From the cheesiest of pick-up lines spoken by NPCs to the most heart-breaking moments of loss and sacrifice, and from idyllic rustic family life to quirky roller-coaster hot or cold dynamic trysts – love affairs are frequently pivotal plot points, but they also bring a vital depth to games which increases our investment in the story.
More often than not, you will walk away remembering a particular heart-wrenching or relatable, silly or complicated relationship in more detail than any particular mission or battle. So, if you’re looking for some interactive love connection this V-day, look no further.
Be warned, though – many of the best love affairs are far from happy love stories. Some of the best narratives are those that are complex, featuring dynamic characters, multifaceted personalities, emotional baggage and various other obstacles which, in turn, make them more real to us.
So, whether you’re happily taken, happily single, actively looking, or none of the above, why not live vicariously for an evening through a well-written love story?
Uncharted – Drake and Elena
Let’s start the list off with an upbeat couple, shall we. Drake and Elena are arguably the most well-rendered couple Naughty Dog has ever created, not least because they are not your traditional rescue-type duo.
Sure, they both rely on the other in their adventures occasionally, but most of the time they are depicted individually, each with their own ambitions, fears and obstacles, and they shine individually, as singular characters.
It’s a small wonder, therefore, that when we do see them together, like in A Thief’s End, for example, their individuality collides into an irresistible story of wit and banter, iconic one-liners and amazing energy.
They are also a textbook example of perfectly-balanced, unconditional affection without the loss of self in a partner. They have, what I would call, the exemplary healthy relationship.
Shadow of the Colossus – Wander and Mono
It’s a beautiful and heavy story, one to rival the Greek tragedies. A lonesome warrior, Wander, attempts to resurrect the woman he loves by making a pact with the devil, agreeing to kill several colossi as payment.
Things quickly go south, though, in terms of both Wander and the resurrection, but the touching affection between the lovers which runs through every tough decision and every hopeless sacrifice makes for a compelling journey, one which would be rendered quite hollow if this relationship was taken out of it.
Alan Wake – Alice and Alan
I love a well-depicted, three-dimensional family, and this is certainly one of those. Although the bond between the spouses is clearly stable and strong, they are shown struggling with some pretty potent stuff.
Alan’s self-centredness, his obsession with drug abuse, his insomnia and short temper, all render him a complex and brilliant character, and one difficult to love. His remorse and self-loathing, however, paired with his wife’s patience, kindness and perseverance to never give up on him create a formidable union, a more hopeful and honest couple than many real-life ones out there.
To The Moon – Johnny and River
Grab a tissue, To The Moon is an indie masterpiece whose story is perhaps one of the most moving and best-told love narratives out there. Johnny Wyles is fixated on the idea of going to the moon before he dies, and engages a corporation which has the technology to implant a memory of him doing so in his mind.
As the story unfolds via his brain’s mismatched memories, jumping through space and time, his love story with his childhood sweetheart and later wife likewise unfolds in a series of scenes and moments which define their relationship, and explain Johnny’s adamant wish to go to the moon.
River, who passed away a few years earlier, is depicted exclusively through Johnny’s memories, and their interaction builds an enigmatic and fascinating universe, which will not leave anyone feeling apathetic.
Witcher 3 – Geralt and Yennefer/ Geralt and Triss
I will never stop recommending this game, and its romantic relationships are yet another aspect of it which I shamelessly endorse. In this massive open-world RPG, you embody the renowned Geralt, a witcher, as he attempts to locate Ciri, his charge, before she is found by the undead hordes.
Along the way, Geralt must engage the help of several sorceresses from his past: he’s tracking the signature lilac and gooseberry scent of his former flame Yennefer, with whom he has a long-winding and tumultuous history, while meeting the warm and affectionate Triss (a past mellow fling) along the way.
Through a series of decisions and mission approaches (which DO in fact affect Geralt’s ultimate fate) he must decide between the two sorceresses, or decide to remain alone.
As with everything else in this game, the relationships between Geralt and his love interests are nuanced and unique, with each interaction carrying weight and suspense, without an abundance of lore or forced affections, but with just enough intrigue and flirtation.