Sunday Stories: “Final Boss America”


Final Boss America
by Nicholas Grider

Like regular America, Final Boss America is over-designed and flatly lit and depends heavily on worldbuilding and lore at the expense of character and story, but everyone who lives in Final Boss America is a final boss, even the NPCs, who stare blankly and emit tough love and quest offers and toxic positivity from the oversaturated backdrops of our shared sad adventure world.

Some of the final bosses in Final Boss America are strangers. A few of them are part of you that you don’t yet recognize. Some are your mom, usually an ocean-based robot battalion who may have destroyed Delaware, an undercover special forces op who asks strangers in public to speak English, or a casualty of deliberately vague tragedy. Most of them are dads; some of the dads are your dad. 

Why’s that, you ask? Because in Final Boss America, everyone is, at one point or another, your dad. Even the forest fires and abandoned government buildings and defaced billboards and indoor approximations of sunlight. Final Boss America is a wonderland of infinite power-ups and feverishly respawning dads. Final Boss America is the fatal upsmash of fatal upsmashes. Final Boss America lets you start over as much as you want, as long as you promise, in the words of your dad, to “git gud.”

In Final Boss America as in regular America, there is no available option not to play at all or to ragequit so your only option is to either git gud or spend your whole life dying, so here’s a quick and handy guide to several common dads of Final Boss America, including combat techniques and hints where applicable.


Ironic Retro Bond Villain Dad

The most common of all dads, this dad has the ability to convince NPCs that it’s actually 1958, but not, he insists, in bad way. But, he also insists, there’s nothing inherently wrong with simplicity or nostalgia or both at once. Ironic Retro Bond Villain Dad is the most common of dads but one of the most difficult to defeat, as his inventory of attacks ranges from pledging you to a fraternity or sorority without your knowledge, asking you why you never wear the any of the fedoras and/or lingerie he bought you, offering to teach you how to drink like an adult and then abandoning you when you’re blackout drunk, and telling you he’s glad you’re really intent on being your own person but that he also wouldn’t be offended if maybe you used him as model, or if not a model, at least a starting place. Ironic Retro Bond Villain Dad also owns a pointless amount of blood diamonds and an enormous weapons cache he never uses, and one or more wood-paneled lairs. The further you get in the game, the greater this dad’s ability to subcontract day laborers from a Home Depot parking lot to wield weapons on his behalf, and the the more you encounter his non-skippable cutscenes reminiscing about the good old days being not as great as you’d think but still pretty great. The best strategy against Ironic Retro Bond Villain Dads is to, when he buys you a velvet smoking jacket for your birthday, reveal you already have one in your inventory and haven’t worn it around him because you were concerned he wouldn’t think it was cool, and more than anything you want him to think you’re cool. After a subsequent death blow or disintegration spell, this prevents your dad from respawning for at least one hour of gameplay while he embarks on a day drinking side quest in the cyberpunk district.

How to start: Press O to allow your dad to teach you stuff about cigars. Press to tell him he’s already told you the joke or anecdote he’s currently sharing with you. Press to send your dad on a side quest crate digging for Gordon Lightfoot and Don Cherry albums.


Time-Displaced Bionic Mercenary Dad

Unique among Final Boss America’s dads, Time-Displaced Bionic Mercenary Dad can only be beaten in direct combat, either hand-to-hand or with melee weapons. This is because Time-Displaced Bionic Mercenary Dad is covered in gleaming and deliberately ambiguous future-tech that your Dad claims does all sorts of next-level stuff he can’t explain to you because it’s a bit over your head and you need to get your grades up and because might cause a rift in the time-space continuum. Time-Displaced Bionic Mercenary Dad has met the you of the future, and until defeated three times in clean kills, is fond of stopping mid-confrontation to tell you that your future self would never do or say what you just did or said, and that he likes the future you better, which he says you should take as a complement because it means distant-future is both a vast improvement over you and an obvious hero while you still have a lot of work to do even if your improvement is inevitable in a deterministic universe, and that the only reason he’s tracking you across Final Boss America and constantly trying to kill you is because your future child and his grandchild is the head of an ambiguously sinister multinational corporation blackmailing him into do it because, your gleaming-hydraulics dad explains, your grandson, unlike you, is all about that grindset and hence too busy but the resultant grandfather paradox will destroy the universe but only in the specific ways and to specific degrees his as-yet-unborn grandchild demands. This Boss Dad is the easiest to cheat, if you master the skill of using your enchanted bo staff to punch the big obvious red time-displacement ignition button on his futuristic armor, which causes him to make an aleatoric jump into a branching timeline where he’s a church custodian who never gives you advice unless you ask for it and never forgets your birthday and just wants you to be happy.

