Happy VD everybody! Valentine's Day, that is, not the...erm...other thing. As we discovered earlier in the week, this industry has not exactly covered itself in glory at times when it comes to coupling, with forced romantic storylines often proving alienating, immersion-breaking, and sometimes downright disturbing (*cough* Sonic!). But interactive entertainment has also offered us some absolutely fantastic moments of such romantic bliss that it almost brings a tear to the eye just reminiscing.
So we gathered up the team and put together a little list of our favourite romantic moments in video games...
Carl Phillips - Shepard & Jack (Mass Effect 2)
If you heard the recent PWNCAST in which we discussed romance in games, you would have already seen my choice coming a mile off, but for those of you who didn’t listen (BOO-urns to you) I will helpfully clarify my most touching moment for you - Jack finally opening up to Shepard in Mass Effect 2.
Starting out as possibly the angriest person in the galaxy (with good reason) Jack slowly began to confide in my Shepard over the course of the game, leading to me helping her destroy her childhood memories with a nuke (which I think you’ll agree is one hell of a first date.) Slowly getting to know the girl who had faced the worst the galaxy could dish out her entire life, topped off with her frequent use of profanity, provided what I felt was some the best storytelling in the game. However, the scene that took place before the suicide mission, when Jack turns up in Shepard’s cabin, is the one that gets me every time.
With her emotions finally on show, the psychotic biotic had finally found something worth taking a risk on, and I got to see Jack in a moment of peace and happiness. The end result of not giving up on her was a tender scene between two people who had been to hell and back, and because I was projecting my own feelings through my version of Shepard it made the moment resonate even more.
Sure, she would end up punching me in Mass Effect 3 upon our reunion, but it was worth it. Jack was always worth it.
Rebecca Forster - Tidus & Yuna (Final Fantasy X)
My most romantic moment in video games has got to be within the love story from Final Fantasy X. I'm sorry, but Cloud and Tifa have nothing on the heartbreak, acceptance and pure love that Tidus and Yuna share. I'm guessing most of you will think my personal pick is the water scene where they first kiss, but no, for me it's the ending. It's the last embrace they share before (spoilers!) the dream ends.
After finding out that Yuna will die to achieve the final Aeon, Tidus stops at nothing to save her, but in doing so (and ending the cycle of summoners) he has to make the ultimate sacrifice and leave Spira. When Yuna can't accept him leaving and charges to grab him, only to go through his body, it breaks my heart. The quiet "I love you" that catches Tidus off-guard, followed by that embrace which they can no longer feel, perfectly illustrates their love for one another through the last few scenes. It’s such a beautiful moment because you just want them to be together, but they can't.
Matt Gardner - Ico & Yorda (Ico)
The Beatles got it pretty much spot on when they sang "I wanna hold your hand". Back when Peter Molyneux was gushing about his new touchy-feely mechanics in Fable III, he acknowledged the debt that he owed to Team Ico and their stunning, minimalistic masterpiece.
The moment when Ico first takes Yorda's hand embodies so very much. The chasm between the characters, brought about by something as crucially human as the inability to communicate across a language barrier, is bridged by a simple action that comes to both define the two characters' relationship with one another and provides the central crux of the gameplay. They're fast friends, joined together by both being outcast souls, and the intimate trust they quickly begin to share is exemplified in this simple manner.
But one of the most beautifully endearing, fundamentally romantic moments for me comes towards the end. Ico has been there by Yorda's side for so much of the game, helping to ward off demons and challenge their Queen, but as it comes to the culmination of the final battle and the Queen's fortress comes tumbling down at Her death, Ico falls unconscious under the tumbling debris. Yorda's spell is broken, and her spirit gathers her partner's body from the rubble and carries him to safety. She places him in a boat and sees him off, seemingly abandoning him; but if you manage to fight back the tears until after the credits, there's a little epilogue that might just be the most heartwarming scene this medium has ever seen.
