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Mom, The Binding Of Isaac

“Now you are less of a disappointment”: 15 overbearing mother figures in video games

These games have mommy issues.

By Anthony John Agnello, Steve Heisler, Joe Keiser, Gus Mastrapa, John Teti, and Drew Toal • May 9, 2012

1. Matriarch Benezia, Mass Effect
Matriarch Benezia, Mass Effect

In most circumstances, holding a doctorate is something to be proud of. Unfortunately for Dr. Liara T’Soni, the sexy blue ally of Commander Shepard in 2007’s Mass Effect, her mother spent the better part of a millennium having the honorific “Matriarch” printed on her business cards. In Liara’s culture, that title casts a long shadow. On top of being a super-powerful “biotic” sorceress, Matriarch Benezia was also the de facto spiritual leader of her people. That’s past tense because an early mission in the role-playing game pits Shepard and crew against the formidable woman, after it’s discovered that she’s providing aid to the bad guys. The fact that Benezia is voiced by Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Marina Sirtis makes the encounter feel epic enough. But this boss battle is notoriously difficult, especially considering how little resistance the players face prior to the Benezia fight. So poor Liara’s misfortune is compounded. Not only has her super-powerful mom taken up arms with the scourge of the galaxy, but she’s also a pain in the ass to put down.

2. Father-Mother, Zeno Clash
Father-Mother, Zeno Clash

Mother’s Day is this weekend, but for some parents, a single day of recognition isn’t enough. In the indie fighting game Zeno Clash, Father-Mother tries to have it both ways, assuring that he/she will receive semi-thoughtful gifts and cursory telephone calls twice a year, rather than just once. Purported to be a supernatural, hermaphroditic demigod of fertility, Father-Mother oversees a huge clan that uses its muscle to control the game’s Hieronymus Bosch-like countryside. As the game progresses, it becomes clear that Father-Mother is something less than the myths would have you believe, proving what any reasonable observer would guess: He/she’s just in it for the attention.

3. Sophitia, Soul Calibur V

Greek mythology isn’t populated with the best moms. Hera was the god of all moms, and she was terrible at parenting. She thought her kid Hephaestus was so homely as a baby that she threw him into a volcano. That was a pantheon in sore need of social services. The Soul Calibur series carries forward this tradition of dysfunction. According to the game’s lore, Hephaestus is responsible for getting series mainstay Sophitia—a busty sword fighter who’s markedly blonder than most Greek ladies—to fight evil pirates and samurais. Somewhere between the 17-year gap between Soul Calibur IV and V, Sophitia had two kids who grew up to be fated sword fighters themselves. Rather than take care of her brood, Sopithia ran off, died, and became a sort of goddess who’s the physical embodiment of a magic sword. From beyond the grave, she first tries to get her son to kill his sister. Then she puts on a string bikini and forces her son to fight her. Whether that’s better than being tossed in a volcano is debatable.

4. Mother Curie III, Fallout 3: Broken Steel

The Broken Steel expansion to Bethesda’s role-playing game Fallout 3 sees you restoring a meager but steady supply of clean water to the irradiated, post-nuclear-apocalypse Wasteland. You might think this would be cause for celebration, but not everyone agrees. Mother Curie III, the leader and den mother of a zealous religious clan called The Apostles Of The Holy Light, doesn’t care what the doctors say. She thinks that the irradiated water is not a curse but a blessing, seeing as how it turns people into glowing ghouls—which she presumes is a higher state of being. So she has her boys intercept clean-water shipments and irradiate it, transforming it into “Holy Water.” Unlike many of the mothers on this list, though, Mother Curie III can be made to hear your pleas: Pump your veins full of radiation and your green aura will convince her that you’re the fabled Prophet Of Atom, the transcendental son she always wanted.

5. Mom, The Binding Of Isaac

As a combination of a bible allusion and deep-seated childhood trauma, The Binding Of Isaac is driven entirely by mommy issues. It starts with Isaac and his mother living together as happy as can be, until Mom hears the voice of God demand that she kill her child. From there, Mom is depicted first as a cooing, knife-wielding psychopath, and later as a collection of distended, veiny eyes and legs. Assuming all goes well, Isaac commits gory matricide and everything is…okay? Or maybe slightly less bad than it was when Mom was alive? There’s no happy ending for this tiny naked Mom murderer, even if she did have it coming.

