The Top 7… disastrous game romances

5. Isaac Clarke and Nicole Brennan

Definitely not living happily ever after in: Dead Space 1 and 2

If there’s one lesson to be gleaned from EA’s survival horror games – aside from if aliens ever invade Earth, it’s to harvest our spleens, not make peace – it’s that hallucinations ain’t fun. During the course of Isaac’s adventures on the Necromorph-plagued Ishimura, the suspiciously badass engineer is spurred on by the thought of a reunion with his girlfriend. Popping up at several points during the hellish nightmare, she provides Clarke with aid that helps save his skin… and several vital organs.

It’s not until the end of Dead Space we find out the grizzly truth: she doesn’t exist.

Alright, that’s not quite true. While developer Visceral Games pulls a partial Fight Club on the player, Nicole at least used to be Isaac’s other half. Well, before she took her own life when faced with the prospect of turning into a Necromorph, that is. Instead of being aided by his girlfriend, Isaac was instead actually being manipulated by an alien artefact called the Marker, which created the visions of Nicole.

Above: And they would have made such a handsome married couple, too

Why their love is doomed from the start: Because she’s deader than fried chicken.

Unbeknownst to those who enjoy necrophilia, functioning romantic entanglements actually need two living people to work. As much as Isaac might like to retire to a cosy space colony with white picket fences and live the rest of his days with the girl inside his head, he’d have a better chance at a fulfilling relationship with one of those peek-a-boo Necromorph bastards.

Above: Seriously, one of those peek-a-boo bastards

In the original, he could at least take solace in the fact his visions of Nicole weren’t going to make his head implode. Sadly, that’s not something that can be guaranteed in the sequel, when a monstrous dementia takes over him, causing Isaac to confront an increasingly homicidal apparition of his dead missus. Never mind, though, eh? At least he’ll always have the emotionally-crippling, mentally-scarring memories.

4. Dom and Maria Santiago

Definitely not living happily ever after in: Gears of War 2

For a series that’s seemingly more interested in rendering virtual veins on ridiculously ‘roided up forearms than luuvvvvv, Gears of War has a number of surprisingly touching back stories. None more so than Dom’s tale of love, loss and 10,000 grieving press ups. Marrying his childhood sweetheart Maria shortly after having their first child at the tender age of 16, the Santiagos led a happy, fulfilling life. As every Tom, Dick and Carmine knows, though, happiness and contentment in games is boring like watching emotionally available paint dry. So of course, everything promptly goes to the shitZOR.

When the pesky and really shooty Locust finally announced themselves, as they rose from their subterranean hell holes on Emergence Day, Dom’s family paid a heavy price. Not only did both Maria’s parents die, but the couple also lost both their children in the ensuing tragedy. Man, and here we were thinking Gears’ only emotional layer was shouting about giant worms sinking cities in the gruffest tone imaginable.

Anyway, the loss of their children drove Maria quite mad, and more than a bit manic depressive. She became so gripped by loss and grief she eventually left Dom, disappearing four years after Emergence Day. Sadly, when Dom is finally reunited with her years later, Maria has already received the worst sort of makeover, after being captured and worked to breaking point by the Locust.

Above: As we said, not the most fetching makeover. Why does this sort of shit never happen on Oprah?

Why their love is doomed from the start: Because underground-dwelling aliens are dicks.

Upon discovering the whereabouts of his wife, Dom infiltrates the concentration camp where Maria is imprisoned. So deliriously happy at finally seeing his other half after years of searching, he becomes delusional. So much so, he sees his wife in a healthy state, even though the reality is more akin to a cross between Eva Mendes and one of Zelda’s hugging zombie a-holes. With her mind hopelessly lost, our burly COG hero decides to put Maria out of her misery.


Credit to Gears 2 for providing such a tender, devastating moment among all the shouts of “BRING IT!” and “I’M THE COLE TRAIN, BITCH!” While the game might still be fully tweaked to ‘Jock Mode’, Epic at least provides one instance of real emotional depth. It’s just a shame love can’t seem to survive in the face of one party being driven insane. In the business they call show, we believe it’s referred to as Old Yeller syndrome…

Above: See you in Hell, old friend

David Meikleham
Google AMP Stories Editor

David has worked for Future under many guises, including for GamesRadar+ and the Official Xbox Magazine. He is currently the Google Stories Editor for GamesRadar and PC Gamer, which sees him making daily video Stories content for both websites. David also regularly writes features, guides, and reviews for both brands too.