Mothers have it tough in video games – they get killed off, turned evil, or their children leave the nest to save the world. And their kids probably don't call home often enough.
In honour of Mother's Day, we celebrate mums in gaming – from the bit parts to the big players. Some are examples of the best parenting you could imagine; and some are so evil, they're unfit to be called "Mom." Join us now as we separate the June Cleavers from the Joan Crawfords of video game mothers.
Mothers in… Role-Playing Games Role-playing games have the highest number of mums of any video game genre. This is because RPGs have huge, sprawling plots with huge, sprawling towns and a huge, sprawling casts of characters who you may or may not encounter depending on how you play the game. In most RPGs, you see mums as non-playable characters in towns, in flashbacks depicting the hero's reason for revenge. Some RPGs even have them as playable characters or main villains. Sadly, RPGs are also the number one "mom dies" offender, as nearly every RPG features a plucky youth out to avenge a destroyed village that usually has within it a dead mother – or at least one that's been turned into a monster.
There are way more mothers in RPGs than we could count – especially if you're going through side quests, all PC RPGs, all Japanese RPGs that were never released in the US, Final Fantasy X-2 and every single optional flashback for every possible playable character. So we've populated this list with mums who 1) had the most impact on the game's main plot or that 2) appear in the game beyond a single expository cut scene. This leaves us mostly with mums who appear in Japanese RPGs; but be sure to apologise to your dead mother in Fallout 3 for us.
Mada, Dragon Quest V – Mother of the main character: Mada gets kidnapped and becomes the subject of his quest.
Matriarch Benezia, Mass Effect – Mother of Liara T'Soni: Benezia is enslaved and later killed by Shepard in battle, but she makes up with Liara right before dying.
Polka's mum, Eternal Sonata — Mother of Polka: this country lady is very well adjusted to time loops and apparently never taught her daughter not to talk to strange 19th Century composers she might meet while wandering around at night.
Yohn, Suikoden Tactics — Mother of Kyril: Yohn is a mute demon trapped in the wrong world who sticks around to care for her son, even though he doesn't know who she is for pretty much the whole game.
Gina , Chrono Trigger — Mother of Chrono: In one of the game's endings, Gina accidentally goes into the time portal, thus restarting the whole plot from the beginning.
Jenova, Final Fantasy VII — Mother of Sephiroth (sorta): Jenova is... an alien? We're not even sure she's a she, but "she" spends a lot of time in a jar and looks creepy.
Angeal's Mother, Crisis Core — Mother of Angeal: This small-town lady is very nice to all of her son's friends from the army, even the ones that turn evil and cause her matricide.
Queen Brahne, Final Fantasy IX — Mother of the real Princess Garnet and foster mother to her lookalike of the same name: Brahne gets fat, turns evil, tries to kill her adoptive daughter and later repents and dies in Garnet's arms.
Sarah Sisulart, Lost Odyssey – Mother of Liram: Sarah goes a little crazy and turns herself into an old woman when she thinks her daughter's been killed, but turns back into a hot nerdy chick when she finds out she has grandkids.
Seth Balmore, Lost Odyssey – Mother of Sed: Seth is immortal, but her son isn't, which is sort of weird for both of them. But they're both pirates, so there's some common ground at least.
Best Mom: Yohn… because she's selfless as only a mother can be.
Worst Mom: Jenova… because she's emotionally unavailable. And responsible for Sephiroth.
Mothers in… Fighting Games Fighting games have a fair few mothers among their playable characters. The plot structure (or lack thereof) leaves room for all kinds of people to enter whatever world championship fighting tournament of the week is going on for various reasons that don't necessarily make any sense. So if you can have a panda, a geisha, a cyborg and whatever the hell Voldo is supposed to be enter a tournament for personal gain, a mother doesn't seem like such a weird contender. Here's a list of a few prominent mommies:
Sophitia, Soulcalibur series – Mother of Patroklos and Pyrrha: Sophitia is an Athenian who fights on behalf of the Greek God, Hephaestus, to regain Soul Edge. The sword entwines itself with her daughter's spirit, forcing Sophitia to spend eternity defending Soul Edge from anyone who tries to claim it. She's protecting her daughter.