How to start: Press O to ask your dad if he has good intentions. Press to convince yourself your dad has good intentions. Press to reassure your friends your dad is both basically harmless and definitely not an immortal, dimension-hopping demon who feeds off the panic of “weaklings” and innocents.


Post-Metrosexual Sports Knower Dad

Although smaller and much more unassuming than other Final Boss Dads, Post-Metrosexual Sports Knower Dad is the strongest magic user of American Dads, and if you’re not careful around him both in your speech, your behavior and what he alls your general presentation, he possesses the magic to completely immobilize you, either by barraging you with trick questions about the historical development of statistics relevant to team sports, by demanding you comprehensively explain all the stale memes he sends you as email attachments, by inviting you over to watch TV or movies at his post-divorce condo and then spending the entire time critiquing the CGI of whatever you watch, including movies and shows that don’t contain any CGI, by spawning directly behind you and surprising you with tickets to a ball game you’d rather not attend or a shopping spree for an unsolicited style upgrade, or most commonly by pulling a new wireless headset and running color commentary on everything you think, say, and do, and at a sufficient volume and pace to make it clear he finds you worth assessing but unclear whether he is complementing or criticizing you. The difficulty in this Dad lies mainly in the impossibility of avoiding or resisting his dark magic, but there are two straightforward cheats to slow him down, the first of which is repeating his maxim “look gay, live straight” back at him with the terms reversed, and second, in a more formidable move, persuading him to produce reaction videos on a recursive loop of manosphere podcasts, which will cause him to pass out from ambivalence long enough for you to cut up his Brooks Brothers credit card (the source of his rune-based powers) and fling his most-prized sports almanacs and novelty neckties off the balcony of his condo; doing this three times successfully will unlock a power-up enabling you to engage in consequence-free credit scams, but only against anyone with a net worth of $1,000,000 or more, both dads and non-dads alike.

How to start: Press O to ask your dad to provide you with an annotated list of the 100 greatest athletes of all time. Press to start a small fires with your dad’s collection of niche and special-occasion fragrances. Press to marry young and transform into your dad more quickly than he anticipates.

Cryptid Dudebro Dad

Nearly as common as Post-Metrosexual Sports Knower Dad, especially in the midwestern and southern regions of Final Boss America, Cryptid Dudebro Dad is exactly what the name suggests: a dad who will buy you memberships to more than one gym at the same time but refuse to help with groceries or rent, who misquotes the Holy Bible (American translation, new/surplus testaments) in stead of answering yours or anyone else’s questions, who sends you randomly timed text messages like “tradition is the foundation upon which true freedom is built” or nags you about not posting videos of deadlifts to your TikTok, who wants to start his own “Joe Rogan but wellness-centered” podcast and constantly solicits your approval and material help with doing so, and who is a nine-foot horned demon with glistening teal blue flesh, nonfunctional spindles growing out of his back that look like vestigial wings, a single, centrally placed eye instead of more common two bilaterally symmetrical eyes of other Final Dads, hooves, and somewhat prehensile tendrils growing from his wrists and what would be his ankles when he gets really worked up about something, which is always. This Dad cannot be defeated with conventional weapons or straightforward attacks, which only lead to monologues about how much harder he had it when he was your age, and how much harder he had to work, which will drain all your health stats unless you find a way to distract him. Fortunately, while not defeatable in direct combat, he is easily defeated by indirect methods, most commonly by a magic potion available in Texas that temporary disguises you as an Elon Musk avatar, from which you can strike a death blow by selling him an NFT from your inventory (most often a jpeg of a barbell wearing a crown), or by telling him a mutual in-game acquaintance of yours is an advocate for reproductive rights as a part of free universal health care and then running behind him as he dashes off to set them straight and freezing his legs with an immobility potion, which only works if you hit his spine (a raised ridge along his back that pulses with golden light), then run before he uses his magic to summon authority figures in the vicinity to assist him and swarm you.

