Nuclear Families in Video Games

Ah, the nuclear family. One major part of a balanced American dream. You have a husband, a wife, a son, and a daughter all living happily together in a nuclear family. It is the end goal of life, and a bunch of movies, TV shows, and books all reinforce the idea. But what about the newest form of media? How many nuclear families are there in video games, and how many stay together from start to finish? Now, actually researching every video game ever would take to long, but it just so happens that I have a list of every video game I’ve ever played, so I’ll just be going through that instead.

Before I start the list, I want to talk about some reasons that video games are less likely to have full families. One, from a pure content level, there are relatively few games that involve families–think about every sports game or Fortnite clone; none of them need families because none of them have any emphasis on character development. These are games for the sake of being a game, like a Monopoly piece. They have inherently no story and need none.

Two, a lot of other games with fleshed-out characters are fantasy characters. They’re made as purposeful escapes from real-world norms. Think Ori from Ori and the Blind Forest. That ball of light has no family because that’s not how the creators envisioned its race. It instead hooks up with a blind forest which is quite progressive of the developers.

Three, games with lots of NPCs can just have the whole family thing slip their mind or see it as too much work. To make a full nuclear family requires making four separate characters with separate art assets or models and that takes way too dang long to spend on Jim from Pallet Town who has one line about saving your game. Games can get around this by simply having the character allude to having a family, but, again, if the NPC is only there to have one line and never be spoken to again, why bother writing that line in such a weird way. Like imagine Jim saying “My father, mother, and sister all recommend to me to open up the menu and save my game constantly!” That’d be dumb.

Four and finally, for games that do care about character development and stories, broken families are way more interesting than nuclear families. Every other form of entertainment understands this super well. Batman’s parents are dead, The Godfather’s immediate family may or may not be as important as his communal mafia family, and my ex-wife keeps leaving me which keeps my dates very interested in who I am. You’ll come to see that, in this list, most of the families in games are extremely broken.

Now, we’ll be looking at every game on the list and assessing the families that show up. Are they full nuclear families? Is it the main character’s family? Does some random NPC have a full family? Is the family implied or very specifically shown to be a family? How long does the family last in the game? The whole game? Part of it? Is there bizarre time travel shenanigans in this family? Single father? Single mother? Only child or siblings? Orphaned but remembers their parents? God, broken families are really just way more interesting.

I’ll be grouping together entries in the same series if the sequels don’t add any nuclear families or families in general. Let’s begin with all the PC games I had because they remind me of my very lovely, unbroken childhood.

Backyard Sports Series (Baseball, Football, Soccer, Hockey, Basketball) – Every kid in the Backyard Sports series lives in a monkey’s paw universe. All the inhabitants of the games are children and professional athletes aged back into their child years. No adults to stop them from playing baseball all day, and no adults to properly guide Dante Robinson through his adult-onset diabetes, whenever that comes. No nuclear families.

Pajama Sam Series (No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside, Thunder and Lightning Aren’t So Frightening, You Are What You Eat from Your Head to Your Feet, Life is Rough When You Lose Your Stuff) – Pajama Sam is about a kid who puts on pajamas to confront tough psychological issues for eight-year olds, like being afraid of the dark and wanting to control weather. At the start of the games, Sam usually talks to his mother through his bedroom door before he goes confront the literal manifestation of his issue, but we never see his mom. Nor do we know if his dad is still around. Frankly, the fifth game of the series should’ve been about dealing with an absentee father. Unclear if nuclear family exists, but at least a single mom/only child.

Freddi Fish Series (Case of the Stolen Conch Shell, Case of the Hogfish Rustlers of Briny Gulch, Case of the Creature of Coral Cave) – I’ll be honest, I remember nothing about Freddi Fish 1 or 2 so I can’t fully tell you Freddi and Luther’s relationship. I’m pretty sure they’re cousins that like to hang out and solve mysteries. In the third game, you help Luther’s uncle out of jail, which, woah, this is a children’s game, guys. Don’t be teaching the wrong lessons. Anyway, none of the three Freddi Fish games I have show either main character have a nuclear family and that makes sense because everyone is a fish. I don’t think fish see the nuclear family as the point of life. No nuclear families.

Putt-Putt Saves the Zoo – There are other Putt-Putt games, but this was the only one I played and remember. Mostly for the sick hockey minigame. Putt-Putt is a sentient car living in a world with a bunch of other sentient cars. They put together their own society that looks a lot like a medium-sized town in America right down to having a zoo that you save, but, uh, this car society doesn’t prioritize the nuclear family. Putt-Putt owns a dog that he takes care of like family but is very much on his own in this crazy world despite coming off as a very young, innocent, naive car. Someone help this poor boy out. No nuclear families.

Spy Fox in Dry Cereal – Spy Fox is just a parody of James Bond who was notorious for never settling down. Now, Spy Fox is also a children’s games series, so he doesn’t tear through girlfriends in the same way James Bond does, but he also never wants to settle down either. His wisecracking lets him seem suave at the poker table but not with the ladies. Better luck next time, Spy Fox. No nuclear families.

I think that’s all the Humongous Entertainment titles I played and they were the only PC games I ever truly adored. So it’s onto the first console I owned: the PS1.

NBA Live 99, Backyard Soccer, Cool Boarders 4, Cool Boarders 3, Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage!,  Tiger Woods 99, Test Drive Off-Road, Woody Woodpecker Racing, Cool Boarders 2, World Cup Golf, Nascar 99, MLB 99, David Beckham’s Soccer – These are all sports games with digital athletes populating the world. Don’t try and convince me that one of those flat 2D textures masquerading as a fan in the bleachers is actually a nuclear family! No nuclear families.

The Land Before Time: Great Valley Racing Adventure – A quick Wikipedia search shows that the first movie in the Land Before Time series is about Littlefoot coping with his mother dying because of his own dang fault. He also did not know his father. Now that’s an interesting family dynamic! Shockingly, this racing spinoff of the Land Before Time franchise does not deal with Littlefoot’s survival guilt nor tell me if any of the other playable characters had nuclear families, but it did teach me what the word “traction” meant. No nuclear families.

Crash Bandicoot Series (2: Cortex Strikes Back and Crash Team Racing) – Crash Bandicoot is a lab animal created by mad scientist Dr. Neo Cortex to help him achieve world domination. Now some English majors may take a crazy close reading hot take on his backstory and say that Cortex only wanted a son and a normal family, but, uh, no. Crash has both a girlfriend and younger sister (somehow, even though she too must’ve been created in a lab) but no actual, biological parents nor his own wife and kids. And neither does Cortex. Sad, but despite the use of mad science, there is no nuclear science to be found. No nuclear families.

