We here at Forge Press love a bit of romance in games. Titles such as Mass Effect and Stardew Valley have made us fall in love (pun intended) with the idea of falling in love in various media, none more interactable or immersive than video games. Some are player choice options, like Persona’s social link system, while others create romance through an ongoing narrative, such as Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher’s relationship in the Uncharted series. Playing as these characters and investing yourself in their lives really delivers on the connection you feel with them and their love lives. Here are just some of our favourite pairings.
Cloud Strife and Aeris Gainsborough (Final Fantasy VII) – Paige Cockbain
Final Fantasy VII is almost unanimously heralded as one of the greatest RPGs of all time, and for me personally, one of the greatest parts was the relationship between the protagonist, Cloud Strife, and his flower girl, Aeris Gainsborough. Romance is not exactly a central theme in the Final Fantasy series, but the game allowed you to form bonds with the girl (or Barret) of your choosing. I can tell you this – Cloud and Aeris felt like destiny aligned.
Cloud is a character very much lost in his own past and trauma, and Aeris is the last of her kind. What we see is two characters alone in the world, but together. There are plenty of wonderful characters there for Cloud, but no one ever understood him the way she did, and where circumstances brought many of them together? Whether you choose to romance her or not, there is no doubt that Cloud threw his hat in with her because he wanted to know her. It’s one of the only early game decisions in which he is not aggressively reluctant to do something. Whilst the game does not explicitly canonise any confirmed relationship, it certainly gives you ample content to project your own into it – and for me, this one is eternal love.
Phoenix Wright and Miles Edgeworth (Phoenix Wright series) – Catherine Lewis
One of the most iconic video game pairings in my opinion is Phoenix and Edgeworth in the Phoenix Wright series. Throughout Ace Attorney, Phoenix, the newly-fledged defence attorney, faces the cold, hard prosecutor Edgeworth. The start of the game would lead you to believe that they could be enemies of some sort, but as the story unfolds, the player discovers that there’s more to their relationship than meets the eye. In their younger years, a close friendship was formed between the two after an incident in school, where a young Edgeworth helped defend Phoenix after he was accused of stealing lunch money. They drifted apart when Edgeworth was forced to move schools, but as the events of Ace Attorney unfold, they once again become close, and many speculate that they’re more than friends. This bond continues to grow stronger in the later installments of the series. In Edgeworth’s own words, thanks to Phoenix, he is “saddled with unnecessary feelings”, and if that doesn’t scream love interest to you, I don’t know what will. While they may appear to be complete opposites, a hardened prosecutor and a jolly, clumsy attorney, they really do feel like two halves of the same whole.
Link and Zelda (The Legend of Zelda series) – Tristan Dubuc
Valentine’s Day is approaching,and many of us will be busy preparing for it. For some of us it will be the first Valentine’s Day with a new partner. With this in mind, video games can be a great inspiration for love. In my opinion, even if they do not officially express their love, Link and Zelda are for me a great couple.
Link is a loyal knight to his princess Zelda. He loves her and will do anything for her. This is illustrated in Breath of the Wild. When Zelda is faced with danger, Link comes immediately to her aid. In a surprising turn of events, Zelda reveals her powers to save Link and to put him to sleep for 100 years.
The reason why Zelda and Link are my favourite partnership in video games is that they each love each other but they know that their relationship is not possible since she is a princess and he, her knight. Their love is like a secret tragedy. Nevertheless, at each release of a new game, you expect them to be drawn closer to how they feel for each other. In my opinion, what makes their love compelling is that we are forever waiting for the moment that they come together as lovers.
Sam Greenbriar and Lonnie DeSoto (Gone Home) – Ash Williams
Gone Home does a lot of things well, but the relationship between Sam and Lonnie is crafted delicately around the exploration of the Greenbriar family home. Picking up journal entries and looking at various items throughout the house clue you in to the events that happened before your character, Katie, arrives back home after travelling abroad.
The whole game is linked to Sam’s story. You and Katie are in the same boat, piecing together the puzzle as you move through different parts of the house. It’s done very effectively, as each area of the house has a new part of the story to reveal, usually linked to the area you find that note in. For example, finding a disciplinary folder unlocks the entry where Sam’s relationship with Lonnie is discovered by her parents, or how finding a Halloween band note reveals Sam’s decision to sneak off with Lonnie and go to her first gig, which eventually led to the two getting together.
It’s a touching and well realised representation of a young girl discovering herself and her sexuality, and the challenges of coming out. I won’t spoil the specifics, but the narration and handwritten notes really sell you on the journey that Sam goes through to finally get what she wants.