Perhaps one of the biggest reasons that games collect any kind of a following is because they reflect the themes and moralities that make humanity so unspeakably complex. We’ve laughed as our rivals taste bitter defeat, we’ve cried as our allies suffer the loss of their beloved, and we’ve felt the pride of a leader when a proud party overcomes impossible odds. The characters across the multifaceted realm of gaming are what draws us in, but they couldn’t do it alone. A good deal of any character development is in part due to the social interactions that they, experience through the course of their lives. For the majority of gaming’s greatest heroes, very little is actually said about their day-to-day family lives. Most heroes are orphans, foundlings, or adopted into another family. Oddly enough, one popular theme through the course of any large-scale gaming franchise is the presence of influential siblings. Some siblings are rivals, others are dependable members of the party, some are plot fodder, and others still are surrogates for any actual blood relations that the character may have.
Today is National Sibling’s day, and to celebrate, I wanted to pay tribute to ten powerful sibling units across gaming. Before going on, I wanted to point out a few things. Firstly, spoilers! A lot of these characters will be involved with dramatic reveals or plot-heavy moments within the canon of their respective games. Secondly, this isn’t a “top ten” list as there’s really no way to rate these sibling dynamics against one another. Each pick brings something especially powerful or memorable to their game. It is impossible to set up a best of the best list. Finally, I very likely won’t be covering “obvious” sibling duos or groups in this one. Mario and Luigi are the dynamic sibling duo that everyone knows and loves and Dante and Vergil are fan favorites, but I wanted to shine the spotlight on some underrated characters.
Jessica & Alastair Albert (Dragon Quest VIII)
The Dragon Quest games are classics in the field of great RPG games. Each game presents a fantastic story with a cast of colorful characters while drawing on the tried-and-true formulas of popular RPGs. Overall, they’re a lot of fun to play and a lot of heart is put into the characters. In DQVII, we’re introduced to a whip-wielding spitfire by the name of Jessica who seems to have a bug up her blouse in regards to the main protagonist. She’s a wealthy gal from a well-bred family in the small town of Alexandria who is gifted with both her primary weapon and magic, making her a solid combatant. Unfortunately, before Jessica can become a member of the nameless hero’s company, the protagonist must clear his name. Jessica mistakes the hero and his party for the murderers of her older brother, Alastair. Once their innocence has been proven, Jessica joins forces with the hero against the true killer of her beloved sibling in hopes of avenging Alastair.
Very little is seen of Alastair. He has a very short but powerful cutscene in which he reveals the truth of his demise to Jessica. Alastair is pained to have left his baby sister behind and managed to cling weakly to the spiritual world long enough to speak to her one last time. He encourages her to follow her own path and gives her the courage that she needs to do so. In a way, he givesher the gentle push into adulthood, even if it meant going against her mother’s wishes. It is short and bittersweet, but it leaves an impression and led to giving a great party member the resolve she needed to step over the threshold.
Basch & Noah (Gabranthe) fon Ronsenburg (Final Fantasy XII)
It’s bad enough when a member of your family has joined up with the bad guys, but when said family member has your face and speech patterns, it’s even worse. One of the main characters of Final Fantasy XII is met hanging in a tiny little cage awaiting justice for treason: Captain Basch. He’s noble, heroic, and a strong right hand for his cause. Unfortunately, these same qualities exist on the other side of the conflict in which he finds himself in the form of his twin brother: Gabranthe.
Noah and Basch grow up within the Republic of Landis prior to the invasion by the Empire. During the invasion, Basch flees to Dalmasca and joins their military while Noah remains with their sickly mother and moves her to her hometown of Arcadia. In time, Noah joins the military of Arcadia and rises quickly through the ranks to eventually become a Judge Magister. The brothers find themselves at opposite ends of a battlefield, each pledging their loyalty to their respective rulers.
For all his good qualities, it would seem that poor Basch gets the shorter end of the tact stick and is framed for murder and treason both. Gabranthe poses as his brother in order to get close to, and eventually to murder, King Raminas along with all of Bach’s men. Unfortunately, this includes Recks, the older brother of the game’s protagonist, Vaan. Sadly, Reks doesn’t get to make this list because he is essentially the tutorial punching bag and serves really only to introduce Vaan as our main character, nor does he get a lot of mention following the game’s introduction. Gabranthe and Basch’s sibling rivalry, however, proves to be a solid and intriguing element to the story of FFXII. The conclusion of their story arch is both ironic and iconic as the brothers do make amends and Basch ends up posing as his brother in turn. The story of the fon Rosenburg brothers comes around full circle and with it brings a powerful narrative about grace and atonement.
