It’s Valentine’s Day, so love is in the air.
I asked the Gaming Trend guys to write about their favorite couples in games, and here are the pairings that Ron Burke, Lucious Barnes, Niko DelValle, and I decided to spotlight. With honorable mentions to Bioware’s romantic relationships that we felt less comfortable talking about, as we defined those on our own through playing.
Guybrush Threepwood and Elaine Marley (Monkey Island series)
If there is a better videogame marriage rife with danger, voodoo, and undead pirate curses, it has to be the enduring love between Guybrush Threepwood, “Mighty Pirate” and Governor Elaine Marley. Stars of five games (the last one being episodic adventures from Telltale), these two were brought together through the combined efforts of industry-legends Ron Gilbert, Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman. Whether they are sparring with swords or pithy comments, it is always clear that they love each other very much. I mean, hey — Guybrush changed his name to Marley-Threepwood for his “plunder bunny”. If that’s not love, what is? – Ron Burke, Editor in Chief
Johnny and River (To the Moon)
To The Moon is an indie game that not enough people have played, and at it’s core is the relationship between Johnny and River. Their story is about life and it’s ups and downs, but more than that it’s about the challenges mentally ill people like River face when they try to express their feelings to others in their lives. The story of To The Moon has so many emotions packed into it, it’s more or less impossible for me to completely explain the twists and turns of their lives. Johnny originally was attracted to River because she was different, River was attracted to him because of a gift. River tried her whole life to have Johnny understand what she was feeling, but right up until the end he never could. It is a tragedy, but in the end on his deathbed, he was able to both understand and be with the woman he loved. – Niko DelValle, Editor
Yuna and Tidus (Final Fantasy X)
Final Fantasy X’s exploration of the idea of challenging your ingrained beliefs is best demonstrated not with the religious reform that’s taking place in the world of Spira, but by looking at how the relationship between Tidus and Yuna opens the eyes of both the Blitzball player and the summoner.
At the beginning of FFX, Tidus is a self-centered and disrespectful punk with some daddy issues, while Yuna is a by-the-books trained symbol of hope for the world of Spira. By the end of the game, both characters have shifted into something almost entirely the opposite. Tidus becomes a man that is willing to sacrifice himself in order to save Spira, while Yuna defies her society’s traditions in order to usher in a new age for her people. Neither of these transformations would have happened if the two hadn’t met. Tidus learns to care about someone other than himself through Yuna, and Yuna realizes that there is more to the world than what tradition has taught her because Tidus is there to help her question it.
In Final Fantasy X-2, Yuna’s transformation is complete as she searches for her long lost lover. The world is changed because she had the courage to challenge the ideas that had been forced upon her for her entire life, and that was Tidus’ influence.
Yuna and Tidus’ aren’t reliant on each other in a standard fashion, but they would have been very different people if they hadn’t met, and the world would have stayed in a neverending cycle of death and meaningless sacrifice without them. – Kenneth Shepard, Lead News Editor
Fei and Elly (Xenogears)
J-RPG’s never fail to bring out all the stops when it comes to heart wrenching melodrama, just like the Anime their narratives typically mirror. But none turned me into a blubbering mess like Xenogears, whose tale of Fei and Elly’s trans-generational and star-crossed love literally defined the fate of a planet.
A Squaresoft (yes, SquareSOFT, not SquareEnix you kids) cult-classic whose legacy was marred by the Namco-powered Xenosaga franchise, Xenogears was one of the best titles ever made for people who played it, and also presented one of the most intriguingly convoluted plots ever written, even by J-RPG standards.
Paraphrased, the story goes that on a world seeded long ago by crashed colonial spacecraft, the human population has unevenly developed into a society composed of well-to-do farming towns and high-tech scavenger-cities built on the bones of artifacts they can utilize, but do not entirely understand. Over the course of Xenogears’ adventure, your party discovers that the cycle of planet-wide ruination and rebirth is hinged on the tragic fate of two lovers who are reincarnated once a millennium to usher in either the world’s total doom or enlightenment, all dependent on whether or not they can get together and stay that way.
