Anyone who argues that video games are full of senseless violence and lack genuine emotion simply hasn't spent enough time with a controller in their hands. In fact, many games are driven by heartfelt love stories at their core. Some are cute and Disney-esque, while others are doomed from the start in the tradition of Greek tragedy. Either way, the video game romances we present here are all epic in their own ways.
Besides, as far as we're concerned, there's no better way to celebrate St. Valentine's Day than with a list of the 10 best video game couples ever. So, read on and enjoy the power of pixelated love. Feel free, by the way, to let us know if you agree with our list or think that any notable couples are missing.
Mario and Princess Peach
'Super Mario Bros.'
Ever since 'Super Mario Bros.' was released in 1985, the titular Italian plumber has been protecting Princess Peach from repeated attacks by arch-villain Bowser, a fire-breathing turtle determined to come between them. The relationship between Mario and the princess of Mushroom Kingdom has been a key part of nearly all the 'Mario' spin-off games to date.
You've got to respect Mario's continued devotion, especially since he knows that Peach is destined to be a victim of kidnapping for the rest of her life (or until the franchise peters out). If that's not love, we don't know what is.
Master Chief and Cortana
Master Chief and his AI Cortana don't exactly have a traditional romance in the 'Halo' franchise, but their chemistry is undeniable. They go to great lengths to protect each other and their love story culminates in 'Halo 4' when Cortana sacrifices herself to save Master Chief from the destruction of the Didact's ship.
In an odd way, Cortana's "death" teaches Master Chief a lesson about retaining one's humanity during war. And when he grieves the passing of his holographic companion, we're right there with him.
Cloud and Aerith
'Final Fantasy VII'
If there's one ill-fated video game couple that truly touched us, it's Cloud and Aerith (AKA Aeris) of 'Final Fantasy VII.' Her cruel death at the hands of Sephiroth after she ventures into the Forgotten City alone is upsetting not just because of her burgeoning romance with Cloud, but also because players loved her too.
Of course, Cloud later falls in love with childhood friend Tifa, but it only somewhat lessens the sting of Aeris' shocking murder. We're still trying to get over it.
Link and Princess Zelda
'The Legend of Zelda' series
If there's a rival couple to Mario and Princess Peach, it's Link and Princess Zelda in the 'Legend of Zelda' series. For more than two decades, Link has been bravely struggling to save the damsel in distress from the desert brigand Ganon.
While there have been changes from game to game in terms of character design, storylines and even Zelda's identity -- she sometimes appears under aliases and alter egos, for example -- their love has remained constant. Aww!
Dom and Maria
'Gears of War 2'
True, the 'Gears of War' series is basically a bullet-spewing, sci-fi shoot 'em up, but the franchise also contains one of the most heart-wrenching love stories ever. During 'Gears of War 2,' Dom finally locates his missing wife Maria in a Locust cell, but discovers that she's been starved, tortured and disfigured. So, he decides to euthanize his wife in one of the saddest video game cutscenes ever.
But wait, it gets worse. Maria's death ultimately sets the stage for Dom's demise in 'Gears of War 3,' where he willingly sacrifices himself to save Delta-One after they're pinned down by opposing forces.
Wander and Mono
'Shadow of the Colossus'
In 'Shadow of the Colossus,' protagonist Wander battles 16 giant monsters to save the life of a beautiful maiden named Mono. And as a result, he dooms himself in the process.
Turns out, our hero is manipulated by "Dormin," an imprisoned evil entity who can only be freed if someone kills the colossi. After he slays the giants, Wander himself is killed, then his body is possessed by Dormin and transformed into a nightmarish colossus, which is sucked into a magic well.
There is a glimmer of redemption for Wander's sins, however. After Mono awakens, she discovers an infant child with tiny horns on its head, which could symbolize Wander's rebirth. Mono, however, will forever be blissfully unaware of the terrible sacrifice he made for her. As couples go, these two definitely could have had a happier ending.
Dragonborn and Spouse
Notwithstanding its amazing graphics, terrific gameplay mechanics and compelling story, the RPG 'Skyrim' was a massive success due to its amazing depth. And its marriage option, where players could get hitched to one of more than 60 characters, was no exception. You can even marry a person of the same sex. How progressive!
Granted, there isn't much real romance to be had in the game. Interactions with a spouse are limited to homecooked meals, the buying and selling of items and small rewards of gold. But it sure is nice to come home to someone after a hard day of slogging through dungeons and battling draugr.
Nathan and Elena
If you're going to capture the attention of a rogue like Nathan Drake from the 'Uncharted' series, you better be able to hold your own. Fortunately, TV journalist Elena Fisher is just the independent, take-charge kind of woman he needs.
Their relationship blossoms throughout the first two games in the franchise and by 'Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception,' they're married but sadly estranged. Still, the globe-trotting couple seems to patch things up by the end of the game. We can't wait to see where their relationship goes next. Here's hoping for 'Uncharted 4.'
Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man
With the release of 'Ms. Pac Man' in 1982, Midway gave Pac-Man a love interest to distract him from gobbling pellets and evading killer ghosts. Their relationship is chronicled in three instantly-familiar acts over the course of the game.
After love at first sight in Act One, the couple seems to hit a rocky patch in Act Two and have a mutual fear of commitment. But by Act Three, they've seemingly worked everything out and welcome a baby. We're not sure a haunted maze is a suitable place to raise a kid, though.
Gordon and Alyx
Although it's never explicitly explained that Gordon and Alyx of the 'Half-Life 2' series have a relationship, there's clearly something going on between these two. After all, in 'Episode 2,' Gordon risks life and limb to recover larval extract from an Antlion colony to heal Alyx after she's critically wounded by a mechanized Hunter.
Hopefully, we'll get to the bottom of this "are they or aren't they?" relationship once Valve Software finally gets around to producing the long-awaited final installment of the series, which has been delayed since 2008.