Well, folks, it is that time of the year again. The time of year when people give each other flowers and eat copious amounts of candy in the name of “love”. As with every other form of media, the definition of love is a topic that is covered extensively within video games. Unfortunately, video games often expose Christians to false and deceptive depictions of what love is. However, every now and then, video game developers create stories that, intentionally or unintentionally, exhibit true biblical themes of love. This is a list of our favorite couples in video games and how their stories exhibit aspects of love that line up with Scripture. Note that there are SPOILERS for all of the games discussed in this article so read at your own discretion. Whether you are married, single, or it’s complicated, we at Geeks Under Grace wish you a happy Valentine’s Day!
Revan and Bastila (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic)
Sixteen years before The Rise of Skywalker, LucasArts and BioWare crafted a far more compelling romance between a Sith and a Jedi, (yes, I know Kylo is technically not a Sith, but bear with me). Knights of the Old Republic follows the story of the fallen Jedi, Darth Revan, who is given a second chance at life when he is captured and his memory is wiped by the Jedi. After Revan’s memory is wiped, Bastila Shan, a powerful Jedi knight who aided in Revan’s capture, is instructed by the Jedi Council to retrain Revan as a Jedi so that he can destroy the Sith Empire that he created.
As Revan and Bastila journey across the galaxy together, they bond and come to rely on one another for strength and support. In spite of romance being forbidden by the Jedi Code, Revan and Bastila develop strong feelings for one another. Their romance is tested when Revan’s old apprentice, Darth Malak, reveals Revan’s dark past to him and captures Bastila. The revelation of his past causes Revan to seriously question his identity and the legitimacy of his feelings for Bastila.
Later on, Bastila confronts Revan after having being twisted by Darth Malak into becoming his Sith apprentice. The now power-hungry Bastila tempts Revan to join her so that together they can overthrow Malak and rule the galaxy together. However, when presented with the opportunity to reclaim his place as Lord of the Sith, Revan rejects it because of all that Bastila has taught him about the Jedi, and because of his attachment to her. He chooses to reject his past self and embrace who he has become.
This ultimately leads to a climactic fight between Revan and Bastila, this time with Revan as a Jedi and Bastila as a Sith. After being bested by Revan in combat, Bastila regrets embracing the dark side and asks Revan to kill her, believing that she has fallen too far to be redeemed. Revan refuses, however, and confesses his love for Bastila, reminding her of how she spared him and gave him a second chance at life. Their bond with one another ends up saving the whole galaxy, challenging the Jedi’s belief that attachment always leads to the dark side.
Revan and Bastila redeeming one another is such a great and beautiful example of sacrificial love. While most fictional romances between a hero and a villain are pretty black and white, both Revan and Bastila exhibit good and evil attributes. They both sacrifice for one another and forgive one another for the wrongs that they have each committed. It is a great example of how we as Christians should show mercy and give others a second chance even when they may not deserve it. The fact that Revan rejects his former identity in favor of his new one is also a great message of how redemption is possible for everyone. No matter who we were in the past, transformation is always possible in Christ. Our past mistakes don’t have to define who we are today. As a side note, if the player chooses the dark side ending, then Revan and Bastila take over the Sith Empire and rule the galaxy together as the ultimate dark side power couple. In true Star Wars fashion, a love story results in either the salvation or enslavement of the galaxy.
Tidus and Yuna (Final Fantasy X)
For a franchise steeped in dramatic battles between good and evil with colorful characters at the helm, Final Fantasy’s take on romance has slowly evolved from humble beginnings to moments that tug the heart. I feel that the best take on love in both the romantic and unconditional sense is best found in Final Fantasy X, with the game focusing on the relationship between the main protagonists Tidus and Yuna.
