And here we are with the final section of our Favorite Siblings in RPGs!
Estelle & Renne Bright – Trails Series
Writeup by Caitlin Argyros
Renne had a horrifying childhood. Believing that her parents abandoned her to the whims of a dangerous cult, she found herself a prisoner at a brothel, where she endured both physical and mental trauma that scarred her for life. When Ouroboros eventually rescued her, she seemed to treat life as a game and never let herself believe in things like love and family.
Years later, she meets Estelle, and everything changes. Though the two are enemies at first, Renne is fascinated by Estelle and can’t bring herself to kill the young bracer. Estelle, in turn, tries to get through to Renne, to show her that there is more to life than simply using others and being used, and to prove to Renne that she has people who love her and want to be her family — namely Estelle herself and her brother Joshua. Renne struggles to understand this and runs away several times, but Estelle never gives up on her. After much soul searching and learning that her parents didn’t really abandon her, Renne finally accepts Estelle’s love and joins her family as her adopted sister. Today, Renne still enjoys teasing her sister mercilessly, but it comes from a place of love that she has allowed herself to feel at long last.
Ephraim and Eirika – Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones
Writeup by Brian Mackenzie
In most Fire Emblem games, the lords become a found family for each other, but there’s something special about the preexisting relationship of Renais’ royal twins in Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones. When I first played Sacred Stones in 2004, I was eight years old, and simply having a lance-wielding foot soldier as a lord blew my mind after not having any in the Blazing Sword. Now, having played the game many times since then, I’ve come to appreciate Eirika and Ephraim more for the diverse perspectives they bring to the battle with Grado despite suffering the same tragedy and coming from the same background. After their father’s death, Eirika is quick to start on diplomatic missions on her journey to collect the Sacred Stones, while Ephraim wages a guerilla war against the nation that attacked his kingdom.
It’s a blast seeing how the empathic Eirika interacts with the hawkish Ephraim once their armies rejoin. The interplay between the two makes them some of the most compelling lords in the series, and during the route split where you only control one sibling, you’ll be dying to know what’s going on with the other to the point that you’ll want to start a new game right after you finish your first playthrough. They also both get horses upon promotion, which is a major plus in my book.
Lenna & Faris – Final Fantasy V
Writeup by Niki Fakhoori
One of Final Fantasy V‘s most memorable scenes is a flashback to Faris’ childhood, from before she was lost at sea and still a part of the Tycoon royal family. During a break from her daily tutoring, she’s told to go tuck in her baby sister Lenna. But, instead of returning to class as instructed, Faris pushes her bed next to Lenna’s and falls asleep next to her beloved sister.
At the start of Final Fantasy V, it seems like Faris and Lenna have nothing in common: Faris is a rough-and-tumble pirate captain, while Lenna is a sheltered princess. Faris is full of secrets, forced to hide her identity as a woman from the pirates who found her as a lost child. Lenna, not so much — she’s willing to make her title as princess of Tycoon known whenever it will assist the party.
But as the game goes on, these women show their true colors. Faris has a soft side, caring deeply for the sea dragon, Syldra. And the sheltered princess Lenna showcases a great deal of courage, willing to put herself in harm’s way and trek through poisonous flowers to reach the medicinal herb that will cure her family’s wind drake, Hiryu. These women who love dragons come to learn through their adventures that being around family is where they can truly be themselves.
Jr. & Albedo – Xenosaga
Writeup by Tyler Trosper
The brotherhood of Jr. and Albedo is a complicated one. Created as a series of clones of their father to fight the entity known as U-DO, Jr. and Albedo were attached at the hip. Well, they were born conjoined at the back, but their relationship was just as close. However, once Albedo learned he could not die, he was afraid of everyone dying and leaving him alone, especially Jr. As fate would have it, Jr. did abandon him during a pivotal fight against U-DO, leaving Albedo mentally scarred.
Albedo commits heinous atrocities throughout Xenosaga, mostly in part to get back at the sibling who betrayed him over a decade ago. The two share a rivalry, but only when Albedo is on death’s door does Jr. realize the pain he caused his brother. That in no way excuses the pain and destruction wrought by Albedo, but the two reach an understanding.
Albedo wanted nothing but to be destroyed by his brother, but as fate would have it, Wilhelm brings him back from the brink of death to become a Testament, a group that works behind the scenes. Finally, with the help of another of their URTV siblings, Gaignun, Albedo realizes his true goal: to be with Jr. as they were during birth, attached.
Lan & Hub – Mega Man Battle Network
Writeup by Kaleb Curry
Note: Spoilers for Mega Man Battle Network follow.
Do you ever wish your found-family tropes were just littered with early 2000s tech slang? Enter Mega Man Battle Network and its two stars, Lan Hikari and MegaMan.EXE. They live in the year 200X, an alternate reality where the internet is king, and Net Navigators (Navis) are the keys to the kingdom. Lan is our would-be hero that rollerblades from one chaotic event to the next, and MegaMan.EXE is his NetNavi, the voice of reason and the tempered blade that forms the perfect complement to Lan’s idealism. They are brothers forged in fire, and honestly, I would be satisfied if it was as simple as that. It’s not.
In the original Battle Network, mere steps away from facing the Big Bad, MegaMan.EXE becomes critically damaged. It’s in this moment that the truth comes to light. See, they aren’t just found-family. They are literal brothers. MegaMan.EXE was once Hub, Lan’s twin brother who tragically died shortly after birth. Lan’s father, the genius scientist he was, then managed to incorporate his departed son’s DNA into a prototype NetNavi for his living son. Thus, MegaMan.EXE was born, both the brother we thought we had lost and the brother we found along the way. Through this realization, MegaMan.EXE is both healed and empowered enough to defeat the Life Virus and save the world. Their brotherhood was their literal salvation. GrownManCry.EXECUTE.
