Valentine’s Day. Well, here we are, aren’t we? The day that most of us loath from a young age and enjoy mildly at a later date, the day all about love and greeting cards. Admittedly, video games aren’t the most stellar place to find love stories that’ll win awards and make you cry. Sure, there are a few sprinkled here and there, but I don’t want to talk about heartwarming love stories. I want to talk about the really good love stories, you know, the ones that don’t typically end well. That’s why in honor of Valentine’s Day I’m bringing you Seven Tragic Video Game Love Stories.
Before we begin though, you should know that each and every one of these is a spoiler for its respective game. And not just a little spoiler, I’m talking big spoilers. If you don’t want some of these ruined, you might want to look elsewhere this Valentine’s Day. I assure you that there are plenty of other great sites to appease your lonely needs. Okay, shall we begin?
7. Cloud and Aeris (Final Fantasy 7)
Whenever we have to talk about tragedy in video games, little Ms. Flowergirl is sort of required to make an appearance, lest I get chastised by her swarms of loyal followers. We all know the story by now: Cloud meets Aeris early in the game, the two seem to share some romantic feelings here and there, but by the end of the first disc she has a seven-foot katana sticking through her back and an emo dude dancing away as he laughs, leaving Cloud to mourn Aeris’ death for years afterward, even bleeding into Advent Children, the sequel movie that takes place after the game. My only reservation with this pair is that depending on the way you play, you can lean Cloud more in favor of Tifa, his childhood best friend (as I did), making Aeris’ death and Cloud’s remorse mean significantly less in the long run. Rather the tragedy is that no one finds love in the end, period. Some bittersweet head nods, but no true romance.
6. Blumiere and Timpani (Super Paper Mario)
Paper Mario is a series that has a lot more going on than people realize at a first glance. Super Paper Mario in particular has a lot of aspects that hit on a deeper emotional level than anyone would expect for a Mario game, especially a Mario game that openly mocks itself. In this installment, multiple dimensions are in danger of getting erased as a man named Count Bleck seeks to wipe everything out after he lost his true love. Mario stops him in time with the help of a little butterfly named Tippi, only to realize that Tippi is really Timpani, the woman Bleck thought was dead (though now she’s a butterfly). Blumiere (Count Bleck) sees the error of his ways right before getting betrayed by one of his henchmen. At the Eleventh Hour, Bleck realizes the only way to stop all the worlds from facing destruction is to essentially sacrifice a pair of soul mates, of which the only two available are he and Tippi. They confess their undying love for each other at a wedding alter and then pretty much fade from existence. Where they are is never explained, but they aren’t returning. It’s like if Romeo and Juliet were played out with video game characters. And Mario was Benvolio or something.
5. Marle and Crono (Chrono Trigger)
Possibly one of the best games to ever grace the Super Nintendo, Chrono Trigger was a title with excellent characters and a fantastic story, albeit a confusing one if you weren’t paying attention. As the love story goes, Crono, a young swordsman, goes to the Millennial Fair in his hometown and meets a girl named Marle, whom he later learns is the princess of the kingdom. Through a series of strange events, Marle is transported back in time where she accidentally causes herself to cease to exist, but is returned thanks to Crono’s intervention. They have a quiet romance (literally, Crono never speaks throughout the game) but it’s sort of implied that they’ll get married eventually. All they have to do is defeat Lavos, a being of insane destruction. In an early encounter with the beast, Crono sacrifices himself to save everyone, getting shredded into nothing by Lavos’ People Shredding Beam. Through an odd quest of item grabbing, including the actual Chrono Trigger, Crono can be restored, a scene that’s extra touching as Marle holds him and cries. But without much effort, you can completely forgo the side quest needed to save him and just go ahead and kill Lavos instead, leaving Crono dead at the end of the game and Marle all alone. And don’t give me any lip about this one not counting. If you play Chrono Cross it sort of implies that despite saving all of time from Lavos, Crono, Marle, and all their friends are killed anyway by the next big threat. That’s pretty tragic in my book.
4. Locke and Rachel / Cyan’s Life (Final Fantasy 6)
One of the first instances a game’s love story really struck a cord with me was Final Fantasy 6 (FFIII for the SNES). I hadn’t really played a game quite like it before, meaning the full effect hit me as the game intended. One of my instant favorite characters, the treasure hunter Locke, has a backstory involving a relationship with a girl named Rachel. You don’t really learn the circumstances as to what happened to her for a bit, though the main details are that while exploring with Locke, she falls off a rickety bridge saving him and loses her memory, disowning him since she doesn’t know who he is, then regains her memory moments before getting killed during a raid by the Empire. Locke has an herbologist create a mixture of herbs that preserve her body and place her in suspended animation (or some version of it) in hopes that some day he’ll find a way to save her. This becomes his character’s driving motivation, extended to the other female characters (“I won’t lose you, too”), though when he does finally find something that may be able to help her, it can’t. She wakes up briefly to say goodbye and tells him to move on with his life, allowing him to have a somewhat implied relationship with Celes.