Michelle Chang, Tekken series – Mother of Julia: Michelle fights in one of the Iron Fist tournaments to rescue her kidnapped mother and then adopts an abandoned baby named Julia. Then Julia goes on to fight in an Iron Fist tournament to save Michelle when Michelle gets kidnapped. Circle of life.
Dural, Virtua Fighter – Mother of Kage: Dural probably started out as a good mum when she was human, but then she got kidnapped and turned into an evil cyborg. That knocks her out of the mum of the Year running.
Jun Kazama, Tekken series – Mother of Jin Kazama: Jun is the Chosen One, a wildlife activist, and a single mum. Over the course of four games, she somehow found time to save pandas, birth a son, thrash a bunch of her extended family and possibly fake her own death or perhaps dies for real when her house burned down.
Nina Williams, Tekken series – Mother of Steve Fox via in-vitro fertilization: Nina is a world class assassin who gives birth to a son while in cryogenic sleep. Though it appears she couldn't care less that she has offspring, she does neglect to assassinate him. That counts as maternal instinct, right?
Maria, Dead or Alive series – Mother of Helena: Maria is a world class opera singer who had an affair with the head of a sinister corporation. She later took a bullet for her bastard daughter onstage in the middle of an aria… what a way to go.
Crimson Viper, Street Fighter IV – Mother of Lauren: C. Viper is a working mother in the spy profession. Her life's goal is destroying the weapons produced by a sinister corporation, but somehow she made room in her busy schedule to have a daughter.
Justice, Guilty Gear – Mother of Dizzy: No one's really sure how it happened – least of all Dizzy, who was found abandoned at age 3.
Best Mom: Maria… because nothing says "Mommy loves you" like taking a sniper's bullet to the heart.
Worst Mom: Crimson Viper… because she's a workaholic. Did she even call her kid after fights? No!
Mothers in… Action/Adventure and Survival Horror Games Here's where the role of the mother in video games become complicated. Because these types of games usually have a more focused plot than fighting or role playing games, adding a mother usually means casting her in a narrow role that doesn't include speaking parts. Occasionally, these mums even wind up as antagonists by default. However small their part, though, these mothers sometimes make an appearance worth mentioning. Here are a few notable examples:
The Queen, Ico – Mother of Yorda: She basically had a daughter so she could sacrifice the kid and live a bit longer. I guess some species do eat their own young, but jeez…
Annette Birkin, Resident Evil 2 – Mother of Sherry Birkin: Depending on how you play the game, Annette either hid the G-Virus in her daughter's locket or cures her daughter of the T-Virus. Either way, she did abandon her kid during a zombie apocalypse. Poor form, mum.
Amelia Croft, Tomb Raider series – Mother of Lara Croft: Like her daughter, Mrs. Croft has issues with touching ancient artifacts she probably shouldn't. Luckily, Lara learns from her mommy's mistakes and everybody's happy… until Lara has to shoot zombie Amelia when they meet up in Underworld.
Mrs. Sanderson, Chibi Robo – Mother of Jenny: Mrs. Sanderson has real marital problems that cause her to lock herself in a bathroom and threaten divorce, leaving all the housework to Jenny and her toy robot.
Ex-Mrs. Hopkins, Bully – Mother of Jimmy Hopkins: This woman lacks both fashion sense and parental priorities. She ditches her kid at a boarding school to run off on a honeymoon with a new husband and then sends Jimmy a fugly sweater at Christmas.
Maggie Monday, Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse – Mother of Andrew Monday: Like Jimmy Hopkins' mum, Maggie could use some priority adjustment. She lets her son's city get sacked by zombies and then becomes a zombie herself so she can marry Stubbs. This basically leaves Andrew with a wrecked city and a zombie for a stepfather. Thanks, Mom!
