Love is pain, especially when freeing your girlfriend from her castle confinement means endlessly leaping to your own death.
I’ve bolted my doors and darkened by windows. I’m prepared to ride out the sappiest of holidays – the Love Purge in which the millions who have a reason to shower regularly and throw out last month’s pizza boxes gather to spend their hard-earned money on each other in a desperate attempt to prove their worth.
But I am not bitter. Nope, not me. I am super into love and all that garbage – so much so that I have prepared a list of video games with fine love stories, should you wish to prolong the mid-February agony that is Valentine’s Day.
Mario and Peach – ‘Super Mario Bros.’ franchise
I’ve always been a fan of taking the easy road. This is not a great love story – especially in 2017, when video game damsels often do their own rescuing. But “Super Mario Bros.” did as much to popularize the “a loved one is in trouble, so beat the odds to save them” plot line – one that is still the hear of virtually all story-driven games – as any franchise. The princess and her plumber get a nod.
Yuna and Tidus – ‘Final Fantasy X’
On a more serious note, Yuna and Tidus are probably the best couple in video gaming. This is the first pairing that popped into my mind when I conceived of this topic, and they were on every list I found on Google as I did my “research” to make sure I didn’t miss anyone.
A relationship that starts as a friendly pairing of two individuals with the shared goal of saving the world blossomed into a mature relationship during the 90-plus hours I spent on my first play-through as a mere teenager. The scene where they kiss in the water as the party is facing Armageddon is about as romantic as the video game medium can get.
John and Abigail Marston – ‘Red Dead Redemption’
Though “Red Dead Redemption” is set in the early 1900s, the relationship between its main character and his wife was quite ahead of its time. Abigail Marston, like her husband John, is a former outlaw trying to make an honest life in the West. She is no stranger to a revolver, though John does most of the shooting these days.
Some video game romances lack maturity. Characters show attraction or jealousy, but the relationship doesn’t penetrate surface emotions. John and Abby let loose with pointed but loving banter about fixing things around the farm – the way a married couple in a family sitcom would. She seems genuinely worried when he returns to danger, and she is clearly crushed when John dies near the end of the game (It’s been seven years. Spoilers are allowed).
Most BioWare games
I’ve said many times that no one fashions a better story than BioWare, and that’s also true of its romances. “Mass Effect” and “Dragon Age” come to mind for most people, but don’t sleep on my all-time favorite: “Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.”
The romance in these titles is a little different because it is open-ended and voluntary. “Mass Effect” was one of the first franchises to allow same-sex coupling, that is the player’s male character could court and ultimately land a male partner – if he played his cards right, of course.
Making players work for it is a fun concept. Just as in real life, you can fail if you say or do things that upset your potential mate. I am hoping BioWare ratchets up the realism by adding a percentage of random failure to its romance system, meaning Miranda Lawson could just decide she’s not having it even if Commander Shepard does everything right. We’ve all been there, buddy.
The boy and his sister – ‘Limbo’
Not all love stories are romantic. The “Limbo” protagonist’s journey is one of the finest examples of that “save a loved one no matter what” archetype. He braves creepy darkness and even creepier spider to save his sister.
‘Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch’ Oliver and his mother
The same is true in “Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.” Oliver is a happy little kid forced into a battle with a witch after she drags his mother into another dimension. That first scene when Oliver realizes she’s been taken? Stop. Who’s cutting onions in here?
I couldn’t write this column without throwing in a deliciously bitter curveball. In June, I wrote about “Apartment,” an unfinished game about walking through your small living space the day after a crushing breakup.
It is –unique, that’s for sure. But isn’t breaking up, or the death of love, not an essential part of this whole mess? How often does someone get a happily ever after? Once, maybe twice? Probably never? But how many times have you had to rummage through your apartment in order to pile all of your ex’s s--- into a box? That’s what I thought.