Relationships are a given part of almost every story, and videogames are no exception—even those with seemingly no emotional contact whatsoever finds themselves with a budding romance. Today we celebrate nine of our favorite videogame couples, and as an added bonus, the third wheels left in the wake of happiness.
Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD!
9. Link and Midna
Game: The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
The Zelda series has a long history of Link, the valiant hero, rushing to rescue the captured Princess Zelda and save the land of Hyrule. But in Twilight Princess, Link is accompanied by the mysterious creature Midna, a shadowy imp who assists Link in his traversal of the world of shadow. Though initially a brash and demanding partner, Link and Midna’s constant companionship develops a bond of compassion and trust, one exponentially multiplied as Midna’s true form is revealed in the final act. In the end, Midna seals herself away in the twilight realm, cutting herself off from Link, but preventing the threat of shadow creatures ever attacking Hyrule again.
The Third Wheel: Princess Zelda
The relationship between Link and Zelda is never fully clear, existing primarily through the “noble hero rescuing the damsel in distress” archetype. In Twilight Princess however, the saving of Princess Zelda is more for the salvation of the kingdom; his bond lies with the Twilight Princess Midna.
8. Tidus and Yuna
Game: Final Fantasy X
Most recent Final Fantasy games present the player with at least some sort of romantic relationship to pursue, but it was not until X that the relationship was so integral to the story. The game finds Tidus, a mysterious young man who seems to have traveled through time only to awaken on the shores of Besaid island. He soon meets Yuna, a young summoner about to set out on her quest to defeat Sin, the giant monster that constantly threatens the world of Spira. Tidus joins her party, the pair becoming fast friends—and lovers soon after. Not all is well though, as the group soon discovers that in order to complete their journey, Yuna must give her life, and the one she loves most must leave to become the next Sin. The touching relationship shows courage and sacrifice in the name of your loved ones, demonstrating once again the storytelling prowess of the Final Fantasy team at Square-Enix.
The Third Wheel: Every other Final Fantasy couple that didn’t get chosen for this list.
Highlights include: Cloud and Tifa, Aerith from FFVII, Squall and Rinoa from FFVIII.
7. Gordan Freeman and Alyx Vance
Game: Half Life 2
While not a couple in the strictest sense, anyone whose played through Half Life 2 and its first two episodes can see the sexy writing on the wall. Gordon may be an unstoppable gravity-gun weilding badass, but it’s Alyx who stays by his side and reminds him that he’s fighting for something worth saving. The paternal gleam in Alyx’s father Eli’s eye when he talks about the two of them makes it clear: these two are destined to save the human race not just by kicking alien ass, but also by makin’ babies.—Kirk Hamilton
The Third Wheel: Lamarr the Head Crab
All it wanted was a hug.
6. Ico and Yorda
One of the simplest relationships of basic affection found in a videogame. Ico, a boy believe to be cursed is cast out from his town and banished to a castle. He escapes, finding Princess Yorda, daughter of the castle’s queen, imprisoned to be used in a way that would preserve her mother’s youth. Ico helps the princess escape, leading her by the hand through the treacherous twists of the castle. The pair’s relationship is basic and pure, amounting to nothing more than a held hand. Sometimes, though, a held hand is all a relationship needs.
The Third Wheel: The Queen
Wanting Yorda for her own selfish needs, the queen serves as the primary antagonist for this touching piece of gaming greatness.
5. Jackie Estacado and Jenny Romano
Game: The Darkness
The Darkness is often cited as an unfairly overlooked action game. It centers around Jackie, a lowlife gangster who makes a deal with a malevolent spirit to gain impossible supernatural power (but at a price, of course). Despite the game’s dark thrills and bloody action, it was Jackie’s surprisingly human, touching relationship with his girlfriend Jenny that wound up stealing the show.—Kirk Hamilton
The Third Wheel: The Darkness
Voiced by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, The Darkness is the source of both Jackie’s power and his problems. Vying for control of Jackie and lusting after Jenny, The Darkness itself is the scorned lover in this bizarre triangle.
4. Nathan Drake and Elena Fisher
Game(s): Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune, Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Nathan Drake meets Elena Fisher when she decides to follow him into the jungle, attempting to document the story of a treasure hunter. The pair is immediately set up as the obvious relationship, but it is not until the sequel that their affection truly comes forth. When the seductive Chloe Frazer makes her appearance, and Elena nowhere to be seen, Nate appears to have found a new woman. However, about halfway in, Elena reappears, and with Chloe much more focused on her own self-interests than any sort of actual relationship, Nathan and Elena reunite, offering no denial when asked if he loves her. The pair share a kiss as the game ends.
The Third Wheel: Chloe Frazer
An old girlfriend of Drake’s, Chloe is much more focused on herself. Though not terribly upset at the loss of Drake to Elena, tension did arise between the ladies whenever they were forced to interact.
3. Tim and the Princess
What if you could undo every mistake you ever made, traveling backwards in time at slight intervals, correcting missteps and errors. Brilliant puzzler Braid told the story of a man named Tim with just such an ability, searching for his lost love, a princess who “has been snatched by a horrible and evil monster.” Reversing the flow of time every time a mistake was made, Tim searched for pieces of the puzzles, ultimately unlocking the door to his love. He finds her in the clutches of a knight who screams “I’ve got you!.” “Help!” she exclaims, before breaking free and, with the help of Tim, navigates a series of switches and levers to escapes to a house at the end of the area.
The Third Wheel: Tim (Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS)
It is obvious from Braid’s beginning that Tim’s love has left him, but it is not until every puzzle has been solved and the final level is reached that Tim’s quest is fully understood. Upon completing the final level, Tim finds himself outside a locked door, his princess secure inside. The level then plays in reverse, showing the princess running from Tim, attempting to flee by pulling levers to set traps and close doors. “Help!” she cries, as a valiant knight swoops down. “I’ve got you!” the knight exclaims, leaving Tim behind, the horrible monster she had been fleeing all along.
2. Dominic and Maria Santiago
Game: Gears of War 2
The bullet slinging, chainsaw wielding world of Gears of War hardly seems like the place to find a romance, but the second installment of the bloody shooter reveals a softer side to the game’s secondary protagonist. As the game’s team delve into the caverns of Locust territory, they discover the enemy has begun taking prisoners with an unknown intent. Dom becomes convinced that his wife, having previously gone missing, is among the captured. His search is not futile, finally opening a cage to reveal his beloved Maria. He sees her once as he remembered, then snaps to reality and embraces her tortured and emaciated body. A lifeless shell of the vibrant beauty she once was, Dom can offer her nothing more than a single bullet of solace.
The Third Wheel: Marcus Fenix
Okay, complete jokes on this one.
1. Mario and Princess Peach
Game(s): Donkey Kong, Super Mario series.
The original videogame couple. Predating even his own game series (Mario first set out to rescue a princess in the original Donkey Kong, four years prior to the original Super Mario Bros.), The relationship between Mario and Princess Peach is nearly as old as videogames themselves. Ruthlessly kidnapped by King Bowser, Peach is perpetually the “princess in another castle.” But after eight treacherous worlds of villainy, Mario defeats the evil Bowser and rescues his kidnapped love. His reward? A kiss and a cake.
The Third Wheel: Bowser
The dastardly mustachioed plumber keeps stealing away his dear princess. She just doesn’t understand the only way he knows to express his love is with dungeons and fireballs. We pity the mighty koopa lord.