Relating Through Relationships – Sans and Papyrus from Undertale

[Currently listening to “Game Music for Studying”: compilations created by VideoGameMusic Playlists]

So, Undertale.


*waits for squealing fan base to settle down*

Considering it’s the brain child of one guy, this game is mind-blowingly innovative. From the bullet-hell/turn-based RPG mash-up battle system, to the “Save” and “Reset” game staples playing huge roles in the storytelling – I mean, dang, man, I pull my hair out just trying to craft an outline for a fiction novel. Meanwhile, here’s Toby Fox designing, programming, AND scoring the PC Game of the Year for 2015.

Now, to be honest, I was pretty much satisfied with one play-through (the “true pacifist” route, of course). The story as a whole didn’t hook me enough for me to seek out more secrets and endings.

*waits for outraged fan base to stop wielding their frying pans and worn-out garden shears*

HOWEVER. I think I may have turned into a complete. Hardcore. Ridiculous…



Oh, the skelebros. I adore them so much. Before I knew what got into me I was seeking out their backstory, looking into fan theories, and watching further info on them from the genocide/aborted genocide runs (’cause ain’t no way I’m killing them off in my own game. I haven’t even braved a YouTube video of Papyrus’ death).

I do this sort of thing a lot, and every time I get a little obsessed I can’t help but wonder, “Do I just not have a life?” (Possibly accurate.) But no, actually, I’m realizing that these infatuations are just what make my soul light up: the discovery of what makes a character/plot/setting really tick. When something in a story grabs my attention, I have to know whyyyyyyyy.

So let’s get into it, shall we?

The first impression we get of the brothers is that Sans is a slack-off prankster and Papyrus is an overzealous sentinel. (I honestly assumed Papyrus would become the game’s clichéd bumbling antagonist. He’s certainly got the laugh down: Nyeh heh heh!) Their opposing personalities are what’s immediately engaging, but that sort of Laurel and Hardy routine would only get a couple characters so far.

All through Papyrus’ puzzle gauntlet we watch these brothers interact and begin to realize there’s actual development under the surface gags. Sure, Sans is more than willing to push all of Papyrus’ buttons, but he also indulges his bro’s eccentric interests and goals.


On into Papyrus’ phone calls we get more tastes of their relationship, and it’s the perfect balance of antagonism and affection between them:

It’s their differences that make them reliant on each other: despite Papyrus’ rants, would he be as confidant if Sans didn’t constantly affirm his coolness? And likewise, Sans is personally motivated by Papyrus despite thinking that most effort is futile.

I think it’s interesting: if the game gave us only Sans or Papyrus on his own, the relatability wouldn’t quite be there. Why?

Well, I posit that – more than we as readers/players/viewers connect to individual characters – we connect to relationships. Sans and Papyrus are entertaining because of their personalities; they’re endearing because of how their personalities shape their sibling bond.

Having an older brother myself, I watch Sans and Papyrus interact and immediately find a connection. They love each other in a perfectly sibling way, which I, as a sister, can relate to.

(And just like Sans suggests: if you mess with my bro-ha, you’re gonna have a bad time.)


Geek-outs about Undertale are totally acceptable in the comments below, so… Do your thang.


(Undertale is the property of Toby Fox. You can purchase it to play via Steam.)

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