Top Ten Tuesday 17

My Top Ten Moms in Gaming

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

Mothers are often an overlooked character in gaming. Typically they fill the role of the villain or a seldom seen NPC. But every once in a while we get a well-written and developed mother figure who's attitude and personality is shaped as much by her own character as her love for her children. No one's foolish enough to mess with the bear cubs when mama could be around.

In honor of our annual celebration of all our underappreciated mothers, I present my Top Ten Moms in video games.

Note: Some major story SPOILERS below.


My Top Ten Moms


10) Lirum (Lost Odyssey)

A minor character in a large RPG would normally not have much of an impact on my experience, but Lirum's final moments and funeral at the end of Disc 1 is an emotional powerhouse given a punch to the gut thanks to her two bright eyed children. The kids Cooke and Mack become full-fledged party members and it's through their attitude and resilience that we see Lirum's strength in raising them all on her own. In her final moments she finally gets to meet her immortal father again one last time (the protagonist Kaim) so we get a nice one-two punch of father meeting estranged daughter again as she lay dying, and dying mother saying final words to her two young children. EMOTIONS.


9) Samara (Mass Effect 2-3)

I hesitate to include Samara on this list; while she is indeed a mother, and one of her daughters factors in prominently in her character arc and quest line, I'm conflicted on whether or not she's actually a good mom. That being said, it's technically not a list of good moms, but my favorite moms and Samara's sad tale of genetic defects and vampire-sex daughters is certainly memorable.

Samara is a Matriarch, an Asari who's entered her final stage of life and is no longer interested in having sex with all the alien races (those crazy Asari). That makes her about 1000 years old, and pretty darn mature about the universe. She's also a Justicar, a sort of Asari FBI agent that operates on a very strict code of honor. On top of all that, she also carries an uncommon but terrifying genetic defect which results in all her daughters being Ardat-Yakshi. The condition causes anyone that mates with them to be killed and their essence absorbed by the Ardat-Yakshi - essentially Sex-Vampires. Most choose a quiet life of isolation and celibacy but one of Samara's daughters instead opts to give in to her murderous powers of seduction and leaves a trail of death in her wake, which Samara hunts for hundreds of years. During her quest line in Mass Effect 2, Shepard can actually choose whether to side with the freedom seeking Morinth, or the justice doling Samara. The fact that Samara can do what's right against her own daughter is admirable, but maybe if she'd been a better mom, she could've been 3 for 3 in none-murderous sex-vampire daughters.


8) Macha (Chrono Cross)

Macha is the strong willed but loving mother of Korcha, whom is probably the more important party member and character in Chrono Cross. She's a proud housewife and her skills rather humorously reflect this with unique Tech skills called "Folding" and "DirtyDishes," as well as using various kitchen utensils as weapons. She only joins the player's party if the player makes a certain important story choice, and she's a surprisingly powerful combatant. I find her a unique character in RPGs as she and the game stresses how much of a normal housewife she is, but it's awesome that when her family is threatened she can kick ass when she needs to.


7) Moxxi (Borderlands series)

"What can I do you for? Wait... I'm not that kind of girl... Wait... Yes I am..."

Probably the last character you would consider a mom, Moxxi is equal parts dangerous and seductive but incredibly clever and always well-spoken. Far from being a high-class whore, Moxxi is simply always looking for love, and has been married three times, had numerous affairs with the many crazy denizens of Pandora and birthed a brood of children, only of which Scooter and Ellie are characterized. Moxxi is also one of the kindest and most helpful NPCs in the Borderlands series, provided you don't mess with her or her children.


6) Lara (Chrono Trigger)

Another admittedly minor character in an RPG, but nonetheless has a hugely impactful scene. In a relatively quiet moment our time-traveling heroes are asleep at a campsite in a forest, when a seemly random time portal opens up before tech-nerd Lucca. Lucca goes through to find a horrifying scene from her childhood - her mother geting caught in one of her father's machines and subsequently crippled by it while young child Lucca is unable to shut it off. Even with the pixilated SNES era graphics the entire scene is one of the tensest moments I have ever experienced in a game. Luckily, the time portal dropped Lucca off a few moments before the event, and she has a chance to look up her father's password to stop the machine (L-A-R-A, which the player must input directly in the controller). Doing so results in the past being altered just enough that she gets to effectively change the single worst moment of her life for the better, and in the epilogue her mother is shown standing instead of in a chair. Lara herself may not be a fully developed character, but I'm including her on this list simply because of the emotional impact that scene has on me.


5) Your Mom (Pokémon Series)

"All boys leave home someday. It said so on TV."

Although the official sixth generation of Pokémon games comes out this Fall, the formula really hasn't changed all that much. That's not to say that lots of improvements, additional content, expanded storytelling and tons and tons of new Pokémon haven't perfected the series over each game, but many aspects - like a young kid leaving home to become the best Pokémon trainer in the land - are pretty much the same, and almost endearing now. One thing that's never changed is that it's just you and your mom at home, and she famously utters that quote in the original Pokémon game. Through subsequent entries her role as expanded somewhat from calling you with updates on your progress, and she's always there to fully heal your Pokémon should you ever find yourself in your terrible three-house town away from everything ever again.