Spyro the Dragon Series (1, 2: Ripto’s Rage, Year of the Dragon) – The Spyro the Dragon universe is a mess, family-wise. There are zero female adult dragons in the games. The only child in the universe is Spyro. All the other dragons are different versions of your cool uncle that never settled down and like four grandpas. And no place in the Dragon Realms, nor Avalar, nor literal Other Side of the World has a single normal family, and I’m including all the NPCs Spyro hangs out with when accounting for this. In fact, the third game is all about rescuing dragon eggs but who birthed them if the only three prominent female characters are an evil rhynoc Sorceress, a bunny named Bianca, and a kangaroo named Sheila??? We’ll keep an eye on this series as it moves onto other consoles, but man. Just men. No nuclear families.

Up next is the Game Boy Advance. We’ll finally have a game that has a full nuclear family in this set of games, but the rest are just as lacking.

Pokemon Leaf Green – Your character was explicitly raised by a single mother. The rival character, the only other being in this game that had much thought put behind their backstory, has a sister and a grandfather. No town in the game has a full nuclear family. This game teaches you to care about pets more than about your family. Although you don’t use your family to battle with other people in these games–just your pets.

Mario GBA Games (Mario Pinball Land, Super Mario Advance 4: Super Mario Bros 3, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga) – I’m not going to riff much on Mario and Luigi’s parents being missing their whole lives. That sort of parental neglect will lead to risky behavior and early deaths. They’re fortunate to have so many extra lives. The crazy part is that the RPG of Superstar Saga features lots of NPCs with their own brothers and backstories, but not a single nuclear family. Prince Peasley was raised by a single mother, the queen. The Hammer Brothers are actual brothers! Heck, even the bad guys seem to want a family. How else can you explain Popple’s aggressive recruiting? Or Cackaletta and Fawful’s, uh, unique relationship? There’s a lot of souls yearning for family in Superstar Saga, and none of them have it. No nuclear families.

Kirby and the Amazing Mirror – The pink puff of power is split into four separate entities and tasked with repairing a broken mirror in order to come together again. This is very much a solo soul-searching affair. Though the split into four would suggest a want for a family of four, it’s more indicating a Kirby who feels broken into four personalities and beings. Each Kirby consumes in order to fill the open space in their heart only to find it just as empty as before. Truly a tragic, introspective game. Oh, and Kirby gets over it by killing a circular robot with one eye, so all those struggling with split personalities in the comments should try that. No nuclear families.

Spyro: Season of Ice and Spyro 2: Season of Flame – Not much has changed in the Spyro universe since the PS1 days. Bianca and Hunter are now fully in a stable relationship as indicated by the constant annoying things Hunter does with Bianca taking them in stride, but the cheetah and bunny are probably far away from having kids. These games have Spyro rescuing fairies and fireflies, and neither group have families, so guess what? These games have no nuclear families.

Backyard Hockey – On the tiny, pixelated screen, Achmed Khan and Amir Khan are even further away from their parents as their very representations are warped beyond human recognition to fit on the GBA’s 2″ by 3″ universe. Tragic. No nuclear families.

Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones – Ooh, this is the closest we’ve gotten to a nuclear family so far! The main characters are a pair of royal siblings (boy and girl! first time for two kids) that unfortunately have no mother, but had a loving father that raised them. Until he was mercilessly killed by a demon that took over their childhood friend who is also a royal who seemed to be raised by just one parent. Or at least killed his parents once taken over. Most of the main characters in this game are royalty and none of these royal families are a simple king and queen with children. And then there’s side characters that almost have nuclear families. Ross and his dad fight for your army! But they never mention his mother, nor a sibling, so it’s only halfway there. There might be a character with a family untouched by war, but basically everyone in Sacred Stones is fighting because they lost someone they loved. Meanwhile, I joined the army because I flunked out of community college. Video games are so unrealistic. Some families, none nuclear.

Mega Man Battle Network 1-6 – Finally, a game with a stable family. The main character, Lan Hikari, has a father and a mother who are very supportive of him. He also, uh, had a twin brother who died in childbirth (or very young, can’t quite remember) whose soul was then programmed into a computer for Lan to play with on the internet. How touching yet kinda creepy when written out. But there you go! Lan Hikari may be an only child if you only count alive humans, but his brother makes his presence felt constantly and they basically grew up together. The real problem with this nuclear family is how the father is more married to his work than his wife and thus doesn’t show up physically for much of Lan’s life, but at least he’s supportive when he’s there! The Hikaris are close to a nuclear family, but only have sons and one of the sons is a computer program.

Mother 3 – Lucas, Claus, Hinawa, and Flint start the game as a nuclear family, and, by the end of chapter 1, Hinawa’s dead, Claus goes missing, Flint spirals into depression, and Lucas tries to work through all of this change on his own as an eight year old. Other characters in this game have similar sob stories, and not a single family appears to be whole. Lots of single parents or dead children. Mother 3 is not a cheery game. But hoo boy is it worth playing. Nuclear family broken by the end of the game.

Super Monkey Ball Jr. – The Super Monkey Ball characters are four monkeys trapped in balls with no ability to move. They are instead moved by the abstract landscapes their balls land on. When they see each other, they fight with large punching gloves or compete in bowling and golf. There is no family in the stark Super Monkey Ball universe. No nuclear families.

ATV: Quad Power Racing – Sports game that I played for ten minutes, and then never again. Someone in the comments can tell me if one of the motorcycle rider jpgs has a backstory with a family. Thanks in advance. No nuclear families.

Now that we’re past these old, old games and on to the very recent Gamecube era. Wait, the Gamecube came out 19 years ago? God, if the Gamecube was my son, he’d be able to vote. Too bad I have no clue what my actual son is doing right now.

Super Monkey Ball – I just went over this series. If the game with “Jr.” in its title didn’t have a nuclear family, how could the “Sr.” game have a family? No nuclear families.

NFL Blitz 2003 and MLB Slugfest 2003 – Sports games. Each of them have a gimmick that make their sports more dangerous versions of games that already carry the risk of giving anyone playing a concussion, so of course neither of these games have a loving family anywhere on the disc. No nuclear families, but a nuclear baseball or two.

Mario Series (Mario Superstar Baseball, Super Mario Strikers, Mario Party 5, Mario Party 6, Mario Party 7, Mario Kart Double Dash, Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix, Mario Golf Toadstool Tour, Luigi’s Mansion) – Most Mario games don’t involve a family in any shape or form. These are no exceptions. Special shoutout to the anti-family crossover of the Mario sports games. Sure, Bowser Jr. is Bowser’s canonical son, but Bowser is very much a single father. And the Baby Mario and Baby Luigi stuff just doesn’t make sense, so don’t think about it. We’ll discuss that more later. Luigi does show up to be a good brother in Luigi’s Mansion by rescuing Mario, but that’s about it. If only the parents showed Mario more love he wouldn’t have been trapped in a haunted mansion. Tragic. A friend did tell me that there is a loving ghost family that had kids who now stalk the mansion as a family, but all the kids are boys and all of them are dead so it doesn’t count. No nuclear families.

Kirby Air Ride – Out of every game not based in real life (i.e., not a sports game), Kirby Air Ride has the least amount of backstory of any game on this list. There is no explanation why Kirby has once again split into a bunch of copies of himself and started riding around on Warp Stars. There is no explanation how the Kirbies get to the stages they race on. There is no explanation of who lives in the city or who would want to when every 200 City Trials there’s a meteor strike. Kirby Air Ride is inexplicable, and I love it. No nuclear families.

