Most romantic games of all time

When people think of adjectives related to video games, their minds might first go to words like "exciting" or "scary" or "fun" or "gory." That's the kind of stuff people think about when they think about video games. Then there are some games that try to be funny, although the success rate on those is perhaps a bit middling. However, when you think about video games does the word "romantic" come to mind? Well, maybe it should.

Romantic video games are often overlooked in the gaming landscape, which is unfortunate. Sure, it's fun to slash up zombies or jump on little mushroom men, but don't overlook the power of romance. It's not like these games aren't fun, either. In fact, there are some games that are exciting adventures and romantic. You don't have to choose between the two. So if you want to exercise your shipping muscles, or just get emotionally invested in a good, old-fashioned love story, these games are some of the most romantic you will find.

Uncharted's underlying love story

People primarily think of the Uncharted games as being about the globetrotting adventures of Nathan Drake, something of an Indiana Jones figure. Though Drake does traverse the world in search of treasure, there is also a love story that spans the series involving our hero and investigative journalist Elena Fisher.

While the relationship between Nathan and Elena blossoms throughout the series, it's the fourth game, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, that really seemed to grab people for its romance. The website Pony Tricks called it "a flowing banner for romance done right." Their relationship isn't perfect in Uncharted 4, but that's part of what made it resonate with players. Their story did not end with marriage or a storybook ending. It extended beyond that, and for a time in Uncharted 4 they're even apart. They have a reunion in the game that will surely touch the hearts of anybody who cares about Nathan and Elena even a little. It is an incredibly moving moment amid all the adventure, a respite of real human emotion to tug at the heart before you get back to the treasure hunting.

It's an imperfect pairing, but in a way that just makes it more romantic, even if you're more interested in hunting for treasures.

Final Fantasy IX's romance begins with an almost kidnapping

In real life, no romance begins with one of the people being almost kidnapped. That's the way it should be. However, the world of storytelling is a little kinder to such circumstances. It helps that, in Final Fantasy IX, Princess Garnet is actually willing to be kidnapped and is happy to escape the city. This brings her into the realm of the charming rogue/thief Zidane, and thus a romance begins to bloom.

A topic on the IGN message boards asks the question, "Does Final Fantasy IX have the best love story ever?" There are certainly those who would answer that with a resounding "yes." It's the end of the game that really ramps up the romance level to get it onto this list. In an epilogue, Princess Garnet, having been saved from peril, finds out that Zidane, who she had believed to be dead, is actually one of the actors in the play she is watching. It's a classic bit of fairy tale storytelling, with the princess and her savior getting their happy ending. It's not the most realistic entry on this list, but who can resist a denouement like that?

The many loves of Persona 4

Persona 4 can be a little hard to navigate for an American audience, as the game has a heavy Japanese feel to it. That being said, if you are willing to give it a shot, it can be quite the romantic journey, especially if you are a teenager like the characters in the game and maybe don't have a ton of real-life dating experience.

There's a lot going on in Persona 4, including a murder mystery. On top of that, though, there is a dating simulator as part of the game, one that notably is quite inclusive on the LGBTQ front. Adults might not get as much from the game as teenagers, from a life lesson perspective, but there is still plenty of romance to be found. The stories are detailed as well, which makes the romance feel even more earned and impactful, since you watch these characters grow with each other over the course of the playthrough.

Passage says so much with so little

Jason Rohrer's game Passage has been called experimental. Wired discussed it as part of the discussion of video games as an art form. Love for the game can be found all over the internet, and with good cause. It's so simple, the entire game only takes five minutes to play, but it says so much. You can spend hours upon hours playing other games and not be as moved as you will be by Passage. This is especially true when it comes to the romantic element of the game. 

Any review of Passage, even the ones that love it and want you to experience it, try to avoid spoiling the crux of the game. To tell you that it is a game about life, and therefore can be a game about romance and love, seems fair, but to say anything more would rob you of the opportunity to appreciate the game for all that it is. The characters don't even have names, but they don't need them. Frankly, that just makes it feel even more relatable, and lets you connect to the romance even more. You can put your own experiences onto the adventure. If you have played Passage, though, you know it belongs on any list of the most romantic games of all time. Though the look of the game is nothing special, the emotional power is as formidable as any you will find.