Ness & Tracy – EarthBound
Writeup by Abe Kobylanski
I didn’t grow up with a sibling, so I can’t claim to know what it would or should be like to have one. However, EarthBound was my first RPG, which I got into on a whim, and the simple but emotional story cemented my love of the genre. I was lonely and shy as a kid, much like Ness, and I thought it’d be nice to have a sibling just like Tracy, who’d come to the rescue when I have too many hamburgers and live chickens and need somewhere to store them for later.
Tracy’s an entrepreneur who took a gig at Escargo Express delivery service, despite being no older than 11 (child labor laws notwithstanding). Wherever Ness finds himself in the world while saving Earth from evil Giygas, as long as he can find a telephone, Tracy is happily ready to dispatch someone to deliver or pick up the goods, as well as offer a friendly voice. So whether Ness’ search for the Eight Melodies takes him to a haunted graveyard, a sweltering desert, or a fetid swamp, Escargo Express finds him.
There are many sibling rivalries on this list, and I’m sure no siblings’ relationship is ever perfect. But Ness and Tracy represent the sort of relationship I’d want if I’d had a sibling. If it’s on me to fight off alien invaders, it’d be nice to have help from family.
Chester & Elena – Ys: The Oath in Felghana
Writeup by Michael Sollosi
Chester and Elena are childhood friends of Adol’s life-partner-in-adventure Dogi, but in the brief time that Adol meets them in Ys: The Oath in Felghana, they become two of the most memorable characters in the Ys saga. Before Adol’s arrival, Chester abandons his hometown of Redmont to become an officer in the occupying Romun army and takes part in the unjust Romun oppression of the native Felghanans. Elena, unsure of why Chester did this, refuses to believe Chester is no longer the caring person she grew up with.
It comes to light that Chester planned to take down the Romun forces from within, motivated by revenge for his lost family and love for his sister. Dogi, who, like Elena, always believed in Chester, isn’t surprised by this news. He asks Adol to stop Chester and rescue Elena (who’s been captured by the story’s true villain, because of course she has) before Chester accidentally takes out all of Felghana with him. Avoiding some endgame spoilers, eventually, Elena’s faith in Chester is justified. Despite hopeless circumstances and bad decisions, Chester and Elena both wanted the best for their sibling. Adol saved the day for Dogi’s homeland and moved on to new adventures soon after, but leaving Elena and Chester to their fates in Felghana felt bittersweet.
Nanako & Chadwick McBigBro aka Yu Narukami – Persona 4
Writeup by Scott Clay
From saying “‘lo” and hiding behind her father to “I love you, Big Bro,” the sibling bond formed between Persona 4‘s main protagonist Chadwick McBigBro (or Yu Narukami. But Chadwick is the true canon name and you’ll never change my mind!) and Nanako Dojima is one that sticks with players forever. Although genetically they may be cousins, Yu and Nanako become an inseparable brother and sister pairing over the course of a year.
Before Persona 4, the stereotypical child character in RPGs was often seen as annoying and bratty, and many thought the genre was better off without them. Persona 4 flipped the script with Nanako, giving us a sweet and loveable character and an overall joy to be around. At the start of the game, she struggles with living in a household. Her father, Ryotaro Dojima, who is a detective and her only parent, is constantly called to stay late nights or work on his days off, leaving Nanako alone in their home. Although she copes rather well with the living arrangement for a six-year-old, it is pretty obvious off the bat that what she really wants is her father to be around more. So in comes Yu, who shows up and spends most nights looking after Nanako. Within a short time, Nanako becomes attached to him and sees him as a big brother that she never had. As the game progresses and you gradually complete your Social Links with both Nanako and Dojima, the bond formed between the three of them grows and develops into a familial relationship that, to this day, I still believe has never been topped by any other relationship. Nanako and Yu are a reminder that we can find family in places where we least expect.
JC & Paul Denton – Deus Ex
Writeup by Pete Leavitt
Deus Ex is a classic because it’s a joyous fever-dream mashup of pre-internet conspiracy theories, gameplay genres, and cyberpunk trappings. Yet for this reason, it can seem like the particulars of the characters, and even certain events, don’t tend to stand out as much as the game’s mosaic of broad themes or the experience of playing it.
Sometimes it’s forgotten that the fulcrum of the plot is the protagonist, JC Denton, and his brother Paul. Both are cybernetically-enhanced agents working for the United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition (UNATCO) contending with alleged ne’er-do-wells who are allegedly stealing shipments of a scarce vaccine during a global pandemic. It sounds too close for comfort…
Anyway, it’s Paul who defects from UNATCO, Paul who convinces JC of the conspiracies the organization is involved in, and Paul who facilitates this slick, globetrotting cyberpunk journey, from the siblings’ harrowing escape from Paul’s small New York Apartment as it’s raided by ‘roided and nano-enhanced Men in Black, through a lively trip among the Hong Kong underground, to a police state in Paris and beyond.
Although JC is the player character, Paul sets the tone of the action by consistently hinting at less aggressive and destructive ways to complete any given objective. The player can apply that same philosophy or not, but Paul provides the moral backbone of the narrative regardless of JC’s choices. The relationship between these two is vital to making Deus Ex what it is.