Spyro Series (Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning and Spyro A Hero’s Tail) – Once again, zero families in either game. But in A Hero’s Tail we do get to see a prominent female dragon! She’s the head of the Dragon Nursery. Most other dragons are old dudes that wear sunglasses that wrap around their heads and complain on Twitter about having to wear masks. There are also two small dragon friends introduced in A Hero’s Tail to show Spyro has friends his age. But still no family. The Legend of Spyro is a ripoff of Lord of the Rings, right down to the main character being voiced by Elijah Wood. So Spyro shows up one day in Sparx’s life and actually is raised by his dragonfly family. This is so close to a nuclear family with Sparx’s dad, mother, Sparx, and Spyro all growing up and living together peacefully before the game starts. But then they’re torn apart by circumstance and never see each other again in the entire trilogy, so even though there was a nuclear family in Legend of Spyro, it does not get restored. Nor does Spyro make a new one by the end of the trilogy (unless you wrote fanfiction about Spyro and Cinder and who can blame you). One nuclear family broken.

Mega Man Network Transmission – This is a spinoff of the Megaman Battle Network games. The Hikaris are still thriving as a family, even though the mother continues to let in shady people to work on her ovens. That’s as far as I can get because this game is very difficult and makes no sense to me, gameplay-wise. I should’ve just put this under the earlier Megaman Battle Network entries but this game is different on many levels. Still the same nuclear family.

Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door – I separated this Mario game from the other ones because there’s a lot more world-building and characters here compared to other Mario games. Too bad that the world Mario finds himself in is called Rogueport and filled with shady criminals and broken families. Just take Koops’ family–raised by a single father, he is a broken shell of a man when Mario first meets him. Or the Shadow Siren sisters? There’s a lot of sibling abuse there. At least all three dragon siblings seem to like and support each other. And yet there are few parents in any family to overlook their progeny. The Punis kinda make a family in their tree, but, it’s just siblings and an elder. You can only imagine Mario’s parents smiling down from Glitzville on his son as he re-seals the Thousand Year Door. Or maybe they voted for the Shadow Queen. No nuclear families.

Robots – The licensed game of the Disney or Pixar movie was something I put in my Gamecube once, played for ten minutes, then never touched again. Once again, someone down in the comments can tell me about this one. Also, all the characters are robots so it doesn’t count!!!! No human families.

Crash Tag Team Racing – New characters were made for this Crash Bandicoot spinoff and there’s even a small, weird family introduced! Somehow or another, Pasadena O. Possum (a possum) is related to Ebeneezer Von Clutch (a weird German cyborg). And Dr. Cortex’s niece, Nina, also shows up. But there are absolutely no families in this game that takes place in a giant theme park. Von Clutch really needs to do a better job marketing to the nuclear family demographic. No nuclear families.

Pokemon Series (Pokemon XD: Gale of Darkness and Pokemon Coliseum) – These very mature and edgy Pokemon games purposely leave out the main character’s family to make them seem even more like young adult fictio–oh, I’m being told that not having a full family is just normal for Pokemon main characters. Regardless, none of the NPCs are explicitly nuclear families despite the high likelihood the main antagonist was secretly the sibling of one of your close friends or something like that. I don’t remember these games well. No nuclear families.

Super Smash Bros. Melee – This is basically a sports game, and very close to Kirby Air Ride in how little backstory or reason the game gives for the events occurring. But I am perfectly alright with there being zero depictions of family in a game where every character is tasked with beating someone else up. That’d be awful parenting. No nuclear families.

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat – I don’t think any of the playable Kongs in Donkey Kong Country make up a direct, intimate, nuclear family, so I definitely don’t think any of the Kongs DK beats up in this game are related to him. Or, I hope not. They’re all evil! DK’s family reunions would be so awkward after this game since he beat everyone else in the family up. Really, Kong is probably a super common name in the DK universe. Just like “Johnson”. But Donkey Johnson: Jungle Beat wouldn’t have been a good name. No nuclear families.

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures – Imagine I copypasted what I wrote about Kirby and the Amazing Mirror and replaced “Kirby” with “Link”. Including the part where I called Kirby the “pink puff of power” or whatever. None of the Links in Four Swords are pink, but it still works. This is about one man learning to work with all his different selves, just like Amazing Mirror. No nuclear families.

Phew! Four game systems down, five to go. Only problem is that I have way more games for these five systems than the previous four. Starting with the GBA’s successor, the DS! This system has a bunch more story-driven games so we’ll see a lot more families in general. But you’ll be shocked to know that, of these families, there are very, very few nuclear ones. Let’s dive in!

Guitar Hero On Tour Decades – Hopefully the last game on this list that I played for five minutes before never touching again. My extensive research tells me that there are zero families in the Guitar Hero universe. No nuclear families.

Chrono Trigger – Every one of the main character trios in this game has a somewhat broken family. Your boy Crono just has a single mom. Princess Marle’s mom got killed but you rescue her through time travel and the family is together and happy again; just, uh, only one kid there so not full nuke. Lucca’s mom lost her legs in an accident but you also fix that through time travel and restore the family, or screw it up anyway, or just not know about the sidequest. Still, just one kid, so not full nuke. Magus has a sister! But only a single mom. And his sister also fuses with the thing that’s trying to destroy the world. Whoops. Ayla’s prehistoric values mean she has no concept of the nuclear family so she’s out. Robo and Frog have no family and it’s very mean of you to bring that up. No nuclear families, but four families that are kinda close.

Professor Layton Series (Professor Layton and the Diabolical Box & Professor Layton and the Unwound Future) – No, I didn’t play the Curious Village nor the Last Spectre, stop asking in the comments. There’s a very wealthy family at the center of Diabolical Box that started the whole “if you open this box, you’ll die” creepypasta that is the main mystery of the game. But it’s one dad with three sons all fighting over inheritance, and the middle son is abandoned by his wife before their kid is born. No nuclear families here. Unwound Future is the only time Professor Layton seems interested in starting a family–a bunch of flashbacks involve him going out with his first love, Claire. Too bad she died in an explosion. Oh, sorry. Spoilers. For the best sentimental moment in the Professor Layton series. Anyway, a lot of the game involves dealing with The Family, but they’re literal mobsters. Nothing close to a nuclear family here, either. Luke Triton’s family is revealed to be quite normal in Last Spectre but guess what? I haven’t played it so it doesn’t exist. No nuclear families.

Mario Series (Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story, Super Mario 64 DS, Super Princess Peach, Mario Hoops 3 on 3, Mario Party DS, Mario Kart DS, Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time, Mario and Sonic at the Winter Olympic Games, New Super Mario Bros) – Another set of Mario games with zero nuclear families. Sad. Partners in Time gets close since Mario and Luigi act as great parents for Baby Mario and Baby Luigi but it’s just weird. They got the number right, but, um, it’s kinda cheating if the parents are also the babies. There might be implied families in Bowser’s Inside Story but no dialogue confirms the opening Toad house that sees the first cases of blorbs is a family house. I really don’t think I need to point out the rest of the list, though I do think that Mario and Sonic would make fine parents. No nuclear families.