Zidane & Kuja (Final Fantasy IX)
Like Basch and Gabranthe, Zidane and Kuja are two Final Fantasy brothers that find themselves in direct opposition to one another. If we want to get technical, Zidane is more or less a clone of Kuja that was essentially an eventual replacement for Kuja. The brothers belong to a race known as “The Genome” and were intended to destroy life in order to reap souls for these new creations. Kuja never experiences a childhood and never develops stable emotions. He doesn’t seem to have any concept of right or wrong and operates purely on instinct and his desire to survive. It’s for this reason that he steals away his future replacement, Zidane, and leaves him to his fate—whatever that may be.
Zidane, in contrast, grows up with no knowledge of who he is. He is raised by perfect strangers and thrives off of the mercy and kindness of those around him. Unlike his older brother, Zidane develops a strong sense of morality, compassion, and despite his personal hardships, he works to reach out to those around him. When the two brothers do finally clash, Zidane takes pity on Kuja and offers compassion.
Kuja ultimately meets with the reality of mortality and fights it to the bitter end. In the wake of a series of ground-shattering battles, Kuja is weakened to the point of nearing death. He uses the last of his strength to send Zidane’s party away from the crumbling area around them. Zidane refuses to leave Kuja behind and attempts to rescue him. It’s at this point that Kuja realizes his own humanity and opens up to his younger brother. Despite Zidane’s best efforts, Kuja passes on, but he leaves a legacy to the Genomes left behind. Zidane, along with his own prospective replacement, saw in Kuja that their race is not bound to any one fate, nor are they unable to make their own choices.
Through the rivalry of the two Genome brothers, Zidane never holds personal contempt for Kuja. Over time, Zidane’s good nature reaches Kuja and in a way, he finds his own salvation through it. Zidane expected nothing out of it, he had every reason to hate Kuja, but he chose to embrace him as a brother rather than loathe him as an enemy. Much of the game revolves around this dynamic and the message it delivers is one that leaves an impression.
Porom & Palom (Final Fantasy IV)
Porom and Palom are a pair of magical prodigies that join Cecil’s party early on in Final Fantasy IV. The twins have practiced their art from a very young age, never straying from each other’s side. They embody a lot of the traits of a typical pair of youthful siblings and a lot of the stereotypical traits of twins in popular fantasy. They butt heads, but they finish each other’s sentences and drive one another up the wall, but they always have the other’s backs. It’s a believable and endearing sibling dynamic, especially for anyone playing that grew up with someone their same age or just a year or two apart.
Within their game, they join up with Cecil, the lead character, on request of their Elder to assist him in becoming a Paladin. His true intentions was to have the twins serve as his eyes and ensuring that Cecil not stray from his word. Cecil accomplishes what he set out to do and the twins eventually come clean, but their charge believed they were well within their rights to suspect him. While their elder is hesitant to allow them to do so, they decide to accompany Cecil further. While within the party, they’re solid magic users, complementing Cecil’s mele-based attacks wonderfully. Alas, their time with Cecil is cut tragically short.
During a confrontation with an archfiend, the beast is defeated but attempts to crush the heroes by bringing the walls of the cavern inward. Porom and Palom sacrifice themselves to save Cecil by turning themselves into stone on either end of the cavern, effectively bracing the walls so they can go no further. Thankfully, the twins are restored later in the game, but it is an event that strengthens Cecil’s resolve in his quest. Through the course of the game, Cecil struggles between darkness and light, seemingly walking the razor’s edge through the first few hours of gameplay. After losing Porom and Palom, Cecil seems to have disowned the darkness fully.
The twins chose their fate, and like everything they chose it together, side-by-side. They offered friendship and compassion to someone who even believed himself unworthy and through the strength of their characters, they assisted him in becoming the hero that the world needed.