This is sad and all, but Cyan, also from FF6, has a story just as sad, if not more so. He’s introduced as a noble knight from the kingdom of Doma. Kefka, the ultimate villain, poisons the town and kills everyone except for Cyan, meaning Cyan is forced to rush to his wife and child, only to find them dead. Not long after this he witnesses them board the train to the afterlife, unable to follow them. If that doesn’t make you want to break into tears, after the world shatters and you lose track of most of the characters, you discover Cyan living in a cave near a town sending letters to a woman named Lola in the guise of her dead boyfriend, a fact she’s unaware of. The only reason he’s sending letters to her is because he takes pity upon her. So yeah, tough call here. One of these two FF6-related love stories deserves to be on this list, so I’m not deciding and putting both up. You can decide in the comments which love story is more tragic, but in the meantime I’m moving on to number 3.
3. Commander Shepard and Thane (Mass Effect 2)
I have a very special place in my heart for the characters of Mass Effect, mostly because I’ve played it from two completely separate angles: once as a peaceful male soldier and once as a vicious female vanguard. I greatly preferred playing as the female Shepard, mostly due to Jennifer Hale’s voicework. I even managed to play through the story in such a way as to make things extra tragic for everyone. During the first Mass Effect, you have the option of wooing Kaidan, a male tech specialist, or Liara, a female Asari scientist. I decided to pursue the romance with Kaidan, but in one of the end missions of the game you have to decide which teammate dies between Kaidan and a female solider named Ashley. I had been using Ashley throughout the game, so Kaidan didn’t come back with me, leaving Shepard alone for the romance sequence. This all makes the romance in Mass Effect 2 more potent as the options of mates increase to three with my choice going to Thane, a Drell assassin with a terminal illness related to his lungs. Their romance is odd, but the narrative I’d created, somewhat by accident, made things feel planned that way. My female Shepard had more character motivation to find someone to relate to as she’d been a real hardass to everyone. To think that her first romance resulted in a death and her very next romance has an extremely finite amount of time attached to it, well that just seems to define tragic in my eyes.
2. Wander and Mono (Shadow of the Colossus)
Those who haven’t played Shadow of the Colossus, it’s okay, I don’t think any less of you. The game prided itself on consisting entirely of boss battles with very little story or downtime in between everything. Unfortunately it was called a “Zelda-killer,” meaning it was doomed to undersell out of principle alone. None of that matters though as the entire narrative consists of the main character, Wander, laying a clearly dead girl named Mono down on a pedestal in a strange temple. His goal is to slay all sixteen Colossi in order to resurrect her, though with each he kills a part of him dies, too, until by the end he’s a walking shell of a man before being turned into a Colossus himself and then getting somewhat obliterated. Mono awakens, alive and well, but Wander-as-we-knew-him is completely gone, leaving only a strange baby for Mono to care for. Wander essentially traded his life for Mono’s, an act as loving as it is tragic.
1. Link and Every Girl He Meets (Ocarina of Time)
Yes, I found a way to slip Ocarina of Time into yet another article. I’m very good at that, specially when it fits so easily. Before you accuse me of fudging the rules here, I want to point out how perfectly Link’s story fits with the gist of my list here. First, Link is shown as best friends to a Kokiri girl named Saria, then as a possible love interest with Princess Zelda, and finally “engaged” to Princess Ruto of the Zora. But wait; there are three more ladies to add to this mix! Malon of Lon-Lon Ranch, Nabooru of the Gerudo Tribe, and Navi the little fairy assistant. The story separates Link from Saria by turning her into the Sage of Forest, then does the same to Princess Ruto when she becomes the Sage of Water. If you listen to some Gossip Stones in the game, they tell you that Malon wishes for a knight to take her away, leading many to speculate that she’s referring to Link. Nabooru promises Link “something” for retrieving the Silver Gauntlets, though we never know what that something ever is, however, she says before turning into the Sage of
Spirit that she would have kept her promise if she knew what a handsome man Link would become. At the end of the game no one gets Link and Link gets no one because in one timeline he doesn’t exist and in the other he never really met any of them, instead leaving Hyrule on Epona in search of Navi, who in turn had left Link for seemingly no real reason.
Furthermore, Link could never have been with Saria anyway due to her remaining essentially a child forever, Ruto for being a fish-person, and Navi for being a fairy. And of course he could never be with Zelda because Link never ends up with Zelda at the end of a Legend of Zelda title. You’ll encounter at least one scene for each of these characters in which they convey sadness at the impossibility of a romance with Link, or vice versa when he realizes he can’t be with them, either. None of this takes into account the player’s sadness when they learn their preferred girl (whomever that may be) isn’t ending up with Link. All this leads up to the final scene with Link facing Zelda while the camera freezes and goes to grayscale, a scene that sadly shows how no one is really happy with any conclusion as Link will be leaving them all. That wins the prize for Most Tragic Love Story in my book.
So three you have it, seven instances where the love story of a video game brought a twang of sorrow to my face and a tear to my eye. But these are just my examples. Do you have some better ones? What love stories from video games make you cry or hit you in ways you didn’t expect? Leave a comment and let me know. In the meantime, I’m going to go ensure that Mario gets more cake before I start crying again.
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