WARNING, SPOILERS TO FOLLOW
It’s Valentine’s Day! And what better way to celebrate the theme of love, companionship and an over abundance of pink hearts, roses and chocolates than with another CC top 10 list? This time, as you’ve probably guessed, we’re looking at the best (and not necessarily most iconic) romantic couples in video games and their wider media. For a couple to qualify for this list, at least one of the two must be a playable character, and both have to have appeared in a game, and not a game related outside medium. Naturally as well, this list only contains couples and characters from games that I have played, and I’m only listing one per franchise. So if you think an important one missed out, please add your thoughts in the comments section below. So now that the parameters are set, let’s dive right into it with number ten:
#10 Mario and Peach – Mario Franchise
You might think it a bit odd that Mario and Peach are so low on this list, especially considering they are such an iconic couple in gaming. Well it’s for that very reason why they are on this list at all. Mario and Peach’s relationship has always been something of a one way affair. Not once in ANY Mario game have we EVER seen Mario and Peach kiss lip to lip. It’s always Peach delivering a “thank you” peck on the nose before the promise of cake is made. Several of games’ instruction manuals say that Peach is Mario’s girlfriend, but nothing more is explored beyond that. Couple that with her frequent kidnappings, it’s a wonder these two find the time to make a relationship. Maybe they should take some relationship advice from Luigi and Daisy. Daisy has only been kidnapped once. Sufficed to say that Mario is one damned determined boyfriend. He puts up with a lot. A whole lot.
#9 Wander and Mono – Shadow of the Colossus
One of the most dramatic relationships to ever be seen in gaming, Wander’s quest during the events of Shadow of the Colossus is driven by one simple goal: to save Mono, the love of his life. Even though she has passed beyond the veil of death, Wander shows a stalwart determination to bring her back at any cost. His acceptance of Dorman’s deal and his subsequent actions throughout the game are a strong reflection of Wander’s guilt at being unable to save Mono the first time around, but also a potent combination of desperation, hope and regrets all at once. These feelings are all the more powerful because they are generated by the player and superimposed onto this silent protagonist. The ending is a bittersweet affair, but ultimately displays the devotion that both Wander and Mono have towards one another.
#8 Fox and Krystal – Starfox
Fox and Krystal’s first meeting was something of an awkward experience. For one thing, she was half naked, and frozen in a diamond by Dinosaur planet’s local spirits. Once Fox Mcloud stumbled onto the scene he discovers that his mission to save the planet from destruction was tied to her fate. Once he rescued her, their first face-to-face encounter was cut short by the return of an old archenemy. Fox had to abruptly leave to change the giant space head down before returning to his comrades. Interestingly enough, Krystal pursued him back to the Great Fox where she joined the crew. As a member of the Starfox team, she took over for Peppy as one of foxes Wingmen, and she and Fox developed a strong relationship. The events of Starfox Command sees the two go through a rough patch, but the canonical ending features the two reuniting, settling down and having a son who would one day take over the reins of the Starfox team as Fox had from his father.
#7 Garrus and Tali – Mass Effect series
I couldn’t really put Commander Shepard on this list, mostly because his/her choices for romance are too many and too varied. Assuming that your character didn’t romance either of these two throughout the course of the three Mass Effect games, players were a little bit surprised when they walked in on Garrus Vakarian and Tali’Zorah making out. After a bit of momentary embarrassment, Shepard congratulates the pair, commenting that they make a good couple. Since Garrus and Tali are the only recruitable allies to have followed Shepard through all 3 adventures, the two have had plenty of time to get to know one another (especially on long elevator rides). Add the fact their two species are so genetically similar and that the two are probably the friendliest and likeable allies you’ll meet in the games, you can’t help but be happy for them. (And a little bit challenged after thinking that Shepard is the only person getting some aboard the Normandy.)
#6 Guybrush and Elaine – Secret of Monkey Island
Not exactly your classic love story, but that’s what so many people love about this couple. Guybrush and Elaine Threepwood first met during Guybrush’s first haphazard attempt to prove himself in the trial of Thievery. After stumbling rather loudly through Elaine’s manor, he runs into Elaine whom he immediately falls for. Funnily enough, the effect is mutual. Most women who find a robber in their house would have them thrown out or press charges, not let him take what he needs, let alone marry the guy! But all this occurred and more during the Adventures about the Monkey Island series. Despite the fact that Elaine does get captured now and again, she demonstrates she has a great deal of skill as a pirate, and is not only Guybrush’s equal, but in many ways better. A talented swordsman, smooth talker and master thief herself, Elaine doesn’t fall for the superficiality of what Guybrush wants to be, but rather for who he really is. Neither lets anything between them, least of all the ghost pirate is constantly trying to break the two up.