Pokemon Series (Pokemon Mystery Dungeon Blue Rescue Team, Pokemon Soul Silver, Pokemon White, Pokemon Black 2, Pokemon Diamond, Pokemon Platinum) – It kind of is baffling that there’s just one generation of Pokemon games where the playable character is raised in a two-parent household. It is also baffling how few NPCs are even part of a family, let alone a nuclear family. Mostly because Pokemon NPCs are there to tell the player information more than to world-build. Pokemon Mystery Dungeon transforms the player into a Pokemon, and, since Pokemon are just animals with no human concept of family, your character gives up any hope of settling down and starting a family in order to become the top explorer. Also, I guess the main character does kind of join a communal family with Treasure Town, but that’s not nuclear at all! No nuclear families, just five separate games with single-mother households.

Kirby Series (Kirby Super Star Ultra, Kirby Squeak Squad) – What powers do you think Kirby would have if he had the ability to eat and copy abstract concepts? Like, imagine Kirby eating the concept of “nuclear family”. Would he split into four like in Kirby and the Amazing Mirror, or would he try to find a wife and start the family from scratch? I think Kirby has immense potential for some psychological soul-searching types of games if only Nintendo would read my fanfiction. Anyway, Dyna Bird may be trying to protect her eggs and the Squeak Squad are a mafia-esque “family”, but nothing close to a nuclear family in these games. No nuclear families.

Scribblenauts Series (Scribblenauts, Super Scribblenauts) – The gimmick of Scribblenauts is that the player can use the in-game keyboard to write any noun they can think of, and the game will generate that item in-game. Typing “family” spawns a terrier, a girl, a father, a mother, a teenager, a boy, and a baby. Typing “nuclear family” in Super Scribblenauts, where adjectives are allowed, turns all these fools sickly-green. However, this is cheating. I should’ve stipulated at the start that what I’m looking for is when game makers create families, and Maxwell does not have a family in the first two Scribblenauts games. He’s the only “character” in the games and he’s got NO ONE. He can create anything he wants with his notebook, but he can’t create… his own family. Truly, the Pygmalion of our times. No nuclear families, cheaters.

Legend of Zelda Series (Legend of Zelda Phantom Hourglass, Legend of Zelda Spirit Tracks) – Unlike Princess Peach, Princess Zelda sometimes has a father. But, just like Princess Peach, we never meet her mother. Neither DS game gives Zelda any family, though. She’s just got a Chancellor that’s actually a demon (that’s what we call biting political commentary) and a pirate crew that she considers her family in these games. Link has even less family. His fairy protector Tael kinda acts as his annoying sister and Alonzo and Linebeck are basically his father figure, but there is nothing near a real complete family here. And none of the NPCs really have full families either. There’s some family intrigue with the Gorons in Phantom Hourglass, the mermaids are also all sisters, and there might be implied families in Castle Town in Spirit Tracks, but no nuclear families. Which is a shame since nuclear powered trains and ships just seem like great ideas, why has no one done that yet? No nuclear families.

Warioware DIY – Warioware is a series of games that are each collections of microgames that Wario and his company made to get rich quick. Wario’s family is comprised of George Washington, Andrew Jackson, and the other faces on bills and coins that I learned in fifth grade and don’t care to remember because it’s all about chips and cards, baby. In these games, a mad scientist has a daughter, and that’s about the extent of familial relationships around here. Shocking that a game all about indulging in some greed would forsake family. This must be the first piece of media to ever show the moral horrors of greed. No nuclear families.

Ninjatown – You know how I said I hoped Guitar Hero was the last game I played only for ten minutes on this list? Well, good news: I never played Ninjatown after buying it. I have no clue what’s in this game. The “town” part implies there’s gotta be a nuclear family or two rolling around, but the “ninja” part makes it seem less likely. Someone in the comments can sound off on this one. No nuclear families. Probably.

Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride – This is the cutest family in all the games I’ve played, and it’s the first true nuclear family! Your male playable character picks a wife at the climax of the first half of the game (and if you don’t pick Bianca, by the way, you’re just wrong). Then, immediately after you get married, you’re turned to stone by the big bad demon and your wife gets away for long enough to give birth to twins, a boy and a girl, but is also captured. Your kids then free you from your stone prison after ten or so years pass, then you three all free your wife, and your entire family takes down the big demon together! It’s very, very cute. And since every winning family will be comprised of the father, mother, son, and daughter, it’s a true nuclear family! You may not fully fulfill the American dream without your white picket fence or steady job, but you have the perfect family. First nuclear family!

Henry Hatsworth’s Puzzling Adventure – Henry Hatsworth is basically a good-natured Wario. He’s trying to collect all the pieces of the ultimate gentleman’s outfit so he can be the finest gentleman in the land. I think his nephew helps him, but Hatsworth himself is pretty selfish. He has no immediate family since he focused too hard on being a wealthy genteel. Sad! He may seem jolly, but is he truly happy? Hard to say. No nuclear families.

Ace Attorney Series (Ace Attorney Investigations 1, Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, Ace Attorney Investigations 2) – I’ve experienced every AA game–the original trilogy was a foundational experience for me–but I actually watched other people play through those games rather than play them for myself. I can tell you that no matter what AA game you play, there is not a normal family. Lots of single parents. Or, in Apollo Justice’s case, a half-sister he still doesn’t know about along with a mother and father he never knew, but the mother knows him very well. Phoenix’s parents are never brought up. The Feys ran away from their maternal society and also never met their father. Trucy Wright did know her mother and father, but her father was killed and her mother lost her memories. Miles Edgeworth’s dad was killed and he doesn’t bring up his mother. And these are just the tip of the iceberg! There’s a lot of families in these games, and a lot of twists are finding out whom is related to whom. Usually, it’s a sibling bond that’s cared about far more than a parental bond. Like the Gavin brothers, or the Meeni sisters, or Acro and Bat. The parents are usually absentee or single or dead. Pretty bleak stuff, but what do you expect out of a game series that’s just one big courtroom soap opera? No nuclear families, but a heavy interest in the concept of family and a bunch of broken families.

That’s done with the DS games. Onto the Wii. I think the Wii brought the most families together out of every video game console out there, yet there are very few families in any of the games I played. Let alone nuclear families.

Strong Bad’s Cool Game for Attractive People Series – The world of Homestar Runner is a bunch of twenty-somethings hanging around. The Strong brothers are, well, brothers, but there are no parents nor children. Just a bunch of friends hanging around. The SBCG4AP games keep that continuity and don’t try to make any new families, though some weird family plot twist would’ve made sense in Dangeresque 3: The Criminal Projective. Real funny games that people probably overlooked or don’t remember, give them a try! No nuclear families.

