Everybody's supposed to love their mother. But what if your mother is a massive, soul-sucking alien demon witch hellbent on your destruction?
If you go through the list of mother figures introduced to gamers over the last few decades, you'll find more than your share of deeply screwed-up characters. Some are merely troubled, others are downright homicidal, and a few are even literally monsters. Looking at the makeup of the industry's created maternal figures, it appears that many game creators may have some serious mommy issues.
It being Mother's Day, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at some of the more memorable mother figures I've come across in games. This is most certainly not an all-encompassing list, as there are plenty of games with famous moms that I've simply never experienced for myself (I'm looking at you, entire Final Fantasy series). Still, whether protective or destructive, loving or deranged, beautiful or monstrous, these are the "mothers" of video games that have left the strongest impression on me over my many years of gaming. Years I'd never have been able to spend without the support of my own wonderful mother. Where other moms might've told me to go outside or read a book, my mom supported my burgeoning gaming habit, while also making sure it wasn't the only thing I was doing with my free time as a kid. You're the best, mom.
Among all the motherly women of gaming, few are more resolutely badass than The Boss. Both a literal mother (purportedly to Revolver Ocelot) and a figurative one (she earned the nickname "Mother of the Special Forces"), Boss' most intense motherly act may have been her giving birth on the battlefield at the Battle of Normandy in World War II. Shot in the stomach and forced to endure a c-section right there in the heat of an invasion, she's left with a snake-shaped scar on her stomach, which is maybe a little bit too perfect, as symbolism goes.
Boss might not have been the most attentive mother--by all accounts, her existence was all but entirely dedicated to her military work--but when it comes to kick-ass birth stories, she wins by a country mile.
Mom - The Binding of Isaac
The Binding of Isaac is a pretty messed-up game for any number of reasons, but not the least of them is the central premise, which sees the baby boy Isaac on the run from his deranged mother. She believes God is speaking to her, and telling her to kill her son, so she tries to do that, primarily by stomping and squashing with her giant feet and hands.
Plenty of interesting things have been written about The Binding of Isaac and its deeply fucked up themes, but to this feature's end, Mom is simply one of the more omnipresently nightmarish figures of motherhood to appear in a video game. Your own mother wants you dead because she is out of her mind, and you have no choice but to kill her to survive. Maybe don't play this one around your mom, unless you want to field some deeply uncomfortable questions.
Okay, so I'm definitely stretching the definition of "mother" here, but she's most certainly one of the most memorable mothers I've ever encountered in my video gaming history. One of the most enduring, too!
Essentially a giant, hideous supercomputer programmed with a vaguely female personality, Mother Brain's control over the vile space pirates and the planet Zebes, not to mention her insatiable desire to produce ever more Metroid to destroy the universe, makes her a particularly dangerous foe. Of course, in most of her game appearances she's either just a gigantic brain, or some manner of hideous, skeletal-looking monster. Personality isn't really her most memorable trait, so much as her grotesque appearance, and status as the primary big bad in the main Metroid games.
Truth be told, Samus Aran herself is arguably more of a motherly figure than Mother Brain ever was, especially when she let that poor, defenseless baby Metroid live after it imprinted on her in Metroid II. That said Metroid is destroyed by a vengeful Mother Brain in Super Metroid is one of the more tragic story turns ever seen in a Metroid game.
Dr. Brigid Tenenbaum / Lady Comstock - BioShock/BioShock Infinite
Every BioShock game is deeply fraught with tragic parental figures. Ken Levine clearly has a thing for problematic relationships between parents and their children/wards, and that fascination has resulted in some truly demented mother figures throughout the series.
First and foremost, there was Dr. Tenenbaum in BioShock. The creator of the Little Sisters, Dr. Tenenbaum's willingness to experiment on her adopted little girls speaks to the greater society of Rapture's insistence on progress over all else. Eventually she dedicates herself to saving the poor girls, so she's not entirely unredeemable. Unfortunately, even as she works toward rescuing them, she's probably still killing them with all the second-hand smoke that seems to follow her around.
More shrill and horrifying was the late Lady Comstock of Columbia. Presented as the saintly deceased "mother" of the city (as well as Elizabeth), she appears in the game as a vengeful spirit you end up having to fight multiple times. Her rage comes from a mixture of Elizabeth's own hatred toward her, and the fact that Elizabeth was not her biological daughter (at least, not in that universe), and fighting her is maybe one of the most obnoxiously difficult sections of the entire game. God, I hated her.
Once a psychic Terran warrior, Kerrigan goes full-on evil mom once she's captured and twisted into the human/Zerg hybrid known as the Queen of Blades. Once she takes over for the Zerg Overmind, her thirst for power inspires her to send all her little Zerglings off to horrible deaths. In this regard, she is perhaps most immediately comparable to the Borg Queen of Star Trek fame, albeit with far cooler hair.
Though Starcraft has never been my bag, Kerrigan's presence as one of the more insidious mother figures of gaming has endured for so long, that there was no way I couldn't include her. This one's for you, Brad.
Oof, now here's a particularly wretched woman. Basically, just about every horrible thing that has ever happened in a Silent Hill game can be traced back to this woman's dark religious obsession. A leader of a dark cult, Dahlia used spells to impregnate her own daughter with the essence of her God, and ended up disfiguring the poor girl in a house fire.
The character made it into the Silent Hill film, albeit in a less outwardly evil incarnation (the evil cult leader was split into another character entirely), and she makes an appearance in Silent Hill: Origins, as well. Still, the Dahlia I know and remember was the one who kept feeding hints to Harry Mason as he fumbled his way around the horrors of Silent Hill. Definitely one truly terrible mother.
Oh, poor Sindel. Despite being a crazed, shrieking demon lady when first introduced in Mortal Kombat 3, she wasn't always that way. Once, she was the peaceful ruler of the realm of Edenia. She had a husband, and a loving daughter (series protagonist Kitana). All of that was essentially taken away from her by Shao Kahn, who killed the King, kidnapped Kitana, and forcibly impregnated her with Mileena. At that point, she killed herself to get away from the whole terrible mess, only to find herself resurrected as a brainwashed slave to Shao Kahn by Shang Tsung.
In most MK storylines (such as they are), Sindel eventually turns good again, but not before quite a bit of battling with her daughter and her Earth realm friends. She never does quite get around to fixing that crazy zombie queen hairstyle of hers, though.
Your Mother - Animal Crossing
Though you never actually see her in the game, there are few more memorable presences in Animal Crossing than your mom. At least part of that comes from the fact that her various letters sent to you, the player, closely resemble the cheerful, barely-informative updates on life at home that my own mother sends me on a fairly regular basis. More to the point, your mom is a sweet lady who obviously misses you and likes sending you gifts, which might make her the most normal mom of any mom ever to appear in a video game.
Typing all of this has suddenly reminded me of this particularly tearjerking story about an actual person and his Animal Crossing-playing mother. And now I just want to cry forever.
Other Noteworthy Mothers of Gaming
- Sophitia - Soul Calibur
- Alma - F.E.A.R.
- Jade - Beyond Good & Evil
- Chrono's Mom - Chrono Trigger
- Crimson Viper - Street Fighter IV
- Eva - Metal Gear Solid 4
- The Queen - Ico
- Mrs. Hopkins - Bully
- Mama Fratelli - Goonies II
- Blanka's Mom - Street Fighter II
- Father-Mother - Zeno Clash (Let's hear it for gender-neutral parental figures, too!)
Now, I put it to you to talk about all the various mothers, both good and bad, that have left an impression on us. List your mommies dearest in the comments section, especially any ones I forgot, of which I imagine there are plenty.