Xiao & Da Qiao (The Dynasty Warriors Games)
When discussing the topic of the Dynasty Warriors series, very often the conversation gears more towards how many poor foot soldiers you crush plowing through the battlefield atop the Red Hair Stallion or how insanely over-powered Lu Bu is. While free mode is a lot of fun, I always found the story mode interesting, and the massive cast of characters a lot of fun to learn about. Of course, over the installments, the story has been changed a little here and there while keeping fairly faithful to the source material—a novel series called Romance of the Three Kingdoms. It’s based on actual Chinese history, which I find really awesome, and the figures in the games are based (sometimes extremely loosely) off of actual people who served in the battles of that time period. Among the massive cast, there are very few ladies to choose from, but among them are the memorable Qiao sisters.
These two are most often unlocked through the story mode during a campaign with Zhou Yu and Sun Cae, the future husbands of these two sisters. They’re being kept prisoner and it’s the job of the Wu army to bust in, throw some foot soldiers around like rag dolls, and rescue the pretty damsels in distress. The level is a lot of fun, but unlocking the Qiaos opens up both their campaign modes in which you learn a little more about them. Da Qiao ends up marrying Sun Ce, a young man who briefly leads the Wu army, and Xiao Qiao marries Sun Ce’s best friend and strategist, Zhou Yu. The family dynamic between the four of them is a powerful one and really proves for an enjoyable quartet of campaign modes just to explore how they relate to each other, their history, and the tragedy that eventually befalls them.
The events that they appear in, the battles they participate in, and how they’re depicted through the Dynasty Warriors games changes here and there but their deep, sisterly bond remains intact. Da is the more level-headed and reserved of the two, often acting as the quiet voice of reason where Xiao is the bubbly, energetic one that’s more of a headstrong optimist. They play well off of each other in the in-battle dialogue and their cutscenes are always entertaining. On the field, they aren’t the best of fighters and really get thrown around easily, but they’re still fun, especially since they generally use dual fans or dual clubs.
Freyjadour & Lymsleia (Suikoden V)
It’s pretty common for a video game to revolve around the dilemma of rescuing a princess in distress, and it’s pretty common for the hero to hook up with said princess after beating back a straightforward villain. In Suikoden V, the princess in distress is at the core of the conflict, but the developers take an old, tired formula and introduce so many elements to the trope that it’s actually very engaging and provides enough emotional motivation for the player to keep the engaged. In Suikoden V, you play as the prince of the queendom of Falena, Freyjadour Falenas. He’s essentially worthless to the kingdom as he lives in a matriarchal society and a prince is essentially thrown into the role of a glorified messenger and diplomat to the ruling queen. Despite all this, the family dynamic is the heart and soul of this game, so it hurts like heckzoid when that heart and soul is ripped out and lit on fire.
Frey looses his family, his homeland, and his reputation in one fateful night. The only other surviving member of his household is his younger sister, Lymsleia. Lym, unfortunately, has been married to a young man from one of two warring noble families following the events of the Sacred Games. His marriage is followed by a purging of the royal house. His failure to kill the prince opens the opportunity to instead use the prince as a scapegoat. The game is masterfully set up but at the core of it is the relationship between an older brother and his baby sister. Frequently through the game, cut scenes will shift their scope to show what’s happening back in Falena with Lym and how she’s having to deal with her brother’s supposed treachery and uprising against his home nation. On Frey’s side, he’s used by nobles, he’s forced to create his own army, and in the end he’s forced to fight his own countrymen in an attempt to reclaim his country for his house and save his sister from her manipulative husband.
The game concludes with a victorious Frey taking the post of the captain of the Queen’s Knights, valiantly defending his sister into the perceived future of the series. From beginning to end, Frey and Lym are absolutely devoted to each other, never giving up on the other or harboring any doubts towards the other’s intentions. It’s a powerful, emotional retelling of the damsel in distress story and a heart-worming story of a brother and his little sister.
Pit & Dark “Pitoo” Pit (Kid Icarus Uprising)
While Dark Pit (or Pitoo as Pit calls him through the game) is technically a dark clone of Pit, the two eventually develop a sibling rivalry. Dark Pit was created using a magical mirror that essentially gave life to, and corrupted, the image of what stood before it. Pit takes notice just in time to destroy the mirror before his reflection could be completely corrupted. The result isDark Pit. Pitoo more or less is a rebellious version of Pit with a free spirit and the desire to live independently rather than as anyone’s puppet. While far from evil, Pitoo does present himself as an obstacle once or twice through the game and challenges Pit at every given opportunity.
