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Feel the love this Valentine’s Day with these 11 romantic video games


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Romance is an essential theme of all artistic expression, even video games. Portraying love and the process of falling in love has never been easy in an interactive medium, though. Even now, many games fall back on superficial tropes and nods towards love, rather than trying to show it in motion. From time to time, though, developers have found ways to offer layered, heartfelt stories of romance. If you want to play a game and see love bloom this Valentine’s Day, we have a few suggestions.

‘Final Fantasy X’ (PS4, PS3, PS Vita, PS2)

As a series, Final Fantasy is known for its borderline nonsensical plots, zany characters, and “save the world” storylines. Nearly every one of the series’ discrete tales includes a love story. Out of the 13 non-MMO entries, though, Final Fantasy X is the only one that feels organic. Star-crossed lovers Tidus and Yuna’s relationship stands at the center of a much larger tale. More importantly, FFX tells an actual love story, We get to see Yuna, a grand summoner, and Tidus, her guardian, meet and fall in love, rather than simply declare their romantic intent for each other.

If you need further proof of Tidus and Yuna’s great love, look no further than that laughing scene. While it’s often mocked as awkward, over-the-top, and unusually long, it serves an important purpose, showcasing Tidus and Yuna’s intrinsic connection. Silly, perhaps superfluous, sequences like this show us how and why Tidus and Yuna feel the way they do and, as a result, we feel it with them.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

The Mass Effect trilogy (PS3, Xbox 360)

BioWare’s Mass Effect series (sans Andromeda) builds exceptional characters through quality writing and, more importantly, player choice. The many conversations you have as Commander Shepard not only affect the course of the story, but your relationships with other characters throughout the series. The clever system allows for courting successes, failures, and those ambiguous moments when you don’t know where the relationship stands.

Over the course of the series, Shepard romantic options expanded, and became more integral to the Mass Effect experience. While the original Mass Effect only gives players two options for both male and female Shepard, Mass Effect 2 expands to six potential romantic partners each, and Mass Effect 3 gave male Shepard nine and female Shepard seven (unfair, we know). The relationships you choose to pursue evolve organically throughout each game. From a player agency perspective, the Mass Effect series is a master at employing romance. Who do you want standing beside you when you save galaxy?

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘Stardew Valley’ (PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Mac)

Stardew Valley, the product of one man’s quest to make a Harvest Moon-style game, offers one of the more realistic depictions of courting romantic partners in games. Your character escaped the hustle and bustle of city life for a quiet idyllic life on the farm, but tending to your crops can get lonely. Luckily, six bachelors and bachelorettes are looking for love, and you might just be their perfect match.

Your character is looking for love, so things don’t move too quickly. You have to establish a budding friendship before someone becomes your partner. You do this by talking to them, running errands, giving gifts, and asking them to be your dance partner at festivals. Finally, when you achieve the perfect relationship (10 out of 10 hearts!) you can purchase the Mermaid’s Pendant and ask them to marry you.

The most interesting part about romance in Stardew Valley is that no relationship status is inevitable or permanent. Your romantic interest can reject you, your marriage can dissolve if you don’t give your spouse enough attention, leaving at square one. That’s probably not what you want to hear on Valentine’s Day, but Stardew Valley offers a positive, deep take on relationships that could actually make you think about the successes and failures of your own romantic endeavors.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘To the Moon’ (PC, Mac, iOS, Android)

Simply put, indie game To the Moon tells one of the most moving love stories in a video game. Johnny Wyles wants to go to the moon before he dies, and Sigmund Corp. has the technology to place the memory of doing so in his mind. Instead, Johnny’s real memories tell a love story for the ages. His childhood sweetheart, River, died a few years earlier after what was seen as an unhappy marriage. As the game hops in and out of space and time, though, working backwards through Johnny’s life with River, we get a much clearer understanding of Johnny’s odd desire to reach the moon. The love shared between Johnny and River is a sterling example of video game romance done right. You might want to have a box of tissues on hand.

Buy it now from:

Steam

‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’ (PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC)

Dragon Age: Inquisition treats romance like both Tinder and eHarmony. That is, you can have one-night stands and develop serious relationships. Heck, you can have a discreet interaction while off on a quest and return home to the one you’ve been courting. That’s wrong, of course, but Inquisition looks at all facets of the dating game.

