Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and what better way to celebrate than by recounting the most romantic moments in video games? Be warned that this article contains spoilers for the following games: Final Fantasy VIII, Final Fantasy X, Life Is Strange: Before the Storm, NieR: Automata, The Last of Us: Left Behind, Silent Hill 2, Kingdom Hearts, Shadow of the Colossus, Uncharted 4, and Persona 5.
Squall Carrying Rinoa to Esthar (FFVIII)
Many will point to the iconic ballroom dance scene and say that’s the most romantic moment we’ve seen in Final Fantasy VIII, or perhaps even the whole of the Final Fantasy series. It’s a great scene, but it’s not particularly romantic because Squall and Rinoa are just meeting for the first time; she’s probably there with Seifer, and he doesn’t even know her anyway. All throughout FFVIII, Rinoa is constantly trying to talk to Squall and getting him to open up, but being the stubborn little shit that he is, he brushes her off and dismisses her. That all changes when Rinoa suffers a potentially fatal injury in a fight later on in the game.
Suddenly, Squall doesn’t quite know what to do without her, and it’s here that we begin to see him start to truly change and develop as a character. Refusing to just sit around and do nothing, Squall puts Rinoa on his back and starts walking across the bridge to Esthar in the hopes of finding some way to save her. During the long walk, Squall reflects on his own personality and explains why he’s been shutting himself off from everyone his entire life, even if Rinoa can’t hear him. A lot of this change can be attributed to Rinoa’s presence in his life, and this scene is the true turning point in FFVIII. It’s here that Squall is finally able to be honest with himself about his feelings, and it shows in his determination to save Rinoa. Even though it’d probably be a lot smarter and efficient to just get a car to Esthar or something. But I guess that wouldn’t be very romantic.
Chloe and Rachel After the Play (Life Is Strange: Before the Storm)
The entire second episode of Before the Storm was so fantastically written and presented, it’s hard to choose just one moment to crown as the most romantic. In the latter half of the episode, Rachel manages to talk Chloe into participating in The Tempest, and it ends up being a huge success, with Rachel even going off-script to basically declare her affections for Chloe onstage. But that’s not even the best part of the episode.
The whole sequence that comes directly after the play is executed with impeccable detail. Starting things off with beautiful framing shots of the moonlit streets of Arcadia Bay and Broods’ Taking You There serving as mood music, Chloe and Rachel bask in the adrenaline and afterglow of the play’s success. Rachel remains flirtatious all throughout the scene, offering her hand to Chloe, showering her with praise for her performance in the play, and painting rosy pictures of them taking a road trip.
“And one day you’ll be at a gas station fixing the brakes and some guy with no shirt on will come up. He’ll be like, ‘That’s so hot that you know about cars,’ and I’ll say, ‘Back off. She’s with me.'”
Rachel sure knows her way around a girl’s heart. That whole scene is filled with so much excitement and buildup, and it all comes to a head when the player is finally offered the option to ask Rachel for a kiss.
It’s one of those ‘pause your game and smile to yourself’ moments, especially after all Chloe’s been through. The girl deserves some happiness, dammit.
Sora and Kairi Parting (Kingdom Hearts)
While the real Kingdom Hearts fans will always argue that Sora and Riku are the true OTP here, there’s no other moment in the series quite as romantic as the ending to the original game. After sealing the Door to Darkness, Sora and Kairi are finally reunited, but only for a brief moment. Kairi finds herself being drawn back to the Destiny Islands, while Sora is off to… somewhere, I’m really not quite sure. The two hold hands for a moment, and Sora promises he’ll find his way back to her. Kairi knows he will, and Utada Hikaru’s Simple and Clean kicks in right as they part. It’s bittersweet and perfect.
The remainder of the cutscene shows Kairi walking around the Destiny Islands before going into the secret cave. That moment when she sees that Sora has drawn the shooting star on the rock and Kairi starts tearing up while smiling gets me every time. Be still, my 10-year-old heart.
Nate and Elena Reunite (Uncharted 4)
The relationship between Nate and Elena has been built up across three entire games, and the two finally seal the deal and get married at the end of Uncharted 3. However, we see that married life isn’t all sunshine and roses in Uncharted 4, as Nate grows tired of his mundane life and starts cutting Elena off when Sam reappears.
One of the most heartbreaking scenes occurs when Elena finally tracks Nate down and confronts him about his lies. She leaves, but returns again when he needs her the most. As they reunite and continue to mercilessly slaughter a bunch of mercenaries like the good ol’ days of courtship, things get serious again when Nate asks Elena why she changed her mind and came back for him. She reminds him of their marriage vows, and that she promised to stick with him for better or worse. It’s a great conversation that’s completely missable in the game, but it’s an important one that encapsulates how Elena feels about Nate and how far she’s willing to go for him, even when he’s being unbelievably selfish.
Wander Running to Mono (Shadow of the Colossus)
Shadow of the Colossus’ story is simple, but so deeply tragic especially when you consider Wander’s motivations for doing what he does. After his girlfriend Mono is sacrificed (for an unknown reason), Wander is so driven by grief that he steals a sacred sword, travels to the Forbidden Lands, and basically makes a deal with the devil to bring her back to life, no matter the cost.
As Wander goes on a journey to slay the 16 Colossi, we see that each kill sucks a little bit of humanity out of him and his skin begins to darken and grey. At the end of the game, Wander is finally tracked down by the townspeople who decide to kill him before he completely turns into a zombie. After he and Dormin are banished, Wander spends his final moments trying to run back to Mono even though it’s futile. The simple act of letting the player control Wander in this sequence while running towards Mono is so powerful, and perfectly captures the tragedy and sad futility of the entire situation.
