The ever-expanding landscape of video games has a little something for everyone. Maybe you’re in the mood to explode some zombie heads in Left 4 Dead, or traipse through an eerie European hamlet in Resident Evil Village. Maybe you want to explore a slice of life in The Sims 4, and sprinkle some pure existential horror on top by forcing your Sim family to reckon with the grim specter of their own mortality. I’m not here to judge.
But maybe none of that is quite what you’re looking for. Perhaps, like so many of us this time of year—Valentine’s Day looming just up ahead, the drugstore candy aisles festooned with pink, red, and white reminders of your enduring singledom—you’re feeling just a little bit lonely. Have no fear! The video game world has plenty of romance to offer.
If dating sims aren’t your thing, or you’re just looking to mix it up a little bit, there are plenty of games that break up the racing hearts and longing glances with lots of big guns and dungeon crawling. After all, love can bloom in the most unexpected places: a post-apocalyptic United States, the Milky Way galaxy, or even the depths of the underworld. So open your heart and grab your controller; let’s get ready to fall for some of the best love stories in non-romance games.
11. Assassin’s Creed: Origins (2017)
The love story at the heart of Assassin’s Creed: Origins is tinged with equal parts tragedy and tenderness. Set against the backdrop of Ptolemaic Egypt, Origins follows protagonist Bayek and his wife Aya as they work together to protect their people and their home. These two are partners in all that they do, equally proficient and deadly with their weapons and ambition. But don’t get ahead of yourself—these two aren’t exactly marriage goals. Bayek and Aya may love each other deeply, but their flaws run even deeper. The foundation of their marriage is riddled with cracks, and they are too focused on the political unrest around them (and all of the assassination that needs to go down) to see it until it’s too late. There is no true happy ending to be found here. Rather, gamers get front-row seats to a surprisingly frank, grounded look at a relationship doomed to fall apart. It’s like Marriage Story, but a lot more people get stabbed.
10. Mass Effect (2007)
A military sci-fi franchise might not seem like the kind of environment where love can flourish, but the Mass Effect series has some of the best romance storylines in its genre. The first Mass Effect game features three potential love interests for Commander Shepard: soldier Ashley Williams, who happens to be a literature fan (she quotes “O, Captain, My Captain” during a pivotal scene); sentinel Kaidan Alenko, who is honestly kind of boring (but maybe you’re into that); and asari scientist Liara T’Soni. Liara in particular is a fan favorite, able to be romanced by either a female or male version of the player character. Though she may not be especially familiar with the ins and outs of human relationships, she’s brilliant and loving, and she catches on fast. A bisexual alien icon—we simply love to see it.
9. Fallout 4 (2015)
Even in a retro-futuristic post-apocalyptic hellscape like Fallout 4, people are still looking for love. At the end of a long day avoiding death by super mutant, it’s nice to have someone to sit with, watching the sun set over the irradiated rubble. There are no dating apps here in the Commonwealth, so your options are limited to whomever you can stumble across outside of Vault 111. If you like a fellow in a tricorn hat with a rotted-off nose and a taste for violence, then get ready to have those uncomfortably specific needs met in John Hancock, the desiccated ghoul mayor of Goodneighbor. You can also pursue troubled criminal Cait, intrepid reporter Piper, mercenary Robert MacCready, and several other companions you encounter over the course of the game. Just because the world ended doesn’t mean your love life has to!
8. Hades (2018)
Sometimes, dating can be hell. But what about dating in hell? This roguelike dungeon crawler drops players in the Underworld of Greek mythology, combining fast-paced action with a witty sense of humor and some seriously beautiful artwork. Hades is truly a game that’s got it all, just like its lovable protagonist Zagreus. He’s a real prince of a guy. The two main love interests in the game are badass babe Megaera and drop-dead gorgeous Thanatos. The player can pursue a relationship by completing specific tasks, and giving their intended lots of nectar and ambrosia. (That’s not a euphemism. Get your mind out of the gutter.) Unlike many other games with romance storylines, Hades gives players the option to pursue a polyamorous relationship with both Megaera and Thanatos. Turns out even the Underworld can feel like Mount Olympus if you’re with the right people.
7. Baldur’s Gate 3 (2020)
Sometimes dating can get a little bit messy, especially when you’re facing off against an ancient evil that threatens to devour your world. In Baldur’s Gate, choosing to romance one of your companions does not just impact their opinion of you, but the opinions of the rest of your companions as well. Maybe they’re happy for you, maybe they think you’re making a huge mistake, maybe they’re jealous, it all depends on what you choose. Baldur’s Gate 3 has some incredibly unique, compelling romanceable characters. Options include Astarion, a former vampire spawn and current handsome rogue; Wyll, a noble warrior who struck a dark deal to become a living legend; Shadowheart, a cleric struggling with her power and responsibility; Gale, a wizard prodigy corrupted by forbidden magic (but you can change him!); and Lae’zel, a warrior desperate to prove her worth and win back the favor of her people. Whatever your fantasy is, you’ll find someone to fulfill it (as long as your fantasy includes some kind of grand quest to defeat the forces of evil). And, hey—maybe once the whole ancient evil situation is squared away, you can take a vacation together or something.