Mega Man 10 – Dr. Light is the truest of nerds. He made his own robot family instead of trying to go out with any humans. Mega Man and Roll are basically adopted children. And he did a good job raising them to be good people… other than constantly getting his son to fight Dr. Wily for the sake of the world. Putting his son in a lot of danger, there. All in all, it’s a nice single-parent household. With robot kids. Can’t stress that enough. No nuclear families.

Paper Mario – Talking about the N64 game here. I played it on the Wii’s virtual console. The original Paper Mario was a lot fuzzier and nicer in tone than The Thousand Year Door. There’s even a full nuclear family here! The first party member Mario gets is a Goomba named Goombario. He has a sister, Goombaria, a father, Goompapa, and mother, Goomama. He even has a grandpa, Goompa, and grandma, Gooma! It’s a full 3 generation nuclear family! He leaves the house to travel with Mario for the game, but it is implied he comes back home to the lovely nuclear family, complete with the white picket fence and well-mowed lawn! It’s a very cute family that seemed to achieve the American Dream in the crazy Mushroom Kingdom. I’d say the Goomba Family is the most shining example of the ideal nuclear family of any family in any game I’ve played. Gotta love it. One nuclear family.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars – This was originally released on the SNES, and I also played it on the Wii’s Virtual Console. There is a family in SMRPG, putting it apart from most Mario games. When Mario first meets the puffball Mallow, he says he was raised by frogs, and doesn’t know his real parents. Eventually, the party makes their way to Nimbus, where the King and Queen recognize Mallow as their son, grown up. Just like Goombario, Mallow stays with Mario to finish the quest, but it is implied he goes back home to his royal family afterwards. Mallow is an only child, but it’s pretty close to a normal family–outside of the whole “parents left their baby in a wicker basket so frogs could find and raise it”. Mallow doesn’t look a thing like Jesus, nor does he talk like a gentleman, but he’s more than you’ll ever know. There are no other confirmed families in SMRPG, though there are a few houses with Toads that imply family. Also, Geno is still single for all you ladies out there. Stable only-child family.

Kirby & Crystal Shards – This is the last of the virtual console games I got on the Wii. Crystal Shards is a beloved Kirby game where he can combine two copy abilities into one radical fusion ability. Sometimes, it’s sweet, like the lightsaber that comes from shock and cutter. Other times, it sucks, like the fire and ice combination that does basically nothing. But Kirby cannot combine himself with another being to make a family in this game. The best he can do is shoot a crystal shard gun at a one-eyed demon’s heart. No nuclear families.

Mario Series (Mario Kart Wii, Mario Party 8, Mario Strikers Charged, Mario Super Sluggers, New Super Mario Bros Wii, Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Galaxy 2, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games, Mario and Sonic at the 2010 Winter Olympic Games, Mario Sports Mix) – Yeah, uh, the closest any of these games get to family is in Super Mario Galaxy’s storybook segments. In them, you see how Rosalina got abandoned by her parents and became the Queen of the Cosmos when Lumas adopted her. Meanwhile, New Super Mario Bros. Wii lets a nuclear family of four play cooperative 2D Mario so everyone can get mad at each other, but I would not say Mario, Luigi, Yellow Toad, and Blue Toad make up a true family. Everything else is a Mario sports game which is aggressively anti-family in terms of backstory.

Wario Series (WarioWare Smooth Moves, Wario Land: Shake It!) – The haters out there would have me lump these two games in with the Mario series paragraph, and the haters may have a point. Wario Land ends with Wario saving a princess and getting the chance to, like, kiss her or something, and he instead takes her infinite bag of money and dips. This guy is so committed to capitalism he won’t even take a trophy wife. Most of the characters in the WarioWare universe are similarly unmotivated by family or even linked by family, other than Penny and Dr. Cryborg. WarioWare really holds up a mirror to capitalist society, and the view isn’t pretty. No nuclear families.

Rayman Raving Rabbids Series (Rayman Raving Rabbids TV Party, Rayman Raving Rabbids 2, Rabbids Go Home) – As much as I’d love to just not tell anyone I ever played these games, we’ll just go through them quickly. All 3 of these games are minigame collections starring demented looking bunnies that scream and throw plungers. That’s the entirety of their backstory until Rabbids Go Home. The goal of that game is to build a tower of trash to the moon where the Rabbids apparently came from. These screaming bunnies have no concept of family, just destruction. They must be stopped. Except for that plan to go to the moon. Help them out with that. No nuclear families.

Sonic Series (Sonic and the Secret Rings, Sonic Unleashed) – The secret ring is not a wedding ring. I think Sonic Team learned after Sonic ’06’s Trial of Love what a nightmare it would be for Sonic the Hedgehog to marry anything. Sonic Unleashed does not refer to Sonic trying to get a divorce or him getting disowned, either. The only family Sonic has at the end of the games is his speed. There is a princess and a king in Sonic and the Secret Rings but it’s not like a big deal that they’re family. There’s no crazy plot twist there. Both games are pretty up front about every character’s agenda and the fact that they aren’t related. Lame! No nuclear families.

The Simpsons Game – Boo! Hiss! This is also cheating! I didn’t bring this up with the Robots game because I knew nothing about it, but licensed games in general go against the spirit of this exercise. Just like with health insurance, pre-existing nuclear families don’t count as nuclear families in video games. Unless the game makers made their own original nuclear family. The Simpsons are obviously modern America’s nuclear family circa 1990s-2000s. But I see no new characters in this game let alone new nuclear families so I’m gonna take a stand and say: No nuclear families.

Donkey Kong Country Returns – The Kongs are still not a nuclear family. Seriously, who gave birth to Donkey Kong if Cranky Kong is actually his father? And why’d they get a divorce? Diddy is still Donkey’s nephew, and Dixie is still Diddy’s cousin, so the Kong family tree continues to make no sense. Very nice of Retro Studios to keep confusing continuity like this for the reboot. No nuclear families.

Sports Games (Sega Superstars Tennis, Punch-Out!!, Super Smash Bros Brawl, Fortune Street, NHL 2K10, Madden 10, Wii Sports) – NHL, Madden, and Wii Sports are all self-explanatory as to why there are no nuclear families there. Before anyone asks, no, playing Wii Sports’ tennis with Miis of your own nuclear family doesn’t count as an in-game nuclear family because you created them. Game makers have to be the ones to have made them. Brawl, Superstars Tennis, and Fortune Street are all massive crossover games of a bunch of mascots who have their personalities showing the tiniest sliver possible. There is no character development in these games nor is there a nuclear family. And if there were it’d be cheating the same way The Simpsons Game cheated because no new nuclear families would have been made for the specific game, they were just there by consequence of the characters chosen. Finally, there might be a nuclear family watching from the stands Little Mac fight in Punch-Out!!, but all the characters we know anything about are very much single. Including that sexy hunk of a man, Super Macho Man. No nuclear families.

