Nobody would’ve guessed that the most popular indie game of the year would be a dating simulator, let alone one as openly queer as Dream Daddy. The smash hit, developed by Game Grumps, is a huge win for queer and POC representation with gameplay so delightful that even the straights can play it without feeling threatened.
Dream Daddy lets you play as yourself, only dad-ified: you tell bad jokes, don’t know how to cook, and were once in a ska band called The Skammunist Manifesto—the whole nine-yards of goofiness that come unique with paternity. You’ve just moved to the fictional scenic Maple Bay with your daughter Amanda, a high school senior who would not like to fall under any one label, but if she had to choose she would categorize herself as “twee hipster with some normcore leanings.” It’s been tough being a single dad, and making friends in this town is somehow even harder when all you want to do is nap and watch The Game. Things get easier when you discover that all of your new neighbors are also dads...and really, really cute.
“You’ve got DADS!”
If we were to rate Maple Bay’s dating stock, we’d give it an A+ out of 10 stars. Dream Daddy defies virtually all the norms of dating sims by featuring a diverse, maturely aged cast of queer characters as opposed to heteronormative relationships with homogenous partners. Of the seven dateable dads, three are a part of visible minorities, one is overweight and another is trans (gamers can also play as trans dads by selecting the “binder bod” build in their avatar creator at the start of the game). The player’s late spouse and daughter, Amanda, are also brown and non-customizable—a strong move by the game devs that shoots down players’ prejudices for having a white family.
Dream Daddy still falls in line with other classic dating sims when it comes to casting common archetypes as love interests. The nerd is Amanda’s sharp-dressed English teacher, Hugo, and the clean cut boy-next-door is Joseph, the youth minister that lives...next door. Mat is the music-loving hipster that runs the local coffee shop, and Craig is your old keg-standing roommate from college (who has since gotten ripped, bro!) Damien is the goth dad, while Brian is more of the competitive, outdoorsy type. Ultimately, I picked Robert, the mysterious bad boy who’s all about conspiracy theories, knives, whiskey, film, and texting back way too late (me too, daddy, me too.) It was love at first play-through.
In addition to the DILFs, you’ll meet their children and other recurring characters—most of which are women with vivid personalities and strong character development, such as your daughter, Amanda.
While our leading men may be a bit archetypical, your daughter is by no means casted in the Misogyny-Lite™ trope of the whiny and dramatic teenage girl. ‘Manda Panda is hilarious, independent, adorable, and kickass—the teen we’ve all been and the daugher we’d all love to have. She breaks windows, wings her eyeliner, finger-guns her way out of conversations, and will pet EVERY dog. You’re very proud of her, and even though you don’t understand art, you know she makes good art, and you’ll brag about it whenever you can.
Although you’re a great dad, your gameplay will not revolve around solving Amanda’s problems but rather her helping with yours. Like any thoughtful child, she’ll help you navigate social media (DadBook), respond to texts, and explain what memes are to you. ‘Manda will be your motivational speaker throughout the game, your food-sharing companion, and your best buddy for watching bad reality TV (gotta love Long Haul Paranormal Ice Road Ghost Truckers!) The game’s storytelling is rich and endearing, and this shows in your relationship with your daughter, which is fleshed out and well-established as mutually supportive and loving. You may even find yourself wanting to hang out with her more than other dads!
Dating sims generally don’t spark ideas of wholesome content, but that’s all Dream Daddy is. The gameplay is PG-13 yet provocative (successful flirting actions will cause an animation of eggplant and squirting emojis to erupt from your date,) and the story is very light-hearted despite dealing with a handful of serious themes. The dialogue will easily provoke many giggles and belly laughs as well as plenty of warm fuzzy feelings that you probably couldn’t get on a real date (believe me, I’ve tried.) Overall, it’s cute, quirky, hilarious, and fun—all the things a good dating sim should be. It’s by far one of the most delightful games I’ve ever played, and I recommend it to anyone—queer or otherwise—who wants a refreshingly endearing gameplay experience. So, are you ready?
Hi ready, I’m Dad.
Rating: 5/5 Eggplant Emojis
Dream Daddy is now available on Steam for $16.99 CAD