Ma Cipriani, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories – Mother of Toni: Toni never called his Ma while he was in hiding. Given that she dates guys who are into paraphilic infantilism, I can see why. Ma puts a hit out on her son and then calls it off in a fit of maternal pride when Tony finally becomes a made man.
Best Mom: Amelia Croft… because not even good mums get it right all of the time and how was she supposed to know that sword would teleport her, her husband would die and her daughter would be left an orphan?
Worst Mom: The Queen… because what she did to Yorda is way worse than what Joan Crawford did to her daughter. You think being hit with wire hangers is bad? Try being turned to stone.
Mothers in… Shooters Here's where you barely see any mums at all. The shooter genre is reserved for masculine things like guns and aliens and spies and other stuff that doesn't leave much room for maternal influences. You'll find a lot of dads in shooters, though – but Father's Day isn't for another month, so sit tight.
*SPOILER WARNING: BioShock, F.E.A.R. 2, Metal Gear Solid 4*
Jasmine Jolene, BioShock – Mother of Jack: Jasmine was Andrew Ryan's mistress and a "dancer" which is 60s code for "prostitute." Even if she didn't accept money for sexual favours, she was certainly in a hurry to accept money for her freshly-conceived embryo. That's worse than the fairy tales where parents trade firstborn sons for magical enchantments.
Dr. Bridgette Tenenbaum, BioShock and BioShock 2 – Mother of all the Little Sisters and the Big Sister: Tenenbaum didn't give birth to any of the poor darlings, but her research created them. She eventually stepped in to foster them and shower them with toys and secondhand cigarette smoke to make up for the brainwashing.
Eva, Metal Gear Solid 4 – Mother of Liquid and Solid Snake (kinda): Eva would have gladly had Naked Snake's babies the ol' fashioned way, but the Patriots had other plans. She eventually serves as surrogate mother to the clone babies Liquid and Solid and starts calling herself Big Mamma to compensate for having nothing to do with mothering them.
The Boss, Metal Gear Solid 3 – Mother of Revolver Ocelot and the US Special Forces (which one do you think she's more proud of?): The Boss probably had no business leading the Battle of Normandy while nine months pregnant. But despite being a bad mum to Ocelot, The Boss wins major motherhood recognition as a Mother Goddess figure to at least half the cast of the Metal Gear Solid series.
Alma Wade, F.E.A.R. and F.E.A.R. 2: Project Origin – Mother of Paxton Fettel, Point Man and countless telepathic clone soldiers: Alma became a mother at the tender age of 15 against her will. It's hard to tell if she harbors any feeling for her offspring conceived in captivity – bloodlust sort of obscures any tender intent. However, in Project Origin, Alma's grown up a bit and appears to have invested in being mother to the protagonist's baby, which she deliberately conceives.
Best Mom: The Boss… because out of this sorry lot, she's easily the best role model.
Worst Mom: Jasmine… because she sold her only son to his father's enemy before the son was even born. That's like the opposite of mother-like behaviour.
(Dis)Honorable Mentions Sora's mum, Kingdom Hearts — She has one line and the whole first part of the game is about her son trying to build a raft to run away from home. Clearly the parenting thing isn't working out. Mother Brain, Metroid — "She," if that's what that thing in the jar can be called, is an alien with no maternal feelings whatsoever. You, Fable II, The Sims games and Harvest Moon games — Even if you play as an upstanding paragon of parental vigilance, you're going to be guilty of neglect at least half of the time in these games.
At this point, you're probably wondering why Cooking Mama isn't anywhere on this list. Apart from the lack of a convenient genre into which to cram the game, there's no evidence that Cooking Mama is even a mother. Do you see her kids at any point in the game? For all the player knows, she's just calling herself "Mama" so she doesn't have to call herself a chef, the poor self-hating hash slinger.
That's all we've got for the best and worst mothers in video games. Think we missed somebody important? Drop a line in the comments. And don't forget to call your mum on Mother's Day!