The 14 best videogame couples
Trendy as it is to treat videogame romance like some great undiscovered frontier, the truth is that involving, even genuinely touching romances have been a key part of game stories for decades. Some are sappy, some are tragic and some are slow boils that have taken years to really bloom. Whatever their circumstances, the 14 that follow are our favorites.
1. Link and Midna (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
First met when: She sprang him out of prison.
Why theyre the best: Its easy and clich to say that Link and Zelda are the classic videogame couple, but if you really examine their relationship across all their various appearances and incarnations, theres never been any real chemistry between them. Sure, theyve gone so far as to adventure together in a few titles (Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker and Spirit Tracks), but for the most part theyve never progressed past rescuer/rescuee, and have shared a grand total of one (implied) kiss in the last 23 years.
Enter Midna. Not only does she subvert Hyrules normal gender dynamics by rescuing Link (whos been turned into a wolf) from captivity, but her relationship with him is constant, symbiotic and at times a little touching. Shes also genuinely interesting, chattering away at Link and goading him onward without ever quite coming off as annoying.
Oh, sure, her innate nastiness rubbed us the wrong way at first, and the fact that she spends most of Twilight Princess as a squat, sinister-looking imp makes the idea of an actual romance troubling. But as the game progresses, her harsh exterior (and, eventually, her weird appearance) melts away, revealing genuine feelings for Link or, at least, as close to genuine feelings as anyone in a Nintendo games ever expressed. (Spoiler alert!) And Link, for all his staring muteness, clearly felt something for her as well just look at the surprised almost-expression he made when she disappeared at the end of Twilight Princess:
2. Dom and Mario Santiago (Gears of War series)
First met when: They were 11 years old!
Why theyre the best: Gaming has its share of Romeos and Juliets, but to know just how tragic the saga of Dominic and Maria Santiago is, you wouldve had to engage in our absolute least favorite element of Gears of Wars gameplay: the books.
Most of you know Dom as the loyal sidekick to Marcus Fenix, but did you know that Dom and Maria grew up as next-door neighbors, only to become parents at the age of 16? As if that werent an ominous beginning for familial happiness, just when the couple was starting out on their new life, both of their children were killed by Locusts on Emergence Day. And thats why theyre the best couple! (No it isnt.)
Fenix is too high on his own testosterone to express this thing called love, drawing a sharp contrast to Dom, who reflects on Maria often most notably during a domestic daydream while on a field trip through an aliens asshole in Gears 2. Unfortunately, the loss of her children sent Maria into a spiral of depression that ended with her just vanishing one day without a trace. By the time Dom found her in an underground prison years later, she was too emaciated and traumatized to speak to or even recognize her devoted husband. They shared one final, heart-wrenching embrace before Dom cut the reunion short with a single bullet of merciful euthanasia.
Tragic? Sure. But as some of these other entries will demonstrate, sometimes its the saddest love stories that leave the most lasting impressions.
3. The Prince and Farah (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time/Two Thrones)
First met when: His father invaded and sacked her fathers kingdom, kidnapping her as a prize.
Why theyre the best: Drawn together by adversity when the Sands of Time were unleashed on the kingdom of Azad, Farah and the Prince rapidly developed a strong bond that would change them both. While he initially viewed her with distrust, the Prince eventually came to rely on Farahs level-headed help, as well as her skill with a bow.
More importantly, her strength of character and realistic outlook helped the Prince grow from a spoiled, annoying brat into someone far more likable and considerate. By the time they had a dreamlike, implied love scene near the games end, the Prince was a changed man, trading in his short-sighted ideals of honor and glory for a little wisdom and maturity. And then, in the name of stopping the evil of the Sands from spreading, he changed the past and erased his adventure and his romance with Farah from existence.
Unlike some of the other, more tragic couples on this list, the Prince and Farah got a happy ending years later in The Two Thrones, when thanks to the Princes mucking around with time they were reunited as the Sands of Time were unleashed again, this time on the Princes fathers kingdom. This Farah had a harder edge to her, but given time, the two were able to rekindle their romance and end the Sands of Time trilogy on a high note.
4. Ico and Yorda (Ico)
First met when: He jumped on her dangling cage, releasing her from captivity.
Why theyre the best: Trust. Its the very heart of Ico and Yordas relationship. Even though they both speak different languages and are poorly equipped to handle the labyrinthine castle that imprisons them, they both take off, hand in hand, on a quest for freedom. However, even though theyre fast friends, theres an ever-present melancholy to their escape, as both Ico and Yorda are outcasts who may have nowhere to go even if they find a way out. All they have is each other, and as a player, you become inextricably connected to them and their intimate escape. Fable III is touting touching as a groundbreaking feature Ico did it wonderfully nearly 10 years ago.
