Waypoint Weeklies: Favorite Relationships in Games

Relationships are an important part of all of our lives, so it’s not surprising that games are filled with depictions of them. Friendship, romance, familial bonds and many other types of relationships enrich the narratives of so many of the games we play.

So, this week, we want to know what your favorite relationships in games are? Do you see yourself and your bestie in two character’s banter? Is there a romance that swept you off your feet? What makes a great relationship in a video game for you?

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I’m an old-fashioned romantic. Candlelit dinners, poetry, surprise flowers, etc. So running into the very stiff Cassandra Pentaghast in Dragon Age: Inquisition and getting a gut feeling that said “Her. It’s her, you idiot. Her her her.” caught me off-guard. “She’s a romance option? She’ll rip me in half!” In classic Gut fashion, I got zero clarification.

And then she starts to open up a little bit. About her religion (I’m Catholic, this is catnip) and about her past. About trying to meet and balance all of her obligations. About how she’d really like a date with a candlelit dinner and poetry. record scratch

extremely John Mulaney voice That’s my wife!

One of BioWare’s finest contributions to video games was the “flirt” button.

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It’s gotta be Pyre, right? I feel like this is a “if you know, you know” situation, because it’s often not about what’s actually depicted. It’s about the platform the game gives you to fill in the blanks, imagine all the ways these incredibly well realized characters play off one another. Like, there’s a scene out of time in the end credits where Hedwyn is puking after drinking too much of Pamitha’s liquor thing, when they, Gilman and Rukey were hanging out on the roof of the black wagon. Or a similar seen where Ti’Zo and Kae/Mae/etc are fishing.

God damn I’m gonna play Pyre again.

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Final Fantasy XIV’s story lives on its relationships. Between characters, but especially on their connections with yours. Each of the Scions who form your main gang is skillfully portrayed as a close friend, and their character growth is tied to your journey. I’ve spent a lot of time with those folks, and I am genuinely, deeply fond of each of them.

Still, let’s give this one to stand-out 3rd expansion Shadowbringer’s main antagonist, Emet-Selch. That whole story builds an unexpected relationship between you and him. The more you learn about who he is and why he does what he does, the more compelling a character he becomes and the more complex your feelings become. The ending is so much more emotionally rich because of it.

As an aside, I’ve been fascinated by how assiduously the writers avoid explicit romantic relationships between the main characters. I like it. Romance plots can fill up a lot of emotional space in a story, and can crowd out the full power of deep friendships if you let it.

It’s not that the game’s world lacks romance, or even general horniness- far from it. It’s there in a lot of the side content. It’s just kept a careful distance from the main characters.

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Mae and Bea in Night in the Woods is a really superb one. Two people who… weren’t really friends are connected by circumstance and discover they have a lot in common. That was my favorite part of that game, as much as Greg rulez.

Fei and Elly in Xenogears is a fun romance. There’s a meet cute at the beginning, but as you follow the characters you learn it’s essentially a Biblical, multigenerational love of two people fated to be reincarnated and separated. It’s sappy but I dig it. There’s not as much intimacy as some other good game relationships, but you can’t beat it for scale.

Shoutouts to Chrom’s himbo relationships with the male protag and Frederick in Fire Emblem Awakening. And shoutouts to To The Moon and Oxenfree for a good romance and sibling dynamic respectively.

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There is no relationship more pure than A Boy and His Blob.

image

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I think Rachel and Chloe’s relationship in Life Is Strange: Before the Storm is some of the gayest gay shit that ever did gay. The finale of Act 2 (The Tempest scene) is one of the most romantic scenes ever put to screen and I’m tired of pretending like it isn’t.

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Guess I gotta go Sora and Riku which has all the best elements of best friend, deadly rivals, and severe aching romance.

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I would say the characters + their relationships are primarily why I adore the Ace Attorney series. Their personalities and motivations are rarely super deep, but the writing and style turns them into near perfections of whatever trope they are portraying. But the real joy comes from seeing how they bounce off each other over and over again, the slow changes in their relationships, and the funny banter that comes as a result. Naruhodo and Susato from Great Ace Attorney is way way up there.

I was going to say it’s hard to pick a favorite relationship, but who am I kidding? It’s obviously Phoenix and Miles. Let them kiss.

