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Geralt from The Witcher 3 is still the best father in video games

Geralt of Rivia, at first glance, appears to be another gruff, straight white guy, who kills often and talks less. He snarls his way through missions with the diplomacy of a caged wolf, and his interactions with women are little more than one-note Dionysian flirtations. He’d be forgiven for labeling it another entry in a staple archetype of action-adventure stories in TV, movies, and games. But such a reading would be a superficial interpretation of the protagonist of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.

The Witcher franchise centers on Geralt’s adventures as he hunts monsters, solves crimes, and stumbles upon world-changing politics, despite a desperate desire to disappear from those spotlights. Based on the works of Polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, CD Projekt Red’s third-person action-adventure games, in particular the third entry, have garnered well-deserved acclaim, awards, and repeats. With the next-gen update now available on PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X, it seems like a good time to revisit how Geralt subverts tropes in gaming, fantasy, and storytelling in general.

Let’s start with the very inciting incident that sparks their entire quest for world expansion in the witcher 3: his adoptive daughter, Ciri, has disappeared. While he is offered a hefty reward for finding her, her motivation is primarily to ensure her safety. Ciri is shown to be more than competent at protecting herself, especially since she is one of the most powerful beings in the game. Geralt himself trained her. But it turns out that even more powerful beings are after her. And while the first few hours hint at a budding damsel-in-distress story, the witcher 3 it is anything but once the couple is reunited.

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Geralt of Rivia casts Signi, a flame-based magical attack, on an enemy in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS5

Image: CD Projekt Red via Polygon

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Even if he prioritizes financial success or chooses a punchy dialogue option from time to time (it’s an RPG, after all), Geralt remains, at its core, supportive, caring, and encouraging to Ciri. He is never condescending, appropriately balancing being a father without being condescending. It’s refreshing to play a father figure who isn’t cold or controlling to his talented son, like Kratos from God of War or Joel from The Last of Us.

It can be easy to love someone who is family. Geralt, however, can show consistent kindness to the poorer cottage-dwellers, and in some cases even to monsters. He rarely identifies as human, often placing himself comfortably with outcasts and so-called “freaks”: in one instance, he makes himself vulnerable to an ostracized hunter for being gay. His likability is genuine in the way he cuts through his roughness, disregarding not only appearance, but also species membership. He cares about motive and facts, and will even give up contracts to kill when he realizes the victim is a monster.

On a mission, the city guards are being killed at night. After doing some research, Geralt discovers that a succubus is to blame. However, he releases her after she claims that she acted in her own defense. Telling the story to another monster along the way, the monster says, “Even when you know a monster killed someone, don’t you hurt them?” Geralt says: “If I had a good reason, yes.”

Geralt of Rivia looks out over the mountains from a balcony in Kaer Morhen, a witcher headquarters, in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS5

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Image: CD Projekt Red via polygon

The game makes a stronger point by showcasing Geralt’s guaranteed kindness towards hideous beasts in the “Skellige’s Most Wanted” quest. Geralt is lured into a trap by a group of various monsters and is put on trial for his past actions. Some members of the group want to kill him, while others want to listen to him. (It is reminiscent of the wonderful Batman: The Animated Series episode “Trial”, where Batman is put on trial in front of his rogues’ gallery of villains).

Geralt counts all the times he saved a monster that had killed, harmed, or terrorized humans. It’s an incredible moment, showing that Geralt is actually more aligned with the monsters he hunts than the people who hire him to kill them. “Humans hate them all!” he says. “Because they don’t know you. I don’t know which of you are dangerous and who want to live in peace.” He points out that only witches truly know both worlds, and therefore also “protect both”. “We kill dangerous monsters so that those who think can live in peace.”

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At one point, a wealthy banker asks Geralt to investigate why the banker’s newly purchased house is haunted. Geralt discovers that a tiny creature called god is just being naughty, but he also wants to be left alone. Geralt is then able to lie to the banker and tell him that the house is permanently haunted, which means the cute creature is left alone. The only person who suffers is a banker, and Geralt notoriously has little feeling for those who have too much.

Geralt of Rivia leads a line of pigs back to their pen on a farm at night in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt on PS5

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Image: CD Projekt Red via Polygon

Throughout his adventure on the continent, Geralt meets hideously wealthy characters who require his help. The Witcher Code stipulates that witches do not work for free (a principle I encourage all freelancers to embrace), but you are often given the option of forgoing pay in favor of another’s benefit. In the early hours of the game, the father of a sick girl needs help getting clean water. Upon completing the quest, Geralt is able to refuse the gold for the benefit of both father and son. In another case, Geralt meets a man who watches over a boy who has just lost his father. Geralt helps the foster parent, and once compensation is offered, he can again waive the payment.

the witcher 3 is inundated with instances where Geralt, seeing his relationship with Ciri mirrored in yet another father-son dynamic, may choose empathy over coin.

Geralt is more than just a snarling sword wielder. He is energized by kindness, succeeds with gentleness, and constantly tries to be a better father figure than the Mainland allows. This is a war-torn world, full of corpses and monsters, manipulators and charlatans. He is a good father, a respectful partner, a friendly wit, and a fierce advocate for the impoverished, the disenfranchised, and the misunderstood. You can play Geralt as a strict follower of the Witcher Code, one who goes after money and kills monsters before asking questions. But he is much more rewarding, in the end, to remain curious, kind and compassionate.

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