6. Mother Brain, Metroid
Mother Brain, Metroid

When a band of space pirates invaded Mother Brain’s homeworld, the super-intelligent biological computer saw a group of interstellar jerks that she could take under her wing and mold. In the fragmentary mythology of the classic NES game Metroid, it’s hard to tell how Mother Brain assumed control of the ultra-powerful privateers, but evidence suggests that the pirates were less than willing participants in the alliance. After all, by the time you arrive on the scene, the pirates aren’t embarking on any of their (presumably fun and exciting) outer-space plundering raids anymore. Instead, they’re sitting around in an elaborate base, protecting the surrogate mother who controls their every move. It’s not the most swashbuckling life, but look at it from Mother Brain’s point of view: She’s an immobile brain in a jar. She could probably use the company.

7. Mother Brain, Chrono Trigger

In the 1995 role-playing game Chrono Trigger, the robotic character Robo starts out as a deactivated survivor of the apocalypse and becomes a philosopher-cum-gentleman farmer. When you meet him in the ruined future of this time-traveling adventure, he nearly dies trying to protect you and your human companions from his murderous “brothers.” Late in Trigger, there’s an optional quest that takes you to Robo’s birthplace. It’s there that you meet Mother Brain, a prismatic hologram that’s half-woman and half-butterfly (and has no relation to the more famous Metroid villain). The humans of 2300 AD are all but extinct, and the imperfect apes have had their time, so Mother Brain figures, why not wipe them out to pave the way for artificial intelligence? It’s an awfully familiar plan for an evil bot, but what she lacks in originality she makes up for in sheer cruelty. After turning Robo’s siblings against him, she ups the ante by making Robo’s old girlfriend attack him as well. As John Cusack says in High Fidelity, that’s some cold shit, mom.

8. Jenova, Final Fantasy VII
Jenova, Final Fantasy VII

Because mothers are there for your formative years, they can exert influence long after you’ve grown up, even when you don’t see them because they’ve been hermetically sealed in a heavily guarded chamber with only their DNA to guide you. In Final Fantasy VII, Jenova is a mother of sorts to many of the game’s characters. She was a powerful alien life force hidden away by The Ancients in an attempt to protect the world from her immense power. Later, the evil Shinra corporation discovered her and began injecting its soldiers with her cells in an attempt to make them more powerful. One of the most extreme cases is Sephiroth, a powerful warrior who wields a katana nearly twice as tall as himself. He’s perfectly content living his swordly life untroubled for most of the game. But upon learning he was the first successful result of the Jenova Project—which implanted the alien’s cells into fetuses—he decides to carry out the wishes of his “mother” and take over the planet. Well, “decides” might not be the right word—it’s more like he’s compelled to megalomania. Sephiroth simply wants to please Mother, even long after she’s gone.

9. Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum, BioShock

In BioShock’s Rapture—an undersea, libertarian utopia gone awry—society, nature, and God knows what else are warped beyond recognition. So calling Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum the “mother” of the game’s haunting Little Sisters is forgivable, if not entirely honest. The thickly accented scientist bears affection for the poor creatures and rewards the player greatly for choosing to rescue the little buggers. But Tenenbaum was the one who made the creepy little sisters what they are in the first place, by implanting young girls with a bizarre sea slug so she could harvest a super-addictive drug from their stomachs. Still, Tenenbaum seeks redemption. And if players goes along with her plans, they are rewarded not only with loot, but with a third-act look at what their efforts have wrought. In Tenenbaum’s safehouse, all the rescued young girls, cured of their mutations, draw pictures by candlelight and play hopscotch. With every other denizen of Rapture dead or worse, Tenenbaum’s perverted take on nurturing is the only salvation to be had.

10. Mother, House Of The Dead: Overkill

A paean to grindhouse cinema that’s more grotesque and funnier than its inspiration, House Of The Dead: Overkill is not in the subtlety business: You shoot freaks with a stripper at your side. Overkill’s grand finale is a fight against the monstrous mother of mad scientist Clement Darling. Little Clement has spent his career as a crazy person trying to keep his dying mother alive, going so far as to steal and tinker with a super-soldier formula left over from the Cold War. At the end, Clement puts his mom’s brain in the body of the aforementioned stripper and gives her a dose of Formula X, turning her into a Godzilla-sized berserker. He comes to regret that decision.

11. Mother, K.O.L.M.

“You’re a broken robot,” reads the introduction to Armor Games’ K.O.L.M., “Fix yourself up to please Mother.” The trouble is that in this Flash game, there’s no pleasing the woman. Although K.O.L.M. stands for Kind Of Like Metroid, the mother figure in Metroid was rather direct and forceful with her hatred. The Mother in K.O.L.M. is more subtle. Like a passive-aggressive Facebook junkie, Mother chides you via text message with backhanded expressions of ice-cold love. When your crippled character regains use of his legs, for instance, Mother writes, “Your legs, son. Now you are less of a disappointment. :)”—with that sideways smiley acting as an electronic dagger in your tiny metallic heart.

