There are countless reasons to love the Final Fantasy series: the stellar soundtracks, engrossing stories, dynamic characters, and fun gameplay are merely a handful of them. One of the series’ most defining attributes and greatest strengths, though, is its romances, which are often intense emotional journeys with powerful highs and tragic lows. From Wakka and Lulu to Squall and Rinoa, here are some of the greatest love stories the Final Fantasy series has told.
If ‘90s teen rom coms taught me anything, it’s that there’s nothing a jock loves more than a “big tiddy goth girlfriend,” and Wakka has found his in Lulu. While much of Wakka and Lulu’s relationship is established off screen, the moments you do see are actually incredibly refreshing. Their relationship isn’t explosive, dramatic, or tragic, they merely exist and function like a healthy couple does. Sure, they get into arguments and disagree, but they always respect and support one another and resolve any issues in a mature way. Wakka and Lulu are, in my opinion, the closest we get to a normal couple in the Final Fantasy series, even if “normal” looks a bit like Roger and Jessica Rabbit. Either way, I truly love this for them.
Long before the Cloud/Tifa/Aerith love triangle, there was Cecil/Kain/Rosa—though there’s no denying Rosa’s affection never truly wavered from the dark knight. This romance, while not the greatest in Final Fantasy, was the one that started it all, and marked the series’ dramatic shift towards character driven narratives with intense personal relationships. Outside of Wakka and Lulu, Cecil and Rosa also have the most “normal” relationship, both supporting each other through their journeys and ultimately marrying one another and having children.
Locke and Celes are the perfect example of how love can heal even the deepest of wounds. For most of the game, Locke is in mourning after the death of his first love, Rachel, who was killed in an Imperial raid. Celes, on the other hand, is recovering from her indoctrination by the Gestahlian Empire, which she served and obeyed without question before ultimately becoming disillusioned with the cause and turning traitor. While both of them seem collected on the outside, they are each stuck battling intense anger and guilt towards the empire and themselves. However, in the midst of all the madness—and despite the numerous times their faith is tested and shaken—Celes and Locke continuously grow closer throughout the game, forming a relationship that feels natural and cathartic.
There’s a lot of debate over which of Final Fantasy VII’s leading ladies belongs with moody broody protagonist Cloud Strife, with fair points on either side. However, I am a firm believer that no one is better suited for Aerith than her first love, Zack Fair. Long before Cloud crashed through the ceiling of the sector 5 church, Zack made his dramatic crash landing into Aerith’s life and stole her heart with his boyish charm. Zack was the first man who asked her on a date, the first she led to that iconic park in the slums, the first whose eyes caught her own, and the first she opened up her heart to, culminating in her writing letter after letter for years while Zack was trapped in Nibelheim.
On the day Zack met his untimely fate, there was only one thing on his mind: getting back to Midgar to find Aerith. This relationship is truly heartbreaking, and only made harder by the fact that Zack’s ghost haunts Aerith in the shape of Cloud. Nearly every tender moment shared by her and Cloud is a replication of one she shared with Zack, forcing me to believe she never moved on from her first heartbreak.
Perhaps it’s my deep love of Disney’s Aladdin that contributes to how much I adore Zidane and Garnet’s love for one another, but I think these two are such a perfect couple. At the beginning of Final Fantasy IX, each one represents the thing the other craves more than anything. To Garnet, Zidane embodies the very idea of freedom. He’s a free spirit, carefree and independent with a roguish charm she can’t help but roll her eyes and smirk at. In Garnet Zidane sees the unattainable: a life with structure and elegance, abundance and some semblance of stability. And naturally, thieves want what they can’t have.
However, Zidane’s affection towards the princess is far from selfish or insidious. He genuinely cares for Garnet, and is constantly surprised by how endlessly multi-faceted she is. Despite their different lifestyles, she is the one keeping him on his toes and he is the one offering her care and stability. They each bring out the best in one another, and form a relationship where each one falls more in love with the other every day.
And, speaking of folks who have never moved on, without a doubt I believe Cloud Strife and Tifa Lockhart are meant to be and always have been. While it’s undeniable Cloud is charmed by Aerith’s light-hearted nature, Tifa ultimately is the one who has always been there for him, proving herself to be his hero as much as he is hers. They are one another’s tether, each one giving the other something worth fighting and caring for. Much of this comes from their shared history; after having their home, family, and friends taken from them, these two are all the other has left of their life before ruin. No one understands Cloud like Tifa, and no one comforts Tifa quite like Cloud. Their relationship is tender, slow-burning, and transcends mere infatuation, resulting in a love and bond that feels timeless.
While the majority of Final Fantasy games feature romance, Final Fantasy VIII centers the entire game around it, with Squall and Rinoa’s love serving as a catalyst for the rest of the game and their respective character development. While Squall starts the game with several chips on his shoulders and enough edge to seriously maim someone, he eventually overcomes his insecurities and angst to embrace love in the form of carefree Rinoa. This isn’t to say the process is simple—the wildly flirty Rinoa truly wears this boy’s defenses down, and does so in such a charming and hilarious way it makes for some adorable moments. However, between those adorable moments are some of the most emotional in the series, and by the time the game wraps up, their love story proves to be one of the most cathartic and satisfying in Final Fantasy, with each character emerging from their struggles as a better person and partner.
“Stay with me until the end. Please.” “Not until the end… Always.” “Always then.”
I won’t lie, just writing that made me choke up. Yuna and Tidus have one of the most tragic and beautiful relationships in the Final Fantasy series. They are hopelessly star crossed, and while they know their relationship will never work, the only thing more impossible than loving one another is pretending they don’t. In spite of their numbered days, they savor their time together, and humor the idea of a world in which they could abandon their burdens and choose one another instead. To any onlooker, they appear to have drastically different demeanors, but in reality Yuna and Tidus share a lot in common. Each one is forced into a situation much bigger than themselves, and is given great responsibility that ultimately makes them feel like an outcast. Because of this, they’ve both developed the ability to laugh through the pain and carry on with resolve. In each other, they find a companion who understands the other, and will remain by their side always.
Jessica Howard is the managing editor at gaming site
and a freelance writer with works published at Paste, UPROXX, Collider, and more. She enjoys loud music, hot coffee, and games with romanceable NPCs.