Ah, love in video games. Remember when it was so cool and giggle-provoking that Final Fantasy 7 let you take whichever lady party member (or Barrett) you favored most on a date to the Golden Saucer? Back then, the idea of building a romance in a video game was mostly limited to creepy adult adventures/untranslated dating sims. Not so any more.
Thanks in large part to BioWare's brave experiments in high-stakes fantasy smooching, the modern game consumer expects a host of dating options in anything that can muster up a dialogue tree. This critical eye for digital matchmaking reveals a disturbing trend: there are so many good player companions that, for whatever reason, you just can't date. In the following slides you'll find some of the most egregious examples of sadly un-romanceable characters, from the fan favorites to the obscure. Fortunately for you, taking this relationship to the next level only requires the push of a button (instead of, like, three buttons spread out over the course of a campaign).
7. Lance Vance (Grand Theft Auto: Vice City)
Just imagine how things would have been different if these two former crime partners dealt in affection instead of cocaine. Sure, they have their problems - Tommy Vercetti's a control freak who is more comfortable building a criminal empire than talking about his feelings, and Lance Vance is a self-hating coke addict who guards himself from the outside world (most of whom, admittedly, just laugh about his name) with a paper-thin veneer of narcissism.
But who doesn't have issues? Instead of doing endless quests to expand the influence of Tommy's various businesses, why not make enough money so you can check Lance into rehab? After he's cleaned up, why not take him out to Club Malibu to show him you can have a good time without getting into the stuff? Once Tommy and Lance have found happiness in one another, rather than in money and high-powered firearms, then they can take over the city. They're still heinous criminals, after all, but at least they have each other.
6. Dr. Chakwas (Mass Effect)
Ok, a disclaimer up front: my Shepard's relationship with Dr. Chakwas was one of my favorite unifying elements of the Mass Effect trilogy, and I don't think I'd change a single thing about it. That said, in another playthrough with another Shepard, would I share more than just a bottle of Serrice ice brandy with her? Definitely. But no dice - the closest the Commander can get to a fling with the wise and witty medicine woman is a cherished friendship. Psssh.
This is a BioWare game. If I can't make out with a character just before the climactic final mission, can I even be certain it exists? They'll let you do it with an extraterrestrial that could die from taking off her helmet, yet Dr. Chakwas is left all alone in her little sick bay night after night? I'm beginning to detect some latent ageism at work here and I am not at all happy about it.
5. Joker (Mass Effect)
You get Seth Green to do a voice role in your game and then you don't let players date him? That's ok, that's actually pretty understandable. At first blush, going out with a hollow-boned Scott Evil doesn't sound very appealing - particularly when you could instead be dating a sexy space Australian, or a blue empath with a button nose, or a humanoid reptile dying of a romantic disease. Despite the relatively scant screentime that Joker manages to snag across the Mass Effect trilogy (usually while peering back from the helm of the Normandy), his endless jokes and dauntless loyalty still managed to steal hearts.
I'm just saying, BioWare would have been much better served making Joker romanceable than Kaidan (yuck). Yet the only time it saw fit to acknowledge the potential pairing was a throwaway line of dialogue in the third game, at which point he already has his sights set on EDI's new metallic form. Damn you, Joker! Her robotic arms may hold you tighter, but ours are far less likely to crush your ribcage!
4. Jill Valentine/Chris Redfield (Resident Evil)
Can the 'master of unlocking' pick her way into Chris Redfield's heart? Can the pointman for S.T.A.R.S. Alpha Team show he's more than a beefcake cop with a burning need to prove himself? I'd like to know, but for whatever reason Capcom left a romance subplot out of the original Resident Evil and the director's cut. Talk about an oversight! What an ideal change of pace it would have been to leave a little love note in a typewriter, or a touching little herb arrangement in a safe room, or to rearrange a bunch of puzzle panels into a heart shape.
That's all I'm really asking for, here - they don't need to convert Resident Evil into a full-scale dating sim. Whatever it is, it can't be worse than spending a decade-and-change denying the pair's chemistry as they go from police partners to the co-founders of the Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance. Maybe the relationship doesn't work out after the adrenaline-pumping thrill of escaping the Spencer Estate wears off? That's completely fine - at least they gave it a shot.
3. Toadette (Mario franchise)
Mario and Peach have been doing this whole I rescue you, you bake me a cake, I rescue you, you give me a kiss on the cheek thing for almost 30 years. Clearly the kidnapper-rescuer dynamic did something for them at some point, but it's just become rote by now, and he still hasn't put a ring on it. It would be much healthier if they just broke off whatever informal courtship they maintain and see other people.
Peach will have her choice of royal suitors, but who should Mario try to connect with? Someone who doesn't carry around all that royal baggage. Someone who cares about his well-being enough to guide him through tutorial after tutorial. Someone who was happy for him when he and Peach were doing well, even though she cried at the thought of not seeing him. Someone whose bouncy pink braids could be made out of hair or fungus, depending on what Toad Caps actually are. Someone named Toadette.
2. Elizabeth (BioShock Infinite)
This must have been one of the many concepts that got left on Irrational Games' cutting room floor, right? I mean, Elizabeth and Booker would just be so perfect together! He's the grizzled veteran who lost his wife in childbirth, she's the smart but naive young woman who is ready to find her place in the big, bright world. Remember when she asked him if there was a woman in his life? And all those coins and ammunition packs she keeps finding? Yeah, she wants the 'D'... as in 'DeWitt'. You're gross.
They complete each other so well, it's hard to believe that BioShock Infinite didn't set the two of them up. If only Irrational devoted fewer resources to endless gunfights and more to romance! Admittedly, I didn't finish the game, so maybe this entry is in error. They have to get together in the end, right? What reason could Booker and Elizabeth possibly have to not hook up?
1. Varric Tethras (Dragon Age)
Ah, Varric, he whose winning smile and flowing chest hair launched a thousand Tumblr posts. The guy has a lot going for him aside from the amber forest that sprouts from his ultra-low-cut shirt, of course. You'd be hard-pressed to find a more charming scoundrel outside of the Millenium Falcon. And despite his thin facade as a conniving spymaster, he can't help but use his underworld connections to protect his fellow adventurers.
In more grounded terms, he's clearly the best-adjusted character in the series, and once he gets too old for the adventuring game he can always retire to run the family business or write trashy novels full time. If only he hadn't pledged his heart to Bianca - the girl, not the crossbow. Or maybe the crossbow, too? Oh well. Statistically speaking, if Varric keeps showing up in Dragon Age games he'll have to date a protagonist at some point.
No love lost
You've made it to the finale! Now let me see if you've performed enough favorable actions to get the makeout ending Hmm, looks like you're still on 'warm handshake' level. Ah well. But before we part ways, make sure to note in a few of your own ideas for companions that should have been romance-able in the comments below.