Get outta my dreams
Video games have grown from clusters of pixels on a black screen to cinematic adventures with lifelike characters voiced by all-star actors. And sometimes, these characters are so well-developed that we find ourselves emotionally drawn to them. In movies, the experience is over so quickly this doesn't have a chance to go any further, but in games, we have upwards of 100 hours with someone, and after all that time... well... emotions are silly things.
What can we say? The heart wants what the heart wants, and here are fourteen characters that still reside within our chest cavities. Er, hearts. Yeah, definitely sounds more romantic when you say 'heart'.
Big Bo (Binary Domain)
No one is more deserving of the phrase "I love you, man" than Roy "Big Bo" Boateng. The Rust Crew's machine-gun-toting, catchphrase-spewing heavy weapons expert is almost too much to handle and, in any other game, Big Bo probably would just be obnoxious. But he's such a great foil to Binary Domain's transhumanist melodrama, hooting and hollering about sweet headshots as the rest of your group grimly considers global politics.
French robo-commando Cain may be more charming and well-spoken, but Big Bo is your buddy through thick and thin. And Binary Domain's voice command system makes it such a bizarre joy to interact with his big, effusive personality. Rather than picking options out of a menu, you spend the campaign shouting stuff like "Big Bo! Cover me!" and "Big Bo! Nice work!", and listening to him bellow back solid gold like "THAT WAS SAH-WEET!" If you haven't fallen in love with Big Bo by the end of the game, you must not have a shred of joy in your heart.
Rose of Sharon Cassidy (Fallout: New Vegas)
By the time you meet Rose of Sharon Cassidy (just call her Cass), she's already lived a long, hard life. Not that anybody's life is particularly easy in the Mojave Wasteland, but hers has been particularly rough - rougher still when she hears her caravan's been burnt to the ground and decides she has nothing better to do than go traveling with you.
But even with all that taken away from her, she's still held onto two things: a dark sense of humor and a killer moonshine recipe. And those are two very good things to have in a post-apocalyptic companion. If you traveled with her father, Cassidy, in Fallout 2, you'll definitely see the resemblance - and your love for her may be more of 'daughter-I-never-had' kind than romantic. Either way, it's tough to travel with this rough-and-tumble desert flower for too long without getting sweet on her.
Sully (Uncharted series)
Not the heart-stealing thief you were expecting? Yes, Nathan Drake is a lovable rogue, but his mentor Sully has him beat in two very important areas: style and confidence. Alright, alright, three very important areas: style, confidence, and facial hair. Sully just oozes 20th century pulp-hero panache (seriously, he probably slicks back his hair with the stuff), chomping on a cigar and hopping behind the stick of his bombshell-bedecked propeller plane. It also doesn't hurt that he's the spitting image of a latter-day Errol Flynn.
But awesome adventurer traits aside, the fact that he managed to shape Nathan Drake from a roguish little pickpocket to a good-hearted treasure hunter - and that he's always willing to come back out of retirement to help him out - says it all. One of these days those endless calls to adventure might be the end of him (Uncharted 4 is subtitled A Thief's End, after all) but until then, we'll cherish every minute.
Roll Caskett (Mega Man Legends series)
Throughout Mega Man Legends 1 and 2, Roll is the rock of the Caskett clan. She keeps Mega Man outfitted with gear and up-to-the-minute intel when he's on a mission, looks after her retired adventurer grandpa Barrel, and deals admirably with robo-monkey Data's endless hijinks. Any one of those tasks would be a full-time job by itself, but still she somehow keeps it all together. It'd be tough enough not to fall for the girl who builds you awesome new weapons with a smile, but add to that how conflicted she seems about putting you in harm's way, and resistance is futile.
Roll's so lovable that it almost sucks to see her falling for Mega Man. After all, this is the guy who 'accidentally' walks in on her changing clothes, then while she's in the bath, and pumps his arm victoriously after both occasions. That's not OK, Mega Man - you'd better treat the girl who's willing to work with her arch nemesis to build dozens of rockets so she can retrieve you from the moon right.
