A Shallow Dive Into Daddy Simulators And Little Guy Games

A Shallow Dive Into Daddy Simulators And Little Guy Games
Image: Ruby Innes / Kotaku Australia

There are many genres in the gaming world. Some say game genres have no meaning, but I say we grow the meanings of these genres every day with sub-genres and sub-sub-genres.

You’ve got your standard genres: action, action-adventure, adventure, puzzle, RPG, simulation, strategy, sports, MMO, sandbox, and so on. Then there are sub-genres within these genres, often with a unique mechanical hook like turn-based strategy games and battle royale action games. This can also present as a mashup of existing genres, like puzzle-platformers or MMORPGs. Others are simply influenced by games that came before them, like Metriodvanias and Soulslikes.

But there’s another group we must consider: that of sub-genres that are directly linked to vibes? Of games that introduce minor aspects that go on to be incredibly important? I’d like to look at two examples, one that’s well known and one that I don’t think gets talked about enough: Daddy Simulators and Little Guy Games.

I mention this pairing as they could be considered close branches on the sub-genre tree. Perhaps you are the Big Guy that takes care of (or is followed by) a Little Guy! However, there are clear differences between the two that must be addressed. While they are both lessons in responsibility, they each serve a different purpose in displaying types of responsibility.

Daddy Simulators

daddy simulator bioshock 2
Image: 2K Games

I know, I know. People don’t like the word ‘daddy’. Due to the unfortunate existence of Horny, the term ‘daddy’ is now tainted with the sins of the depraved. I jest, of course, we do not kink shame here. If you want to be a rabid little freak, you are well within your rights to do so as long as it’s legal. However, the term ‘daddy’ here is directly and specifically connected to being a video game dad.

We’ve definitely seen a resurgence in Daddy Simulators in recent years. Games like God of War and The Witcher 3 are fine examples. Basically, a Daddy Simulator is most easily described as a game where you are a dad — whether by blood, duty, or circumstance — and you must rescue, protect, train, and/or fight alongside your child. I would personally argue that the Daddy Simulator genre really kicked off with Bioshock 2, a game in which you literally play as a Big Daddy. From there, we’ve seen many a game where you are a loving (or loathing) father who wants the best (or worst) for their kid.

Examples of Daddy Simulators include:

  • Bioshock 2 (pictured)
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • Dishonored
  • God of War
  • Heavy Rain
  • The Last Of Us
  • Telltale’s The Walking Dead

An important note in this sub-genre is that you can be a daddy with no biological children of your own. The Witcher and The Last of Us are great examples of this. Ciri is not Geralt’s biological child. The entire point of The Last of Us is that Ellie is not Joel’s biological daughter. Nevertheless, their actions betray a sense of fatherly instinct. Daddy Simulator! Listen, Some Guy Who Takes Responsibility For A Random Child Simulator is a little too long to become a decent genre shorthand.

The popularity of Daddy Simulators in recent years could be attributed to the fact that the people behind them probably have kids themselves, but it could also simply be DILF-related wish fulfilment.

Little Guy Games

little guy games kena
Image: Ember Lab

Little Guy Games (not to be mistaken with actual IRL game developer Little Guy Games) are more genre-flexible than Daddy Simulators. While Daddy Simulators seem to mainly be action-adventure or role-playing games, you see Little Guy Games pop up all over the place. This is because, in order for a game to be a Little Guy Game, it just needs one thing: little guys.

In Little Guy Games, you can collect little guys, recruit little guys, or simply exist around little guys. With my ongoing thinking about Little Guy Games (I think about them a lot), I believe said little guys exist in differing ways, making multiple types of Little Guy Games. These ways are active, in which the little guys play an active role in gameplay, and aesthetic, in which the little guys are just there and sometimes you can get them to follow you around.