Super Paper Mario – There’s a billion original characters in Super Paper Mario, and all of them look like squares stacked on squares and aren’t related. Despite this, there are five notable families in the game. Squirps, an alien, is the last remaining member of a royal lineage, and nobly leads Mario to a Pure Heart after eating some chocolate. The fortune tellers are all related but basically the same age–no parents there. Luvbi is the adopted daughter of the leaders of the Overthere and Underwhere (think Heaven and, uh, the other place), and her family is probably the best example of any family in the game. Until it’s revealed Luvbi wasn’t actually “alive”, she was just a Pure Heart protecting itself by taking the shape of an angel. So she has no chance to go back to her parents after the game is over, sadly. Finally, Count Bleck and Tippi had a Romeo and Juliet romance before the game started that is told via black screen and text in a visual medium. Count Bleck’s father, who I think was single???, disapproved of it, and led Count Bleck to trying to elope. However, Count Bleck’s dad banished Tippi to the nether realm which led Bleck into despair and, instead of killing himself like in Romeo and Juliet, he decides to follow a prophecy that’ll destroy the world instead. Said prophecy starts with him trying to marry off Bowser and Peach together, which is the fifth noteworthy family. Man, Super Paper Mario was weird. No nuclear families, just a lot of weird ones.

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess – I only rented this game once and made it through the Forest Temple in that time. Kakariko Village has plenty of families, and even one or two nuclear ones. Of course, my memory is so foggy of this game I literally could not remember so I had to look it up. But then all the websites that laid out the characters was too obtuse and it took too much time and I don’t really have that much of a connection to Twilight Princess. I’m pretty sure most of the families are either single-parent or single-child. Like Link and Ilia don’t have a mother, Colin doesn’t have a father, but I guess we got a nuclear family with Malo, Talo, Pergie, and Jaggle. My god are those names terrible. So there you go. At least one nuclear family, probably more with how many goddanged NPCs have backstories in this game.

And, with that, we made it through the Wii era. Lots of great games that I’ve spent so many hours on with that system. Mostly though, I just use the Wii to play Super Mario Strikers, not to closely examine video games’ world-building. Except for the world-building in Super Mario Strikers. Just how did Bowser build The Battle Dome? That’ll be for a different thinkpiece. Onto the 3DS, Nintendo’s finest handheld console.

Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology – This game is a big JRPG soap opera, right down to the exciting reveal that the Princess of the “evil kingdom” and the main character you’ve been playing as are brother and sister. Obviously, they’ve been split since forever ago, and neither of them knew that they were related until some third party told them, so that’s not a great nuclear family. Other than that big twist, which, uh, spoilers, whoops, there isn’t a lot of interest in family ties in Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology. When I type in “Radiant Historia family”, I just get results for the game being family-friendly, which, uh, I don’t think so. Lot of political and religious corruption going on here. Although it is very good at showing the potential effects of climate change. Nevermind, get every kid a copy so they can learn how important it is to stop climate change before it’s too late. No nuclear families.

Mario Series (Mario Sports Superstars, Mario Kart 7, Super Mario 3D Land, Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam, Mario & Luigi: Dream Team, Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga+Bowser’s Minions, Mario Golf: World Tour) – Yep, nothing on the family front here. There are some NPCs that mention they’re honeymooning in Dream Team, but they don’t have kids with them. Paper Jam aggressively avoids adding new characters, though the Toads make up a considerable hivemind. And Superstar Saga+ is just a remake of an old game on this list without a family with a mobile game added on. The other games are all sports spinoffs or 3D Land which is a mainline Mario game and thus has no family development. Shocking, I know, that there is again zero nuclear families in so many Mario games. No nuclear families.

Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse – Shantae is a genie that calls the old dude that released her “uncle” but she isn’t actually related to anyone. All of the Shantae characters are pretty unrelated, blood-wise. The game just isn’t about the characters, and it’s “about” the plot very loosely as well. It feels like it has a plot just because it has to have a plot to move the player forward. It also feels like it has scantily clad women because it has to move the player into WayForward’s tastes. Sorry, buddy, I’m only attracted to nuclear families, and I don’t see a single one here. No nuclear families.

Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure – This is my pick for most-overlooked game on this list. I love this dumb half visual novel, half rhythm minigame piece of work. Family is important in Rhythm Thief. The main character was abandoned by his dad (and I don’t think knows his mom) and is searching for him by stealing a bunch of highly-priced art pieces. Don’t ask me how that’s supposed to help. The main female lead is an orphan who is led to her true mother during the course of the game, but that mom doesn’t accept her until the credits roll and says that their bloodline is that of France’s and Babylon’s. Don’t ask me how that makes sense, either. All you need to know is that you have three separate dance-offs with the resurrected corpse of Napoleon Bonaparte. This game rules and I am very sad it never got a sequel. No nuclear families.

Ace Attorney Series (Ace Attorney: Spirit of Justice, Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies) – The Ace Attorney series stays true-to-form on the 3DS with a bunch of plot twists centered around family. Newcomer Athena Cykes has to personally grapple with her belief that she killed her own mom in Dual Destinies; her mom who raised her all by herself. Meanwhile, Apollo learns his real dad’s identity (but also sees him die with his own eyes) and meets his step-brother, or something like that. And Rayfa is in the middle of a tumultuous coup of her own royal family that got decimated and split, just like the Feys. And that’s just the main characters introduced in these two games! Basically every case has another set of NPCs involved that are siblings or somehow otherwise related. Closest thing we got to a nuclear family is that the parents of Hugh O’Conner have been paying the Themis Legal Academy staff to give him 100% on every test. Now that’s a loving only-child family. No nuclear families, but a whole bunch of messy families.

The Legend of Zelda: Link Between Worlds – Combining Hyrule and Lorule makes weird parallel dimension families if you were to assume both the Hyrule version of people and Lorule version of people would get along. Hey, it works in Super Paper Mario with Flipside and Flopside residents. Regardless, there is at least one single child family that requires no parallel world residents. Link’s childhood friend, Gulley, lives with his smithy dad and mom. They are basically a nuclear family with Link as a second brother since Link was abandoned or something like that when he was young and Gulley’s family essentially adopted him. The rest of the characters in Link Between Worlds are NPCs that don’t really have families. Two princesses and yet zero royal families. And most of these NPCs don’t even have names beyond “Housekeeper”, “Item Seller”, and, my favorite, “Bee Guy”. You think “Dampe?” has a family? A dude with a question mark in his name? No way. No nuclear families, but one cute single-child family that gets broken up when the son is a sage.

Super Smash Bros 3DS – I really should’ve just put this with the other Mario games. There are still no nuclear families in Smash Bros. Crazy Hand and Master Hand aren’t “related”, they’re the same dang person. And Master Core is just some malevolent energy; there’s no way it could have a family. It’s kinda sad that Smash Bros may be a real family game but there’s no family representation in the games. No nuclear families.

Pokemon Series (Pokemon Moon, Pokemon Alpha Sapphire) – Alpha Sapphire has one stable, single-child families. The main character has a father that isn’t often home because they’re a gym leader, and the mother mainly raises your character. It took three generations, but finally a Pokemon main character has a stable family. Too bad that Pokemon Moon’s main character just has a single mom, and the main plot of the game is about a formerly-nuclear family getting torn apart due to money. Just like real life. There’s a few characters in both games that explicitly have flavor text about their families, but none of them show up as one whole family so I can’t call them a true nuclear family. Especially when all there is is slight flavor text. No nuclear families.

