Pack your bags, wrap the presents, put your scarf around your neck. And then sit down because, I'm sorry, you're going nowhere. It's bad, yeah. Even yours truly, a respected list goblin of note, could not make it back to his family in time for the holidays due to the ongoing vengeance of mother nature. But listen. What if I told you: "video games"? They have always had something for us in the past. What wonderful surrogate families can we join in this time of loneliness and separation to ease our troubled minds? Here are the 10 most wholesome families in PC games you may look to in this hour of need.
Morning Glory Orphanage - Yakuza 3
In this soon-to-finally-be-on-PC sequel Kiryu Kazuma, the former mobster with fists of rock and a heart of soft pillow fibre, finds himself in charge of an orphanage on a beach near Okinawa. Not content with bringing up one abandoned child, as he has been doing in the previous games, Kiryu must now teach kindness, manners, and caring to an entire little family. Okay, much of the game is still spent kicking people's teeth in. But between those fights, the orphanage is a place of anti-bullying finger wagging, lessons about sticking together, and heart-warming hugs of reassurance. Bless you, Kiryu. Bless your giant, furious heart.
Bros for life - Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Your dad is sick and you're off to find a cure in this short third-person adventure game about controlling two brothers at the same time. Little brother is on the left stick of your controller, and big bro is on the right. Aside from delivering the weird sensation of stirring a pot of stew with one hand while trying to pour a glass of wine with the other, there is a deeper point to this thumb-foolery. It is a control scheme with a surprisingly poignant final message about the closeness of family and the bonds of brotherhood.
The Bakers - Resident Evil 7
The family that feasts together, deceaseds together.
Demetrius, Robin, Maru, and Sebastian - Stardew Valley
I have it on good authority that this is not exactly the most wholesome of families. But they are at least one of the higher-functioning families of this farm life sim. There's love in here. Mum and dad go dancing once a week - a romantic tradition. Dad and daughter do scientific experiments together in their home - good quality time. Among the citizens of Stardew Valley, whose principle thoughts revolve mostly around fish and questioning whether hoking in the bins is acceptable behaviour, this family is positively brimming with affection.
The Spelunkys - Spelunky 2
Imagine having to address a Christmas card to "the Spelunkys" without getting embarrassed at the post office. Ana Spelunky is one of your starting characters in this cave-exploring platformer. She is the daughter of Tina Flan and Guy Spelunky who deliver most of their encouraging paternal advice through the traditional medium of gameplay trailer. Some may argue that leaving your daughter behind as you travel to the moon for plunder and profit is questionable parenting. But it could have been worse: they could have taken her with them.
Octofam - Octodad: Dadliest Catch
It is a tale as old as time. Girl meets Octopus. Girl and octopus fall in love. Girl and octopus sire two interspecies children and live in relative harmony until a crazed sushi chef becomes obsessed with exposing the cephalopod's true nature so he may use said sea creature as an ingredient. It is a classic trope. The reason stories like this have become so common in our media is that they are undeniably relatable and good. The bighearted nature of Octodad and his octofam are no exception. They love one another as we humans can only hope to do.
The Sims - The Sims 4
Your level of familial harmony may vary. But there is something idealistic about the furniture shunting and job-hunting of The Sims. It is a colourful suburban fantasy, like the Truman Show but with more interior design. You can create every family member's perfect bedroom, lounge, office, parlour, garden… The Sims is an exercise in making your family whole by admitting that, yeah, your daily surroundings sometimes DO matter. Happiness, health and good relationships can benefit from nice wallpaper. Only when a house feels like a home can a bunch of cartoons speaking gibberish feel like a family. If that means adding a wall-sized television to the lounge in a spasm of consumeristic lust, so be it.
The Diaz family - Life Is Strange 2
In the first episode of adventure game Life Is Strange 2, we are introduced to the Diaz family - a single dad mechanic and his two sons. They are idyllic in their normality. The older teen brother, Sean, argues and snaps at his younger pre-teen brother Daniel. But Daddy Diaz is the industrial-strength adhesive that keeps this family sturdy. He always makes sure to gently corral his sons into better behaviour and more thoughtful attitudes. It is a lovely, warm environment in which to grow, mature and develop. This truly is the American dream, and we are blessed as a player to experience such an easy-going video game. Oh, hello officer, what seems to be the problem?
Brigitte, Torbjörn and Reinhardt - Overwatch
The full metal trio. Shield-bashing Brigitte is the youngest daughter of turret-tossing Torbjörn, and the big armoured hammerlad known as Reinhardt fits into the family as Brigitte's godfather. They are all very good murderers with close ties. They all have a similar work ethic (it is hard but it pays off), a similar thirst for justice, and a penchant for protectiveness. If I could eat my Christmas dinner in their house, I would.
The Mishimas - Tekken 7
Many families hold fast to their traditions. The Mishimas are no different, and they never forget to celebrate their close bonds every few years, by throwing each other into a volcano. "Who will it be this year?" asks Heihachi with a jovial Saint Nick smile. "Ha ha," replies Jin Kazama with suspiciously glow-in-the-dark eyes. "Who can say, beloved grandfather? Who can say".
One off the list from… the worst neighbourhoods
Last month we strolled around in the 9 worst neighbourhoods of PC games. But one of them was deserving of a stimulus package from the local council. It's… Martinaise in Disco Elysium.
"A lot of the people you encounter are actually touching and great people," said slum liker "kincajou" who is not alone in defending the citizens of this decrepit city district. "Yeah, they may all be jaded, there may be some terrible humans. but there is a human core under it all that really stops Martinaise from being 'the worst' neighbourhood."
Consensus reached. That's all for the holidays, goblins. See you next time, and do not forget to tell your loved ones that you appreciate their existence. Goodbye.