Children, life’s great copy-paste. Adorable, drooling idiots with no self-control and a habit of yelling embarrassing facts to the entire supermarket. In our everyday lives, human children are a snotty emblem of hope, vulnerability, and aspiration. In videogames, they are a cursed harbinger of escort missions, narrative roadblocks, “cutesy” voice acting, and precocious dialogue. They are annoying. But hold on, that’s the point. Many of them are meant to be that way. So here is a list of the 10 most annoying children in PC games. And perhaps, the best annoying?
Bobby Zilch - Psychonauts
The archetypal bully of psy-fi platformer Psychonauts, Bobby Zilch is a primo dirtbag and master annoyer. He has a billowing plume of ginger hair and Shane MacGowan teeth. His hobbies include extortion of children and kicking people off ledges. He makes antagonistic playground noises that defy classification. One level sees the player racing this hex of a boy around a levitation course, only to discover he is frustratingly speedy. If this walking shrub of malevolence has one redeeming feature, it is that his bad behaviour drops away in the presence of Chloe, a fellow camper whom the bully fancies. Chloe is not annoying. She is into “space and hardcore rap”. She deserves better.
Cuno - Disco Elysium
Cuno, as the saying goes, doesn’t give a fuck. He is the foul-mouthed drugbrat of this sideways detective RPG, and he spends the majority of his time throwing rocks at a corpse and calling you “a f*****” because you are bad at your job. At one point he will challenge your cerebrally banjaxed cop character to collect a stash of amphetamines, guarded by his ferociously strong father, who will likely kill you, says Cuno. In reality, his dad is a sleeping deadbeat. Cuno is a liar, a vicious rat, a loudmouthed urchin, and a pitiable victim of happenstance. He is the story’s unsoothable rash, making you feel both irritation and pathos in one vile wretch, a frustrating asshole who might not have otherwise been such a frustrating asshole. There is nothing more annoying than a lack of good social welfare.
Your second-eldest son - Crusader Kings 2
Listen, Sancho, we both know Marcos was here first. He is the heir, and you are the spare. Stop trying to squeeze the kingdom’s spymaster for information. You are playing a dangerous game. She has been involved in the suspicious deaths of 15 men, and only half of those were on my orders. No, I won’t let you learn the noble art of warfare either. I told you, you’re going into the priesthood. When you are cardinal, you’ll thank me. You don’t want the Kingdom of Leon anyway. It’s full of dust. The neighbours are always singing at the crack of dawn about God, but it’s the wrong God. We need you in Rome, Sancho, where you’ll be nice and comfortable. No, don’t write to me. Write to your mother, the spymaster.
Jason - Heavy Rain
Jason? JASON. Oh, he's right there.
The Little Lamplight gang - Fallout 3
The first words you hear from the children of this horrible cave community contains the phrase: “I’ll blow your fucking head off.” That’s inconvenient. You need to pass through this cavern to continue the main quest, and there is no getting around the posse of ill-behaved micropeople. The insolence of the Little Lamplight kids knows no limit. They do not allow adults into their settlement. They live in some opaque system of high-grade anarchy. They are functionally immortal, and cannot be killed with bombs or knives. That may have something to do with videogame studios traditionally being somewhat squeamish about casual child murder, but it doesn’t change the facts. These kids are invincible, and they are in the way.
The Polyhedron kids - Pathologic 2
These hideous orphans and runaways have all the haughty airs you’d expect from someone living in an non-Newtonian physical impossibility, safe from the ravages of the streets. They're like the Little Lamplight gang, but smug.
The Catalyst - Mass Effect 3
Precocious being of infinite power and top-class annoyance. This blue digital ghost boy is an avatar of some bygone creator race, and now fancies himself an interstellar ecologist. He likes to wipe out sentient collectives of starfaring peoples every time they pop up, indulging in genocide as if it were an endless game of galactic whack-a-mole. He describes himself as a “cleansing fire”, uses the word “solution” in a, uh, familiar sense, and has a strong “but the animal I’m hunting for sport is classified as a pest” vibe. He functions both as the personification of the videogame trope in which the player must make a clear-cut final choice, but also as that bloke in a suit who is there at the end of a story to have a vaguely philosophical discussion with our hero, in this case, Guns “Journo-puncher” Shepard. Hardly humanity’s best ambassador.
The baby - Who’s Your Daddy?
Who’s Your Daddy is a game about a father trying to stop his bug-eyed baby indulging in all sorts of self-harm. Made better, or perhaps worse, by the fact that your friend is controlling the baby. As dad, you must rush about trying to childproof your home with safety devices. As a baby, you must set the oven to 200 degrees, insert yourself, and close the door. Failing that, drinking poisonous fluids or sticking your hands in electric sockets might do the trick. You might say that me, a man, classifying basic childcare as an “annoyance” reveals the true nature of my long-suspect character and substantiates a further damning representation of the patriarchy. Counterpoint: this baby is very annoying.
Inexplicably livid warchild and talisman for Hideo Kojima’s career. It’s not over yet, but maybe it should be.
Hope Estheim - Final Fantasy XIII
Hope is a central character and a wee Tidus lookalike. He witnesses his ma kick the bucket after ill-advisedly following fellow melodramatist Snow into battle, and spends the rest of the game throwing charged elipses at the man he deems responsible. This subplot feels like it’s trying to recapture the character of Vivi from Final Fantasy IX, a kid swept up in events beyond his control, levelled with a curse, and trying to make sense of his own mortality. It didn’t work. Everyone hates Hope. He spends an unimaginably long time mumbling vengeance under his breath, while failing to do anything about his low-burning anger, like a tiny, furious Hamlet. The only reason his equally irksome co-annoyer Vanille does not get an entry in this list herself, is that she is 190 years old due to a technicality. The technicality is crystals.
Your third-eldest son - Crusader Kings 2
Carlos!? Didn’t I send you to Lithuania? What are you doing here with that company of mercenaries? Carlos, listen to me. No, stop. Listen.
One Off The List from… the most peaceful gardens
Last week we took a stroll through the 8 most peaceful gardens in PC games. Ah, how pleasant. But some of you came armed with concrete and indifference, seeking to pave over one of these charmed idylls. It’s… Stardew Valley.
The tomato and truffle farming simulator is to be struck from the record because it seems peaceful but is in fact the "ultimate capitalist fever dream", according to list-trimmer "Ethalis", who lampoons the managerial spirit of Big Cauliflower. "Nice, relaxing flowers?" they say. "No way, can’t monetize that! Sub-optimal crops? Nope, sorry radishes but gardening is a cruel world, get productive or get out you lazy non-berry! A nice little fence? No time for that!"
A solid point. Well, until next week, list goblins. Goodbye!