Ahh Valentine’s Day…the one day of the year when we monetize the concept of love, and put more effort into our relationships than the entirety of the year. With so much romance in the air, and subsequently on the internet, it provides the perfect excuse to make a list of the Top 5 couples in video games!
These lists are a dime a dozen, sure, but whenever the subject of Top Five couples in video games comes up, everyone always trots out the same ponies—Mario and Peach, Nathan Drake and Elena, or James Sunderland and Mary for some cosmically stupid reason (hey list-makers, you know he doesn’t GO to Silent Hill for her, he’s SENT there as punishment for killing her).
I wanted to think a bit outside the box and shine a spotlight on some of the more under-rated Top 5 couples in video games that stand out in my mind, so without further ado:
5. Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades
Anyone who’s played Castlevania, or knows the expanded lineage of the Belmont clan as I do, knows full well that Trevor Belmont and Sypha Belnades pursued a romantic relationship after the events of Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse—their child Christopher Belmont would grow up to be the father of Simon. While there isn’t much on their relationship within the game itself, the Netflix anime adaptation (yes, it counts) shows so perfectly why these two are one of video games’ best Top 5 couples.
From the moment they meet, they immediately throw barbs at each other, playfully flirting in the midst of a demonic attack on the town of Targovishte. Despite Trevor’s crudeness, and Sypha’s own reservedness, they work perfectly together; constantly in sync, trusting of each other’s abilities, and even sharing some tender moments together. She is the one that breaks down his barriers and reminds him of his duty and compassion towards human life. They bring out the best, and the worst in each other, but they constantly find a way to stay together.
4. Professor Layton and Claire Foley
Professor Layton and the Unwound Future is one of the most deep, interesting, and incredibly emotional entries in a series that is all about solving puzzles. That’s obviously a glib interpretation of the game, since every one of these puzzle-solving collections of brainteasers has been punctuated by intricate, yet lighthearted stories filled with loveable and colourful characters. But The Unwound Future delves deep into Hershel Layton’s back-story, as he was completing his Doctorate in Archaeology at Gressenheller University. It’s established that he was dating the brilliant scientist Claire Foley—his one and only love.
While their relationship is only delivered in small pieces throughout the game, so much of it is charged with powerful moments that shape the very character of the Professor we’ve come to know and love. Claire was the one who gave Layton his iconic hat, and her death was what inspired him to be a perfect gentleman; the foundation for much of his character.
At the end of the game, when it’s revealed Claire had been sent out of time, and needed to return to the moment of her death; Hershel’s break in character—tearfully insisting she stay, and exclaiming he can’t say goodbye again—displays in great detail the love he had for Claire, as he was willing to break his own composure in a last ditch effort to defy the laws of time for his love. Absolutely one of the best Top 5 couples.
3. Undyne and Alpyhs
I’ve long sung the praises of Undertale, but I’ve never really got into some of the more wholesome representations of couples within the game. From the 2nd place “Nose Nuzzle Championship ’98,” winners: Dogamy and Dogaressa, to the two Royal Guards who find love for each other through their muscles and battle; there’s no shortage of romance in Undertale. However, by far the most wholesome love story within the game is that of the otaku scientist: Alphys; and the boulder-suplexing Captain of the Royal Guard: Undyne.
When players first meet Undyne, she is a terrifying force of nature; relentlessly pursuing humans with a barrage of energy spears. Upon sparing her, and participating in her “date,” players learn that she’s actually really sweet—albeit a bit intense, she is an excellent cook, a talented musician, and she even likes anime (though she mistakes it for human history).
Alphys is the complete opposite: pensive and nervous, as players learn she’s been keeping a dark secret. But her obsessive nerdiness comes out in force whenever you get her talking about her favourite anime or manga series—and she’s a bit too involved in social media.
But despite their differences, Undyne truly loves Alphys—even making the first move by having the player deliver a letter confessing her feelings, which Alphys mistakes for the player’s. When players go on the “date” with Alphys, they further learn that Undyne helped her pick out the cute dress she wears, and that there are more layers to her than we initially expected. It shows that when Undyne is with Alphys, she can truly be herself.
