I believe it was the great American poet J. Geils who once said: "You love her / And she loves him / And he loves somebody else / You just can't win." Yep, ever since humans have figured out what to do with their dangly bits, they've been hooking up and breaking hearts. And because humans make video games, those characters tend to go through a lot of the same shit.
Sometimes these love triangles work themselves out amicably, with two people pairing off while the third wheel's finally able to move on. Other times, well let's just say things get a bit awkward. These are some of the most ridiculous love triangles found in video games. Hopefully everyone involved can get through this with a little dignity intact.
Silk Fox / Dawn Star / Male player character (Jade Empire)
In most games with some sort of romance option, you have to make a hard choice eventually. Sure, you can play both sides of a love triangle, hitting on whomever will accept your advances - but at some point, you have to choose (yes, I realize how creepy all of this sounds). But what if you could have both?
Jade Empire lets you fulfill your swinger fantasies by giving you the option to bed not one woman, but two at the same time. In typical BioWare fashion, you can attempt to woo the plucky Dawn Star or the regal Silk Fox. Eventually, they figure out your devious game, and confront you on it, requesting that you decide between the two. If your charm skill is high enough, you can say both and they actually agree to it Cue the romantic music and fade to black. Jade Empire is an otherwise fantastic game, but this officially goes down as the creepiest BioWare romance ever written.
Mario / Pauline / Peach (Donkey Kong)
When you're a kid, you don't think too much on these sorts of things. "Oh, Donkey Kong stole Pauline. Better go rescue her. Oh, Bowser took the Princess. Time to drop everything and stomp some Goombas." It's not until you put a few years on, get some life experience, and come back with a fresh set of eyes when you realize: holy shit, Mario got around.
According to official Mario lore (goddammit), Pauline and Mario were an item back during the Donkey Kong arcade days, but then the portly plumber unceremoniously dumped her for Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. Despite this, Mario and Pauline both continue to have a working relationship, as she helps Mario run his theme park in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. Meanwhile, Mario continues to hang out with and rescue Peach, who is seemingly none the wiser. Clearly, Mario, in addition to his job as plumber, is also a certified lothario.
Vincent / Katherine / Catherine (Catherine)
Vincent needs to sort his life out - fast. His girlfriend, Katherine (that's with a 'K') has the fancy important job and all of the success that comes with it - and it's seriously looking like she can do way better than support this piece of driftwood. Still, she loves the big doofus, and wants to spend her life with him. This is a scary proposition for Vincent.
Then, along comes Catherine (with a 'C'), whose carefree demeanor and, erm, manner of dress is a complete 180 from the rigid and organized Katherine. Oh, and she might just be a figment of his imagination, if his dreams are telling him the truth. It'll take a lot of block-pushing and tower-climbing for him to figure out what he really wants out of life - and hopefully not die in the process.
Holy crap, this game has a ton (Final Fantasy 7)
When I was doing research for this article, I was only planning on putting Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris on this list. But the more I read, and the more I reach back into my memory, the more I realize - wow, Final Fantasy's 3D debut has a gazillion different love triangles. How many? Well, let's take a look.
*deep breath* OK, so there's the obvious one between Cloud, Tifa, and Aeris that conveniently resolves itself when Aeris gets her, erm, body piercing. You've got Cloud, Zack, and Aeris, thanks to the whole 'Mako poisoning causes memory confusion' plot point. There's that whole weird thing between Vincent, Lucrecia, and Hojo (Lucrecia and Hojo gave birth to Sephiroth; Vincent loved Lucrecia; Hojo shot him; Vincent is now a vampire). And to round out this amorous polygon, you've got two members of the Turks, Tseng and Rude, who have a thing for Aeris and Tifa (respectively). But none of it matters, 'cause a meteor's gonna crash into The Planet anyway.
Shepard / Tali / Garrus (Mass Effect 3)
BioWare sure does love its love triangles, but this one transcends several species. While there are numerous opportunities to make a love triangle in Mass Effect, the triangle that forms between Commander Shepard, Garrus, and Tali seems the most awkward. Why? Well, if you don't take the time to romance either of them, Tali and Garrus end up hooking up instead. And everyone is just so adorably embarrassed about the whole thing.
