Romance has become a mainstay in modern games. Whether you’re fighting aliens across the vastness of the cosmos or developing a farm in a rural mid-western town, the first question players often ask is, “Will there be romance?”
And in recent history, the answer is often yes. Amid all of the attempts at making players feel something for an NPC, there are relationships built on adventures that outweigh others. In a time where players need a connection more than ever, here are the best romances in video games in 2023.
Gale Dekarios – You Can Eat My Shoes, Anytime
Submitted by Laura Gray, Managing Editor
Well, I can tell you for sure it wasn’t Nami from A Wonderful Life. I would have to pick Gale. I’ve never had a digital boyfriend who eats my shoes and tells me I’m pretty. Honestly, I was sure Gale was going to be secretly evil when I yanked him out of his rock. I was beyond thrilled to learn he’s just a dork – and one I have accidentally romanced three times. Sorry, Halsin. And Karlach. Gale just hits different, and I wish more games would put a sweet goob in as a romance option.
Ferra – Love Burning Brighter Than A Furnace
Submitted by Zackerie Fairfax, Associate Editor
Ferra, the adorable blacksmith from Moonstone Island, is an obvious choice for my favorite romance in video games this year. She’s flirtatious, loves love, and seeks to make others feel good through her words. Plus, she’s a big fan of ores and ingots, which pairs well with my love for mining and cave diving.
But Ferra is more than what’s on the surface. She often seeks deeper conversations on dates, prodding the player to think about mortality or the beauty and sadness of impermanence. That said, she sends mixed signals as she says she hates round things but often compliments my butt.
The Emporer – BG3’s Tentacle-faced Lover
Submitted by Jamie Moorcraft-Sharp, Staff Writer
Baldur’s Gate 3 lets me truly live through a character, even if they’re a complete deviant who just wants others to suffer. My character, a Deep Gnome who kills or emotionally maims most companions and random strangers, wants nothing more than to let The Emperor wrap its gross tentacles around them and enjoy a night letting them do whatever they want with their body. It’s a crime that more disgusting bosses and creatures can’t be romanced, but The Emperor is a great stand-in for all of them because it represents an ultimate evil and the only creature whose wants and needs really align with my character’s. Whatever you say, The Emperor only loves my character; we’re exclusive.
Shadowheart – I Would Die For Her!
Submitted by Cande Maldonado, Contributing Writer
There is not a speck of doubt in my mind that Baldur’s Gate 3 has the best romance contenders in 2023. However, even I had my doubts on whether the best romanceable option would be the cocky vampire spawn, the pedantic but oddly charming Wizard of Waterdeep, or maybe even that vile mommy drow paladin. However, while they were all wonderful experiences, Shadowheart was everything.
Shadowheart’s personal journey is so intrinsically intertwined with Baldur’s Gate 3 main plot that she never loses relevance from Act 1 to 3. Was I reluctant to give my good-spirited elf heart to a complete stranger who worships the goddess of Darkness and Loss? Absolutely. Did I dive head-first into an utterly gratifying and evolving romance that, for once, did not feel like it was written for a male character? Yes. Despite being the most popular choice, Shadowheart’s romance is one of the rarest gems you can find in any roleplaying game.
Karlach Cliffgate – I Love You, Fire Mommy
Submitted by Matthew Fuller, Contributing Writer
For me, there is only one fiery Tiefling that stole my heart this year, and that’s the brilliant Karlach for Baldur’s Gate 3.
She has the full package: fiery but caring, strong yet sweet, and always up for adventure and living life to the fullest, which, given their backstory, makes total sense. On top of that, once you can cool her down, she is more than capable of throwing me over her shoulder and carrying me off wherever we are needed. She is big, tough, yet lovable, and she is the Tiefling mommy we all need in life.
Karlach Cliffgate – Firey Avernus Passion
Submitted by Scott Baird, Contributing Writer
Baldur’s Gate 3 could have dominated an entire list worth of entries (much like this one), but one stands out – Karlach.
Admittedly, this romance took some patches to be completed, but once it was, it was perfect. The slow build-up and gradual uncovering of Karlach’s trauma and trust issues lead to an unforgettable whirlwind romance, one that’s only dampened by the whole “tadpole eating our brains” thing.
The ending is what makes this romance, or at least the patched version did. The decision to go with Karlach to Avernus (literally Hell itself) and wage war against Zariel and her devil army is about as romantic a gesture as possible. More importantly, you get one last chance to let the person who was abandoned her whole life know that she doesn’t have to be alone anymore. Okay, you’ll spend the rest of your lives fighting an army of monsters, but at least you’re doing it together.
Astarion Ancunin – As Thirsty For Blood As I Am For Him
Submitted by Amanda Kay Oaks, Contributing Writer
Even though I couldn’t get him to give me the time of day, my favorite video game romance of the year is still Astarion. Watching the internet collectively fall in love with this problematic vampire and spawn thirst memes honestly kept my serotonin levels up this year. It was like revisiting my Twilight tween days but without the badly done black eyeliner. One day, I hope to manage actually getting to play through the romance myself because, from what I’ve seen, it’s on point.
The love affair even extended beyond Astarion himself to encapsulate just how much everyone adores his voice actor, Neil Newbon. That Game Awards victory for best voice actor? So very deserved.
Karlach Cliffgate – Did Someone Say Arms?
Submitted by Jordan Althoff, Contributing Writer
I am definitely a big Romance lover when it comes to video games. Tell me there is romance in the game, and I’m tempted. Tell me there are queer romance options, and I’m there faster than you can say the price of the game. This year came super close between two romance storylines, but Karlach from Baldur’s Gate 3 just stole my heart. Shadowheart said it best, “She looks like she can throw me over her shoulder and carry me to safety.” I was in total agreement and became even more ecstatic once Karlach’s golden retriever-like energy emerged.