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Big Boss and Revolver Ocelot is probably my favourite relationship in games. Let’s be real here; videogames are not good at any type of relationship, platonic or romantic. So when I think of actually good relationships in games, I lean towards the stuff that acknowledges the inherent square-peg-round-hole nature of trying to tell a satisfying story or character arc in an interactive medium.

Hence, Ocelot and Boss. A decades-long relationship both canonically and the number of games they’ve co-starred in. A resonantly unscrutable love-affair about two men who are gay for freedom and soldiers, in that order. You’re not going to find much like it outside of anime/manga, and even then, mostly in the absolutely goated shit like Berzerk.

They’re pretty good.

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Yeah, I keep returning to Ace Attorney in these weeklies and a lot of that comes down to how the cast develops their relationships. For what’s on screen my vote goes to BFF’s Maya and Phoenix. At the end of the first trilogy you really see how deeply they’ve come to trust and depend on each other when shit comes down.

As for shorter relationships, Butterfly Soup goes through you at mach 2 but still works in two of my favorite couples. Diya and Min-Seo are the main focus, of course. Diya’s anxiety to Min-Seo’s aggression makes for so many scenes between them that make me laugh and my heart curl up.

And on the other end there’s Anya and B.J. in Wolfenstein: The New Order/The New Colossus. They love each other to an almost grotesque degree, especially around the end of the second game. Most big budget western games have boring couplings but these two never make for a dull moment. (The series also has a lot of other good non-romantic relationships, like B.J./Caroline and Klaus/Max, doing a lot of work to show how the Resistance cares for each other)

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Grim Fandango is my favorite game of all time, mostly for sentimental, perfect time and place when I played it reasons. While Manny and Meche’s romance is very interesting and pretty moving by the end of Manny’s 4 year quest to find her and deliver her to her deserved eternal rest… The friendship between Manny and Glottis is a spectacular depiction of ride or die (again) friends.

What starts as an association for a means to an end quickly becomes an inseparable bond. Manny always makes sure there’s a place for Glottis by his side on his journey.

Glottis_and_manny

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the best father figure in videogames

but really anyone Kiryu interacts with lol

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I really like a lot of the character interactions in Mana Khemia: Alchemists of Al-Revis, but if I had to pick one, it’s probably Vayne and Jess. She’s the first person to talk to the protagonist, and they have a lovely dynamic as she draws him out of his shell and kind of learns to express himself and stand up for what he wants. And one of their character events feels really authentic in them having a falling-out, where Jess gets really frustrated with Vayne for being upset when he learns that Jess is terminally and incurably ill. It really captures the slightly solipsistic nature of being a teenager who hasn’t had to really grapple with the fact that your peers might feel very differently about something than you yourself do.

I also adore the relationships between the main characters of We Know The Devil, I am very excited for that 101.

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I will always have a fondness for Ike and Soren in FIre Emblem: Path of Radiance (and Radiant Dawn). Is it platonic or romantic? Truly, who can say. Ike can’t even get an ending with any female character, but he can get a ‘spent the rest of his life with Soren’ ending so make of that what you will. But I love how much they support one another, it’s surprisingly sweet and is so crucial to their stories - in a way where Fire Emblem often suffers because so much of many relationships is built on 3-4 support conversations.

(Also, similar to JennySighs, I am very hyped for Heaven Will Be Mine - love the dynamics between the main characters in that game, and also, they are mech pilots which just makes it more beautiful imho.)

Most games with capital-R ‘Romance’ mechanics - where you have to wine and dine a romantic partner - don’t do a ton for me, I think the gamification takes away some of the authenticity, but I am quite fond of Commander Shepard and Garrus Vakarian. Which is odd, because I’m less fond of Mass Effect as a franchise, but they manage to get the right mix of cheesy romantics and drama that I love. Their dance date in the Citadel DLC and “there’s no Shepard without Vakarian” are top tier.

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Why is Mass Effect an all-time great video game series? Because somehow it made me care about the friendship between a CIA agent and a cop.

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I’m a real fan of Wenduag’s romance in Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous, because i guess I’m a big sucker for “snarky catgirl minion”, lol.


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Cassandra is easily one of my favorite romances of all time. She’s wonderful!

Alphen and Shionne from Tales of Arise was a pleasant surprise. Easily one of the more convincing and compelling romances I’ve seen in gaming outside of BioWare games.