#5 Solid Snake and Meryl – Metal Gear Solid
Yes yes, let’s get the Snake and Otacon jokes out of the way now. Yes they live together. Yes they have a little girl in their care. This relationship I would describe more as a purely platonic one of mutual benefit. Snake is socially inept, knowing nothing but warfare and would rely on his buddy to interact in the “real” world. Otacon gets his own personal kick-ass secret agent bodyguard. Now as for how Meryl fits into this: Meryl is presented as Snake’s only real viable romantic interest. Snake even opens up to her and suggests that he would like to start living a normal life, asking if she could show him how. Of course this plan goes by the wayside a little bit given Snake’s little aging condition, and is ultimately doomed to fail. But even when they are reunited in MGS4, evidence of a little romance that was is still there, albeit a bit creepy.
#4 Locke and Celes – Final Fantasy VI
In my opinion, this is the BEST example of romantic story as far as the Final Fantasy games go. Initially mistaking her for his dead fiancée, Locke initially feels a guilty attraction toward Celes, but this later develops into one of the greatest in game romances I’ve ever experienced. The build-up of this relationship is slow and subtle. While the physical attraction between the two is immediate, the build-up of trust between the two, especially on Locke’s part is not something that can be rushed. The relationship builds a nice pace, dropping lots of little hints that the two have more feelings for each other than they’re willing to admit. Locke’s little bout of jealousy during the Opera scene speaks volumes about this. Additionally, following Kefka’s uprising and the subsequent destruction of the planet, Celes falls into a deep depression, not because the world as they know is coming to an end, but because she couldn’t stand the thought of living without Locke. This drives her to attempt the unthinkable as she throws herself off a cliff-side, though naturally she survives. The drama that is experienced in this romance is something that just can’t be replicated anymore, no matter how many subsequent Final Fantasy games have attempted it.
#3 Link and Zelda – Legend of Zelda
Naturally, the strength of this couple varies from game to game. Link and Zelda have been portrayed a friends, fated lovers, childhood sweethearts and sometimes just two acquaintances working together to stop evil. Each successive reincarnation of this iconic duo have shown their character dynamics to be very different each time around. The strongest romantic ties that these two have is definitely featured at its strongest in Skyward Sword, Link to the Past, and to a lesser extent, the Wind Waker chronology. Despite that, this couple represents what can be achieved when working as a team. Zelda’s talent with magic combined with Link’s combat and puzzle solving prowess has seen them triumph over every obstacle ever thrown their way. In more than one final battle, Zelda has assisted Link in defeating Ganondorf as well as various other villains, using light arrows, magic and even possession techniques to her advantage. She’s not just the princess in distress, Zelda knows how to fight, how to plan and how to hide when required. As far as Nintendo princesses go, it’s not hard to see why so many people prefer her relationship dynamic over Peach’s.
#2 Chrono and Marle – Chrono Trigger
The relationship between Chrono and Marle is a romance that can literally be called “timeless”. When the two first meet, Marle doesn’t reveal that she is in fact the princess of the kingdom, but rather attempts to enjoy herself as though she were just another normal person. The opening act of the game has players essentially treat Marle to a “day at the fair”, where they compete in cola chugging contests, go shopping, dance to a hypnotic beat, watch the races and beat the ever loving crap out of a training robot. Over the course of the game, the initial friendship that builds here begins to develop into something far more substantial. The two begin to grow closer, sharing intimate moments with one another and Marle consistently speaking to Chrono in an openly flirtatious way. After Chrono’s demise, Marle and the others set out on an expansive side quest to get their hero back from the afterlife. If they succeed, (and provided that you follow a few key story choices) the “best ending” of the game shows Chrono and Marle walking down the aisle, happily married. Their relationship is filled with a vibrant, youthful energy, just like that of high school romance animes. It’s clear the Marle finds Chrono attractive as a person because he doesn’t treat her any differently, regardless of her standing. Chrono’s attraction to Marle is also felt through silent gestures and the actions we must perform in order for him to successfully get the girl.
#1 Every character in Fire Emblem – Fire Emblem
Anyone who’s ever played a Fire Emblem game knows what I’m talking about. One of the most popular elements of the Fire Emblem franchise is the fact that players can actively choose to “pair up” certain units during the course of a battle. If the two fight alongside one another for long enough, they can engage in a support conversation. These conversations lead to a lot of extra insight and backstory development of each of the characters. Each level of support attained grants passive bonuses to each of these characters when they fight closely with one another. And as you’d expect, many of these conversations can develop romances. Each character’s individual endings can be determined according to who the player chooses them to pair up with. Certain characters might have only one prospective suitor, whereas others can have up to five. (Though many have two or three). Throughout the course of the Sacred Stones alone, I’ve seen a regal heir fall in love with her knight, a cocky swordsman tamed by a priestess, a pair of childhood friends realise their true feelings and even two countries united by the prince and princess of two countries ending up married. And the best part of it is that each of those relationships are by design. In Fire Emblem, you play Cupid just as much as you play master tactician. (And is also the reason why many players rage-restart if any unit dies.) As far as video game romances go, nothing beats the experience of making one happen yourself in Fire Emblem.
Got your own thoughts on who missed out on the list? Post them below!