Despite being a very G-rated romance, their feelings are no less intense, as instead of hearing about saving a spoken-for damsel, or rescuing a princess in the final act, Ico is constantly by Yordas side, always ready to pull her away from the smoky demons and their ruthless queen. Then, when its all over, its Yorda who carries a weakened Ico to safety. Stay past the credits and you find that shes stuck around, likely ready to see what else will happen with her horned (not horny!!) savior. Truly one of the most heartwarming and feel-good moments in all of gaming.
5. Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley (Secret of Monkey Island series)
First met when: He broke into her mansion to steal an idol.
Why theyre the best: For starters, Elaine and Guybrush are a complete reversal of what weve come to expect from the traditional videogame hero/heroine relationship. Shes a strong, competent pirate whos introduced as nothing less than the governor of a pirate-infested island, and hes a stumbling nebbish who just happens to have a rare knack for solving puzzles and dueling with insults. And yet, they complement each other surprisingly well.
While their romance is ridiculously improbable, their affection for each other is genuine, and its been tested by everything from voodoo curses and the repeated advances of ghost pirates to a game-length breakup and actual death. Whats more, their personalities are a smooth fit, as Elaines toughness and strong personality make her a good counterweight to Guybrushs passive ideals and jaw-dropping incompetence.
And yet, Elaine needs Guybrush, mostly because its somehow Elaine whos always getting kidnapped or otherwise swept up in some kind of trouble (sometimes because of Guybrushs own bumbling) from which only his unique skills can free her. So its a little codependent so what? Theyre in love and the series wouldnt be the same without them.
6. Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2)
First met when: She was a child at Black Mesa. He then spent about 20 years in stasis before encountering her again in Dr. Kleiners lab.
Why theyre the best: Theyre the quintessential odd couple who are totally obviously OMG in love but may never ever speak of it. That might have something to do with Gordons inability to actually speak, ever, but aside from his muteness, hes apparently bound by some unmovable fate which, tragically, even Alyxs love cant fully disrupt. Stupid G-Man! Alyx, however, is less resigned to her lifes path shes a boisterous, optimistic, and empathetic heroine, and shes one of the few who can access the humanity beneath Gordons shell of stoic selflessness.
And their love only grows. In Episode 2 (spoiler alert!), Alyx is critically wounded, but is revived when Gordon daringly steals the larval extract of an antlion colony, and their lives become entwined by more than just circumstance. Yeah, pretty cheesy shit, but Alyx is so damn likeable that we eat it up, and it helps that Gordons lack of personality allows us to easily insert ourselves into their scenario. Did we just say insert ourselves? Yes.
7. Jackie Estacado and Jenny Romano (The Darkness)
First met when: They grew up in the same orphanage.
Why theyre the best: First-person shooters have been around for a long time, but it wasnt until The Darkness that one of them asked us to interact with a woman in a believable, relatable way.
Mob hitman Jackie Estacado might be a cursed, supernaturally tough killing machine when wandering the streets of New York, but when hes face-to-face with his lifelong sweetheart Jenny, hes as vulnerable and flawed as anyone. That not only makes him more human, but it makes his relationship with Jenny one of the most bittersweet things games have ever given us.
If you played The Darkness when it came out, its possible youve forgotten the details of Jackies time with Jenny. You might not remember trying to hide the dark truth from her, or trying to tell her everything only to have her shrug it off as a bad joke. You might not remember that she bought Jackie a birthday cake with his name misspelled, or that her apartment was filled with boxes because she was just moving in. But one thing you likely do remember is sitting on the couch with her in the dark, watching To Kill a Mockingbird and hearing her whisper something about needing to pee before she fell asleep (and gave you an Achievement).
It was, in short, the closest thing to a real relationship that wed ever seen represented in a game, and it made Jenny and Jackie instantly endearing. It also made it that much more heart-wrenching when, later in the game, they were pulled apart by the actions of evil men.
Jackie and Jenny were a sweet onscreen couple, but their relationship helped elevate The Darknesss story from mindless action to emotionally involving art. If nothing else, we desperately wanted to see them together again and isnt that what makes a good couple good, really?
8. Ryu Hayabusa and Irene Lew (Ninja Gaiden trilogy)
First met when: She snuck up behind him in a bar.
