It wasn’t so long ago when romance mechanics in video games were as simple as having to choose between two to four people and fulfilling their respective side quests in order to romance them. Sometimes it was even easier, you just had to give your preferred character their favorite items. Rare item and weapon rewards, character power-ups, and completion anxiety have long dictated players’ choices when it comes to romance, but who would you really choose if none of your choices carried any incentives for love?
Sometimes the simplest answer is the best one: choose the one you want. Yet here emerges another problem, and that’s the fact that alongside the increasing scale of current-gen video games comes more complicated romance mechanics and more complex depictions of love. It’s no longer as easy to just choose the one you want, because it’s impossible to decide. Should I romance the one I’ve been adventuring with this whole time? What about someone I’d just met but whose personality I really like?
Whether you’re Team Yen or Team Triss, we can all admit that video game romances can sometimes be more complicated than even real-life romance, and the more options you have, the tougher it is to make a choice.
Here are five video games whose romance options had us racking our brains trying to pick a partner.
Persona 3 was one of Atlus’s breakthrough hits for the PS2, and it introduced the Social Link system to the Persona franchise. Through the Social Link system, you’re able to increase your friendship or romance with party members and NPCs by choosing to spend your day with them outside of Tartarus, the game’s multi-level dungeon. Increasing your Social Link ranking with party members and NPCs grants you a power increase when obtaining new Personas, and at a certain ranking with a party member, they’ll also receive a Persona upgrade alongside a power increase.
Persona 3’s formula carries over to P3P, Persona 4, and Persona 5, and in all four games, it’s a challenge deciding on which character you should spend your day with because your relationship level with them affects your combat abilities. Given that the Persona games’ durations are based on a set calendar, it’s impossible to complete everyone’s Social Link gauges without a walkthrough.
With every romance option in the Persona games possessing distinct charms and personalities, it’s hard to commit to just one of them, and while it’s possible to date all of them on a completionist run with minimal risk of any drawbacks, it just feels bad to be dating around more than you should.
My picks? Mitsuru for Persona 3, Naoto for Persona 4, and Makoto for Persona 5.
So you’ve planned out your crops for each season and optimized your farm for quick harvesting. You’ve got your house decked with storage chests and brand new wallpaper, and your cellar is full of wine barrels and cheese presses. You lie down at the end of the day and feel pretty good about your little countryside operation here, but it still feels like you’re missing something. You realize that all of this would be much more fun if you had someone to share it with.
In Stardew Valley, you have six men and six women to choose from for when you feel that it’s time to plant the seeds of love. None of the romance options are gender-locked, meaning you can pursue a same-gender relationship. Once you’ve gotten close enough to someone (eight out of ten on the heart gauge to be precise), you can propose marriage to them.
Deciding on who to romance and eventually marry in Stardew Valley can be tough, because there’s no time limit for marriage. You can either spend several years in-game trying to get to know everyone before making up your mind, or try and court someone on your 2nd year at the farm only to later realize that you might have preferred to share your life with someone else. There is an option for divorce, but it’s expensive and ends with you never again being able to befriend your ex-spouse. Still, the presence of a divorce option serves to help you decide on a partner with more care.
My pick? It was a toss-up between Penny and Leah, but I married Penny in the end.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is a huge game when it comes to everything you can do in it. Similar to the Persona formula, Three Houses is part-RPG and part-life simulator, and the more you interact with certain characters, the stronger they get on the battlefield. As you forge bonds with the members of your chosen House, as well as other NPCs, you eventually get the option to romance them.
Three Houses boasts a total of 35 romance options, though the number of options available to you will depend on whether you play as female, or male Byleth. You can increase your bond with a character by having them join you in battle, or by giving them gifts and lost items. Once you’ve reached a certain support level with them, you can invite them to tea time to get to know them more.
At the end of the game, you’re presented with a marriage option, so you can continue trying to get close to as many of your prospects as you want because the most crucial decision won’t come until much later. Of course, that’ll be a tough bridge to cross once you get there.
My pick? Definitely Shamir. Manuela, though…
Mass Effect 3 may have dropped the ball with its horrendous ending and mistreatment of how player choice should affect the outcome of a game, but as the final game in the Mass Effect trilogy, it’s the one in which you have the most options for romancing, and this time not all the romance success cutscenes end in bed. Talking is good too.
Almost half of the romance options in Mass Effect 3 (there are a total of 15) can only be pursued if you’ve initiated a romance with them in the previous games, and while it might be troublesome for new players, it’s a nice bonus for those who’ve stuck with the Mass Effect trilogy since the first game. If you stuck with say, Miranda, through the first two games, you can be with her ‘til the end.
Choosing a romance in Mass Effect 3 is tough because even some of the people you can romance that don’t require save data from previous games were present in those previous games. You’ve already spent plenty of time getting to know most of them, and with most fans already aware of ME3’s endings (spoiler alert: Shepard meets his/her maker in almost every ending), you want to choose someone to send you off to the very end. While the DLC offers new options, it’s hard to consider picking anyone outside of your original squad.
My pick? It’s gotta be Jack. She’s a badass.
You knew it was coming. You know it’s divisive. You know that more and more people are going to weigh in on it with the influx of new Witcher 3 players caused by Netflix’s Witcher series. This is Yennefer versus Triss, and there can only be one winner.
The Witcher 3, unlike Mass Effect 3, was designed with the intention of allowing players to easily get into the game without necessarily having played the first two games. Recap cutscenes, expositional NPC dialogue, and environmental hints allow new players to figure out the gist of what happened in the previous games. This is why even new players know the history of what happened between Geralt, Yennefer and Triss.
To make a long recap short, Geralt gets with Yen, suddenly has amnesia then gets with Triss, then finally recalls his memory of Yen and in The Witcher 3 finds himself in between Yen and Triss. It’s up to the player to choose who Geralt ultimately ends up with between the two of them.
An argument can be made for either side: Yennefer has been with Geralt for a long time and acts almost like a mother figure to Ciri, who is effectively Geralt’s adopted daughter. Triss however, has the kinder and more nurturing personality of the two, and genuinely loves Geralt just as much as Yen does. It can really all boil down to the player’s personal preference, but I’d venture to say that Geralt’s “true love” is none other than Yennefer. For those out there on Team Triss, I’d like to hear your take.
My pick? I’m team Yennefer all the way (but only because Syanna isn’t part of this conversation).
So that was my list of five video games whose romance options could spawn a million arguments on the internet over who’s the best boy or best girl. It’s a good practice in video games to always weigh the pros and cons of every choice you make, but there’s nothing wrong with just following your heart. After all, the simplest answer is sometimes the best one. Happy Valentine’s Day!
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