Top 5 Gaming Valentines
St. Valentine’s Day is one of those obstacles that everyone has to get past, unfortunately – a day of painful reminders for the singletons, and an absolute minefield for those of us actually in a relationship. Still, I’m sure we all lap up a good romance in fiction, and that extends to gaming – even if the beau and the belle are little more than 8-bit pixels. Whether you live for February 14th, or whether you can’t wait for the whole rigmarole to be over, our look at five of gaming’s power couples should help get you in the Valentine’s mood.
5. Ico and Yorda (ICO, PS2)
Yorda’s been captive for so long, she’s run out of fake tan
You know how it is – you get sent to a hauntingly beautiful castle because you have horns on your head and little to say for yourself. This is what befalls young Ico, before he escapes from his tomb and starts looking for a way out. He chances across a girl named Yorda, trapped in a cage hundreds of feet in the air. Being a gallant young buck, he rescues her and checks if she’s OK. And so begins the underrated PS2 hit, ICO.
Though little to no dialogue is ever spoken, the game progresses via interactions between Yorda and Ico, struggling together as they fight to escape. Yorda is, unfortunately, just about helpless, being guided by Ico’s hand at almost all times. Still, with all of the companionship and trials that the two struggle through, a wordless connection is formed that can be felt by the player as you shape their fate through the castle.
When Ico offers his hand, shouting encouraging words to Yorda and giving her enough motivation to jump across that chasm and into his outstretched hand, it all adds to the romance. It’s felt most when Ico fights off the Shadow Enemies with nowt but a wooden stick, keeping his Valentine safely by his side and going after her if she does get taken by the enemy. This is a pragmatic choice – after all, it’s game goddam over if she’s taken, but still.
4. Squall and Rinoa (Final Fantasy VIII, PS1)
How not to hug your partner
Alright, so the love story is told in a sort of ham-fisted manner for three whole discs, but most gamers in the late 90s knew they were in for a Valentine’s treat when the orange-and-red graphic of Squall and Rinoa embracing was set as the logo for the latest Final Fantasy game. In one corner, we have Squall, an introverted, uncaring, utter loner with abandonment issues. Into his life comes Rinoa, a bouncy, self-reliant girl who seems to know him all too well. He treats her as a noisy fly at first (as most would) but she worms her way into his party.
Through their journeys, they grow fond of each other, experience many close calls, and eventually learn to break down their faults and become better people. The ballroom bit near the beginning of the game is a fine scene, as you see Squall stumbling over his feet, obviously utterly dumbstruck by this girl who’s suddenly walked into his life. Quickly, he shapes up, begins to express himself and throws out some proper Travolta moves. We had the Cecil/Rosa/Kain triangle from FF4, and Cloud/Aeris/Tifa from FF7. But this was the first Final Fantasy to really centre on romance as one of the main plots. While VIII wasn’t as well loved as the other Final Fantasies, Squall and Rinoa’s relationship was still unparalleled to anything else at the time.
3. Solid Snake and Meryl (Metal Gear Solid, PS1)
There is a palpable sense of “What now?” in this picture. The lesson is, don’t bring your date to a nuclear warhead facility
I should probably tell you straight away, these two do not end up together by the end of the series (Snake ages about fifty years and Meryl gets married, which kind of puts the kibosh on it). Well, whatever became of these two, you can say this about them: during the time they shared in Metal Gear Solid 1, there was definitely a spark.
And with Snake being the grizzled, smoking, husky-voiced vet and Meryl the young, no-nonsense, shapely type, why wouldn’t there be? No damsel-in-distress was Meryl – she was completely capable of looking after herself. Maybe this is what allowed her to melt the heart of a jaded old soldier like Solid Snake? Assuming you weren’t shockingly poor at the torture scene, you’ll see these two Valentines ride off into the sunset together, only for the relationship to go nowhere… golly, maybe they shouldn’t be on the list after all? But I want you to understand: Snake had Meryl falling for him despite being born without a face.
2. Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man (Arcade)
40 pixels tells a thousand words
Poor Pac-Man. You’d have to say that, before his lady-friend came along, his life was pretty dull: all he did was run around popping pills while trying to avoid the local authorities. Actually, that sounds like top banter, but it couldn’t continue. Ms. Pac-Man entered the scene, and we can safely assume that Pac-Man was immediately captivated. After all, he’d never seen another of his kind before – and female too. I don’t know why she wasn’t Pac-Woman, but I must admit I haven’t researched the Pac-Man lore very much.
Here was a true woman of the eighties, who wasn’t afraid to out-do her male counterpart. Varied level designs! More cutscenes! Moving fruit! Make no mistake, she was one impressive yellow blob. Pac-Man presumably gathered enough courage to go meet his Valentine after a kill-screen or two, and a courtship quickly ensued. One pocket full of quarters later, the stork arrived. The question is, when will these two become grandparents?
1. Popo and Nana (Ice Climber, NES/Super Smash Bros series)
They look happy now, but you should see them with their hammers during a tiff
We’ve just seen some great couples in gaming, yes, but the Ice Climbers take the number one spot at a canter. Why? Well, more than any other couple in gaming, they exhibit the qualities that make a relationship strong. Even in the Super Smash Bros games, other notable wouldbe couples like Mario/Peach and Zelda/Link (and Captain Falcon/Zero Suit Samus of course) compete against each other. But the Ice Climbers recognize that they achieve their greatest feats as a nigh-inseparable team.
Apart, they don’t get on so well. Together, though, their hammers will smack foes silly. Also, neither one of them minds playing second fiddle to the other, and will gladly take the support role as necessary – I bet Nana always gives Popo a few ideas on where she’d like to eat. A relationship needs to be strong, if you’re going to scale icy mountains together all day. Popo and Nana have been together for over thirty years, and they still have an unselfish devotion to one another. Give it up for the Ice Climbers!
14 February 2020