Romance is in the air as another Valentine’s Day nears. You’d be forgiven for thinking that mainstream gaming rarely offers much in the way of truly affecting romance, but there are some notable exceptions.
Whether they’re depicting couples in a long-standing romance that plays out over many games, or simply characters involved in a brief, passionate liaison, games offer more than their fair share of memorable couples. We take a look at eight of our favorites.
Squall and Rinoa - Final Fantasy VIII
At first, Squall and Rinoa don’t get on at all. Squall’s arrogance and Rinoa’s headstrong attitude proves to be an awkward mix. As the game develops though, things soon take a sweeter turn. Notably, it’s Rinoa that pursues Squall. Charming him into dancing with her at the SeeD inauguration ball. While that’s the more overtly romantic moment, it’s the subtle touches where Rinoa gently teases Squall through her childlike attempts at hypnotising him into liking her that really set the groundwork.
Final Fantasy VIII doesn’t rush things either. It’s not until the very end of the game that we see Squall and Rinoa kiss for the first time.
Everyone - Mass Effect series
Romance in the Mass Effect series is nearly as complicated as real life romance. Take a glance at any FAQ detailing how to complete each romance and you’ll be overwhelmed by just what’s involved. It’s worth pursuing at least one dalliance though, because it adds a personal touch to the space epic. Best of all, the series caters to same-sex relationships, as well as interspecies relations, demonstrating that love has few boundaries. It’s even possible (although not easy) to establish one romance in the first game and maintain it throughout the remaining two games.
When it comes to overt demonstrations of love, Mass Effect is pretty staid, focusing on kisses or hugs, and mere suggestions of more, but it’s hard not to be wrapped up in those moments anyhow.
Tifa and Cloud - Final Fantasy VII
But what about Aeris?! Yes, Cloud and Aeris are quite sweet, but even without the decisions you make, it’s clear that Aeris is a fairly two-dimensional princess in need of saving. It’s the history that Cloud and Tifa have that makes it a much sweeter, more slow burning romance. They start out as childhood friends, grow apart, then come back together. Tifa has the background to know how to help Cloud when he sinks into despair at times. When Cloud suffers a Mako overdose, she nurses him back to health, before finding out that he’d saved her in the past.
It’s an unusually well balanced relationship, even if any consummation is left solely to the player’s imaginations.
Samantha and Lonnie - Gone Home
John Marston and Abigail Marston - Red Dead Redemption
Not all romances are new and passionately exciting, but that doesn’t make them any less important. The romance between John Marston and his wife, Abigail, demonstrates this. The whole story of Red Dead Redemption is based around John, a former outlaw, trying to get back to his family, after being forced by the law to ensnare members of his old gang.
Desperate for a quiet life with his wife and child, there was no way that Red Dead Redemption could end happily, but it’s an important story for showing how romance is far from short lived. Near the end of the game, there’s a wonderful moment of calm when it feels like John and Abigail might finally get to live happily ever after again. Don’t count on it.
Mario and Princess Peach - Super Mario series
The archetypal damsel in distress, Princess Peach is far from a role model to anyone. Why she can’t rescue herself is anyone’s guess, but at least she’s got the love of Mario to sustain her. Often passive, Princess Peach still manages to save the day in spin-off game, Super Princess Peach, where she has to rescue Mario and Luigi from Bowser.
It’s probably never going to be the kind of relationship you’ll aspire to, unless you like being frequently kidnapped, but it’s clear that there’s something special between the two of them. Many years worth of chaste kisses have to mean something, right?
Nathan Drake & Elena Fisher - Uncharted Trilogy
Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher’s relationship is an awkward one. On the one hand, they’re clearly devoted to each other, but only when under stress. While many couples are more prone to breaking up when under a lot of stress, this couple seem to thrive on it. Once things turn back to normal, they break up all over again.
OK so this is far from healthy or what you want in life, but it’s entertaining to watch while playing a game. The standout moment is during Uncharted 3, where an exhausted Nate falls asleep with Elena, apologising for his mistakes. By the end of the game, they’re both wearing their wedding rings again. For how long? Probably not long at all, but who said this was a romance anyone wanted to emulate?
Pigeons - Hatoful Boyfriend
There’s a plethora of otome games out there, but Hatoful Boyfriend is a particularly special one. It’s a visual novels that has you pursue the love of a pigeon. Not just any pigeon, a sapient one, that has real feelings and a personality.
It might not be how you imagined love to ever play out, but there’s something quite pure about Hatoful Boyfriend. The writing is balanced and appealing, with a variety of different pigeons to pursue. Each of them conform to certain stereotypes of what many people would be looking for in a date, but it’s rather charming and sweet. The highlights come when you charm someone simply through the power of your personality.