Subsequently, when Alphys confesses to Undyne that she lied to her about comics and anime, so she would think Alphys was cool, Undyne suplexes her into a trashcan. She confesses that she really doesn’t care about that, and likes that Alphys is passionate about her interests, and she wants to share them with her; and for Alphys to be more confident about sharing them with others.
It’s such a touching moment, and highlights an important facet of most romantic relationships—the importance of compatibility, and sharing interests with your partner; even if you may not like it, you may need to be supportive and share them with your partner. That’s why they are one of the Top 5 couples on this list.
2. Luigi and Princess Daisy
Everyone always talks about Mario and Princess Peach, and how they’re one of video game’s greatest couples, but what do we really know about them? Princess Peach spends most of her time kidnapped, and Mario is always running to her rescue. While you can argue Mario’s motivation is driven by love—and the Paper Mario games hint at the idea that Peach loves Mario in return—it’s only ever been suggested. At this point, it seems more like an obligation; that Mario and Peach have been together for so long, that their relationship is just routine.
But what of Luigi and his royal companion? We see so little of them, but I think the less we know about them, the more it says about their relationship. For one thing, it’s far more stable; as Daisy spends less time being kidnapped by evil monsters, so it stands to reason, she has more time to pursue an actual relationship with Luigi—and while Luigi occasionally runs off to help Mario on some of his adventures, there are several more where he doesn’t, suggesting he also has more time to devote to his loving princess.
But there are even a few examples in some Mario games that suggest their relationship is both loving and fun. Unlike Mario and Peach, who always seem so formal around each other, Daisy always seems flirtatious with Luigi—excitedly standing by his side in the official artwork for NES Open: Tournament Golf, or calling him “sweetie” as she races up to him to playfully grab a trophy in Mario Power Tennis.
But I think one of the best examples of their relationship put on display comes from a statue on the Daisy Circuit course, in Mario Kart Wii. In the middle of the course, we see a giant golden statue of Luigi and Daisy dancing together in a way that suggests they’re both having fun being together. Moreover, the course also has a statue of both Baby Luigi and Baby Daisy dancing together, suggesting theirs is a love that has been growing for as long as the two have known each other. How could they not be one of the Top 5 couples?
While this may seem like a minor detail, you’ve got to remember this is Daisy’s course. It was designed around her intention, and her intention was to install not one, but TWO monuments to her love for Nintendo’s most under-appreciated mascot. While gamers might think Luigi is always playing second fiddle to Mario, Daisy sees him for the hero he is, and showers him with the love he deserves.
1. Kafei and Anju
They say that romance and tragedy are one and the same—well…not really, but it sounds profound if you don’t think about it too much. Nowhere do we see this exemplified more intensely than in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. I’ve long talked about how Majora’s Mask is unquestionably the best Zelda, so it makes sense that it would be a part of video games’ Top 5 couples.
If players complete Kafei’s Quest—the most intricate, difficult and narratively structured side-quest in the entire game—players are presented with one of the most tragic, but bittersweet moments in video games. For those who aren’t aware, Kafei is a character in Majora’s Mask who was turned into a child by the Skull Kid, only days before his wedding to Termina’s Innkeeper: Anju. Not only that, but his betrothal mask was stolen by the greedy thief that assaults many residents of Termina.
When speaking to Anju, she laments the sudden disappearance of her beloved, while her mother insists he’s a no-good coward; but Anju remains determined that her love will return. If players help Kafei—whose quest takes the entirety of the game’s three days—then they are able to witness Kafei and Anju’s wedding ceremony, where despite being a child, Anju immediately recognizes her love.
As the moon is only seconds from destroying the land, the two exchange their masks, committing their love to each other, and stating that they will face the Dawn of the New Day together.
It’s a love unlike any other in video games—transcending relationships in games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect, where companions are fed affection tokens for the reward of a potential sex cutscene; or the comically generic fare you’d get from Uncharted. Here are two characters who, despite unspeakable hardships, and the literal end of the world; are willing to profess their love for each other, and face oblivion together. It’s tender, it’s beautiful, deeply tragic, and yet somewhat optimistic, as the player rewinds time to the first day with the memory of what they just saw and the knowledge that these two will always find love together, and that earns them a spot in the Top Five couples.