Chris Hyde - Will & Kara (Illusion of Time)
It starts off like all your standard love stories really. Boy meets Girl. Boy goes on a global adventure with Girl. Boy and Girl end up on Incan ship made of gold and fall into a trap. Boy and Girl end up on a raft drifting through the ocean. Standard fare really. But for me this moment in Illusion of Time, where Will and Kara are all alone, fighting for their lives, and becoming closer as a result is one of the romantic in video games.
In a time for games when the majority of emotion was conveyed through music and narrative alone, this poignant 10-odd minute piece of the game for me encapsulates true romance. Both are helpless and realize they not only need each other, but want to be with each other too. The romance piques during a starlit night, where the two spot an extra red star in the sky, and they make a wish together for the safety of themselves and their friends and family. Its touching stuff from nearly 20 years ago which demonstrates humble human emotion so well. It’s almost enough for this macho stud of a man to get all soppy on you. Almost.
Brendan Griffiths - Nathan Drake & Elena Fisher (Uncharted 3)
Nate and Elena’s most endearing moment came not with the sweeping romantic ending of Uncharted 2, but at Nate’s lowest moment in Uncharted 3. After washing up on the beach, utterly exhausted, he was ready to set off once again to try and rescue Sully. Elena holds him back though, convincing him he needs time to rest to stand a chance of helping his friend.
We see Drake sag onto the couch and slowly lay his head on Elena’s lap to rest. We’ve never seen Drake let anyone else see him this low and broken but there’s an unbreakable bond between the two despite the obvious difficulties they’ve had in the gap between the two games. Nate realises though that Elena was getting ready to attempt a rescue attempt of her own to save Sully, just like he would have done - showing how alike they are. There’s also an apology, subtly hinting at the marriage and how Drake always seems to be dragging Elena and Sully into dangerous situations.
Love in video games is often very basic and clear cut. Rarely do we see characters show such emotion by just taking the time to let their guards down. Drake’s willingness to let Elena see him so beaten is against the grain of his usual jovial bravado (of what we see at least). The pair are much more relatable as a result thanks to letting us see the other side of their relationship.
Jonathan Lester - Steiner & Beatrix (Final Fantasy IX)
Ah, to have virtually loved and lost. As a big softie at heart, I've been enraptured by any number of romantic moments throughout my gaming life. Baldur's Gate II's Aerie still sometimes weighs heavily on my mind, as the innocent Avariel gradually gradually warmed to my character's soothing presence over the course of many hours before finally admitting her feelings. There's the small matter of my lingering obsession with id Software's John Carmack; to this day, no-one can prove that I own a doll made exclusively out of his hair and shredded RAGE design documents. No. One.
It's odd, then, that my favourite romantic moment doesn't concern main characters or even legendary industry figures. Rather, I'm always drawn back to a classic Shakespearean love scene starring an awkward, rusty knight and his bitter rival. Namely: Adelbert Steiner and General Beatrix from Final Fantasy IX.
Comedy Of Errors is an understatement here. The two deadly enemies end up at each other's throats throughout the first half of the game, each jealous and disdainful of the other and separated by their duty to their respective royal. However, a misplaced love letter, written by one of the other characters to monkey-tailed Zidane, ends up convincing the rival soldiers that they have feelings for one another. Which, of course, they do. The ensuing moonlit meeting, with both characters waiting for the other to make the first move, is exquisitely entertaining. Their feelings laid bare, the pair are separated again, Beatrix presumed dead until much later in the game.
Ultimately it's the intensely relateable if awkward Steiner, who just wants to do a good job and keep everyone safe, that makes this relationship so very easy to invest in... leading to my actual favourite moment in the game where he and Beatrix lift up the Save The Queen sword together in the epilogue. He deserves a win. Happy Valentine's Day, you big galoot.
Of course, this list, perhaps more so than any other, is fundamentally subjective. There are so many more moments we could have chosen, so why not let us know your favourites in the comment box below. We're going to raid the Dealspwn swag cupboard and there might be a prize in it for you if you do (winner to be chosen at random).