Christmas Eve Date With Makoto (Persona 5)
The much-ballyhooed Christmas Eve dates are often seen as the most important events in the Persona series. These are the fanservice moments where the player finally gets to spend a romantic evening with their waifu of choice, and there will be all sorts of blushing, furtive glances, and cutesy conversations where the girl is too embarrassed to make her feelings plain. Yes yes, very romantic stuff. But Persona 5 provides a bit of a twist on the Christmas Eve events.
To be completely honest, all of the Christmas Eve dates go down pretty much the same way regardless of which girl you choose to hang out with, but we’re going with Makoto here because she’s literally and factually the best girl. Right before the date, Sae informs the protagonist that even though he’s essentially saved the world, he still needs to be held accountable for all he’s done as the leader of the Phantom Thieves. It’s how justice works, after all. The protagonist is allowed one last night to spend with his girlfriend before he’s arrested the next day.
The date isn’t as romantic because the protagonist knows what’s coming next, and even Makoto senses that something isn’t quite right. However, the protagonist is unable to bring himself to tell her that he’s about to be arrested, and Makoto ends up walking away, though she continues to worry. Persona 5’s Christmas Eve date stands out because it isn’t the usual fanservice we’d expect from Atlus, and it actually lends some degree of realism to the relationships you forge in the game. I’m not crying, you’re crying.
Ellie and Riley on the Carousel (The Last of Us: Left Behind)
The entire Left Behind DLC is basically a cute date, but the carousel ride and what comes after is a subtly romantic moment in The Last of Us that often goes unnoticed. Riding the carousel together might seem like such a simple thing, but it’s made all the better when you’re with someone you care about, no matter how silly it might seem. What really makes this scene stand out, though, is when Riley whips out a joke book and hands it over to Ellie.
As cringe-worthy as those puns are, it’s a sweet gesture that Ellie appreciates, and she makes it clear by saying that Riley just might be her favorite person again, after she left her for so long without a word. Riley smirks as she gets off the carousel and says, “I know my girl. Just sayin’.” This is the wonderful, wholesome kind of romance that’s born out of friendship and knowing each other well enough to be able to do things that they’d appreciate.
9S and the Lunar Tears (NieR: Automata)
This is a major spoiler warning, so if you haven’t played NieR: Automata to completion, we advise turning away now.
Once route C begins, it’s not long before 2B dies and 9S is plunged into a state of inconsolable grief. He is only saddened further when he hears a message that 2B left on her flight unit, saying that she enjoyed her time spent with 9S, and that it felt like pure light. Later on in the game, players are able to take on a side quest where we help an android say goodbye to one of her loved ones, and 9S starts to grasp the idea of having a ‘grave’ and keeping the memory of people who have passed on.
With that in mind, 9S heads for Emil’s underground hideout, a beautiful field filled with the gorgeous white Lunar Tear flowers. He sticks a piece of wood in the ground for 2B and tells her that they’ll be together again soon. Voice actor Kyle McCarley delivers a tremendous performance here, and as 9S starts to get more in touch with his sense of humanity, we get to see his true feelings for 2B as well.
Tidus and Yuna at the Lake (FFX)
Let’s ignore the fact that Yuna’s life has just been turned completely upside-down and that everything she’s ever believed in her entire life has just been revealed as a lie, and that she probably just needed a shoulder to cry on. Let’s also ignore the fact that Tidus making a move on her while she was crying and being emotionally vulnerable was actually kinda uncool of him. Everything else before the momentous kiss was a wonderful back-and-forth exchange that showcased the budding romance between Tidus and Yuna.
This is another subtly tragic scene because players are now aware of the fact that Yuna has to die as a summoner, though she seems conflicted about her pilgrimage. Tidus suggests that she could quit the pilgrimage, and that he knows everyone would support her decision. The two begin to fantasize about all the possibilities that await her as a regular civilian, and they’re overcome by a sense of wanderlust. Tidus tells her that they should go to Zanarkand.
“Let’s go to the sea before the sunrise. The city lights go out one by one, the stars fade, then the horizon glows… almost like it’s on fire. It’s kinda rose-colored, right? First in the sea, then it spreads to the sky, then to the whole city. It gets brighter and brighter, till everything glows. It’s really… pretty. I know you’d like it.”
Say what you will about the voice performances of FFX, but both Tidus and Yuna’s actors outdo themselves here, with his earnestness and her breaking down as she realizes she can’t just abandon her pilgrimage. The scene at Macalania is beautiful and romantic, but also heartbreaking as both know this happiness can’t last.
James Committing Suicide (Silent Hill 2)
Romance isn’t always happy and perfect. In fact, sometimes it involves death and quite a bit of destruction. Silent Hill 2 is one of the greatest psychological horror stories of our time, and it’s also an incredibly sad story about a husband who just found himself unable to deal with his wife’s terminal illness any longer.
As we approach the end of Silent Hill 2, we learn that James had killed Mary because he couldn’t stand to see her suffer anymore, and he didn’t want to be burdened by her either. Of course, he quickly comes to regret his actions soon after that. His own psyche starts tormenting him, and he goes to Silent Hill to be punished. Depending on the player’s actions, you’ll get a variety of different endings. The most poetic one, in my opinion, would be In Water, where James comes to terms with his guilt and finds that he’s unable to go on living without Mary. After all, that’s why he came to Silent Hill in the first place. Not to be redeemed, but to be punished for his sins.
James drives into Toluca Lake, drowning himself to be with Mary once again. Hey, romance can get pretty twisted too, y’know? Happy Valentine’s Day, dear readers.