Valentine’s Day is almost here! But while this is a special day for couples, love is more about putting up with your partner’s frustrating idiosyncrasies than it is one-off romantic gestures.
With only a few hours to build a relationship this is something games often struggle to do. A handful do manage to pull it off though, so here are my three favorite gaming couples.
Let’s kick things off with a first-person shooter, if only because it is perhaps the least romantic genre available. The Darkness games actually do a job setting up poignant romantic moments between the hero Jackie Estacado and his longtime girlfriend Jenny Romano. Much of this is revealed through exposition, explaining how the two fell for each other during their time together in an orphanage.
It’s a sad tale for the two though, with Jenny being killed in the first game due to Jackie’s Mob ties. That doesn’t stop her staring as a recurring character though, as she continues to haunt Jackie long after death providing his drive through the games.
It isn’t this posthumous connection that really drives their love home though, it is a quiet moment in their apartment while she is still alive. Sat on the sofa watching TV, you can stay for nearly half an hour watching a movie with Jenny asleep on your shoulder – just enjoying her being there. It’s calm, uneventful, and feels real in a lovely way.
Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (Windows)
There is love at first site, connections that grow over time, and romances that develop from hate-filled co-dependence. Not a great Valentine’s Day card, but exactly what happens in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
Escaping a band of slavers, the heroic Trip has to make her way hundreds of miles back across a post-apocalyptic America. In such a hostile world, she feels her only chance of making it is to enlist the help of Monkey. However, having seen this rebellious wastelander in action she realizes he isn’t one to help willingly, so she uses a slaver-headband to control him. Now, if she dies or he leaves her alone for too long, his head pops. Ah, young love.
But their relationship grows, and a weird co-dependence and romance develops with each of them bringing their own unique skills. Monkey even reveals that, after years alone in the wild, the headband has become a good excuse for him to stay near the only person he has ever cared about.
Passage is an interactive metaphor for relationships and life. This tiny free game has you walking down a narrow path, making your way forward through life. You can explore up and down through different parts of the world, finding rewards.
But along the way you can meet a partner, and this completely changes how you play. Moving as a unit you can no longer fit through the game’s small paths, frequently forcing you to double back. But, on the plus side, you can find greater rewards.
Yes, it’s low-res even by Commodore 64 standards – but in Passage starting a relationship forces you into a real trade-off. So, as in life, if you want the benefits of a partner you must be prepared to put up with inconveniences.
Okay, a lot of older games there, but if you want a more contemporary real-world romance then try Firewatch (Windows|Mac). It only game out yesterday, and it’s about as depressing as everything else on this list…
I’ll be back next week with another three games, I’ll see you then.
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