12. Sindel, Mortal Kombat

They say that no parent is harder to please than the one that’s been brainwashed into fealty by a cruel god-emperor. Take Sindel. Back in the good old days, she ruled Edenia with her darling daughter, Kitana, until the dictator Shao Kahn took that kingdom and drove Sindel to suicide. Kahn was still pretty into her, though, so he had her resurrected, subjugated her mind, and made her his queen. Kitana’s not okay with this new order. What happens next depends on which inscrutable Mortal Kombat timeline you want to follow. But in the worst case, Sindel disowns her daughter, kicks her in the face, and rips out her soul. Maybe the next time a ridiculous time-travel twist reboots the entire universe (it’s bound to happen), Kitana will listen to her Mother.

13. The Queen, Ico

Yorda, Ico’s mute damsel in distress, does not have a good mom. A good mom doesn’t lock you in a spiked cage in a crumbling castle of doomed magic. She doesn’t send shadow demons to catch you and drag you back home when you break curfew. She wouldn’t try to take over your body in a bid for immortality. She would understand that the horned boy holding your hand is a nice young man, so stop electrocuting him with blue lightning bolts already. Yorda’s mother, The Queen, is the central antagonist of Ico, and she’s one of only a few known quantities in the enigmatic game. Yorda, her jailers, the boy, the castle—Ico is full of mysteries and ambiguity, but Yorda’s mother is cut-and-dry evil.

14. The Mother, Dragon Age: Origins—Awakening

Succinct as always, the dwarf Oghren’s reaction to The Mother in Dragon Age: Origins—Awakening is, “That’s a lot of nipples.” The matriarch of the darkspawn—the game’s slavering zombie-like monsters—The Mother is bulbous, writhing and, yes, awash in nipples. Also tentacles. She comes straight out of Lovecraftian mythology, a female Cthulhu figure driven mad by her own twisted existence. Prone to wild outbursts of self-pity and maniacal laughter, The Mother does love her “children” the darkspawn after a fashion, but she won’t hesitate to kill them if she deems it necessary.

15. Sheila, The Adventures Of Willy Beamish

Willy Beamish may be an entitled little snot, but it’s not entirely his fault. His mother Sheila isn’t exactly doing a bang-up job—while she’s overworked and underappreciated, she’s not a picture of selflessness. So when Willy cuts himself helping with dinner, Sheila cares way more about the carrots than the arc of blood pulsing out of her son’s hand. And when her husband loses his job, her first instinct is to wonder how she’s going to pay for her facials and nail wraps. Sheila’s always on edge, to the point where a little sass from Willy can escalate almost immediately into his being shipped off to military school. Willy doesn’t need this—his poorly designed game world is punishing enough without his own family subjecting him to outsized misery. It’s no wonder he spends so much time in detention and his best friend is a frog.

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  • caspiancomic

    I know you’ve already got one Final Fantasy character in there (and if you limited yourselves to one, you obviously made the right choice), but Queen Brahne from Final Fantasy IX deserves a runner-up position at least. FFIX spoilers to follow.

    She’s a power hungry beached whale of a monarch who first invades and then out-and-out destroys the only other civilizations on the continent, the leader of one of which she is related to (by blood or marriage I can’t remember). Her warmongering is depicted as a sort of ambiguous mix of Kuja’s magical influence, grief over the death of her husband, and good old fashioned bone-deep greed, and she makes her kingdom and her daughter suffer for her evil ambitions until the end of her life. Her actions get so bad that her own daughter quietly betrays her and begins hatching a scheme to either convince her mother to halt her aggressions, or if that doesn’t work, stop her by any means necessary. Brahne eventually kidnaps her own daughter and forces her into a perverse religious ceremony to extract her innate powers, a ceremony that Brahne knows could kill her, to further her own military advance against the peoples of the Mist Continent.

    I think the scene Garnet and Brahne share after Brahne and Kuja’s final showdown on the beach at the Iifa Tree is my favourite in the game, though. Even after all the cruelty and suffering she inflicted on basically every living soul on the planet, at the end of her life she just wanted to be at peace with and receive forgiveness from her daughter. Whether she deserved it or not is up to you, of course, but it’s nice to see that even though Garnet was half-committed to the idea that she might have to kill her own mother for the good of the planet, when push came to shove she was in no way prepared for what had to happen. Garnet struggles with the emotional ramifications of her mother’s death for the rest of the game.

    • ImANarc

      . . . . . . .