Inquisition‘s dating element is effectively a fantasy counterpart to the dating from Mass Effect. (They are both Bioware games, after all). With dialogue trees aplenty, the words that you choose have consequences — they can lead to lasting bonds or sad, sad rejections. You can flirt with NPCs who aren’t looking for anything serious, or you can work your charm and turn friendships into something more. If you want the most options — and who doesn’t? — play as an elven female. Elven females have six potential suitors, human females have five, and all others only have four opportunities for serious love.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘Fire Emblem Awakening’ (Nintendo 3DS)

Do you like playing matchmaker? If so, Fire Emblem Awakening has you covered. The excellent turn-based strategy game actually compels you to play Cupid by putting units near one another on the battlefield. As in other Fire Emblem games, keeping two characters near each other through a string of battles will cause a bond to develop. For certain characters, that bond is platonic, but in many cases it will eventually lead to a relationship. In Awakening, though, things can take a weird, intense turn. When your soldiers develop a romantic bond, you may lead to a new character joining your army — their child!

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt’ (PS4, Xbox One, PC)

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is a dazzling and overwhelmingly massive open world RPG that gives the player plenty of control over Geralt of Rivia’s choices and progression. This includes a myriad of opportunities to seduce and develop relationships with women throughout the sprawling world.

While the first two games also had solid romance features, The Witcher 3 finally brings Yennefer into the picture, complicating Geralt’s and Triss’ relationship. A sorceress, Yennefer was mentioned in the first two games as a love interest in Geralt’s past life, but he had no clear memory of her. They share some serious history, enough to make your choice between her and Triss pretty difficult.

Throughout your adventure, you’ll make choices of when to show affection, who to side with on quests, and more. Being somewhat of a ladies man, you can also woo several other minor characters for a night of fun. But in the end, you have to pick Yennefer or Triss, or lose them both. Decisions, decisions.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘Gone Home’ (PS4, Xbox One, PC, Mac)

Gone Home tells a very complicated tale of teenage romance and it does so through notes and letters found scattered around your family’s home. You may discover them out of order, you may not even find all of the clues, but through compelling, deeply relatable writing, even the tiniest scraps of paper further your understanding of this love. Gone Home builds a living, breathing romance without ever bringing the characters on-screen. We cannot say much more than that without spoiling the experience, but Gone Home captures the messy nature of young love in a way that few games do. Gone Home is an absolute gem that touches, rather brilliantly, on numerous aspects of love and longing.

Buy it now from:

Steam

The Uncharted series (PS3/PS4)

Naughty Dog’s Uncharted franchise follows the adventures of treasure hunter Nathan Drake, but it also tells a more universal story of love between him and his partner in both adventure and life, Elena. Drake and Elena offer an incredibly refreshing depiction of a couple, at least among video games: Where most in-game relationships are predicated on one saving the other, these two prove time and again that they don’t need each other to survive. Yes, they save each other from certain death on occasion, but they live their own lives still. They have their own interests and pursuits. While their connection was clear from the very beginning, they often went their separate ways.

After Drake’s Fortune, Elena becomes an investigative journalist in Among Thieves, and later becomes an international news correspondent in Drake’s Deception. Only in A Thief’s End do we finally see them together in relative normalcy. And even then, it’s unclear if they can work as well as a team as they do individually. Uncharted tells a longform story of love, rife with the ups and downs and uncertainty of all lasting relationships.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘Persona 4’ (PS Vita, PS3, PS2)

Persona 4, like all Persona games, is quite quirky. The high school simulator/role-playing game wraps an excellent murder mystery inside a turn-based dungeon crawler, which also happens to feature a dating sim on the side. Set in a rural Japanese town, you control the new boy in town, who naturally draws a fair amount of attention at school. As your relationships with other students grow, you can pick and choose who you want to spend time with and form a relationship.

Like real life, though, young love can be fickle. Your romantic endeavors (or lack thereof) have consequences. If you forgo an opportunity to get a girlfriend, that person will never be interested in you like that again. Rough, right? If you cannot make up your mind, you can try your hand at dating multiple people at once. Just know that your current partner might randomly drop in on your date, which creates an understandably awkward situation. Persona 4 captures the dynamics of teenage relationships and gives relationships room to both blossom and wither over the course of its 50-hour story.

Buy it now from:

Amazon

‘Dream Daddy’ (PC, Mac)

In Dream Daddy, you move to a seaside town with your daughter. Luckily for you, all of your neighbors happen to be single dads. Now you just have to figure out which bachelor is right for you. A traditional dating simulator, Dream Daddy is part-visual novel, part mini-game compilation, and one of the few dating simulators about gay male relationships. Heartfelt and humorous writing, combined with an engaging visual style, make Dream Daddy stand out amongst traditional dating sims. Each of the seven dateable dads stand out, and chances are you’ll want to get to know all of them.

Its approach to dating is genuinely endearing, and the mini-games are integrated quite well. In one path, you play an ode to Pokémon in which you must lower the other dad’s HP by impressing him with your daughter’s accomplishments. It’s absurd, funny, and surprisingly effective in its methods of flirtation and relationship building from the lens of single dads looking for love.

Buy it now from:

Steam


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