Pit, his lighter counter-part, is innocent to the point of naïveté at times and attempts to force friendly terms between himself and his darker half. Pitoo resists—that is until Pit saves his life. Around the mid-point of the game, Pitoo looses his ability to fly and plunges through the sky towards what would be his demise. With no plan for his own safety, Pit dives after his doppleganger. He manages to save Pitoo but at the cost of his own wings. Pitoo, feeling responsible for Pit’s wounds, sets out to find a cure to Pit’s wounds. You take command of Pitoo at this point and he elaborates on his motives and a little bit of his reasoning for his actions.
Following Pit’s recovery, the two angels decide to work together, albeit begrudgingly. The other characters in the game comment in passing that the two are essentially brothers and while Pitoo won’t be caught dead admitting it, the relationship between himself and Pit is rather like that of two teenaged siblings. There’s rivalry for sure, but it’s a competitive spirit rather than a malicious one. When one’s in a pinch, the other flies in to assist him.
Riou, Jowy, & Nanami (Suikoden II)
There is little doubt that if not for the complicated but memorable dynamic between these three characters, Suikoden II wouldn’t be the gem that it is. The game opens up with a beautiful montage of this trio’s childhood from the time they met to the time Riou and Jowy marched off to war. It’s under three minutes, but it firmly establishes the sense of kinship between the three characters and perfectly sets the player up for the emotional roller-coaster that the game provides.
Riou and Nanami are two orphans who were adopted by the same man, Gengaku, and raised as a brother-sister pair. Jowy come onto the scene when he finds himself on the outs with his own family. He would slip off to watch in envy as Riou and Nanami trained under their “grandfather” at his dojo. When he is discovered, Jowy is invited to join them. Over time, the trio becomes the family that they never had. Jowy is relentlessly harassed by the townsfolk for being the spoiled son of an aloof aristocrat, Riou often watches his backside tanned for coming to his defense, and Nanami gains the reputation of being a rugged little tomboy for driving the bullies away. For the first act of the game, all that Riou, Jowy, and Nanami have in the world are one another, so it rips your heart out when the three are torn apart by the ensuring conflict around them.
Jowy follows his ideals, hoping to change the face of the enemy from within while Riou holds fast to the rebellion that showed him mercy. Nanami, torn in two between her brothers, is reluctant to fight but remains at Riou’s side, hoping to eventually knock some sense into the two boys. The division is heartbreaking, and Suikoden II makes sure that you ache just as much as the characters involved. Frequently the scope will shift to either Riou’s side of the battle field or over to Jowy’s so the player can see both characters suffering without the other.
In the end, Jowy and Riou are forced into a confrontation at the very place where their paths were severed. Jowy seeks death in retribution for his crimes against his friend and his country and attacks Riou relentlessly in order to provoke him to strike. Riou, unwilling to raise a weapon to his friend, only defends himself behind his weapons. Jowy’s resolve crumbles and in the end, he begs the forgiveness of his companion. The game concludes with Riou, Jowy, and Nanami setting out together.
It’s heart-wrenching but the humanity of the triad of adopted siblings speaks strongly of the complicated nature of the human heart. We want to do the right thing, but so often we allow our ideals to blind us, even to the point of turning on our family. In the end, family is a place of belonging, even to those who have hurt us the most.
Sorey & Mikleo (Tales of Zesteria)
Like the last sibling group, these two aren’t related by blood. Mikleo and Sorey were tragically orphaned within the same village during the same conflict. Ignorant of their tragic beginnings, Sorey and Mikleo were raised under the elder of a Seraph village. They had no idea that Sorey, a human, was any different from anyone else. They played together, sat through their grandfather’s teachings together, and explored the ruins near their homeland together.
When the boys are hauled from their homeland into the heart of a world plagued with maleficence, the brotherly bond never fades. Sorey does attempt to send Mikleo away from him once he discovers that his road is going to be a difficult one, but Mikleo refuses to be pushed aside and resolves to see the conflict through and shoulder as much of Sorey’s burden as he is able to. While other characters join the party, Sorey will frequently confide in Mikleo when he feels discouraged or afraid. They share a fondness for ancient artifacts and ruins, often drifting off into their own little world while the party stands by and shakes their heads. At one point, the two are forced to make a very difficult decision that drives the both of them to their knees, weeping openly. Every moment of laughter and pain is shared side by side.
