The Most Dysfunctional Romances in Video Games

By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

The next time you feel badly that your relationship isn’t like it is in romantic comedies and sappy novels, you can at least take comfort in the fact that you don’t have to navigate the often twisted world of video game courtship.


Billy Lee and Marian, Double Dragon


Never mind the fact that Marian looks like she’s been around the block a few (dozen) times. Love can overcome a partner’s past–and also, it was the 80s. Billy Lee clearly loves Marian as he is willing to kick and punch his way through a gang of chain-wielding killers and ‘roided-up freaks named Abobo in order to rescue her. When he finally shows up to save Marian, however, the very first thing she tells him is that she also wants his brother, Jimmy (with the subtext that they’ve already hooked up), but if he kicks Jimmy’s ass–right there, on the spot, in front of her–she’ll choose him. And he does it, no questions asked! But I’m sure that single fight was totally the end of any relations between Marian and Jimmy, and that the trio wasn’t destined for an appearance on trashy talk shows: “Billy and Jimmy–neither of you are the father! But we also tested Mayor Mike Haggar…”


Ryu Hayabusa and Irene Lew, Ninja Gaiden

Ninja Gaiden ending.png

Ryu’s very first words to Irene were “Just a girl. Get out of here!” like an 8 year old boy would shout at his sister from his tree house. Their storybook romance only gets better when Irene later shoots Ryu. If your heartstrings aren’t sufficiently tugged yet, Ryu chivalrously stakes ownership of Irene, proclaiming that he is her reward for saving the world. She very well might have fallen in love with him anyway for committing such a noble act, but Ryu ain’t got time for that. He’s claiming his prize, and he’s claiming it now. It initially seemed jarring when Ryu transitioned from the classic Ninja Gaiden games to the modern reboot franchise where he is surrounded by women who dress entirely for the male gaze, but it was actually just the logical evolution for him. If it weren’t for the limitations of how suggestive video game dialogue could be at the time, Ryu’s opening lines to Irene would’ve most likely have been, “Just a girl. Get out of here…unless you have leather fetish gear underneath that outfit!”


Cloud and Tifa, Final Fantasy VII



It was tough to pick which of the many “relationships” within FF7 to explore here, but Cloud and Tifa seem to be the closest to an actual couple. Aerith basically only wants Cloud because of how much he reminds her of Zack, which she brings up even on their first real date together. But Tifa and Cloud go back to childhood, and Tifa never stopped wanting him. They even get it on toward the end of the game (it isn’t explicitly stated, but they definitely do). Also, Tifa is one of the biggest sex symbols in video game history. And yet, Cloud basically passes on all of her advances, all because he still wants Aerith…who is now dead, and basically wished he was somebody else anyway. Advent Children proposes that they did eventually become a couple, but Cloud has left her behind to care for the two children they’ve adopted, so he never really wanted to be there in the first place, with her always being his consolation prize after he couldn’t have Aerith. This is why you don’t pine after the aloof bad boy with the big sword, ladies.


Lucas Kane and Carla Valenti, Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit


Writer/director David Cage just loves the idea of the sexy female cop who falls madly in love with the murder suspect she is chasing. But before he revisited that well in Heavy Rain, he first explored it in when tough-as-nails NYPD officer Carla Valenti inexplicably falls for sickly, bandaged, sunken-eyed weirdo Lucas Kane. No, Lucas isn’t some suave, smooth-talking gangster who you could sort of buy Carla succumbing to the charms of. Lucas acts as oddly as he looks, and it seems to only be pity that brings Carla to develop feelings for him. But the worst part of their whole courtship is the infamous subway scene, where the two are sharing an intimate conversation that leads to a kiss, with Carla commenting on how cold Lucas’ lips feel–because, P.S., he’s basically a zombie–and that is literally the catalyst for her to strip naked and ride him, right there in a dilapidated train car down in the NYC subway during a snowy apocalypse. Sounds exactly like a Nicolas Sparks movie, doesn’t it?


Juliet Starling and Nick Carlyle, Lollipop Chainsaw


Juliet and Nick seem like your stereotypical high school couple, she the perky blonde cheerleader and he the pretty boy jock. Where things go awry for the sweethearts is when Nick is killed by a zombie. However, Juliet just happens to be a secret zombie hunter, and she just happens to know an enchantment that will allow Nick to live on…as a disembodied head. But rather than take Nick’s head somewhere for safe keeping while Juliet fights off the undead hordes, she ties it to her skirt, forcing him to bang all around during her adventures. Spoiler alert: Nick eventually gets a new body and things go back to normal for the couple, but the unnecessary amount of danger she put him through while he acted as a glorified fashion accessory is likely to be ammo he uses in every fight the couple ever have.

Juliet: “Remember that time you flirted with that waitress?”

Nick: “Remember that time you wore my head as a keychain?”


Nathan “RAD” Spencer and Emily Spencer, Bionic Commando (2009)


If you don’t know the twist that ends this game…it doesn’t matter. If you still haven’t played this game, you aren’t going to (and you probably shouldn’t). You spend the game thinking that Nathan’s wife, Emily, has gone missing. You later learn more about your bionic arm, and that bionics require a strong physical and emotional connection to their host in order to work. See where this is going yet? That’s right…in Liquid Snake/Revolver Ocelot style, what is left of Emily is currently living as Nathan’s bionic arm. In a way, it’s sorta sweet that Emily is now literally a part of Nathan. But in all other ways, it is completely absurd (and kind of gross). Although, it does give Nathan the world’s only romantic excuse for having “private time” with himself: he’s just being intimate with his wife. Also, if you pictured that just now, you have nobody to blame but yourself.


Sonic the Hedgehog and Princess Elise, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006)


It’s unclear why, whenever video game companies take mascot characters into the “real world,” they never make things proportional and instead have the humans tower over the other characters. It is currently the talk of the Super Mario Odyssey trailer, for instance–although the oversized cars comprising the traffic in various Mario Kart games has long suggested a size discrepancy between Mario and co. and “real people.” This odd disconnect came to a head in the infamous Sonic ’06 when the short blue “hedgehog” not only interacted with a thin, realistically-proportioned human female twice his height, but the pair had a physical romance. Seeing the couple frolic through a meadow in a scene that is meant to be taken 100% genuine is hard enough. But then they have an actual on-screen kiss, not only evoking the uncanny valley but throwing up all over it. Only the Dark Web could host whatever erotic fanfiction might have been inspired by this bizarre inter-species relationship.


Know of any other strange video game relationships? Share them!



3 thoughts on “The Most Dysfunctional Romances in Video Games

  1. Sonic was actually supposed to have a human girlfriend in his very first Genesis game at one point (named Madonna no less). Thankfully she was dropped and we got to enjoy some great 16-bit platformers without any inter-species weirdness. Unfortunately, SEGA decided to revisit the idea again in ’06….

    Liked by 1 person

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