When you go on an epic adventure, you’re bound to get close with your companions along the way. Developers have the job of creating characters with dimension — characters that players would want to get to know. Then writers have to construct different scenarios, dialogue, and branching moments for how the relationship could progress under these extraordinary circumstances. This work gives way to some fun flirting in a doomed galaxy, a kingdom under threat, or a high school.
The best part about these games is there’s choice, no matter how major or minor. You get to choose who you want to go on that first date with or fight alongside till the bitter end. It’s refreshing when you aren’t bound to a game’s arranged romances. So set out, sow your wild oats, and hitch your wagon to whomever catches your eye.
1. Mass Effect
Bioware is well-represented in this list. Amidst the conflict in which Commander Shepherd is faced to lead his or her team, there are opportunities to fall in love. Just because you’re in an epic space opera doesn’t mean there isn’t some downtime to play and flit with a few humans and other beings.
Throughout the series, players have many more options than one or two characters to romance. Many players could be accused of even “cheating” on their original partner after other options arise from game to game.
2. Knights of the Old Republic
The developers at Bioware know how to do romance, and Knights of the Old Republic showed players that they had the luxury of choice. They were not bound to one romantic interest or path. Players had two characters to get to know: Bastila and Carth, and depending on how you treated your companions in your story and dialogue choices, options would open up more promising avenues to woo.
Carth is a tortured soul trying to get over losing his wife and kids to the Sith, and Bastila is trying to keep herself in check, being a Jedi and all, when she has such a strong psychic link to you. These inner conflicts create branching dialogue options depending on your responses and can lead to much greater things.
3. Final Fantasy 7
You may choose who you want to go on a date with, but creators of FF7 intended Cloud’s catch to be Aeris from the game’s start. This flower girl from the slums is sweet, innocent, but not helpless. Many gamers couldn’t help falling for the fearless girl that sacrificed everything for the fate of the world. The relationship never goes beyond that one date (should you choose to take her on it), but fans of the game have often wondered what could have been.
The couple’s tragic romance has endured for generations (the game came out for the original PlayStation), even sparking a movie long after the game’s release. Cloud is still tortured over his loss, but there’s some closure by the movie’s conclusion.
4. Fire Emblem Awakening
Fire Emblem Awakening has you build relationships on the battlefield rather than by dialogue. Throughout the game, you’ll have an army of soldiers who will fight alongside you, but you have to be careful. There’s no regen or revive potion that can fix a fallen hero — the death of your allies is their death forever. So long as your allies are living, the more you fight alongside one another, the more interesting your relationships become.
Eventually, characters can fall in love, which opens up some interesting back and forth moments with your character and the guy or gal of your choice.
5. Dragon Age
Another Bioware title, the Dragon Age series opened up a fantasy-scape with a world under threat from the blight. In one game you fought against it and in another you were refugees running from it, trying to make a change among Kirkwall’s corrupt politics. While you gathered companions to help against each threat, the burden of choice fell to you as the leader. What choices you made determined your team’s opinion of you, which opened up dialogue options for romance, friendship, or disagreement.
Each release in the Dragon Age series has improved the relationship mechanic. Giving gifts in both help create personal relationships with each character in your party and boost love interests. That mechanic is soon being done away with. The writers working on Dragon Age Inquisition (set to release this fall) have said the system has been improved to have NPCs’ opinions weigh more on choices and dynamically change as events happen throughout the world.
6. Persona 4
You’re a high school student who has just moved into town from the big city, so it’s time to make new friends, join clubs, and fight monsters. Persona 4 is a dungeon crawler meets social sim. Players can choose to spend their days how they like, joining school teams or reading. There will also be opportunities to dive into the TV World’s dungeons to fight monsters and gain XP.
Persona 4 allows you to develop relationships on a multitude of levels. Players can befriend NPC or date them if that’s what they want. If it’s the latter, you’ll have plenty to do with your significant other; go to the beach, have a slumber party, the list goes on. Persona 4 is a game even Bioware developers are looking at as an example for building NPC-to-player relationships for its upcoming game, Dragon Age Inquisition. Persona 4 has managed to find the balance of maintaining relationships between the player and NPC — something many games have not perfected.