Kirby: Planet Robobot – Kirby takes control of an invading robot to take the place of his family. Alright, I just made that up. What is Kirby’s end goal if not a family? In all the games, he’s a childlike figure. Only in Squeak Squad does he do something that he actively wants, which was to get a piece of cake. Planet Robobot has Kirby saving Popstar from invading robots… but it’s like he’s a white blood cell more than a willing force. He does it because he was born to do it. Also, there is a family in Robobot. The leader of the invading force is President Haltmann. He had a daughter named Susie who he believed died during an accident while trying to build a wish-granting supercomputer, though she was just sent to a different dimension. He then refocuses all his efforts on rebuilding that thing to wish her back but loses his memories of her in the process and becomes a twisted conqueror. Susie manages to come back and is hired as an executive assistant, but her dad still doesn’t recognize her. Kirby fights back but accidentally gives the supercomputer full power after defeating Haltmann because the computer somehow uses his soul to power up. And then the computer realizes that it didn’t need it and deletes Haltmann’s data. Just before the deletion is through, Haltmann remembers his true wish was to see his daughter again, and is deleted before he realizes Susie was his daughter all along. Yeah, maybe I cried a little at that scene. The Kirbyverse is a sad, lonely place! No nuclear families, just a dad who forgot his daughter…

Metroid: Samus Returns – Samus has no family other than her adopted bird family. Hopefully the reaction to Other M made it clear to the writers that the whole “mother to Metroids” thing was really freaking weird and we’ll never see it again. The whole point of the good Metroids is exploring a desolate place by yourself. Having a family would go against the point. This remake of Metroid 2 keeps the original’s themes by not introducing any new characters and especially no families. No nuclear families.

Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask – You never cared who I was before I put on the Miracle Mask – Professor Layton. I love this game so much. But, I’ll save that for the next video essay. We got two single-child families in this one. First off is Layton’s family. We finally get to meet his mom and dad during the flashback scenes, and they’re adorable. Second is Randall Ascot’s family, Professor Layton’s old friend. He was born to wealthy parents who loved him but wanted him to stop going on dangerous adventures. It is presumed the other members of this friend group also had good parents (except for Henry who explicitly was adopted by the Ascot family as their butler when he had nowhere else to go) but we aren’t told for certain like we are with Layton’s and Randall’s family. As for the present day city of Monte D’Or the game mostly takes place in, there are no families because it is fake Las Vegas. And nobody has family in Vegas. No nuclear families, two single-child families.

Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy – Azran Legacy does something no other game on this list does. It is the final game in the Professor Layton series starring Herschel Layton himself, and so it needs to wrap a bunch of plot threads up. And one of those is the fact that Herschel’s parents, who were introduced so lovingly in Miracle Mask, were not Layton’s biological parents. No, Herschel’s father was actually the bad guy mastermind all along and his biological brother was another very bad guy. But, despite these reveals, Layton says to his biological father that Roland and Lucille Layton were his parents, and he basically disowns his blood-related dad and brother. Pretty incredible, to be honest. This is the only game on this list where a family is retroactively shown not to be a “real family”. Gotta respect Layton for disowning the father that abandoned him, though. No nuclear families.

Layton’s Mystery Journey: The Millionaires’ Conspiracy – So, the hook of Layton’s Mystery Journey is that it stars Katrielle Layton, Professor Layton’s daughter. Her goal throughout the game is to find her father who has gone missing for some unexplained reason. She goes into detective work to do so, and picks up an assistant, Ernest Green. The final case in the game drops two bombshells. One, Ernest Green was all along the heir to a huge family fortune that he thought was stolen from him when his parents died in an accident and he went missing. No stable family there, anymore. Two, Kat says that she’s cracked the final riddle from her father, and says “I’m not really your daughter, am I?”. And then the credits roll. What, thought you’d get closure? Nope! Just more questions! And no families either. No nuclear families.

Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright – If you’d read my last diatribe of 6000 words, you’d know that nobody in this game is winning a “Father of the Year” award anytime soon. The Storyteller builds an elaborate fake city so neither he nor his daughter have to confront the truth that Espella might have killed her mother/his wife. And Eve Darklaw’s dad commits suicide after living this lie for like 10 years but also doesn’t tell his daughter any part of the truth, either. Who knows what happened to his wife, but man these guys suck as dads. The other NPCs in this game are brainwashed ex-criminals that came to get a fresh start in life. This game is weird. No nuclear families.

Fire Emblem: Awakening – Fire Emblem is a series about royal families enlisting their teenage children to fight in wars against demons. Awakening takes that concept further. The first royal family your main character wakes up in isn’t quite a nuclear family–the siblings are all real close, but their parents died young. And most of the people that your team recruits are orphans of war. But halfway through this game, something crazy happens. A character named Lucina comes from the future to fight with and warn your group of the catastrophic future that will come to be if this demon king won’t be killed. After some more plot, it’s revealed she’s Chrom’s daughter. Now, if the character you created is a woman who marries Chrom, that means she’s also your character’s daughter. And then your son, Morgan, also comes through a time portal a few chapters later, and your perfect nuclear family of Chrom, yourself, Lucina, and Morgan all come together to fight the demon lord. It’s a lot like Dragon Quest V’s nuclear family in that regard. This family isn’t quite as loving as DQV’s but I’ll forgive it. Nuclear family via time travel.

Fire Emblem: Fates  Fates was the next Fire Emblem after Awakening. Although it doesn’t follow the plot from Awakening, it does do the same “make your own character, marry anyone, and your kids will fight with you” thing. This time, the kids magically age up in realms where time passes way quicker rather than having them travel back in time from the future. I don’t know if that’s more or less ridiculous. Anyway, the main character will always have a son if they are a woman or a daughter if they are a man, so the only requirement to get a nuclear family is for your main character to marry someone that will always have a kid of the main character’s gender, regardless of whom that character marries. Man, having kids is so easy when you can look up exactly who gets born and with what traits. Oh, and Fates also has a bunch of uncomfortable almost incest stuff that always gets explained away as “not actually incest” unless you marry Azura in which case the ending is “surprise, incest!”. If you want to play Fates, just don’t read any text. One nuclear family brought together by magical time realms.

Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia – This is a remake of an old NES game, before game makers knew how to appeal to the lowest common denominator with character creation and marriage. So there is none of that stuff here that was in Awakening or Fates. As such, the royal families sending their kids to war always have at least one relative dying so there’s no perfect nuclear family. I’m sure Alm and Cellica will eventually have kids but thankfully they don’t have them in this game to fight as time-travelling soldiers. No nuclear families.

Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward – This game makes zero sense once completed, but the journey to completion is fascinating. I’ll be honest, one of the nine individuals in this game may have mentioned having a full family (Clover at least has a brother that we know of), but this game is so obtuse in explaining literally anything that it was probably buried in an optional conversation or document. Do not ask me anything about what happened in this game because I remember none of it. No nuclear families.

Zero Time Dilemma – You thought the way nuclear families came together in Fire Emblem was ridiculous? Buddy, this game has the craziest nuclear family in all of video games. And I’m not talking about Carlos’ family growing up, which was a stable nuclear family of father, mother, sister, daughter before an arsonist set ablaze his house, killing his parents. I’m talking about Sigma and Diana’s family. They romantically come together in a parallel timeline/bad ending where they get trapped in the doomsday shelter section of the nuclear bunker the game is set in. They spend literal years together in this shelter because it has all the necessities to keep them alive before Sigma gets Diana pregnant. They eventually figure out that how to work the literal time travel machine in their doomsday shelter and send the kids back in the past. The kids, named Phi and Delta, grow up in the “past” and just so coincidentally make it to the exact nuclear bunker Sigma and Diana do at the start of the game. There’s a touching scene where Phi realizes that they’re her parents and then a few scenes later it is revealed Delta was the masked dude forcing all the people in Zero Time Dilemma to do absolutely insane things in this nuclear bunker or else the apocalypse will happen (the Zero Escape series makes zero sense). So by the end of the game the whole family is together in one stable timeline. But probably not the stablest of nuclear families. Except for the fact that the true end jumps back in time to just before all of them go into the nuclear bunker and thus the family is somehow aware they’re all family but no longer as willing to be connected or something like that. I’m still counting it because this treatment of family is so weird and a driving reason I wanted to examine all families in all the games I’ve played. Two nuclear families, only one that comes together and “stays” together by the end.

That was the last of the 3DS games. I did forget one PC game earlier on the list, so I’ll discuss that now.

Danganronpa V3: Killing Time Harmony – Some of the 16 main (and only) characters in Danganronpa V3 have families. But if you read my last post, you’ll know that the ones they think they remember in the course of this game are all fake families from fake memories. They all had their true personalities erased and replaced with fictitious ones, and the survivors are no closer to remembering their biological families when they’re released from their reality TV show prison. So, just like with Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney, I can’t for sure say any of these guys grew up in a nuclear family or not. And, no, Monokuma and the Monokubs are not a nuclear family–they’re robot bears. No nuclear families.

Just a quick detour for two mobile games here:

Dragalia Lost – This game’s story hasn’t finished and new characters keep getting introduced because it’s a mobile gacha game, so there’s plenty of time for at least one character to be born in a nuclear family. But, uh, between the some-odd 150+ playable characters and the 100+ NPCs, there is nothing resembling a normal family anywhere. Especially the main character’s family. This guy has like eight siblings but his mom died young and his dad died right in front of him and one of them got possessed by the ancient demon and the other six are varying shades of actively unhelpful or un-family-like. And the only times family is brought up during character stories is usually to mention “oh, a member of my family died because of the demons or the civil war”. Just like Fire Emblem, the soldiers on your team have all been touched by the war. No nuclear families.

Florence – This is a 30-minute mobile game that tells the tale of the titular Florence as she goes through a rollercoaster of a romantic relationship. It ends poorly, but it does inspire her to be better with her mother! She does not speak with her father at any point so we have no clue if she was in a stable single-child family or if she was brought up by only her mother. Also, we never meet the guy’s family. And those are the only two characters. No nuclear families.

And, finally, we come to the most recent console generation with the three Switch games I’ve played to close out this entire thing.

Spyro: Reignited Trilogy – This is a remake of the original Spyro trilogy. It is extremely faithful at remaking the original, so no new characters or families. Bartholomew and Bentley remain yeti brothers with no parents to speak of. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a depiction of Bigfoot with family nor a full supernatural being family. We just assume they’re all lonely individuals. Well, except for the designers behind these brothers. No nuclear families.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Breath of the Wild is set in a post-apocalyptic society 100 years after the apocalypse. And again Zelda only has a father (who is dead) and no mother or family. Link is similarly without family or even memory. Now, there are families of NPCs that are pretty close to nuclear or maybe even are nuclear, but there’s too many of them and the family relationships aren’t ever fully explicit. Like, some families have had loss, such as Prince Sidon’s family losing Mipha, his brother. And some families look fully nuclear, like a Rito family appears to have a father, mother, and a bunch of daughters. But I am too lazy to track down all this info because there are simply too many NPCs in this game. You’d think I wouldn’t be lazy since I’ve spent… 10+ hours or so just thinking about and writing this whole thing, but I’m tired and the point of Breath of the Wild isn’t for Link to marry Zelda and start a nuclear family anyway. It’s to climb mountains. Probably a nuclear family somewhere around there but I can’t be bothered.

Super Mario Odyssey – The original Odyssey by Homer involved lots of love and lover’s revenge but the Mario adaptation of the classic goes out of its way to shoot down any romance. Peach is being forced to marry Bowser (again!) when she doesn’t want to, and then when she’s rescued by Mario she explicitly turns him down too. So there are no good examples of human families in Super Mario Odyssey. However, Cappy and his sister Tiara are half a nuclear family despite being sentient ghost hat creatures, so there’s that. Most other NPCs in Super Mario Odyssey get barely one line of dialogue that is never used to describe their family situation. Which is to my chagrin because I want to know who the dang purple dragon is related to. Maybe it was Spyro all along? No nuclear families.

Mario Kart 8 Deluxe – And we end this long freaking list with one last Mario game for the road… literally! Get it? Because it’s Mario Kart? Sigh. You already know that the existence of Baby Rosalina in this game doesn’t mean there’s a fully-formed nuclear family in the Mario universe. We know from Super Mario Galaxy that she doesn’t have a family to raise her! And Pink Gold Peach would be an awful mother, anyway. I’d much rather be raised by Waluigi, to be honest. No nuclear families.

So there you have it. Every game I’ve ever played and a “close” examination at the families that make each of them up. Now, I’ll admit it; there are a lot of video games I haven’t played that care about the concept of family. I have massive blind spots when it comes to the games I consume. Yet it does feel shocking to put up this entire list of over 125 games and have fewer than 10 nuclear families. There was a time when every piece of English fiction had a happy ending with a wedding and two kids. Now, granted, that time was somewhere in the 1700-1800s, but it is clear that the modern day art form of video games (and other media probably) are not as interested in that same happy ending. Usually, the happy ending in games is saving the world, or, failing that, a person. The once-universal appeal of marriage and children is no longer a stranglehold on fiction. Perhaps the literal content of video game stories is the main reason birth rate is dow-hahahah I can’t even finish that thought with a straight face.

Thanks for reading. If I missed any important nuclear families in any of these games or if there’s a prominent nuclear family in another game that I missed, please let me know in the comments.

About pungry

Making strained metaphors funny.
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2 Responses to Nuclear Families in Video Games

  1. Hank Turner says:

    I love my nuclear family!

  2. Pingback: The Nuclear Family in EarthBound | Pungry for Laughs

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