Love is the one thing that games often fail to grasp terribly well, and the less said about sometime associate Sex the better (yes BioWare, I'm looking at you). But there are some games that do manage to pull off relationships so engrossing that we keep coming back time and time again. Therefore, with Valentine's Day coming up it's time to take a look at some of gaming's sweetest couples. Some of them work, some of them are doomed more than UAC experiments on Mars, some are one-sided, some are simply part of a greater love triangle, or square, or dodecahedron, but they're all memorable. And they're all heartwarming...well, most of them anyway. You may encounter a few MASSIVE SPOILERS just so you know.
10. Nathan Drake & Elena Fisher - Uncharted series
Naughty Dog are pretty damn good at everything really, and so creating not only a believable romantic sub-plot for Mr. Drake, but a good romantic sub-plot should come as no surprise. Uncharted and its sequel showed that being a good couple is all about teamwork. Elena's hot, she's game for a spot of witty banter, and she has no hesitation in occasionally saving Drake's life by whipping out a firearm and bustin' caps. Never hurts to have some of the best voice actors in the business either.
9. Pac-man & Ms. Pac-man - Pac-man series
8. Tidus & Yuna - Final Fantasy X
So you've just saved the world from a giant monstrosity, vanquished a massive cloud of evil, and are on top of the world, you turn to your loved one who's stood at your side through thick and thin on this rollercoaster journey, and go to embrace them only to find that they are in fact made of nothing but air. So many tears were wept at the tragedy of Tidus and Yuna's romance at the end of FFX that Square made a sequel out of them all just to carry on this couple's tale.
7. Salem & Rios - Army of Two series
Some couples just work. It's almost like a telepathic link, such is the bond that they share. We scoured a whole bunch of potential pairs, but none of them had the selfless chemistry of these two. They just get one another, you know? From the fist-bumping in the middle of a firefight, to the friendly Top Gun-style ass-slapping, to the air-guitaring during an airstrike, these guys are not afraid to show their affection for one another no matter who's around. Forget romance, this is some epic bromance right here. Plus nothing says 'I love you' quite like a gold plated, pimped M-16 on Valentine's Day.
6. Mario & Peach - Super Mario series
Mario is the epitome of the optimist in all of us, but is a picture of romantic tragedy. Just look at the poor guy, busting his oversized ass year after year to rescue a flighty blonde. Whilst Peach is off partying with Bowser and the Koopas (no-one gets kidnapped that much without people getting suspicious) Mario is trying to get his pasta paunch across gaps, past turtles and over blocks to protect his Princess. He embodies every podgy fat kid who ever fell for the Prom Queen, hoping one day that she'll notice him for being the sweetest guy imaginable. She's always pleased to see him, always ready with a flirtatious kiss; but still the only person yet to realise Mario's trapped in The Friend Zone is Mario himself.
5. Gordon Freeman & Alyx Vance - Half-Life 2
These two don't do feelings, at least not out loud. Gordon is the strong and silent type, all brooding genius and survivalist minimalism. Alyx is tough, passionate and a resistance leader, outspoken in all but matters of the heart. But it's there, plain to see, in the sidelong glances, the longing looks, the hints and knowing smiles on the faces of everyone around them. Eli speculates on grandkids, Barney calls Freeman a 'lucky dog' and somewhere out in the ethos, the Vortigaunts find their life threads intertwined. If that sounds more ball and chain than destined romance then I can only conclude that you have an obsidian obelisk in place of a heart.
4. Chell & The Weighted Companion Cube - Portal
Love is often difficult to explain away and difficult to comprehend. It can take many forms and undergoes many trials. But most of all, love can surprise you. So it was when hundred of players ended up writing to the developers of Portal over at Valve reporting that incinerating their trusted Companion Cube was harder to bear than eviscerating Little Sisters in BioShock. From the moment that GLaDOS sets Chell up with the Companion Cube, the six sided sidekick becomes a protective ally at your side, helping you out time and time again. It could never have worked outside of Aperture, though. Chell would have wanted Chinese food one evening, the Cube would have just sat there sulking quietly, Chell would have gotten mad at the constant passive-aggressive tactics and before you knew it there'd be all out domestic warfare. Of course, we'll never know now.
3. Cloud & Aerith - Final Fantasy VII
Well they were always going to be somewhere near the top. We can pretty much ignore Zack because, let's face it, we had no idea about the whole Crisis Core backstory back in 1997. All we knew was that there was a cute flower girl and that a certain spiky-haired wannabe would do anything for her. Poor Tifa, she had the hotpants and the larger...erm..assets, but not the larger heart. When Aerith died at the hands of Sephiroth, quietly with no big speeches or drumrolls, seven continents cried. Petitions were drawn up, questions begged of the developers: surely there had to be a way to bring her back! Alas, not even love could save her. But even beyond the grave, she's still knocking around in the ether, helping Cloud out from Beyond, and poking fun at him as only loved ones can.
2. Max Payne & Mona Sax - Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne
Poor Max Payne. Does anyone have it any worse off than this guy? The first time he meets Mona Sax she drugs him, inadvertently forcing him to painfully come to terms with his guilt for not saving his deceased wife and kid from smack fiends, and leaves him to be interrogated by the Mafia. Payne and Sax don't do dinner and a movie, they don't use roses to say 'I love you', and they definitely don't cuddle...at least not without loaded firearms and certain death around the corner they don't. After one and a half games' worth of cat-and-mouse noirish flirting between the downtrodden detective and the femme fatale, Sax disobeys her orders to kill Max for the umpteenth time, earning herself a belly full of bullets an the game ends (unless you happen to beat it on the highest difficulty) with her dying in Max's arms. Heartbreaking.
1. Wander & Mono - Shadow of the Colossus
Undoubted one of the finest games of the last decade, Shadow of the Colossus is constructed around a very simple love story at its heart: the protagonist Wander strikes a deal with the shadowy, necromantic spirit Dormin who tells our hero that it can resurrect Wander's companion Mono but that it will come at a high price - namely the hunting and slaying of sixteen Colossi to restore Dormin's splintered power. A love story of Orphean sacrifice, Wander's journey to save his beloved Mono corrupts him without his knowing, slowing turning him into a horned creature and draining his body of life and colour. In the end he succeeds and Mono is saved, but is possessed by the now-powerful Dormin, and the two of them are eventually destroyed. The game does reunite the two lovers in the end, but not in the way either of them would have expected.
Well there you have it folks. Any up there you agree or disagree with? Do you have any favourite gaming couples of your own? Let us know in the comments section below!