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Video games, of course, are the last thing you should be thinking about today, if you have the wrath of a partner to keep at bay as you struggle to remember how well those Tesco roses went down last year.

More often than not, in fact, games are cast as homewrecker-in-chief, the third person in third- or first-person (the blonde and brunette of gaming), driving a dual analogue wedge between you and your lover's lonely embrace.

The internet is soaked with the bitter tears of Football Manager, Warcraft and Call of Duty widows, all raging against the machines as they flicker their eyelashes at 60 frames a second towards slack-jawed suitors. It's little wonder men prefer playing in their underpants.

For all the passion games inspire in audiences, however, developers have never really been that good at, you know, creating characters that, er, feel comfortable, um, expressing – is it me or is suddenly hot in here? – their true – oh god – feelings. Blush.

Plus, when the top-selling console and PC game on the planet is mostly about men shooting and stabbing other men in the face, you might conclude there isn't a huge market for love in the digital world.

And yet, in its short life, the medium of games has borne witness to some great loves stories. So on this day of fine romance (or cynical corporate greed, depending on your POV), let's celebrate the greatest gaming loves of all.

Ico and Yorda (Ico – PS2/PS3)

Hailed by critics, but missed by most PS2 gamers, its re-release on PS3 last year gave the masses another chance to savour the startling intimacy of the young hero leading his princess by the hand.

Nathan Drake and Elena (Uncharted series – PS3)

Uncharted's characters possess that rarest of all things in gaming: palpable chemistry. That's what happens when actors spend months working on beautifully-written scenes together, capturing motion and voice together. As for the trailer above, well, that speaks for itself.

Mario & Peach (Mario series)

 

It's hard to escape the conclusion that, 25 years on, Princess Peach might be a little high maintenance. But Mario, in the fine tradition of the courtly lover, always rides (when Yoshi is around, at least) to the rescue. The end of Super Mario World (see trailer) is surely their cutest moment.

Link and Item Check Girl Peatrice (Zelda: Skyward Sword – Wii)

Yeah, so Link travels through time and space risking life and limb repeatedly for his darling princess. But, seriously, all he really wants to do is get his leg over Peatrice in the Bazaar. It's the constant flirting that wears him down. And her promise that, once his quest is over, they can be together. Of course, when you do finish the game, there is no going back. A love lost (or shag missed). Forever.

Tim and the Princess (Braid – 360, PC, Mac, PS3)

Jonathan Blow's brain-bleedingly brilliant platform puzzler also enchanted with its bitter-sweet tale of Tim and his strange journey to rescue his princess. And it's only upon finishing the game that the true nature of the relationship is revealed. Dark stuff.

Dominic and Maria (Gears of War series – Xbox/Xbox 360)

For a series that's basically one big thick-necked, oafishly macho pissing contest, it's surprising to find a moment of genuine tenderness tucked away in its third instalment, as Dom reluctantly, painfully bids farewell to his beloved. Then carries on blowing the shit out of everything.

John Marston and Abigail (Red Dead Redemption – 360, PS3)

Arguably the greatest game of this console generation, the greatest lead character in gaming, and almost certainly the most convincing portrayal of married life in the medium. After hearing so much about his former prostitute wife, we meet her late in the game. But they are only reunited for the shortest of times before the most poignant of digital deaths (see trailer).

The hero and his dog (Fable II – 360, PC)

As in life so in Peter Molyneux's clever RPG, women may come and go, but the hero's true, devoted life partner is his dog. Man's best friend indeed: which made the game's climax all the more horrible to bear for some players.

Commander Shepard and Tali (Mass Effect 2 – 360, PS3, PC)

If you played this anything like I did, you'll have tried to nail as many of your crew as possible. But while angry sex in the engine room with Jack was just a 'phase' for my Commander Shepard, his gentle courting of Tali was something else entirely. Something, in the end, that required all manner of drugs and weird contortions before he could 'do it' with the alien.

Mickey and Minnie (Castle of Illusion – Mega Drive)

The greatest platformer on Mega Drive before there was any such thing as Sonic the Hedgehog was also its sweetest. Relationships don't come any more saccharine and mawkish than the Disney duo. But I defy anyone to watch the clip of the ending above and not go "Awwww!" when Mickey swoons at the very end.

Happy Valentine's!


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