Make room for Dream Daddy

On the one hand, Dream Daddy takes place in a convenient world where you are a gay single dad and all your neighbors in a small seaside town are also gay single dads. It's not exactly realistic, but that doesn't mean it isn't romantic. After all, how realistic are most romantic comedies?

By and large the game is a traditional dating simulator, save for the fact that you are trying to find another gay single father to date. Most people seem to find it to be a particularly well-made dating simulator, though. The potential partners for your character are all fleshed out and crafted to feel like individuals. Even if you aren't a gay single father looking for love in real life, you can find joy and amusement in the adventures of Dream Daddy.

In the end, you will find the best match for your character, but there will be plenty of romance along the way.

Life is strange, but also romantic

Life Is Strange: Before the Storm's subtitle feels apt, considering that this game takes place three years prior to the original Life is Strange. This is one of those episodic adventure games that have become increasingly popular, and while the burgeoning romance between protagonist Chloe Price and her potential love Rachel Amber is all over the game, the second episode sticks out for its romantic nature.

In the second episode, Chloe and Rachel act together in Shakespeare's The Tempest (a hat tip to that subtitle once again) which then leads to a big romantic moment between the two. It is at this time that you are given the option of kissing Rachel for the first time in the game. If you do, it will be pretty clear why Life is Strange: Before the Storm is on this list. Even if you aren't a teenager, if you remember those early days of first love and your early crushes you can still appreciate the romance of Before the Storm. The characters may be young, but their emotions are universal.

Gone Home handles romance in a whole different way

A lot of these games seem focused on teenage romance, which maybe doesn't appeal to the adult gamers out there. That's especially true if your own personal teenage years were perhaps not the most pleasant from a romantic standpoint. Alas, that's the case for many, if not all, teenagers, which is part of what makes Gone Home's adherence to the complications of teenage feelings so rewarding.

Gone Home also deserves credit for the fresh way it takes on telling a romantic story. In the game, you find out about your romance through finding notes and scraps of paper around your family's house. The game doesn't hold your hand either, as you could find the clues out of order, or not find them at all. That just makes Gone Home all the more effective. It takes a truly special game to get you so emotionally invested, and to make your heart race, when you aren't even seeing the characters and watching them interact. Sometimes, it's the detritus of romance that touches us the most. 

Love and rockets

If you want a romantic video game, you definitely should check out To the Moon. That's because it's a game all about a romance. It's not a side element of the game, it's not something you have to work to enjoy. To the Moon is a romance game, through and through. On top of that, it's a particularly great one to boot.

Strangely, the game is so affecting even though you don't play as either of the paramours. You play a doctor who has been tasked with implanting the memory of going to the Moon into a dying man named Johnny. In the process, you begin to learn about his dead wife River. It's Johnny and River that the game focuses on, and you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Sometimes crying isn't a bad thing: it can in fact be wonderful and cathartic. The story of Johnny and River is sometimes tragic, sometimes beautiful, but always romantic.

Stardew Valley, the best love story on a farm since Green Acres

Stardew Valley involves a lot of farming, it is designed to be in the vein of Harvest Moon after all, but it also involves a lot of romance. You are looking for love in the game, but the key word there is love. Your character is on the quest to find a partner, and that takes real time and effort.

There is a lot of courting involved in Stardew Valley, as you do errands and give your potential mate gifts. However, if you are successful then you can marry your love. If you buy the Mermaid's Pendant to give to them, of course. Granted, that's not quite like real life. What is like life is that romance isn't simple or straightforward in the game. It's possible your love interest will reject you. Additionally, if you don't give your spouse enough attention, they may leave you.

Back to Final Fantasy to close things out

If you are looking for a realistic depiction of romance, then Final Fantasy X may not be the best choice. The Final Fantasy games are not known for being down to Earth, to put it mildly. However, romance doesn't always have to be realistic, and all over the internet you can find romance fans heaping praise on Final Fantasy X's love story between Yuna and Tidus.

Unlike some games, and some stories, the two don't merely declare their love. It isn't love at first sight. No, their connection builds over time. Gradually, we watch them fall for each other. Indeed, the game takes its romance seriously, and lets it unfold slowly, which certainly helps gamers get invested as they go along. Sure, that infamous laughing scene with Yuna and Tidus may still be ridiculous, but everything else about this romance just works.

The Final Fantasy games are known for their epic nature. Why would their romances be any different? If you enjoy bombast in your romance, then the story of a summoner and their guardian could worm its way into your heart, and you won't be mad about it.