Examples of Little Guy Games, with their definitives, include:

  • Kena: Bridge of Spirits – active (pictured)
  • Death’s Door – aesthetic
  • The Wild at Heart – active
  • Pikmin – active
  • Eledees – active
  • Kirby and the Forgotten Land – aesthetic
  • Nioh – semi-active, but mainly aesthetic
  • Any Sonic game with Chao management – semi-active
  • The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker – aesthetic

When I say semi-active, this means that though the little guys are actively involved in gameplay, they are not the game’s focus. For example, the Kodama in Nioh would make it a semi-active Little Guy Game, as you can guide the little guys to shrines. This actively, however, is not the primary goal of the game. Meanwhile, in Kena: Bridge of Spirits, the Rot plays a pivotal role in gameplay, making it an active Little Guy Game. The little guys you can find around healing areas and the office space in Death’s Door have no effect on gameplay but you can make them follow you around for fun, making it an aesthetic Little Guy Game. Does this make sense?

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I love Little Guy Games, and every time there is a bunch of little guys in games, I am filled with immense joy.

Similarities and differences

There are obvious similarities between these two sub-sub-genres. The most blatant one is that you are a Large Being in the presence of a Smaller Being. You, the protagonist, can be made responsible or make yourself responsible for another life. However, in Daddy Simulators, you are generally only put in charge of one child. With Little Guy Games, you may start with one but you will never finish with one unless you are truly incompetent. Little guys always come in groups.

Daddy Simulators expose the trials and tribulations of being a father in the most unbelievable ways. I wouldn’t say that if you can successfully complete a Daddy Simulator you are ready to be a father, but it’s a great start to making sense of what a child is: a horrible little beast that won’t leave you alone. Active Little Guy Games, on the other hand, will generally show you what it’s like to control a group, like a dictator or god of some sort. Aesthetic Little Guy Games will show you little guys, and you will look at them. You will look at them, and you will like them.

god of war daddy simulator
Image: SIE/Kratos voice: “Little Guy.”

So which is better?

That’s a silly question. Don’t ask that again. But to answer your question, one isn’t better than the other. Both Daddy Simulators and Little Guy Games serve their purpose, providing the player with different levels of power and responsibility for beings much smaller than them.

If you’re a fan of games that will show you how much work goes into being a parent, or the lengths a father or father figure will go to protect their child, you’ll love Daddy Simulators. Aside from being Daddy Simulators, all the games mentioned above have their own respective accolades for gameplay and storytelling.

If you want either complete power of cute little beings much smaller than you, or you simply just want to run around with tiny fellas plodding along behind you, then Little Guy Games are for you. Really, that attracts two completely different types of people, or one power-hungry cutesy person. Picture Hello Kitty but with a bunch of guns and an uncomfortable amount of political sway.

Why do these sub-sub-genres exist?

When it comes to genres, they serve the purpose of pointing out the stark difference in a type of game. With sub-genres, they aim to describe the specific type of gameplay mechanics to expect in a game of a certain genre.

With sub-sub-genres like Daddy Simulators and Little Guy Games, I would say that they’re signifiers of trends and patterns in story-telling and game design. While genres and sub-genres are indicators of what you’ll be doing, sub-sub-genres are indicators of themes in games. They’re video game vibe checks, essentially.

little guy games
Image: Nintendo

Do genres really matter anymore?

In the landscape of media as a whole, it seems like we as a society need the existence of genres in order to understand our interests. As well as that, award ceremonies and such need genres to exist or else we’d have very few accolades to give away, and sometimes you really can’t compare games like Skyrim and Unpacking. They are simply too different.

On the other hand, while genres are great indicators of what to expect from games, the blossoming of sub-genres and sub-sub-genres and sub-sub-sub-genres and whatnot mean that games don’t have to be squeezed into little boxes of what the base genre expects of them. Sometimes games will adopt multiple aspects from genres, and that can make for a more interesting experience.

Can we really call these genres, or sub-genres, or sub-sub-genres?

Who gives a shit! Life is what you make it. Call games whatever you want. Live a little! In my opinion, the most important part of video games is having fun, and you know what’s fun? Grouping games by meaningless and silly things within them, like Jiggle Physics-Based (physics-based puzzle games where huge knockers may be present) and Games I Could Take Into A Time Machine And Show To A Sickly Victorian Child To Kill Them Instantly (most games, those fuckers are weak), is fun. It’s fun and funny to me!


Do you have any Daddy Simulators or Little Guy Games that I missed? Which Daddy Simulator do you think accurately portrayed fatherhood? Which Little Guy Game accurately portrayed have complete control over small creatures? Let us know!

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