It is the season of love, and here at Topdowngames, we are not immune. Love has always been a part of humanity’s storytelling. Ancient epics tell of tales of love (or lust), the Bible has an entire book that’s pretty much a love letter/love poetry, fairy tales are basically about princesses waiting for their prince in shining armour to come and rescue them and sweep them off their feet before they all live happily ever after.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Concubine, Gone with the Wind, The Notebook these are all famous romantic tales that have enthralled millions of people across various forms of media.
Video games are the newest medium of storytelling, of art, although there is some debate about that. A lot of people see games as mere toys and distractions but as technology has marched on, there has been a greater level of ambition in storytelling in games. People who would have written novels or drawn comics, or painted pictures are now creators of video game content.
The medium is still growing, and while the stories do not necessarily rival the classics yet, there is still a lot of good stuff to be found. In honour of this season of love, here are some of the most romantic games ever.
If you grew up playing Mario and Sonic and suchlike and then took a break from gaming only to come back and play Catherine, you would be shocked. Catherine is rated M for Mature and in this case, it’s almost fitting as it’s one of the first games I can remember playing where the mundane themes of love, fidelity, work, settling down with a partner and just the trappings of growing up into an adult were really looked at.
In the game, the main character finds himself more and more torn between his serious, steady-headed girlfriend, Katherine (with a K) and the more crazy, fun-loving and more seductive Catherine (with a C). His choices in the day spill over into his dreams where he must overcome a series of death traps and avoid bloodthirsty monsters chasing him.
Catherine is a puzzle game and its gameplay is simple but challenging. You’ll find yourself cursing as you just avoid death traps by the skin of your teeth. You’ll find yourself mourning your many deaths if only because they are keeping you from progressing the story. (PS3/360/PC)
Uncharted 2 is perhaps the high point of the Uncharted series. And it is here that the relationship between Protagonist Nathan Drake and his love interest, Elena Fisher really sings.
Although Nate and Elena were sort of together at the end of he first game, Uncharted 2 sees them apart at the start. Throw in Nathan’s slinkier, sexier ex,, Chloe Frazer, who seems like a better match personality-wise and it feels like Nathan and Elena’s relationship is dead in the water.
Over the course of the game, however, the two slowly rebuild their relationship and bonds culminating in Nate’s anguished pleas for her to wake up after she is badly hurt and knocked unconscious. Their cute banter as the game fades to credits is as heartwarming as anything I can remember and really stuck out to me back in 2010. (PS3/PS4)
Red Dead Redemption
Red Dead Redemption is romantic. I’m not trolling, it definitely is. The entire game, starring you as John Marston, takes place because your family has been kidnapped by the despicable lawman, Edgar Ross. He holds them hostage to make you go and hunt down your old outlaw buddies.
Despite numerous temptations across the setting of the game in the form of prostitutes and also Bonnie Macfarlane, who helps you get back on your feet, you never once stray away from your beloved Abigail.
The game even gives you a brief glimpse of the rough but happy and almost idyllic life John has with his wife and son, Jack after he’s fought his way across the region and completed his mission. They aren’t lovey dovey, whispering sweet nothings to each other, but you can tell how much they love each other.
Added to this, is the fact that Abigail used to be a former prostitute who worked with John and he doesn’t even let this phase him or keep him from being the best possible husband he can be to her…even with her God-awful cooking ability. (PS3/360)
Persona 4: Golden
I came late to the whole Shin Megami Tensei and Persona world, and now that I’m here, I can’t get enough of it. My introduction was the enhanced remake of the PS2’s Persona 4. Persona 4: Golden was released on the PS Vita in 2012, when the system was only a few months old. It is still one of the best games released on the system nearly four years on.
Romance is a big part of the game, which combines your standard JRPG dungeon crawling (with random battles and all) with a Dating/Social Sim. While you will need to level up by fighting the monsters in the game’s various dungeons, you will also have to build social links with your friends and teammates in town. The stronger your links, the more helpful they will be in battle.
When I played it, I maxed out links with my friend, Yosuke but it was the relationships with the girls that really made things interesting. I found myself maxing out my social links with two of the girls on my team, the tomboyish Chie, and the demure and quiet Yukiko. Yukiko in particular only had time for schoolwork and working in her parent’s spa, so much so that trying to date her was known as the Amagi Challenge (Amagi is her last name).
I slowly warmed my way into her heart, getting her to open up, and have a little fun. She shared her fears and hopes with me; how she wanted to get out of the small town we were in.
Meanwhile, I was having a similarly heartwarming time with Chie, so much so that when I’d got the social links to the last level I had to decide whether I wanted to make either Chie or Yukiko my girlfriend or not. It was actually an agonizing decision. I realize that is pathetic to say because, dammit, they aren’t real, but it was fascinating the effect this lovingly rendered phalanx of zeros and ones had on me and how close I felt to them at the end.
I picked Yukiko in the end, by the way, and told Chie I just wanted to be friends, but you can actually be a player, and get all the girls in the game to fall in love with you and date you, and then break all their hearts on Valentine’s Day. (PS Vita)
Gears of War 2/3
Not all romances end on a happy ending. While the trilogy ends with main character Marcus Fenix finally getting together with long time love interest Anya Stroud (although both are pretty broken by the whole war against the genocidal Locust thing so it’s not exactly a happily ever after) the relationship that really affected me in Gears of War, was Dominic Santiago’s relationship with his wife, Maria.
You spend a large part of the second game trying to find Dom’s wife, Maria. She went missing shortly a while back after losing everybody except Dom in the events that started the conflict against the Locust (the enemies in the game). Dom eventually finds her imprisoned by the Locust, basically lobotomized and a shell of the woman she used to be. He is forced to euthanize her and basically spends the rest of the time grieving her.
In the third game, Marcus and Dom and the rest of their squad are surrounded by enemies; Dom performs a heroic sacrifice by driving a truck filled with explosive material into the enemies blowing himself up. In his final moments before impact, he says “didn’t think it would end like this, Maria.”
It is a heart-wrenching moment I didn’t expect to experience from a game like Gears of War. Even though Dom, who was basically the heart of Delta Squad, died, I like to imagine that him and Maria are finally together with all their loved ones, at peace.
What do you think of this list? Think there are more romantic stories in games out there? Drop us a line!