Love is all around, no need to waste it
We love games, and most of the time they love us back. But games that actually tell a great love story? Those are as rare as The One. Most of what we see involves either the romance of a damsel in distress or the bromance of space marines bonding over a pile of bullet-riddled alien corpses. But occasionally a game creates such a special link between two characters that their romance lingers with us.
So to celebrate this week of love, we pulled together gamings seven most heartfelt and lovingly told narratives of coupledom. No matter how fantastical the circumstances might've been, the emotions of these characters kept things grounded, and we were always invested in seeing these kooky kids have their happily ever after (not that they always got one).
7. Yuna and Tidus (Final Fantasy X)
The Final Fantasy series has seen a number of fan favorite love stories, and entries like Final Fantasy 8 are built around a romance that stretches across time and space. But if we have to limit ourselves to one FF courtship, were going with the two teenage lovebirds of Final Fantasy 10, Yuna and Tidus. Both may fit the typical fantasy archetypes, but fall for each other in a surprisingly real way.
Yuna and Tidus spend much of the game becoming friends before taking things to the next level, which is fairly restrained storytelling for a JRPG. And when they finally do connect, its in one of the most touching scenes in franchise history. Their love feels natural even after ridiculous twists, like Tidus being imaginary and Yuna forming a girl group to search for his memory. In fact, Final Fantasy 10-2 gives this relationship some extra impact, because its incredibly rare to see a games love story from a woman's perspective.
6. Monkey and Trip (Enslaved)
Its very rare to see fantastic acting in games, let alone any truly skilled performances, but developer Ninja Theory is one of the few companies that pulls this off consistently. With some help from performance capture tech, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West's two leads, Monkey and Trip, felt particularly real. Players watched both characters grow throughout the games many engrossing cutscenes, seeing a bond form between the two that was totally believable.
Monkey starts the game as Trips unwilling slave, but only because Trip is in desperate need of someone to guide her through the robot-infested wilderness. The intense circumstances force them to be allies, but things deepen quickly. Whether Monkey is saving her life or Trip is baring her soul to him over a campfire, just looking at the characters eyes will tell you their relationship is evolving. Though we see little in the way of physical contact between the two, we can look at their faces - even in the preposterous finale - and know that these two are in love.
5. Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher (Uncharted series)
Superficially, Nathan Drake is cast in the same mold as action icons Indiana Jones and James Bond. Since he's a similarly cool, well-traveled, unflappable killing machine, we expected his love life to be comparable. So, while we enjoyed Nate's flirtatious encounters with journalist Elena Fisher in the first Uncharted, we figured that would be the end of it. And when Uncharted 2: Among Thieves began with Drake meeting his old flame Chloe Frazer, it seemed like Elena was yesterday's news.
Instead, Elena returned midway through that game, reminding Nathan (and the audience) of how good they are together. Elena is a selfless, caring individual concerned with stopping war criminals, and that inspires Drake to find those qualities in himself. By the end of the game, Nathan was far more interested in saving people - Elena included - than finding treasure. Drake ultimately becomes a better man thanks to Elena, and even though that newfound maturity can occasionally scare Drake, he always finds his way back to Elena, as is evidenced in Uncharted 4 when the pair are married.
4. John Marston and Abigail Marston (Red Dead Redemption)
Not every great love story has to be about how people fall in love. Some of the best are about the devotion that keeps that relationship strong long after the honeymoon. Take John and Abigail Marston. Those two fell in love years before Red Dead Redemption begins, but they're still devoted to each other after ditching a life of crime for farm work.
John Marston spends most of Red Dead Redemption hunting his former partners in crime so he can free his wife and son from the feds. John is impressively faithful throughout his quest - RDR proves fidelity is incredibly rare on the range - and once he's reunited with his family, he resumes his honest work on the ranch. Running the homestead with his wife isn't perfect, and is even a little boring, but thats married life for you. And no matter how tough the chores were, at the end of each day you could see that Abigail and John were happy with their new, modest lives. If only things could have stayed that peaceful forever.
3. Wander and Mono (Shadow of the Colossus)
Sometimes love will make you do crazy things. Love can even transform you into someone else, if you're as reckless a person as Wander. Wander enters a forbidden land, makes a pact with a fairly untrustworthy and formless voice, and proceeds to kill 16 towering beasts all to resurrect his love, Mono. But is that worth the price?
Spoiler warning: Maybe not. Each murdered creature brings him closer to his goal, but Wander is slowly changing, a fact he seems to be unaware of. Once he has slain his last colossi, Mono is successfully revived, but Wanders deeds are rewarded with a painful death and demonic possession. With his renewed love so tantalizingly close, he gets pulled away into an empty well of nothingness, never to return. Look, we didn't say every love story on this list would be happy, but Shadow of the Colossus is remarkable nonetheless.
2. Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley (Monkey Island series)
Not all affairs of the heart have to be as dark and serious as Shadow of the Colossus. Some can be memorable and heartfelt while still being genuinely funny, a feat the Monkey Island series pulls off well. Guybrush and Elena's relationship might not make much sense from the outside, what with her being a governor turned badass leader of pirates and Guybrush being essentially a pirate fanboy. But over the course of multiple games, you see them forge a connection thats stronger than any ghost pirates or zombie curse.
The differences that should keep them apart only make them a better romantic comedy duo, and they somehow always find a way to make their disparities work for them. Its worth noting that their love story was at least partially conceived by Tim Schafer, so we aren't surprised that we became so invested in these two. His later games, like Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, forged similarly engaging relationships for the protagonists, though those love stories couldn't burn as bright as the flame between these two pirates.
1. Johnny and River (To the Moon)
To The Moon's love story isn't an aside or sub-facet of the main story - it is the main story. When the game begins, you're introduced to Johnny, an elderly man on his deathbed with a dying wish to go to the moon. Well, to at least experience going to the moon, as you're tasked with implanting an artificial memory into his brain so he can rest in peace.
But once you start digging through his life's story, you begin to uncover his troubled relationship with his wife, River, who died a few years earlier. River has a disorder that makes their communication difficult. She creates rooms full of origami bunnies for him and he has no idea why, he writes her a song that she doesn't respond to, she asks him strange questions that he doesn't understand. The deeper you dive into Johnny's memories, the more you learn about their relationship, why they're doing the things they're doing, and why, of all things, Johnny's dying wish is to go to the moon. Oh, and you're going to cry. Oh, yes, there will be tears.