Valentine's Day is almost upon us and so we figured that it would be best to run through a list of the finest couples that gaming has given to us. Then we realised that we'd already done that, not mention written a few words from the heart ourselves last year (Jon is still not allowed within 50m of Mr. Carmack). So this year we're taking a gander at the uglier side of the industry's approach to romance. From horribly forced couplings to interspecies shenanigans. Here's our list of the Top Ten Worst Video Game Couples...
10. COGS and their WAGS
As someone who was surprised to find out that Marcus Fenix and his chums were actually characters rather than slabs of steroid-addled meat products, I was more surprised to find Epic shoving it down our throats in Gears of War 2, particularly considering the burgeoning (b)romance that I thought was brewing between Marcus and Dom. But no, Dom has a wife, and constantly talks/moans/bitches/cries about her all the damn time.
We get it Epic. You'd really like to try and humanise these chunks of men, but in all honesty I was slightly relieved when it comes to *that scene* because I hoped it would stop the whining. Can games do emotional storylines? Sure. But this is Gears of War. It's a complete U-turn in terms of character. It's like dressing a steak in a little lettuce skirt and declaring it suitable for vegetarians. Mind you, at least *that scene* was handled better than this...
9. Dante/Nero and Trish/Kyrie
Devil May Cry needs a place on this list if only for securing the dubious accolade of being the game with one of the worst, most hamtastic lines ever uttered by anyone ever (see above). It's just so very awful.
Mind you, the series has never exactly been the standard-bearer for realistic representations of the relationship between men and women. We'd hesitate to call any of the women who pop up in the series 'characters' simply because they're more one-dimensional than a line of sub-atomic particles.
DMC4 gave us Nero's titanic struggle to save his darling Kyrie. Of course, we had no idea why she was so important, what she was even like, how they got together (indeed if they even were together). Nero just shouts her name a lot until we get the point.
8. Mario and Peach
Yes, we know these two appeared on our Best Couples list, but that was because we saw great romantic optimism in Mario's eyes and wanted to praise him for never abandoning his princess to her fate.
But what if she actually just wants to run away? What if she actually prefers Bowser? He's big, strong, he has some prime real estate. Mario spends all of his time shoving mushrooms into his face and squashing little creatures under his boots. She's a princess, he's a PETA-murdering plumber. You do the maths.
Also, thanks to Smash Bros. we now know that Peach can kick serious bottom when she wants to do. Mario, seriously, take the goddamn hint.
7. Squall and Rinoa
Is this the worst romance in the series? Well that rather depends on whether you reckon FF8 is the jewel in the crown that is Final Fantasy, or a glorified database of confusing information, more confusing systems, and one of the most unlikeable protagonists there has ever been. This is a relationship which pretty much comes out of nowhere, is far too forced, and ends up feeling abysmally rushed.
I'm prepared for a little backlash on this one, which goes to show how this game is basically Marmite, but really it'll come down to the video above. If you can sit through Eyes on Me without wanting to gouge out your eyes and tear off your ears...well, good for you.
6. Nathan Spencer and His Bionic Arm
To be fair, it's not really Nate's fault. I mean he loves his wife, she goes missing, presumed dead. He's pretty sad about it. That would have been fine. But someone at GRIN (or Capcom) decided that instead of just leaving things at that, they'd attempted to shoe-horn in a completely bonkers plot twist just for shits and giggles.
We love plot twists, but not when they're handled with all of the finesse of a block of wood and make less sense than three-quarter length jeans. You see *spoilers* it turns out that bionics require a 'catalyst' to bond successfully with their host, and the best types of catalysts are ostensibly the souls of loved ones. So Nate's wife isn't really dead...she actually is his arm.
5. Starkiller and Juno Eclipse
The story of Han Solo and Leia Organa's love is an epic tale that spans years and galaxies and involves bounty hunters, a high risk of incest, carbon freezing, and bushels of artfully sprinkled flirtation.
In The Force Unleashed, the hero of the hour - a man with less personality than Tesco Value Corn Flakes - essentially develops a crush on his taxi driver, and betrays his maker, mentor, and father figure to rescue her. We're left to only assume that they've had a few deep-and-meaningfuls in between the rather disappointing third-person action stuff, because the plot has more holes than a tramp's sock and they have about ten seconds of screen time together.
4. Any Fable Relationship Ever
With most of the NPCs in any of the Fable games having about five faces between them and the most over-the-top accents ever recorded, it's unsurprising that we end up farming most of our spouses off to the temple of shadows. Moreover it's difficult to respect anyone whose response to a shit dance, a wet fart, and a stolen gift is "Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!"
Much like the rest of Fable, the relationships are built upon buffoonery and fetching things, and have about as much depth as a termite's belly-button.
3. Billy Lee and Marian
It's a classic story. Girlfriend gets kidnapped by evil goons, you take to the streets with your twin brother to kick some ass and get her back. But what should be a tale of brotherly love, ultimate wingman-ing, and a triumph of love through plenty of side-scrolling adversity descends into madness. Here you are, knackered, bloodied, bruised, and yet somehow victorious. Except your girlfriend is clearly bonkers and she's been sleeping with your twin, and now, after all of that toil and trouble to rescue her, she demands that you fight the man who's been battling by your side and beat your sibling to a pulp.
2. Sonic and Princess Elise
The world of Sonic is an odd one to be sure. A blue, bipedal hedgehog with a bling obsession frees woodland critters by racing around in running shoes, gobbling up gold rings, and constantly feuding with a bald ginger bloke who wouldn't know what a razor is if it slapped him round the face.
But we're ok with that...more or less. Even when Sonic's chums turn up, that's still just about bearable. But this? This is frankly worrying. A romantic relationship dependent upon time travel between a relatively normal princess and a snarky hedgehog? A hedgehog. That's not ok!
Interspecies erotica is not cool. Bad Sonic.
1. Cloud and Barret
In all honesty, this is a candidate for Best Couple too, but only because it's so wonderfully done. If you play your cards right, you'll end up on a date with Aerith or Tifa when you reach the Golden Saucer. However, if you've been a complete numpty, you'll find yourself all alone on the most romantic evening of the year.
Until Barret shows up, that is.
Cue a fantastic three minutes of abject failure, hilarious awkwardness, an epic silence punctured only by the greatest fireworks show in the land, and then a deep, melancholic regret as the two of them reflect on the choices that they could have made.
Unarguably the best-worst couple in video game history.