When most people think of video games, they don't think of romance. However, video games can produce relationships just as powerful as any other art form can. We've compiled a list of the best couples in video game history -- and while some are harmless or heartwarming, others are just as tragic and moving as those found in the most serious of all art.
10. Mario and Princess Peach
Mario has been rescuing Princess Peach from Bowser's clutches since 1985, so we've got to give him points for persistence. He never seems to tire of Peach's apparent aptitude for abduction. Their relationship is a simple one; Mario rescues Peach time and time again and receives, at most, a kiss on the cheek for his efforts. What passion!
Why it works: This couple is only memorable for its longevity. Mario and Peach barely speak to one another, and the story never evolves beyond the "damsel in distress" trope. While iconic, there isn't much depth to their love, if you can even call it that.
9. Link and Zelda (Legend of Zelda)
Another Nintendo couple, Link and Zelda's relationship is also memorable mostly for its long life. Although Link has been rescuing Princess Zelda since 1986, the games' creators have never confirmed a relationship between the characters. However, some romantic feelings are implied, from kisses on the cheek to subtle blushes and glances. While there are other romantic interests for Link in the games, his connection with Zelda is by far the strongest and most developed.
Why it works: While their story also boils down to a "damsel in distress," Zelda and Link are at least friends, unlike Mario and the Princess. Link and Zelda are also very young in most of the games. Future titles could see an evolution in the pair's relationship, but it's already one of the most beloved in gaming history.
8. Max Payne and Mona Sax (Max Payne)
This couple seemed doomed from the start. It began with Sax offering Payne a drink and appeared innocent enough. However, appearances can be deceiving -- she had laced the drink with a sedative as part of a contract kill on Payne. She doesn't go through with the plan, instead kicking off a relationship that put them both in grave danger. In the end, her employer tasks her one more time to kill Payne, but she refuses again and pays a heavy price.
Why it works: Sax is the perfect femme fatale -- she's dangerous, tough and a bit of an anti-hero. She's a much more capable female character than Peach or Zelda. However, she also has a soft side, which proves to be her flaw and gives this ill-fated love story a powerful legacy.
7. Jim Raynor and Sarah Kerrigan (Starcraft)
Raynor is a prototypical action hero willing to go to any length to do what he feels is right. Kerrigan is a powerful psychic betrayed by her commander and infested by the Zerg, who transform her into the Queen of Blades. Although the two barely interact in the games (although an off-screen relationship is implied), Raynor quests for years to try and save Kerrigan, putting himself and his crew in grave danger.
Why it works: Raynor and Kerrigan barely interact in game, but that makes Raynor's dedication to saving her even more admirable. He stops at nothing to save her from her Zerg overlords, travelling across the universe and killing thousands of Zerg in the process. In addition, this pair's story isn't over -- Starcraft expansions to come will continue to explore their relationship.
6. Mankrik and Olgra (World of Warcraft)
That's right -- World of Warcraft. It's is probably the last game most would expect to include a powerful love story. That's what makes Mankrik's story all the more memorable, even though it's a minor side quest for low-level characters. Mankrik and his wife, Olgra, battled quilboars in a Tauren camp when they were overrun. He awoke later to find his wife missing. He watches the crossroads day and night for sign of his wife, slaughtering quilboars to quench his thirst for revenge. The player character eventually finds and returns Olgra's body, but Mankrik refuses to stop until he slays every last one of the beasts that killed his wife.
Why it works: Blizzard managed to craft a memorable and tragic love story in an MMO, which is no small task. Even though it's a simple tale, it sticks in the mind of every player who takes on the quest. If it were in any other game, it would be forgettable, but mention the name "Mankrik" to any WoW player and he or she will certainly remember his plight.
5. The Warden and Morrigan (Dragon Age: Origins)
Although she's one of many romance options in the game, Morrigan's pairing with the player character is the best developed. Morrigan has the most interesting back story of the romance options -- she's a powerful witch raised in the wilds by the seemingly immortal Flemeth. She's a little rough around the edges, but she opens up to the Warden eventually if he chooses to help her escape her fate as a sacrifice to maintain her adopted mother Flemeth's life force. It's also possible for her to devise a plan to save the Warden's life by bearing a child and allowing the child to absorb the essence of the powerful Archdemon instead of the Warden.
Why it works: Morrigan's roughness is part of her charm, but seeing her drop some of her outward demeanor in conversation with the Warden humanizes her even more. She makes a profound sacrifice for The Warden but disappears after the battle, leaving the fate of the child unknown. In the DLC Witch Hunt, the Warden tracks down Morrigan and the two walk through a portal to another realm, destined to protect their world together from whatever threats lie beyond.
4. Shepard and Liara (Mass Effect)
Another romance option in an RPG, Liara isn't the only romantic partner Shepard can pursue. However, her story with Shepard has received the most attention from the game's developers: Liara is the only romance option with her own DLC. As an Asari, she's also available to both male and female protagonists. Liara is initially drawn to Shepard because after spending much of her life studying the ancient Protheans, she learns that he has melded with one of their relics.
Why it works: While Liara first views Shepard as an amazing "specimen," the two grow a connection as they travel across the universe to defeat the Reapers. She admires Shepard's heroism, but she's a formidable ally in combat as well due to her biotic powers.
3. Master Chief and Cortana (Halo)
Who said both parties in these relationships had to be human? Anyone who has played the Halo series has experienced the bond these two share. She is Master Chief's faithful companion throughout the games, and she's saved his power-suited rear end countless times. Despite her status as an artificial intelligence, Cortana is incredibly smart and even shows real emotion. Without Cortana, Master Chief wouldn't have been able to save the universe even once, let alone multiple times.
Why it works: Even though Cortana isn't a human, she shares a real connection with Master Chief. We won't spoil Halo 4, but Cortana's actions in that game definitely justify her place on this list. Play through Halo 4's campaign and you'll never question Cortana's humanity again.
2. Wander and Mono (Shadow of the Colossus)
Here's where it gets serious. Wander, the protagonist of Shadow of the Colossus, journeys to a forbidden land to make a deal with an ancient being to resurrect Mono, who died as a sacrifice for unknown reasons. The entity, Dormin, tasks Wander with killing 16 colossi before he will resurrect Wander's love. Dormin warns Wander of a great price for saving Mono, but Wander disregards this advice and slays the colossi anyways. In the end, he does pay a high price, but manages to save his love.
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Why it works: Admittedly, this relationship is completely one-sided. Mono is dead for almost the entire game, but Wander's actions to save her speak plenty for their relationship. Wander is willing to sacrifice anything to save Mono, and the couple's story is both tragic and beautiful.
1. James and Mary (Silent Hill 2)
While most of the other romances on this list are at least mostly pleasant, the memory of James' deceased wife torments him. After Mary's apparent death due to a fatal illness, James receives a letter from her telling him to meet her in Silent Hill. He later learns the sinister nature of this letter, but he first must contend with a doppelganger of his wife, twisted manifestations of his subconscious and the murderous "Pyramid Head" monsters.
Why it works: Silent Hill 2 is one of the best stories ever told in the medium, and it holds that title for the way it manhandles your emotions with James and Mary's love story. You feel James' hope, pain and regret as if it were your own. That makes the game's conclusion to their love story heartbreaking or beautiful, or both. James' love leaves him a tortured soul, and after playing this game, you'll be one too.