Celes Chere (Final Fantasy 6)
In any Final Fantasy game less-packed with memorable characters (let's be real, here, any other Final Fantasy) Celes Chere would clearly be the main character. Why? She kicks ass with all the strength and smarts of an imperial super-soldier. But regrets from her years of unflinching service to an increasingly evil Empire keep her aloof, even as the rest of the game's many heroes begin to relax and develop new relationships. She's like Squall and Cloud put together, minus most of the whinging.
Suffice it to say, Locke isn't the only one who's quickly infatuated with her. There's just something about Celes' confidence that makes her immediately appealing, and something about her vulnerability that keeps her in your heart. You even get to know her softer side with intimate moments like practicing for the opera and caring for her old friend Cid. No joke, Celes had us fawning like starry-eyed recruits.
Vamp (Metal Gear Solid series)
Vamp is kind of an asshole, but he's also pretty sexy in that hangs-out-at-goth-clubs kind of way. There's something about a guy with long, dark hair, fangs, and a Romanian accent - the fact that he can predict your movements just by watching your muscles tense and relax is the maraschino cherry on top. Speaking of thick red liquids, he also drinks blood, which is admittedly kind of a turn off or turn-on, depending on where you're coming from in life. Not judging.
Unique talents aside, you have to appreciate Vamp for making Raiden a more interesting character purely by osmosis. And his story is actually pretty tragic - he's the literal embodiment of Metal Gear's "cycle of death on behalf of nations and ideals" theme. Metal Gear's given tragic deaths to many adversaries, but Vamp's plucked at our heartstrings more than most. When he finally croaks for good in Metal Gear Solid 4, it's more "goodnight, sweet prince," than "and stay dead, you son of a bitch".
Chrom (Fire Emblem: Awakening)
You can't spit without hitting a brash, adventurous prince in the canon of fantasy RPGs, but it's less often that you get to watch them grow into strong and noble kings. In a game that's all about staying loyal to your friends and your ideals, Chrom is dealt the harshest blows of any, eventually casting aside his youthful commitment to peace and preparing his nation to fight for the greater good.
Of course, it helps that female player Avatars can marry him and have kick-ass future babies. But even if you decide to have your kick-ass future babies with someone else, the bond that Chrom shares with his rag-tag crew of adventurers is truly something special - in particular his total trust and support of your Avatar. It's enough to send your heart all a-flutter when he compliments your choice of tactics.
John Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
John Marston's a unique guy. Though at first he appears to be a typical gunslinger, he eventually grows into a fully fleshed-out protagonist with morals and scruples we sympathize with. He's not riding around the wilderness skinning rabbits and murdering people because he wants to - he's riding around the wilderness skinning rabbits and murdering people because he has to. For his family.
Yes, Marston is a family man, and that's the reason we ended up falling for him. He's a kind soul who will do anything and everything to look out for his family. He's the kind of guy you take home to your family; the kind of guy who your father would love to go hunting with. He's just a hell of a guy. Plus, you know, he's ruggedly sexy. Gotta love a guy with some wicked scars.
Our love for Yorda was less like a relationship and more like a sibling thing. These emotions didn't form right away, however. For the first hour or so she was an inconvenience and nothing more. She managed to be annoying despite being mute, which is a feat in and of itself, and her helplessness was nothing if not infuriating.
It wasn't until Yorda was put into danger that we realized how attached to her we were. She was like a little brother or sister we had to protect, and even though our on-screen character was technically younger, we still felt like the bigger sibling. We worried for her not just because her capture was the failure state, but because of an honest-to-goodness attachment.
Elena Fisher (Uncharted series)
Like you're surprised to see another Uncharted character on this list. Elena Fisher has been Nathan Drake's on-again-off-again partner throughout all three Uncharted games, though we think our actual feelings for Elena started showing up in the second one. In the first, she was a cute side-character, but she didn't have a ton of time to develop. When she showed up in the second game, however, we realized how much we had missed her, and it certainly wasn't because of her marksmanship.