    • http://thewavefunctionjunction.blogspot.com/ trilobiter

       And now I want to play Final Fantasy IX again.  God damn, what a good game that was.

      Brahne and Garnet’s relationship is what makes this game’s story emotionally resonant.  I only wish we had more time to see Brahne’s maternal side; we meet her when she’s already neck-deep in evil, and she doesn’t really display kindness to Garnet until she’s dying.  It would make her death a lot more heart-wrenching if she ever seemed conflicted about hurting her daughter.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

      Why this isn’t just a Japanese r.p.g. list, I don’t know.  I count 6 in Final Fantasy alone.  Thanks for picking the best game/example.

    • doyourealize

      Glad I scrolled down to the last (I have it sorted from “newest first”) comment before I suggested the exact same thing and looked like an ass.  Anyway, I fourth this motion, despite Jenova already holding a spot for the FF series.  Maybe I just have a soft spot for this game since, after XII, IX is my favorite FF.

    • Spacemonkey Mafia

      Man, FF IX is the best.  Not only was I so pleased by the return to the actual ‘Fantasy’ part of the title, but the very Brian Froud-esque visual design is so strange and beautiful and still an aesthetic approach sorely underrepresented in games.

    • flowsthead

      That’s a great analysis. It’s pretty awesome considering how satisfying that relationship and plot is in the game, and yet it’s not even the focus of the game. FFIX is just such a greatly told, nuanced story that there must be 10 or so different themes that get their due. They establish characters so well in that game, it’s remarkable.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

      Brahne is a really great example. Edea from Final Fantasy VIII is yet another prime candidate for the list. She turns out to be the surrogate mother of every playable character in the game except for Rinoa, whose mother is dead.

      Man, Final Fantasy’s got issues.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ramon-Mujica/650405180 Ramon Mujica

       Once she dies, the story of FF9 goes downhill FAST.

    • 3FistedHumdinger

       I must be the only one on this site that thought FF9 was a piece of shit.

      • Djur

        Nope!

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

    Matriarch Benezia has the most weirdly distracting cleavage of any video game character I’ve ever seen.

    Speaking of the Mass Effect series, Samara also sort of fits the bill. I mean, she [ME2 spoilers] killed one of her daughters and [ME3 spoilers] condemned another to live the rest of her life in a pile of rubble. It’s heavily implied that the reason she became a Justicar was to hunt down Morinth (and also to atone for giving birth to three Ardat-Yakshi).

    And, like Benezia, Samara has weirdly distracting cleavage. I’m starting to see a pattern here…

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      Distracting cleavage is widespread in the Mass Effect universe, particularly with the Asari, but Liara’s mother went the extra mile. She must have used lots of double sided tape or had some sort of biotic field in operation.

      • HobbesMkii

         There was an article somewhere with the writers of ME3 where they talked about same-sex partners in that game and how they wrote them, despite being straight white men, to not be “lesbians for other straight guys to watch” (or something to that effect). Which I thought was interesting, given that the Asari seem to have been custom-made as straight guy eye candy.

        • Staggering Stew Bum

          Blueberry flavoured candy at that. Looks like the writers were ignored by the game artists. The same writers who were also not going to produce an A,B or C choice ending, so you know…

          I think it’s fair to say that the animators got carried away with the bluebies. And whoever went with the anti-gravity breasts for the Ash hospital scene needs a slap.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          It would be possible to write an entire essay on Mass Effect’s portrayal of the Asari. On the one hand, they’re a fully-realized race with a distinct set of cultural values and political conflicts. On the other hand…sexy blue aliens. It leads me to wonder which aspect came first during development.

          In the end, it’s moot, though, because despite their possible origins as straight-guy eye candy, the games portray the Asari as a lot more than that. (ME2′s trip to Illium is especially illuminating.) Plus, based off some of Liara’s dialogue in ME1, I got the impression that the writers were aware of the the whole eye candy thing and that some of the “sexy blue alien” stuff was kind of tongue-in-cheek. That’s how it came across to me, at least. Reasonable people may believe otherwise.

        • SaoirseRonanTheAccuser

          @Merve2:disqus – On Illium, there was a bar where a Turian, a Salarian, and a human were all sitting around a table watching an Asari do a table dance, ostensibly for the Salarian’s bachelor party.  If you just stand around for a good little while and listen, you get to a pretty hilarious argument where the Turian questions why the other races find Asari attractive, given that they just look like softer, blue Turians… then the Salarians say the same thing, followed by the humans.  It ends with them coming to the realization that the Asari may just be mind-controlling everyone to look as attractive as possible and propagate their own species.  We’ll never know, though – they then get distracted by all that sexiness and forget the conspiracy completely.

