe-travel shenanigans. BioShock Infinite may not be the dad game, but I think it goes overlooked as a particularly egregious example of a bad dad game (especially because, through so much of the game, you’re led to believe he’s going to become romantically involved with his own daughter!).
I hate Booker! What an awful, awful man! I know that’s sort of what the game’s about but good lord I hate him. Booker, catch these hands!
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.