4) Terra Branford (Final Fantasy VI)

"Listen children, your 'mama' has to go away for awhile. I'll return when I feel your future's guaranteed!"

Although Final Fantasy VI has no official single protagonist, the central character is undoutedbly the half-human half-Esper Terra. Much of the storyline revolves around the evil Empire's successful attempts to eradicate and weaponize the peaceful magical race of Espers, and Terra eventually joins up with a resistance group to stop the ones that stole her memory and raised her solely for her destructive capabilities.

After a major, world altering cataclysm scatters are heroes around the newly formed world, Terra discovers another passion besides the fighting that she's done all her life - that of raising an entire village worth of children whose parents have been killed. Terra's joyful discovery of a new emotion (love) and the passion she has for her kids (who range from toddler to young adults) even cause her to refuse to join the heroes on their quest to stop Kefka who essentially rules the new world like an unchallenged god. It is only after she discovers the very mothering instinct of protecting her children and securing their futures does she agree to join the heroes for the greater good of everyone.

During the climax, magic, and thus the Espers, are essentially eradicated from the world, but because Terra's love for her adopted children and her new life is so strong her human side is able to survive, and live happily in her new role.


3) Selan (Lufia 2: Rise of the Sinistrals)

Lufia 2 is a gem of an SNES era JRPG that I touched on in my Top Ten SNES Games list. Despite what formula would usually dictate, Selan is not the childhood friend and instant romance option for the protagonist, Maxim (that role is filled by Tia). Maxim meets Selan as the commander of the Parcelyte army, and she's already a national hero in her country. After their climactic battle with one of the four Sinistrals, Maxim and Selan get married and settle down in Parcelyte to start a family. They're brought back into the real world when their infant son is kidnapped and have to take up arms once again. Eventually both fabled heroes sacrifice their own lives to defeat the Sinistrals ensure the safety of their son. Selan is an extraordinarily well developed character and it's exceedingly rare for a major party member in an RPG to actually become a mother and continue to be a major party member in the same adventure.


2) Queen Valanice (King's Quest VII: The Princeless Bride)

Although Valanice is the object of King Graham's desires in King's Quest II: Romancing the Crown, she really doesn't come into her own until the seventh game. In the opening moments of KQ7, she and her daughter Rosella are arguing over the importance of marriage, with young Rosella acting as the typical rebellious princess. Suddenly Rosella is drawn into a portal that leads to the fantasy world of Eldritch, and Valanice quickly leaps after her. The two are separated and much of KQ7's innovation stems from playing through certain levels as the two different protagonists. While Valanice's royal snootiness shines through on multiple occasions, her love for her daughter never wavers as she braves giant scorpions, endless deserts, a nightmarish Halloween-town, and the wacky anthropomorphic residents of Falderal. Throughout the epic journey Valanice learns to respect her daughter's wishes as her daughter in turn ends up falling in love with a Prince that she ends up rescuing.


1) Lucia (Suikoden 2-3)

When it comes to my favorite mamas, no one comes close to the badass Karayan Clan Leader. She's first introduced about halfway through Suikoden II when she appears as an assassin in the hero's bedroom. The hero only narrowly defeats her, and she continues to support the hero's former friend (and now enemy and leader of the resident Evil Empire) Jowy Atreides.

In the events leading up to Suikoden 3 she eventually settles down as Clan Leader of Karaya and raises a son, Hugo. Hugo acts as one of the three primary protagonists of the game, though Lucia continues to play a role in his life and the events of Suikoden 3, to the point of helping the heroes unite the clans and fight in the Second Fire Bringer War.

Lucia is unique for an RPG character in that she's a villain in one game and a hero in another, and like Macha from Chrono Cross being a mom hasn't slowed down her combat prowess one bit as she's one of the stronger magic users in the game. Unlike many of the mom's listed here, Lucia's mothering is much more tough love than warmth. The Karayans are a proud and tribal people, and Lucia raises her son to be strong and resourceful. Her love for her people and her son is never questionable, however, and despite her son's frequent immaturity, she continues to love and support him throughout the adventure.


Wrap Up

Compiling a decent list of moms proved difficult, as I feared. Quality female characters are underrepresented in the gaming industry in general, a trend that is hopefully beginning to shift. In a broader cultural sense, most motherly figures tend to be villains, like the evil stepmom, and older women in general tend to be villainous witches or sorceresses. Even positive moms are usually regulated to background roles or vague spiritual detachment, like Mother Earth.

But it's certainly not all bad for moms and there are several good examples of quality characters that are mothers in a literal or figurative sense. It should come as no surprise that most of the moms on my list come from Japanese Role Playing Games, as they typically include the breadth of story and characters to include well written and memorable mother figures.

So give your mommas an extra hug this week, and remember to thank them again for getting you your first gaming system all those years ago. Thanks mom!