          I think the writers definitely treated the ‘sexy blue alien’ thing pretty tongue in cheek throughout.

        • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

          @SaoirseRonanTheAccuser:disqus: Getting way off-topic here, but I absolutely love Illium. The setting, the concept, the art direction – it’s superb.

          The bar you mentioned, Eternity, has a lot of great conversations. The one you talked about provides a good explanation (or excuse, depending on how you look at it) for why the Asari look so humanoid. But my favourite conversation in Eternity is between a quarian and a turian who’s trying not to get friend-zoned by her. I see it as foreshadowing for [ME3 SPOILERS] Tali and Garrus hooking up.

    • TheReclusiveMan

      Samara strikes me as one of the most complex characters in the Mass Effect universe. When we’re first introduced to her, she seems to be so completely dedicated to the Justicar code that she’s a little hard to sympathize with. Samara even comes off as a kind of unfeeling husk the way she (at first) so nonchalantly talks about her mission to kill her own daughter. 

       But when Samara does kill Morinth and reveals just how much she actually admired her defiance, is a really eye opening moment. 

      Then there’s the last part of the Ardat-Yakshi monastery mission. Were when confronted with upholding the code would mean killing her last daughter. Samara decides she’s a mother first and a Justicar second, letting her daughter live, but since that would be at the sacrifice of her honor, tries to kill her self.       

       That scene is not only the best character moment in the entire series, but for me is one the most beautiful in a video game ever.   

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    Wow, Willy Beamish, eh?  I HATED that game!  One of the very few adventure games I returned to the store after playing for a couple of days.  One of the things I disliked the most was the scene transitions.  You click to walk out of a room, Willy starts walking toward it, then the scene fades (very slowly) to black while the next room loads.  Took FOREVER to move around.

    Add to that the stupid and annoying side characters, and the “being sent to military school” for the stupidest infractions.  (I.E. take too long searching a room for clickable items after Mom calls for you.)  A vampire babysitter, really?  And the stupid gang of thugs chasing you through a “maze” where they move twice as fast as you…that was the point where I quit and returned the game.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       The weird, unforgiving real-time clock was also annoying. Especially since my 486 ran the game too fast, and made the clock go at super-speed, rendering the game unplayable without hardware fiddling (i.e. discovering my computer had a ‘turbo’ button).

      Weirdly enough, for some reason I really wanted to like the game, and there were elements of it middle-school me really thought were funny/charming/whatever. But the game design cut me off at every turn, and I eventually gave up out of frustration.

      • TheLivingTribunal

        Haha, I remember those turbo buttons on 486 machines.  Somehow it was directly connected to the CPU clock?  Wow.

      • The Guilty Party

        I loved those turbo buttons. It made you feel like you had some sort of hot rod. ‘I need to go… turbo!’

        Except really they were ‘go slow’ buttons that just had good marketing.

  • feisto

    So… was GLaDOS disqualified for some reason? Just curious, since that seems to be a pretty glaring omission.

    • HobbesMkii

       I’m pretty sure GLaDOS is barren, and thus, not a mother.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        There’s a popular theory that Chell is the illegitimate daughter of Cave Johnson and Caroline, but I don’t think it has ever been confirmed.

        • HobbesMkii

          I had never heard that, but my original point stands: GLaDOS is a robot, and robots cannot have children, because they are infertile.

        • Colonel Mustard

          Yeah, something about how you can see Chell’s potato project in the “Bring Your Daughter to Work Day” poster room?  I never saw it.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001127049468 Andrew Kanninen

          The Italian Opera the turrets sing at the end is a mothers lament to her daughter, and given the resemblance Chell has to her as well as the constant references to her adoption, the timing in general…collectively it makes a very strong case.

          Speaking of Portal, has anyone tried the make your own test chambers freeware? It went live on Steam this week.

      • feisto

        I laughed, then cried a little inside.

        • HobbesMkii

          Just like GLaDOS did.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        I thought the turrets were her babies. That makes what Wheatley does to them so utterly tragic.

    • http://twitter.com/Triphibian Gus Mastrapa

      I floated the idea of GLaDOS, but we agreed that she’s more motherfucker than mother.

      • feisto

        Ha! For sure. Although she does teach Chell everything she needs to know to survive (and gives her the tools!), even if it seems to be for the sole purpose of watching her die. In a very twisted way, I could see how GLaDOS would feel that Chell’s decision to live was a huge stab in the back after all she’s done for her.

      • George_Liquor

         I think she deserves special mention for being the best damn character ever in a video game.

