In most forms of entertainment, romance is a key part of the story. Even horror movies tend to have some sort of hidden or not so hidden romance tucked away in the film. Video games tend to escape this in many cases, as the storytelling in video games has not evolved as well as some of the other mediums. After all, it’s a pretty new way for people to tell stories, so it has not had much time to mature.
That being said, there are some examples of video games with romance done right. I am not talking about the weird relationship where Mario seems to constantly allow Princess Peach to get kidnapped so he can rescue her. No, I am talking about genuine romance that actually feels like true love blooming. Romance goes a long way towards humanizing a fictional character, and when it’s done right in a game, it can really take a character to the next level.
SPOILER ALERT: Some of these will contain spoilers, as I might have to talk about how the romances develop throughout a game, which could ruin the ending if you haven’t played it. Consider yourself warned.
Uncharted, a franchise known for its ultra-manly violence, actually has one of the best romances going with Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher. The slow development between these two feels truly genuine, and all the way through the series, it feels like something you would expect to see in a movie with a big budget.
Part of what makes the romance in Uncharted work so well is that the characters run into problems throughout the game that, even though they are taking place during a crazy unrealistic treasure hunt, feel like something that could actually happen between two lovers. Another great thing about the love between the two is that it is always there, but Naughty Dog does not throw it in your face at every turn, so it actually feels quite subtle.
Red Dead Redemption
In my most humble opinion, I think the story in this game is among the best ever told in the land of video games. The love between John Marston and Abigail Marston, the main character and his mostly off-screen wife, adds a great deal to the story. John has ample opportunity to be unfaithful to his wife, but being the genuinely good person and loving husband that he is, he ultimately passes.
At the end of Red Dead Redemption, the player even takes part in a small section featuring no action, and just John and his wife living out their happiness together. It’s very interesting from a gameplay perspective, but it also adds a lot to the story. The ultimate ending of the game sees John making a huge sacrifice for his wife and family, and while I did give a spoiler warning at the beginning of the article, I am going to let you find out for yourself just what that is.
Persona 4, which is one of my favorite Japanese role-playing games, features one of the best romance and dating aspects you will ever find in a game. The player can court and go after a number of other characters in the game, and blossoming romance feels extremely genuine. Because the game is so long, the budding romances are given plenty of time to come to reality. When you finally make the move and take one of your relationships to the next level, it feels a lot like real life.
Personally, I ended up going after Yukiko in P4, but each of the characters has their own quirks that might attract gamers to go for them. On top of the enjoyable romance from a story perspective, reaching the highest relationship level with another character actually offers benefits in battle, which is something you don’t see too often.
Like Persona, the Mass Effect series doesn’t force a certain romance upon players. Instead players can choose who they wish to pursue, and this feels much more like the real world. Of course, Persona is a little more sweet in its relationships than Mass Effect, but that’s because it features first love and high school students. Still, even if the ultimate goal is getting someone to sleep with you, the process of learning about the characters and ultimately hooking up is quite entertaining.
In Mass Effect, relationships with other members of the crew can lead to drama, which is also something very authentic to the real world. Issues like jealousy can come up from other parts of the crew, which adds a lot of entertainment to the story. While not perfect, Mass Effect definitely does a great job of portraying romance in an authentic way.
Who says video games can’t do authentic love? It’s not easy, and many games screw it up, but it most certainly is possible, and these games prove just that!
What video game romances do you think are the best? Hit the comments below and let us know.