6. Mass Effect 2 (2010)
While players of Mass Effect 2 have the option to carry over their love interest from the first game, this sequel has such interesting romantic options that they might not want to. From Cerberus officer Miranda Lawson, whose cold exterior masks hidden depths, to drell assassin Thane, to fan favorite Garrus Vakarian, there are a variety of experiences to choose from. If you want to work for your happy ending, Miranda Lawson is the gal for you. She wants you, but she doesn’t need you, you know? Whereas if you’re looking for someone endearingly awkward, undyingly loyal, and with a heart far softer than his severe look might imply, Garrus Vakarian could be your perfect match. Whomever you choose to navigate the vast reaches of space with, there are plenty of ways to pursue a lasting relationship and unlock the Paramour Achievement. Sure, true love is its own reward, but it’s nice to get a little prize too.
5. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (2019)
Fire Emblem: Three Houses is the sixteenth installment in the Fire Emblem series of tactical role-playing games, and, in addition to a rich story and engaging turn-based combat, players have the option to form lasting bonds with the game’s characters—so lasting, in fact, that they can lead to marriage. There are dozens of characters to choose from, including options for same-sex pairings. However, if you’re looking for a quick hookup, this is not the game for you. Marriage doesn’t occur in Three Houses until after the main story is complete. However, if you’re willing to take it slow, then you can select your house, choose a suitable mate, and (if you’re lucky) invite them on a sexy tea date. Sounds pretty steamy.
4. Life is Strange: Before
the Storm (2017)
If you loved episodic adventure game Life is Strange, but wished the romantic undertones between Max and Chloe were explored more, then you might be interested in this prequel. Though Max isn’t present in Before the Storm, the game focuses on the relationship between Chloe and her close friend Rachel. The game doesn’t require the player to steer things in a romantic direction between the two, but, if they do, then they will be rewarded with an awkward, earnest story about two girls trying to find where they fit in the world—and with each other. It’s lovely and deeply bittersweet as every choice the player makes brings Chloe and Rachel closer together or pushes them apart. Some of the choices are milestone moments like a first kiss; others are quieter and more subtle, like the simple intimate act of sharing headphones to listen to a song. No matter what, just remember: each action will have consequences.
3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015)
Listen, everyone knows that a Witcher is good for three things: hunting monsters, being sexy as hell, and playing a mean game of Gwent. Our favorite silver-haired beefcake, Geralt of Rivia, is back at it again in this third installment of the high fantasy game series. The two main romanceable characters in The Witcher 3 are Triss and Yennefer, two sorceresses who share history with our protagonist. There is nothing particularly special about the game’s romance mechanic, but the characterization of both Triss and Yennefer makes them feel like real people. Impossibly pretty animated people, but still. These women are brilliant, independent, and they know what they want—whether Geralt is willing to give it to them or not. Whichever path you choose to pursue, you’ll find plenty of character development and a few spicy love scenes along the way.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
All of the Dragon Age games feature romance options in some capacity, but this third installment in the BioWare action role-playing franchise took its relationship system up a notch. In the first two games, it is only possible for the player to romance their companions, but Inquisition allows the player to romance some of their advisors as well. The romantic storylines are nuanced, lovingly crafted, and offer plenty of chances for lighthearted flirting and meaty character development alike. There are eight total romance options, but each of them has their own preferences and interests, from politics to sexuality. Some are gay, straight, or bisexual, and others are only interested in dating elves or humans. So, if you want to explore every available romance path, you’ll have to change up your character a bit. What are you into? A duplicitous elf man? A mage with a handlebar mustache? A rogue with the haircut of a Brooklyn barista? The fantastical world of Dragon Age has got it all.
1. Stardew Valley (2016)
This charming farming sim has all the comforts of a cozy, rural community. You can tend to your crops, go fishing, and fight increasingly strong monsters in the mysterious caves just outside of town—but, most importantly (for the purposes of this article), you can find a special someone to share it all with. Stardew Valley offers a variety of love interests with a wide range of personalities, interests, and needs. There are lots of places to meet these eligible singles, too! You can look for love at the local tavern over a drink, make a connection at one of the town’s many festivals, or, if you’ve got your eye on the town doctor, just keep getting injured and hope he’s wooed by what a breakable little daredevil you are. Romance isn’t a necessity in Stardew Valley, of course, but if you decide to stop farming solo, there’s bound to be someone that suits you. Whether you want a brooding writer with the hair of an elf king, a soft-hearted artist with a troubled past, or a beautiful blonde who will just be mean to you all the time for no reason, there’s something for everybody here. Just be careful how much you date around, because these small-town singles are strictly monogamous and don’t take kindly to being two-timed (or twelve-timed, if you’re ambitious). Just like the rest of the game, the romance storylines in Stardew Valley are weird, wonderful, and a chance to retreat into a softer, warmer, more pixelated version of the world.
So, the next time you embark on a voyage through the stars, wander across a mysterious landscape, or just try to revitalize the old farm you inherited from your grandpa, just know that you don’t have to do it alone. No matter the genre, you can find time to make a romantic connection (between the battle sequences, puzzles, and harvesting your parsnip crop, of course). After all, isn’t love basically the ultimate side quest in this game we call life?