        “Hey, you’re good at murdering. Could you *murder* this crow?”

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ramon-Mujica/650405180 Ramon Mujica

       GLaDOS seems more like an evil best friend.

  • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

    U.F.O.: A DAY IN THE LIFE NAMEDROPPING STREAK: 3 in 3 weeks

    If you all haven’t played the absolutely insane fighting game series The Goketsuji Clan/Power Instinct, go, go now!

    Representative sample of the character list: evil genius sister matriarchs (why I bring it up), kid with his butt out who can transform into a superhero in a dog costume, steel balls-wielding weird bondage enthusiast.  And this is a respected series.

    http://hardcoregaming101.net/powerinstinct/powerinstinct.htm
    http://powerinstinct.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

    Fun, too!  Let’s do this!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_6_KV_bVhY#t=2m2s

    • George_Liquor

      Hey, speaking of batshit-crazy japanese fighters, I just picked up BlazBlue: Continuum Shift for the PS3 for about 15 bucks. That game is a kick in the pants!

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        Worse story: that or Kingdom Hearts?  It’s tough.

  • LimeadeYouth

    A bunch of *men* sitting around commiserating about overbearing mothers doesn’t do much to obliviate the notion that gamers are a wimpy, misogynistic bunch.

    That said, I really need to checkout the Binding of Isaac. Is the gameplay really as nastily unforgiving as claimed?

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       I think that depends on how your luck shakes out re: the randomly generated dungeon and its placement of items.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        Yeah, that was the idea. I was just blown away by the number of games, almost entirely created by dudes, that have mommy issues. I thought it would be funny to highlight the trend on the eve of Mother’s Day. It did end up being just dudes who had time to contribute to the list, but of course all our contributors, male and female, were invited to take part.

        • LimeadeYouth

          I actually don’t mind that it just happened to be guys at all and I realized it was unintentional(there really is a good contribution from both sexes to the site), but given the context of the article SOMEBODY had to mention it.

          However, I am now formally requesting an inventory about games with daddy issues for Father’s day. I hear they offer more game play mechanics and really go all out to get our approval. 

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          @LimeadeYouth:disqus Oh, I know there was no malice in your comment. As for your Inventory request, let’s just say great minds think alike.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

          Oh! Dibs on writing up Donkey Kong as an overbearing dad! If the guy wasn’t a serial kidnapper then his infant son wouldn’t have to risk death-by-mechanical-aligator to save him!

        • caspiancomic

           Calling it now, appearance by the King of All Cosmos.

        • ApesMa

          @facebook-1362601810:disqus If I may geek out a bit, Cranky Kong in the DK Country games is supposed to be the original Donkey Kong who fought Mario and kidnapped Pauline, father of DK Jr. and grandfather of the current DK.

        • Maudib

           Do you plan to do a list for Fathers around Father’s Day?  It’d help balance things out by making every parent incompetent.

    • Destroy Him My Robots

      To be fair, there are also a lots of games where the father is the enemy. Bayonetta is a recent example, Final Fantasy X probably the most famous one. There’s also Metal Gear and Mass Effect is bursting at the seams with shitty fathers/father figures. Casting parents as villains in RPGs makes sense too. You often start as a youngin so the story can conveniently tie in to the growth/leveling mechanics. Part of that story is overcoming what came before you, which can be more or less effectively dramatized as a fight to the death with your old folks.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ramon-Mujica/650405180 Ramon Mujica

        This is true. I bet there are plenty of enemy fathers in games: Miguel in Chrono Cross, Cid in Final Fantasy XII, Dutch in Red Dead Redemption, Gesthal in Final Fantasy VI.. the list goes on and on!

    • duwease

      It’s not that bad.  Certainly getting certain items helps a lot, but each trip down you learn more and more tricks (and unlock better stuff).  I’d highly recommend it, as it’s one of the most addictive games I’ve played in awhile.

    • Maudib

       Play the demo and see for yourself.  http://www.freewebarcade.com/game/the-binding-of-isaac-demo/

  • http://profiles.google.com/deceleration.waltz Deceleration Waltz

    “knife-wielding psychopath with a knife”

    Is there any other kind of knife-wielding psychopath? But at any rate, I really enjoyed the article!

  • http://twitter.com/keptsimple81 keptsimple

    Obvious question: ChampChong?

  • dimsmellofmoose

    Liara using Benezia’s intimidation speech, word for word, on the phone with someone in Mass Effect 2 is the best moment in the entire series.

    • The Guilty Party

      My name is Garrus Vakarian, and this is my favorite line in the g… I mean, this is my favorite spot on the citadel!