With one or the other losing their life every time before, when Elly’s fate places her in the grips of the planet’s nightmarish apocalypse machine, Fei charges against truly biblical odds to rescue her and give the planet its first chance at real happiness and freedom from a ghoulish destiny.
Between the tenaciously difficult final dungeon, a passionate narrative, the musical tour de force that is Awakening (second only to One Winged Angel), and the heroic scene of Fei triumphantly carrying Elly to safety in his arms, this is a timeless and ultimate classic. – Lucious Barnes, Editor
Geralt Of Rivia and Triss Merigold (The Witcher series)
Geralt’s life is not simple, nor is it safe. In fact, at the end of the books by the same name, he died. Returning to life after being killed by an angry xenophobic mob, Geralt has lost his memory, other than his love for his one-time soul mate, Yennifer. Where does Triss fit into all this? That’s a complicated story told over several books, but suffice to to say that she and Geralt have spent a great deal of time together, creating a somewhat unrequited love between the two. While Geralt regains his memories he lays with many women, but it’s always Triss that makes him feel whole again. While the upcoming game hints at tragedy for this star-crossed pair, every moment together till then is one of shared happiness. – Ron Burke, Editor in Chief
Sly Cooper and Carmelita Fox (Sly Cooper)
The first encounter you see between Sly Cooper and Carmelita Fox sets the tone for their relationship that spans four games. As Sly makes off with his latest steal, he has to escape while also being in Carmelita’s crosshairs.
A relationship defined by playful banter exchanged over gunshots and a clash in ideals, Sly and Carmelita’s dynamic is one that is consistently charming and full of an angsty tension fueled by the fact that both exist on opposite sides of the law.
Even so, the mutual respect the two have for each other makes their relationship move past flirtation and into something more genuine and believable. Despite Carmelita’s vendetta to put Sly behind bars, the two are always finding themselves teaming up in order to deal with more pressing issues, ones that often put them in positions where they risk their own lives to save their supposed rival’s.
When the two finally become explicitly involved, it’s only because Carmelita is under the impression that Sly has amnesia after an accident at the end of Sly 3, meaning that the revelation that he’d been lying to her made their relationship in Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time tense in an entirely different way. The fact that Sly is (and may remain) stuck in ancient Egypt at the end of the game still guts Carmelita in the end, showing that despite the continuous struggle the thief and the cop go through in order to try and maintain their loving relationship, it still remains just that: loving. Sly and Carmelita may never be on the same page, but their respect for each other fuels their affection, and hopefully that will mean that one day we’ll see the two reunited. – Kenneth Shepard, Lead News Editor
Wander and Mono (Shadow of the Colossus)
It’s odd to put this pair on the list given that there isn’t a single spoken word in Shadow of the Colossus, but there is no doubt that Wander and Mono love each other more than life itself. Mono has fallen into a deep slumber, and Wander brings her to the Forbidden Land’s “Shrine of Worship” to bring her back to life. A disembodied voice named “Dormin” charges Wander with the destruction of the sixteen colossi wandering the land to revive Mono. What transpires is a deep and profound twist that suggests a deep love paired to an uncertain future. – Ron Burke, Editor in Chief
Cloud and Tifa (Final Fantasy VII)
When you first encounter Aeris (or Aerith depending on how you mouth works) she has all the trimmings of Cloud’s love-to-be. She is sweet, kind, and gentle… even down to the fact you meet her whilst laying in a bed of flowers she’s managed to grow in the belly of a city slum. But it’s not too far along in your adventure, that while Aeris certainly cares about Cloud, what she’s actually taken with is your similarity to her deceased lover, Zack. A curiosity likely spurred on by the fact Cloud is carrying around remnants of his soul.
