Many of the greatest stories ever told in literature, film, and poetry have had love as the primary force pushing the narrative (and the protagonist) forward. As most gamers have already noticed, the video game genre is no exception.
From the early days of the NES all the way through the newest console generation, many of our favorite games are nothing more than an interactive love story once all the boss fights and puzzle-solving missions are stripped away. Much like in other mediums, the love stories in video games don't always have a happy ending, but that doesn't make them any less enthralling.
For better or worse, we're all suckers for a good love story. In the spirit of Valentine's Day, here are our top five love-driven video game stories...
Jonathan Blow's indie puzzle-platformer manages to marry theme with game mechanics in a masterful way that makes the playing experience unforgettable. Braid forces players to come face-to-face with heartbreak and gives them an ability everyone who has reached the end of a relationship has desired at one point or another... The power to rewind time and find the moment where it all went wrong.
Although critics of the game are quick to label Braid as pretentious; it's hard to deny that the gorgeous landscape, time-bending story, and beautiful narrative all add up to an experience that captures many of the best and worst moments of falling in and out of love.
Mario may not be the first hero in the history of adventuring to try and rescue a princess out of a castle, but there's no denying that he's become the most iconic. The little plumber that could demonstrates his perseverance and dedication time and time again with each new adventure in the Mario franchise.
Regardless of how many times the titular hero is told that his princess is in another castle, he is always ready to dive into the next series of challenges. The narrative may be a bit simplistic, but that doesn't make it any less romantic by our standards.
After so many years of saving the princess, it is also quite refreshing to see the power couple fighting side-by-side in Super Mario 3D World.
In The Darkness, players must suffer with the protagonist, Jackie Estacado, through the brutal murder of the love of his life. Jenny's assassination triggers Jackie's suicide and puts the rest of the game's events into motion. Although it sounds like she might just be a set piece, the love between Jenny and Jackie is actually much more.
The resurrected Jackie fights through the scum of the city and gives himself up to The Darkness more and more as he seeks vengeance for Jenny's murder. Although Jackie is ultimately consumed by his murderous spree and loses himself to the Darkness that has been consuming him, he never forgets about his lost love. In the last scene of the game, players are allowed to witness a final moment of quiet peace between Jackie and Jenny that reminds us what he was fighting for all along.
To the Moon
If you think the first 15 minutes of Pixar's UP was a tearjerker, then you're going to want to have a box of Kleenexes by your side while you play through To the Moon. The story of Johnny and River spans generations and is enough to make even the least romantic gamers feel a little sappy.
The adventure game inserts players into elderly Johnny's memories (not unlike Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), where they attempt to make sense of the long and confusing relationship the dying man had with his deceased wife. As players come closer and closer to realizing why Johnny's dying wish is to go to the moon, the feels are guaranteed to intensify. Seriously. Get ready to cry.
Red Dead Redemption
Rockstar takes a lot of heat for the infidelity that is so casual in the Grand Theft Auto series, but the developer used its old west sandbox adventure game to show its more romantic side. In Red Dead Redemption, John Marston has given up a life of crime to live peacefully ever after with his wife, Abigail. After years of farming, he is quick to turn back to his old ways when he needs to rescue Abigail and his son from the feds, but that familiar trope isn't what makes this love story so noteworthy.
John is given opportunity after opportunity to find romance in other places throughout the game's narrative, but he never gives in. The setting and story clearly demonstrate that fidelity isn't common on the frontier, but Marston remains faithful to his wife as he does everything he can to get her back and return to their quiet life on the farm. If only things could have worked out that way...
The list of iconic video game love stories continues to grow each year and we're sure there are a few romantic epics that we missed.
Honorable mentions included the terrifying tale of Silent Hill 2 (which just seemed too dark to revisit on Valentine's Day) and Shadow of the Colossus (which also doesn't have the happiest of endings).
Did we miss one of your favorite video game love stories? Let us know in the comments.
Follow Denny on Twitter @The_DFC.