Through the game, both Sorey and Mikleo play off each other’s strengths and build up one another’s weaknesses. They butt heads, but they’re quick to forgive one another. Sorey is a bit naive and a little too quick to trust while Mikleo is more skeptical and tends to air on the side of caution. Sorey is a strong sword-user while Mikleo specializes in magic. They perfectly complement one another and present a powerful united force when confronted with opposition.
The conclusion of the game leaves Sorey alone, sealed away to shoulder the literal burden of the world. While many of the other Seraphs go their own way, Mikleo continues to wait for his friend and brother, exploring the ruins that they so loved as youngsters.
The brotherly relationship between these two is refreshing. Often times the brother is the villain, or at the very least a rival. There’s an excess of bickering or teasing, and of course the gaming world is filled with the tragic loss of a family member in order to give the main character a push of resolve in the right direction. Tales of Zestiria creates a bond that exceeds blood and captured perfectly the spirit of brotherhood. The boys spend more time supporting one another and encouraging one another than teasing and bickering. Resolve is found within their relationship, but it doesn’t come about with the spilled blood of either one, instead it comes from the heartfelt advice of a trusted life-long companion. It felt genuine and natural, and if anything endeared me to Zestiria over the other games within the Tales franchise, it was the brotherly bond between these two.
Class Zero (Final Fantasy Type-0)
If anything, Class Zero wins on quantity alone. This elite group of youthful super-soldiers is the cream of the crop within the academy that they call home. Class Zero is known as the “red demons” by their foes due to their battle prowess and their mastery of magic. Hailing from the Dominion of Rubrum, a nation that prides itself on its mastery and understanding of magic, they find themselves on the front lines of a conflict between the four nations of their world. Leading the charge is the Empire, which has recently learned the secret of jamming the use of magic on the battle field in order to gain the advantage. Class Zero, immune to their jamming technology, poses the greatest threat to their assured victory. Zero is hailed as the best weapon on the side of the Dominion and the greatest hope for peace.
Behind all the fanfare stands thirteen young teenagers, raised under a single mother figure as brothers and sisters in arms. They grew up together, trained together, and charge into battle side by side. Each of the siblings specializes in their own art of combat and represents a virtue. Ace, the eldest boy fights with a magical deck of cards and represents acceptance, Deuce plays a flute and represents kindness, Trey is an archer that represents knowledge, Cater is armed with a magicite pistol and represents valor, Cinque brings a mace into battle and represents innocence, Sice cuts down enemies with a scythe and represents tenacity, Seven uses a whip and represents discernment, Eight fights with brass knuckles and represents tranquility, Nine is the spear-wielding dragoon of the party and represents action, Jack fights with a katana and represents ignorance, Queen uses a simple double-edged sword and represents wisdom, and finally King uses twin guns and represents judgement.
Each character has a weakness that’s made strong by one of his or her own siblings, both emotionally and on the battlefield. Through the course of the game, the player is able to unlock conversations and small cut scenes during the free time provided between missions in which the siblings interact and expand on the complicated dynamic that the group shares. Ace is often looked to as the peace maker between his siblings, often forcing his siblings to acknowledge common ground between them. While each of the children is mature for their age, and has to be given their role within their community, they’re still very much children. They expose their weaknesses to one another as they can with no one else. They represent so much to their nation and shoulder a massive burden together.
Class Zero to me represents the brother and sisterhood that’s formed on the field of combat. Our men and women on the battlefield form bonds with their brothers and sisters in arms knowing that these are the people that they will fight and maybe even die beside. They must trust each other with their very lives and often form bonds that bring them closer to their own blood family. Class Zero has only each other in the world as they are unaware of any blood family nor do they commonly associate with others their own age. They’re held up as heroes or scorned by envious classmates, so they’re alienated to the family they’ve formed within themselves.
Video games are just another way of telling stories, and stories are just another way for us to explain the deeper parts of ourselves. Jesus himself used story-telling to expand on the reality of humanity from our best to our very worst. Brotherhood is a topic that is near and dear to everyone. We know what it means to want a place of acceptance and we understand what it is to share your life with people who are somehow closer than friends but more intimate than a romantic interest. Brotherhood isn’t limited to bloodlines or a shared roof. Brotherhood is the powerful bond between people who provide a place of belonging to one another.
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