It’s a bit later when you find out that it’s actually Tifa, whose interactions with the hero up until a certain point have been … awkward, is actually Cloud’s long-standing crush since childhood, and part of his original motivation to become a member of SOLDIER. Confused by his amnesiac state upon their reunion, Tifa keeps her emotional distance for a considerable portion of the journey, until a series memory jarring events in Nibelheim and an unexpected dunk in the Lifestream ( the planets internal ocean of ancestral energy and knowledge) pits Cloud in a temporary coma. Refusing to leave his side until he recovers, it is then and powerfully revealed that Tifa has long harbored a deep commitment to Cloud, and is determined to stand by his side through thick and thin despite his rollercoaster of physical and psychological states.
While the conclusion of the game reinforces the notion that Aeris, (whose death remains one of the most poignant moments in gaming history) will always remain Cloud’s emotional compass, it is Tifa who soldiers on as his stalwart foundation. A romantic legacy that continued even into the titles CG animated feature, Advent Children. – Lucious Barnes, Editor
James Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan (StarCraft series)
If there is a more tragic but redeemed love, it has to between the Vulture-riding outlaw James Raynor and Ghost-turned-Queen-of-Blades Sarah Kerrigan. Her chilling transformation breeds a deep-seated hatred for the Terran Dominion and their leader Arcturus Mengsk. Despite her becoming a Zerg hybrid creature of pure destruction, Raynor’s love for her somehow endures, forcing him to lay waste to entire worlds just to save her. In the expansion, Mengsk captures Raynor, leading Kerrigan to cut a bloody path to save him. They team up to destroy Mengsk and the entire Terran Dominion, freeing Sarah to once again join the Zerg to assault the Protoss in one final showdown. Their love endures across the galaxy, through conflict and destruction. Few relationships could endure the way Sarah and James have. – Ron Burke, Editor in Chief
Vincent and Catherine… and Katherine (Catherine)
While not every love story can be a happy one, Catherine is one of those stories that also isn’t entirely a sane one.
In the psychological- horror-puzzler Catherine, you take control of Vincent, a man rounding the corner of his prime and confronted with the tumultuous inevitabilities of “settling down”. Unsure what he wants for his future, Vincent encounters a voluptuous young woman named Catherine, who after having a few too many drinks, who he winds up in bed beside the next morning. All of that would be fine, perhaps even ideal, if Vincent didn’t already have a girlfriend; Katherine. (See what they did there?)
One is fun, bubbly, and sexy. The other is dutiful, practical, and established. And by playing through a series of mysterious, puzzle-solving, nightmares (which actually have the potential to kill Vincent if he fails them) our hero must determine which girl is the one for him and what that says about himself.
Catherine is a game that plays off the subconscious dreads of most young males to paralyzing effect, addressing questions like marriage, fidelity, unplanned pregnancy, and gender roles. While not exactly a romantic game, Catherine is a love story that deserves a place in any gaming conversation regarding the narrative of the modern mating dance. The time I spent with Catherine was singularly memorable, riddled with laughs and sighs of guilt, joy, and otherwise. Certain sections of the game even rate your choices with those of other players in the immediate area, in case you were curious how you morally measured up against you neighbors. (Get ready for a few face-palms.)
If you’re braced for it, this title can be a hell of a time to play.
Not suggested for couples. – Lucious Barnes, Editor
Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher (Uncharted)
Somehow, every time that Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher meet in each of the Uncharted games, it manages to be a full of tension and snide remarks, but with almost no explanation as to why this is when we see them at peace with one another at the end of the previous game.
The relationship between Nate and Elena is one that is often told in context clues, rather than explicitly shown to players, and it leaves it up to them to piece it all together. How a happy couple ends up separated not once, but twice in the series is only hinted at when one of the two bull-headed participants lets their guard down. The struggle these two people have between being in love and being at odds is only seen in glimpses. It’s in the double entendres and the moments of clear worry and disappointment covered up immediately by impenetrable snark.
Seeing Nate and Elena find their way back to each other with some finality makes the fact that Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End even exists a surprise, as Uncharted 3 ended on a note that implied their constant struggle between love and adventure was over. Who knows what the future holds for Nate and Elena? Hopefully it’s not another separation. – Kenneth Shepard, Lead News Editor
Happy Valentine’s Day from the Gaming Trend staff to you. Be sure to let us know what your favorite couples are in the comments.