This happens regardless of whether you're playing as either gender of Shepard. If you're a man, you can romantically hook up with Tali, and if you're a woman, Tali awkwardly suggests sharing suits as a sign of trust. While it's not exactly a 'romantic' option like you get with other characters, in the Citadel DLC, Tali drunkenly fantasizes about a threesome between her, Garrus, and your character - so clearly, there's some sexual tension here.
Billy / Jimmy / Marian (Double Dragon)
Oh no! Your girlfriend's been kidnapped by a gang of thugs! What do you do? Well, if you're playing Double Dragon, you grab your brother, fight through wave after seemingly never-ending wave of punks to rescue her. Then, once you finally make it to the end, you duel to the death to see who wins her favor. Too bad no one asked her if she even wanted either of these chumps.
It's made even worse in the NES version, thanks to the technical limitations of the system. Developer Technos omitted the arcade version's two-player mode, instead placing Billy's brother Jimmy as the final boss of the game. It'd be an impressive twist if it all didn't seem so sad. Why don't these two knuckleheads just talk it out? Why doesn't Marian have a say? I'm surprised she doesn't just dump these bozos, because this sibling rivalry has gotten way out of hand.
Everyone in Pleasantview (The Sims 2)
Since most of the bizarre happenings in The Sims are of your own making, this might seem a little unfair - but hear me out. In The Sims 2, there's a pre-made neighborhood set up by the developers called Pleasantview. And wow, it makes soap opera relationships seem downright traditional.
Mary-Sue Pleasant is married to Daniel Pleasant, but he has a little side thing going on with the maid, Kaylynn Langerak. She's also fooling around with Don Lothario, who's been woo-hooing anything in town that has a pulse. One of those people happens to be Bella Goth, who may or may not have been abducted by aliens. Check out this pic (opens in new tab) courtesy of the SimsWiki, in case you get (understandably) confused. You'll probably need it if you want to try to figure out this tangled web of seduction.
Nera / Bianca / The Hero (Dragon Quest 5: Hand of the Heavenly Bride)
For a game with the subtitle 'Hand of the Heavenly Bride', you best believe that there's some sort of wedding involved. Heck, you play as the Prince of the Kingdom of Gotha - who, through a series of unfortunate events, ends up enslaved and forced to build a massive temple. He eventually escapes and attempts to reclaim his birthright, but a king needs a queen, and you get to pick who it is.
You have a few choices. Do you marry Bianca, the girl who's loved you since you were young? Or do you go with Nera, the incredibly shy daughter of a rich family that you've only known for a few days, who apparently already has an interested suitor? Oh, and if you pick Nera, Bianca ends up working for the worst barkeep ever. The DS remake even includes a third option, who basically treats you like shit from the moment you meet her. No pressure - it's only till death do you part.
Your whole damn squad (Fire Emblem: Awakening)
How do you make Fire Emblem: Awakening feel like a grander tale than ever before? You make it span generations, watching as your heroes get together and make babies of their own. How do you make babies? Uh well, go ask your parents for the full details, but in Fire Emblem: Awakening, relationships are built on the battlefield. Place Prince Chrom next to one of a few potential mates (including your player-created Avatar, if she's a woman), and watch the sparks fly between your soldiers like the blood squirting from your enemies. Before you know it, Chrom will have found himself the perfect queen.
But it's not just Chrom. You can pair-up and marry off just about anyone in your squad, building up each relationship as they battle together. It's a wonder that your whole crew hasn't killed each other off in a massive fit of jealousy. What's even more surprising is that they've gotten anything done at all, considering all the flirting going on.
I didn't realize love was so complicated...
When three people get involved in a two-person relationship, someone is bound to get hurt. Hopefully, these examples have taught you a valuable lesson on how messy and fragile love can really be. Just don't try to make Jade Empire a reality. That basically never happens.
Looking for more? Check out the top 7 ways games lie about love (opens in new tab), or the 8 wrongest romances in video games (opens in new tab).