From GamesRadar+ to The Guardian, its clear that mums haven’t gotten a fair shake when it comes to characterization in video games compared to dads. Whether you’re pumping lead into Marguerite Baker in Resident Evil 7 (a brilliant boss fight that sees her scrambling around the arena like a gigantic spider) or fighting Mother from Binding of Isaac, whose fists belch out swarms of maggots when slamming the ground, we’re yet to get a mother/child duo with the same depth and loving fans of Joel and Ellie from the Last of Us, or Kratos and Atreus from God of War. But that’s beginning to change and, like a lot of innovations in the gaming industry these days, that change is coming from the indie scene. Here’s our Top 5 mums in indie gaming to prove it.
5. Persephone from Hades
The ultimate goal of Supergiant’s smash hit roguelike Hades is to escape the underworld and find your mother Persephone. Her actual appearances in the game are fleeting with her note to Hades at the beginning being all you’ve got to go on until the ending, but Zagreus’ whole motivation for battling through hell and repeatedly going toe to toe with his father, Hades himself, is to meet and connect with a mother who doesn’t even know he exists. The fact that he (and we) go to those lengths to achieve that is a Mother’s Day motivation worth celebrating.
4. Toriel from Undertale
Undertale’s legendary story and characters fell into the ruins of Windows and OS X in 2015, one of the most legendary being Toriel. She’s a pun-loving, goat headed adopted mum with ambitions to become a teacher who immediately starts looking after you as she does with all the humans that fall into the Underground. She does everything she can to keep you in the ruins to protect you from the monsters outside, including straight up fighting you, fire magic and all, to test your strength. Spare her and she sends you off into the Underground with a parting hug. Kill her during the fight and she uses the last of her strength to offer some words of warning and calls you ‘my child’ before turning to dust. A caring mum who throws down to prepare you for the big scary world outside on pain of death? That’s a motherload of tough love worthy of celebration.
3. Ness’ Mum from Earthbound/Mother
But not all good game mums are contemporary – Earthbound was the second installment of the Mother series when it hit Japanese shelves in 1994, releasing as Earthbound in the West to avoid confusion as the original Mother game never saw release outside of Japan. This SNES RPG features main character Ness’ mother as a pillar of affection and support, feeding you steak when you go and visit to replenish your HP and always answering the phone when you need to call home while out on your adventures. Why do you need to call home? Because Ness’ homesickness meter drains the longer you’re away. You keep it up by giving Ness’ mum a ring, and if you call when you’re not homesick she’ll give you motherly advice about the importance of good health, and tell you how brave you are. She’ll also embarrass you by showing your pals your baby pictures. Now that’s some good mothering.
2. Mae’s mother from Night in the Woods
Next up is Candy Borodowski, who, despite being a zoomorphic cat person, is probably the most humanized mum on this list. Why? because she bonds with her daughter May over their shared love of horror literature but becomes short tempered and direct to the point of bluntness when it comes to discussing the Borodowski’s precarious financial situation. Candy respects her daughter’s boundaries and is sensitive to her mental health but occasionally stress gets the better of her and she snaps at Mae, like every mother does. You’d hope for the characters to be well written in a game that puts narrative first, but Candy is a stand out mum with all the flaws, quirks and sensitivity of a real life mum behind her fictional whiskers.
1. Louise from Best Month Ever!
Mum on a mission Louise makes it to the top of the list because you don’t just interact with her as a NPC (or should that be MPC…no it shouldn’t) you play as her. Realizing that she has one month left to teach her 8 year old son Mitch how to be a man, she sets off on a road trip across America to show him as much of the world as possible and teach him the ropes of adulthood. BME! rocks a Mass Effect/old school Fallout style morality system for the different groups of characters you encounter along the way, the kicker being that you switch between playing as Louise in the 1960s and Mitch in the 1970s so you get to see how the kind of mother you chose to be affected the person Mitch became. Whatever BME! may lack in execution it more than makes up for in ambition – you’ll make a man out of Mitch, but he’ll make a mum out of you.
Shout Out to the upcoming Open Roads
Since we’re talking about road trips it wouldn’t be right not to round this list out with a mention of the upcoming mother & daughter narrative game from The Fullbright Company, of Gone Home and Tacoma fame. Announced in 2020 at the Game Awards, Open Roads will see Tess Devine and her mother Opal embark on a road trip that sees them exploring the ruins of a series of long abandoned family properties, unearthing buried memories, and developing their relationship as they go. With a troubled development now nearly behind it, hopefully we’ll be seeing news of a solid release date coming out soon.
For more indie news and reviews check out the homepage carousel where we post new stories Monday to Friday, hot off the presses.