Why theyre the best: In a time when most game romances were me save you from castle, you kiss my cheek now, Ryu and Irene were about as close to a normal couple you could find. When they first meet, Irene tranquilizes Ryu and hauls him off to a cell in the middle of nowhere. After this rocky, adversarial start, the two embark on a mission to recover creepy-ass demon statues and keep them out of evil hands, all while discovering their feelings for one another as the world teeters on the edge of destruction.
As a member of the CIA, Irene is far from a usual damsel in distress. Shes a capable, reliable agent whos a perfect fit for Ryus no-nonsense ninja training. However, as an agent, shes prone to double crossing, and after youve saved the day shes ordered to kill Ryu and take that statue for the CIAs own use. Having gone through so much, Irene not only disobeys the order, but also admits her feelings just as Ryu does the same.
This bond carries through the second and third games, though Irenes status does weaken from badass operative to Derp! Guess whos been kidnapped!? Shes stabbed and sacrificed in the second, but Ryus own purity of heart and passion for his partner revive her (with a lil help from some ancient magic) and in the third game shes believed to have been killed by Ryu himself but it turns out to be a clone. Such interesting lives.
Its a sweet, genuine romance thats only become more relevant now that Ninja Gaiden is synonymous with big-titted sex-toys passed off as women. These two went through hell together and came out not just normal, but in a lasting, loving relationship.
9. Master Chief and Cortana (Halo series)
First met when: She chose him as her carrier to aid in the Battle of Reach.
Why theyre the best: Trust and loyalty are fundamental elements of any good relationship, and these two are balls-deep in trust and loyalty. No matter what, Master Chief and his holographic artificial-intelligence girlfriend stick by each other. Even when the Gravemind had Cortana under its control, and she lured Chief into a Flood trap, he followed her. If fighting hordes of zombie-like horrors while your woman is losing her mind and constantly nagging at you throughout a level that looks like an anus isnt love, then we dont know what love is.
An all-out space war is no match for this Bonnie-and-Clyde duo, either. Even during the most intense situations, Master Chief and Cortana still find time to flirt, whether theyre actively bombing the Covenant in Halo: Combat Evolved (Unfortunately for us both, she says, I like crazy.) or just joking, in the novels, about which of them is better at blowing things up.
10. Tidus and Yune (Final Fantasy X)
First met when: He washed up in Besaid and greeted her as she prepared for a pilgrimage.
Why theyre the best: The main Final Fantasy series always tries to shoehorn in a romantic subplot, usually with mixed results. Some, like Cecil and Rosa (FFIV), are extremely basic and clich. Others are a bit more involved, but still arent necessarily moving in a profound way (Squall and Rinoa, Zidane and Dagger). We feel that once the curtain falls on Final Fantasy X, Tidus and Yuna have grown in very measurable ways and have a connection thats more than rescuer/rescued, and strong enough to stand even the staunchest scrutiny.
Yes, Tidus begins as a whiny brat. Yes, Yuna is a soft-spoken, duty-bound woman forced to marry someone for political gain. But its the journey that makes them a standout and star-crossed couple, far more endearing than the forced Squall/Rinoa relationship or the high school-caliber drama of Final Fantasy VII. But, in a remarkably effective plot twist, it turns out that Tidus isnt exactly real, and fulfilling their mission could mean the end of his existence. They follow through for the greater good, and then an entire game (Final Fantasy X-2) is devoted to Yunas heartbroken search for her lost love.
Like we said earlier, plenty of Final Fantasies suggest romantic involvement between characters, but its Tidus and Yuna that express these feelings in a believable manner. Weve been told X is in love with Y, and that A has feelings for B, but with these two, we dont have to infer we can just tell.
11. Diddy and Dixie Kong (Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest)
First met when: They teamed up to rescue Donkey Kong after he was kidnapped by Kaptain K Rool.
Why theyre the best: Unlike so many other unbalanced videogame relationships (hero/sidekick, rescuer/rescuee) Diddy and Dixie have a truly equal partnership. Sure, he can run a little bit faster, but she can totally jump farther. Diddy has his cartwheel attack, and Dixie has her helicopter twirl attack. And together, they proved that Donkey Kong Country 2 didnt even need its title hero to be a solid follow-up to the original and beloved DKC. When K Rool demands the whole Kong banana hoard as ransom for Donkey Kongs safe return, Diddy and Dixie tell him to screw himself (basically) and chase him back to Crocodile Isle, where, eight worlds and 40-something levels later, they defeat K Rool and rescue Donkey.
Most couples would stop there, satisfied that theyve thwarted the bad guy and saved the day without sacrificing a single banana. But for this power duo, that was just the bare minimum Diddy and Dixie didnt pack it in until they blew Crocodile Isle off the face of the planet, along with every poor soul on it, in one of the most superior explosions ever framed by a 16-bit sunset:
Sure, there may be some speculation that theyre related because their last names are the same, but apparently Diddy is completely unrelated to Donkey Kong, who is Dixies cousin. Anyone who says otherwise is just jealous of their perfect love.
12. Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher (Uncharted series)
First met when: She decided to film his search for buried treasure.
Why theyre the best: Despite some of the very outlandish places the Uncharted series has ended up, the whole thing has stayed grounded in reality, thanks to the natural performances by Nolan North (Nathan Drake) and Emily Rose (Elena Fisher). From the combined efforts of the gifted actors who both read the lines and participate in the motion capturing along with two stellar scripts, one of gamings most realistic, sympathetic couples has emerged.
Theres a real chemistry between the two thats there in the first scene of the first game, and it only grows with time. By Uncharteds end, they seem to have made a real connection. Though Nathan does end up saving Elena occasionally, shes still able to hold her own in shootouts and grueling climbing sequences, making them closer to equals. As they hurl witticisms at one another and get to know each other over the course of one long day, she, the committed journalist, comes to respect and even love Drake, the roguish treasure hunter with a heart of gold.
Warning, Uncharted 2 spoilers ahead! When Drakes new love interest, Chloe, was first introduced and Elena was nowhere to be found, we were worried that the series would be like James Bond, with a new flame every game. Instead, sexpot Chloe becomes an interesting counter to Elena when she reappears about halfway through Uncharted 2. While Chloe isnt a bad person, she seems better as a friend with benefits, while the dependable Elena comes off more as someone Drake could have a future with. Several times, Elena is shown to have a little more compassion in her heart than the self-interested Chloe, plus she has better taste in guys. We werent surprised that by the end, Elena and Drake were back together, while Chloe walked away empty-handed.
13. Eddie Riggs and Ophelia (Brtal Legend)
First met when: Battling a disgusting, long-tongued worm creature.
Why theyre the best: Both of them are extremely likeable characters. Eddie, despite ones potential feelings about Jack Black, has an affable approach to everything, and works perfectly as an everyman hero: in a world of rock gods, hes just a roadie. Ophelia, meanwhile, is the hot (but also cute) goth-girl-next-door who was never out of your league, but still broodingly difficult to approach.
Their relationship follows some great ups and downs. First, Eddie is stoked about meeting her, even though she seems a bit aloof. Then, when they meet Lars, Eddie thinks he cant compete with Lars leadership and washboard abs. Then, his romance with Ophelia begins to blossom. SPOILERS: Naturally, Ophelia has a past tinged with dark mystery, and when she thinks Eddie has abandoned her, she turns evil. A huge part of the game involves battles against her and her emo minions.
This turn of events, while fairly cliche and predictable, still made us feel bad, since we really liked Ophelia. We wanted to believe she couldnt really be so evil, or that shed be brought back to the light by the end (although the latter would be less satisfactory). Luckily, we were right all along: the evil Ophelia was a doppelganger, while the real girl lay at the bottom of the Sea of Black Tears. As a final bonus, its possible to find Ophelia after the game proper ends and have one final makeout session.
14. Mario and Peach (Super Mario Bros series)
First met when: He saved her from a giant lizard-turtle
Why theyre the best: Gamings most famous couple has literally had a fairy-tale courtship. Usually only meeting when the Princess is captured by Bowser, the working-class hero Mario tirelessly braves the impossible to save the damsel in distress, knowing full well shell just end up being captured all over again down the road. During the short intervals of peace between kidnap attempts, however, a bond was obviously made.
As time went on and their adventures grew, Mario started to get more than the simple thank-you he was given at the end of the first Super Mario. A cake here, a kiss on the nose there all these (mostly) platonic thanksgivings seemed to mask a growing passion that, due to the harsh class boundaries of the Mushroom Kingdom, can never be acted on. Its tinged with tragedy, as the couple have only been able to steal brief moments together when society wasnt looking.
Still, whenever they engage in the sporting life, theyre often seen together. Whether golfing, karting, or baseballing the two are almost always on the same side. Perhaps these little dates, sometimes coupled with Luigi and Princess Daisy, help the unofficial couple deal with societys repressive mores, at least until Peach is kidnapped again and Mario can earn a few more seconds of sweet sugar.
What's your favorite matchup?
Games have given us plenty of other couplings to appraise for realism, heart-melting potential and general soppiness... so let's hear a few of your favorites. Or, if you're a Valentines' Grinch, maybe you'd prefer to read about The 5 worst Final Fantasy couples or maybe a few examples of Videogame hearts you can KILL.