  • Spacemonkey Mafia

    Final Fantasy is pretty well accounted for, in both the article and the comments; but Final Fantasy IV features both a battle with Asura, Rydia’s adopted monster mother, and Edge battling a cruel mutation of his mother, the Queen of Eblan.
       And Cecil inadvertently killed Rydia’s mother… Jeezus you guys are right. Game makers do have some deep seated maternal issues.

       But at any rate, the FF IV mom-fights aren’t major plot points in the game, but the sprite designs sure are cool.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ramon-Mujica/650405180 Ramon Mujica

      Rydia also battles Leviathan, her adopted father and Edge fights against his dad too… I’m sure they’re right next to their wives the whole time.

      Cecil and Kain can fight their adopted father too.. if you can find him.

      • Spacemonkey Mafia

        That is very true. I guess I felt the need to narrow my selection to fit the theme of the article, but then it’s not really accurate to the game. Parental issues, then. Like something out of Greek mythology -everyone has to fight before they can grow up.

  • JokersNuts

    Jenova is a good one.  as is Mother Brain – (I would love for the series to revisit that character, I always regarded her in the same esteem as Bowser and Ganon, even if I shouldn’t – Wart is another villain I liked but was never revisted)

    How about SHODAN from System Shock, such a cool bad guy, so creepy and ominius, I don’t know if she counts as a Mother though. 

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      She was sort of a mother to all the horrible mutants she created.  She was the first one I thought of when I saw the article title.

      Thanks to that crappy Nintendo cartoon from the 80s, I always think of Mother Brain talking in that horrible voice.  Ruins any sort of intimidation factor she might have.

    • Apes_Ma

      Though she had a curiously long absence, Mother Brain was in the last one, Other M.

      • JokersNuts

        ah, see i haven’t really played a Metroid game in years, so my fault.  Still, a really cool badguy.  That Captain N cartoon sucked, but when I was 6 it was pretty much the greatest thing.  As was Zelda Cartoons on Friday afternoon.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/7434UGH3EEMU2AUKTGMU3NLDZA JoshJ

         Bro, I’m commenting via YAHOO because Disqus won’t let me login with my AV club profile, and you can skin me for a Luddite if I’m gonna have two accounts for the same fucking site.

      • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

        You can use spaces in the “Full Name” section of your Disqus profile, which Disqus will use as your display name in threads.

        Merging can have unpredictable results.

      • Djur

        Don’t play Other M if you want to keep thinking Mother Brain is cool. (Also: don’t play Other M if you want to keep enjoying life.)

    • 3FistedHumdinger

       Fuck yeah, SHODAN!  I was totally thinking she would be on this list for her appearance in System Shock 2.

  • ElDan

    Was CJ’s mother still alive in GTA: San Andreas? I seem to remember at the very least her memory hovering over a lot of the early parts of the story, but I can’t remember if she was actually there or not. At any rate, considering how many girlfriends CJ/I shot in the face over the course of the game, I think he’s probably got some female issues.

    • Swadian Knight

      The game started with CJ’s mother getting shot and killed – the reason he goes back to Los Santos is to attend her funeral.

  • Swadian Knight

    (Spoilers)

    Dragon Age: Origins is teeming with mother issues. Two of the toughest bosses in the game are mothers – the first, Flemeth, is a witch of the wilds who births and raises daughters so she can steal their bodies and live forever. She turns into a dragon to fight you, which was really quite surprising on my first playthrough. The second is against a ‘broodmother’, a woman turned by the darkspawn into a monstrosity that does nothing but birth more of them (this makes broodmothers the source of the biggest danger in the world – holy symbolism, Batman!). Other than that, the religion of Ferelden has priestesses named Revered Mothers.

    The obsession is all over your party as well. Morrigan is one of Flemeth’s daughters, and the game’s canon ending involves her getting pregnant with some sort of god-baby and fleeing after the final battle. Leliana and Alistair go crazy about any memento of their mothers, and won’t shut up about them. Zevran’s mother’s work as a prostitute is what led him to his current career. Wynne’s only regret in life is having a child that was taken away from her by the Chantry.

    Someone at BioWare needs to see a shrink.

    • Aurora Boreanaz

      During my playthrough of DA:O, my fight with Flemeth was actually far more difficult than the eventual final battle.  I was on the verge of getting wiped out constantly, and the fight took me a good ten minutes.

      Then, of course, in DA2, they McGuffin her way out of permadeath from that encounter.