A lot of credit is owed to Emily Rose, the voice actress for Elena. Her talented vocals have helped Elena rise from annoying reporter to full-blown crush, the kind we'd slip lovey-dovey notes to in junior high. Heck, we doubt we'd even have the guts to approach her ourselves; we'd likely need to give a note to a friend of ours to give to a friend of hers to give to her.
Your neighbor in The Sims (The Sims)
It started off plainly enough: our neighbor came over for a housewarming party once we moved in, and we told them a few jokes. But then they came over again and the jokes became flirts. And then the flirts became more flirts. And then they slapped us, but then the jokes became more flirts. Cut to a few months later and we were married, pumping out kids like no one's business.
Such is life in The Sims, but as strange and insane as it might sound, we've found it hard not to grow emotionally attached to the characters we end up WooHooing with. Sure, they're digital, soulless, and speak in gibberish, but we're playing as avatars of ourselves, living vicariously through digital characters. We're living the lives we want to live, going through the daily motions as we would in real life but in fast-forward, seeing our past, present, and future, all as we wish it was. And then there's the one, the one we fell in love with, living alongside us. Playing The Sims is like having a lucid dream, and good luck not falling in love with your dream.
Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2)
There wasn't really any semblance of romance in the original Half-Life. Gordon was essentially alone in the Black Mesa Research Facility. Well, technically it was him, a few workers, and a bunch of aliens, but there was no one to have an emotional attachment to. And then Alyx came strutting into our lives in Half-Life 2 like it was no big deal, and absolutely ruined our hearts.
Since Gordon Freeman is a silent, invisible protagonist, he's really nothing more than an extension of the player, making Alyx's coy smiles, shy laughter and touching words all the more powerful. You can fawn over SoulCalibur's curvacious ladies all you want - the feeling we got when Alyx put her hand on the window as the elevator went down makes Ivy's cleavage (and even her neathage) fade into the background.
Malon (The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time)
Zelda's cute and all, but she's sort of an arranged marriage for Link - the wife the Hero of Time is destined to have and all that. And then there's Malon, the adorable, unassuming, red-headed farm girl who spends her nights singing outside of Hyrule Castle. When you first meet her she's a cute little girl, but when the game flies forward by 10 years, she's instantly turned into a teenager that (as teenagers ourselves at the time) we were head-over-heels for.
Malon is sort of the forbidden fruit of the Zelda series. There's no way Nintendo would ever include an overtly romantic sub-plot of any kind in one of its games, so most encounters even with Zelda are kept to an uncomfortable hug. That means that Malon, who's even further away from being a romantic interest, is even further away from our grasp. Beyond being helpful, kind, and awesome, she's also just out of reach, which makes her all the more alluring.
Garrus Vakarian (Mass Effect series)
What is there to say about Garrus that hasn't been scrawled onto the back cover of a teenage girl's Trapper Keeper? The guy's a heartthrob, plain and simple. There's just something about him that makes women weak in the knees, and the mere utterance of his name brings panties flying in from every direction. His calm, soothing voice, his charming personality, his... sort of creepy, bug/kitty appearance... It's hard to figure out exactly what makes Garrus so damn appealing, but whatever "it" is, he has it.
As a squadmate in all three Mass Effect games, Garrus proves to be 100 percent loyal. He never questions Shepard's motives. He never flips out and throws a tantrum if he doesn't get his way. Even if you intentionally screw up his revenge plan, he walks away, totally cool about the situation. We're like, "Sorry we ruined your revenge," and he's all like "Whatever, you were right. Thanks for not letting me kill that guy. Let's go clubbing!" And then he's the designated driver, because he's THAT AWESOME.
Keep on lovin' you
Ah, we feel all flushed just thinking about all those lovable so-and-sos. But sure enough, we haven't highlighted all the deserving candidates out there. Make sure you let us know who we missed in the comments below!