How to start: Press O to pretend to agree with your dad so he stops trying to debate you. Press to remind your dad Ben Shapiro is a Modern Orthodox Jew and ask your dad to do a podcast about that means he has dual loyalties. Press to sew extra pockets into your slim-fit UnderArmour, line your pockets with stones, and walk into the sea.


Fridge Dad

Fridge Dad is dead. Fridge Dad has always just died, though this only sometimes directly involves refrigerators or other kitchen appliances. Like color-coded magics manifesting as blasts of light, Fridge Dad is the soft but steady gray light of motivational backstory. The only way to defeat Fridge Dad is to perform all of Final Boss America’s wellness and healing journeys to completion, gathering enough melee weapons, XP and instagram followers on the way to make it clear that while your sorrow is as fixed and infinite as the distant heavens, you cannot and will not let it hold you back, because although Fridge Dad is too dead to care, you remained determined not to let him down. There is no cheat code for Fridge Dad or any other Dad whose nonexistence is fundamental to gameplay.

How to start: Press O to reveal family secrets at his funeral. Press to vow vengeance but not get around to it because your rent just went up. Press to performatively grieve.


Assistant Crime Boss Dad

The terrifying difficulty of Assistant Crime Lord Dad is not his proximity to crime but his proximity to other bosses. In a small but infinitely vertical America, Assistant Crime Boss Dad respawns on every level no matter how much or what kind of damage he takes. This dad is always there to remind you that maybe you should reconsider, maybe you haven’t entirely thought everything through, maybe you’re not as ready for the world as you think you are, and maybe you should just let him take care of things just this once, pull some strings. String pulling, networking, and doubt are all max-level stats for your dad, as is his ability to bring up in every conversation you have with him that you’re not a kid anymore but it’s probably not too late for you to still go to med school or law school. Or why not both, Assistant Crime Boss Dad asks you as he chases you down the office hallways of the dystopian future. Your cousin has an MD and a JD, and one of Dad’s coworkers has an MD and an MBA in administration.Think of all the doors that could open, Boss Dad tells you. You definitely don’t want to end up like me, he says. If you wasted your potential it would send him to his grave, he bellows while pursuing you, but not in the way you want, because a dad that dies unsatisfied is a dagger-wielding ghost.

How to start: Press O to volunteer at a community clinic and apply to a med school in the Caribbean. Press to confuse your dad by apologizing for not being more like him. Press to bury him under a mountain of half-used day planners or in a digital blizzard of glitching productivity apps.


Nice Dad

The rarest but most formidable dad of all, Nice Dad cannot be leveled-up to or contended with in any traditional way because none of Nice Dad’s weapons or special moves cause obvious injury or are demonstrably harmful. Nice dad buys your friends small gifts and offers frequent encouragement. Nice Dad knows your favorite foods, color, music, movies, and books, and watches entertainment news for you so he can let you know when a news season of a TV show you already like or a new show you might like are scheduled to begin. Nice Dad is fond of telling you not to work too hard because life is short, Nice Dad tells you you’re a living reminder of why he fell in love with your mom, and Nice Dad has no known weaknesses or vulnerabilities. Everyone in your family loves Nice Dad, as do all of your friends, as do your co-workers and classmates, as do people who hear about Nice Dad secondhand. Nice Dad is thoughtful and respects your boundaries and is polite without being cold and distant. Every night, just before you go to bed, you receive a context-free text message from Nice Dad reading as follows: “Just want you to know it’s not really you I’m disappointed in, it’s me. Why blame you when I can blame myself? Thinking of you. Love your forever and a little while after, Dad.”

How to start: Press O to cry. Press to pretend being surrounded by perfect-seeming people is a form of victory, or at least a method of survival or a way to get through the night. Press to pretend you’re convincing anybody but yourself.


Nicholas Grider‘s story collections include Misadventure (A Strange Object) and Forest of Borders (Malarkey) and their work has appeared in Conjunctions, Guernica, Maudlin House, Rejection Letters, and other publications. They can be found on Twitter at @griderly.

Image source: Igor Karimov/Unsplash

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