      • HobbesMkii

        David Gaider must have decided that Flemeth was integral to the plot after DA:O came out. I wish Morrigan’s loyalty quest had been something different, given that they were just going to go “Nah, you didn’t actually kill her” in the next game with some handy dialogue. Dragon Age would be awesome if more of the choices in that series had been persistent as in ME3, although then I’d worry about their ability to stick the landing, as in that series.

        • The Guilty Party

          I actually thought that was a pretty well done retcon. It fits the nature of a scheming pseudo-god-thing and is more or less plausible within the world they made.

          There’s plenty of cases where they just said ‘well… yeah sorry this is canon, not what you did’ when they make sequels, but I wouldn’t ding them for this.

    • HobbesMkii

      “The Mother” is just an intelligent broodmother, which is why I think she was included over the broodmothers in general. But I well recall all of that.

  • Basement Boy

    re: “Isaac commits gory matricide and everything is…okay? ”

    No, it gets worse and you will lose HUNDREDS of hours of your brief lifespan… or at least I have. (Mom’s “final” scene is pretty dark/cute tho!)

  • Colonel Mustard

    More than one Dragon Age character would probably be overkill, but I’ll toss in Flemeth.  I mean, if you’re going to raise daughters with the sole intention of taking over their bodies so you can live forever, you may as well be nice to them when they’re kids.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ramon-Mujica/650405180 Ramon Mujica

    Half of the “mothers” in the list aren’t technically even mothers: Jenova didn’t
    give birth to any character in FF7, the two Mother Brains are
    computers and so is “mother” in KOLM. Father-Mother is both (I guess, i haven’t played the game). Ico’s Queen isn’t really Yorda’s mom is she?

    A list of nice moms would be nice too, but they’re not that interesting. I nominate the mom from Earthbound (who cooks me shit, literally) and Rosalina from Super Mario Galaxy because she managed to give birth to stars somehow.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Yup, it’s a list of mother figures, not just biological mothers.

    • caspiancomic

       I think Crono’s mom is my favourite video game mom. It was always so fun to bring her the bizarre and objectively frightening friends you made along the journey and see her treat them with utmost grace, poise, and understanding. It was like a kid going through a punk phase and bringing all his pierced, mohawked burnout pals over to his house, and his mom walks in and offers everyone iced tea like it ain’t no thang. Plus it was cute how she teased Crono about which one of these girls he kept bringing home he was going to end up dating.

      It was also kind of charming in the later Pokemon games how every now and then your mom would call you for basically no reason, just to say hi. Every time that happened I felt kind of guilty for leaving my widowed mother behind in a town with like, three other residents to go on a self-indulgent adventure. After I got the Fly HM I usually went to visit my mom instead of visiting a Pokemon Centre.

      Oh God… I think I might be history’s wimpiest momma’s boy.

  • Mlnm

    Kreia?

  • Basement Boy

    KOLM was a pretty cool browser game, but until I double-checked I thought you were talking about the more-retrofied underground puzzler “Mother Robot” (http://www.increpare.com/2010/12/mother-robot/) which appeared in the same Jan ’11 Sawbuck Gamer (ha, remember the old days when it was *just* Sawbuck Gamer!) 

  • The Guilty Party

    Aw, no Mother Brain from Phantasy Star 2? ‘I know what’s best for you now shut up and take your monsters!’

  • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

    Surprised you didn’t mention the broodmare black dragon and WoW’s second raid boss, Onyxia. Evil Black dragon who sends her kids to fight you.

  • Djur

    For Chrono Trigger, I like Queen Zeal more than Mother Brain. Especially since Zeal is effectively the game’s villain and driving force. But the Mother Brain sidequest is pretty awesome regardless.

    I second the comment about Kreia above. One of the most interesting maternal characters I can think of in any game, ever.

    And since nobody’s mentioned it: Mother in La-Mulana.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Anthony-John-Agnello/1362601810 Anthony John Agnello

      Yeah, Zeal is pretty bad but she’s also possessed by the soul of a planet eating monster that may or may not be the universe’s janitor. Schala seemed pretty well adjusted so I guess Zeal was alright back in the day?

  • Thomas Stuart

    Booooooooo you didn’t include the mom from Darkseed 2

  • Swadian Knight

    Oh yeah, I just remembered that Metroid: Other M had a serious obsession with motherhood going on.

    The game is set in a Bottle Ship (shaped like a baby bottle), which Samus goes into after receiving a distress signal called Baby’s Cry. And Samus talks so much about THE BABY that the cutscenes felt like a rerun of Lost. The full title is an acronym for MOM, and the subtitle is an anagram for Mother.

    Worst thing is that this thematic choice isn’t even the most cringe-worthy thing about it.