On paper, Tidus and Yuna are vastly unlike one another. Tidus hails from the futuristic city of Zanarkand, where war is nonexistent and he is hailed as a rising star in the popular sport of Blitzball, becoming a celebrity of sorts. Yuna comes from the small island village of Besaid, where the fear of the monster Sin looms over their relatively peaceful livelihood. The villagers of Besaid know that in a moment, Sin could appear from nowhere and obliterate their home within moments. Motivated by this threat, Yuna walks the path of the Summoner, like her father before her, in the hopes of finally breaking the cycle of Sin. She is as humble as she is dutiful, and despite knowing that her pilgrimage will end with her death, she decides to take it in the hopes of freeing Besaid and all of Spira from Sin’s darkness.
Circumstances bring Tidus and Yuna together for the first time as Yuna completes her initial trials to become a full-fledged summoner. Tidus, believing he has been sent through time 1000 years into the future, is a true fish out of water. He doesn’t know the customs of Spira, nor does he seem to have the patience to learn them. Yuna is attracted to his unconventional views, even as others see him as a heretic. They begin to chat as Tidus initially joins on her journey, and learn that both of their fathers left their lives when they were young, Yuna’s by sacrificing himself for the greater good, while Tidus’ mysteriously disappeared one day while out at sea. Both men are revered by their respective communities, giving both Tidus and Yuna something in common with one another. What’s more, Yuna discovers that Tidus’ father may have been her father’s Guardian on his own summoner journey, something which Tidus finds very difficult to believe. He decides to continue to journey with Yuna and her friends, partly as a search for direction and answers, but also to spend more time with her.
Tidus learns much about the world of Spira from Yuna, and she likewise learns to begin questioning the teachings that she had been brought with after Tidus notices some inconsistencies. Despite being as different personality-wise, Tidus and Yuna bring out the best in each other and a strong bond builds between them. As their party grows and more answers come to light, Tidus discovers the truth behind the end of the pilgrimage when Yuna will supposedly defeat Sin. He learns that not only would Yuna sacrifice herself for the chance of defeating Sin, but that the Calm it would supposedly bring would not last long at all before Sin ultimately returns. He becomes determined to find a way to save Yuna from her fate, and find a permanent way to defeat Sin. He becomes quieter and more mature, having been influenced by Yuna’s resolve and wanting to find a way to save her, as well as all of Spira.
I love seeing Final Fantasy X’s progression of Tidus and Yuna’s relationship, and they are by far my favorite couple out of the entire franchise. I love that these two characters only bring out the best in one another. Both of them have their flaws, with Yuna refusing to ask for help even when it would benefit her and her friends, while Tidus is brash and impatient. The game shows that they are initially attracted to one another when they both meet, but wisely shows the progression of their relationship from the beginning of the story to its conclusion. The scene at the Macalania Woods where they share their first kiss feels earned and realistic. My hope is that in the future, other Final Fantasy romantic relationships may be modeled after Tidus and Yuna’s. If nothing else, we can admire the story’s take on sacrificial love and pushing forward in life when you don’t have all the answers in front of you, as well as not being afraid to ask questions about your beliefs instead of holding on to blind faith.
Sora and Kairi (Kingdom Hearts series)
Sora and Kairi have a relationship that I feel exemplifies Christ-centered values. Throughout the entire Kingdom Hearts saga, the story heavily hints at Sora and Kairi having romantic interests in each other. In Kingdom Hearts, Sora scours numerous worlds on his quest to stop the Heartless and search for his friends. Sora is invested in Kairi and will do what he can to save her. However, Sora does not give in to the powers of darkness to ensure her safety; he follows the path of light to get to her.
God does not want us to sacrifice our morality to find our romantic loves. He would rather that we find our future partners while seeking Him and walking in the path of light. At the end of Kingdom Hearts, Sora sacrifices himself to save Kairi’s heart, turning into a Heartless in the process. Kairi reciprocates Sora’s feelings in equally unique ways, risking her heart to save Sora from his Heartless form.
In Kingdom Hearts II, Kairi goes on her adventure to find and help Sora with Axel’s assistance. They exemplify how both partners of a relationship should give their all for each other. A good relationship should not be reliant on consistent actions of a single party, but both people take care of each other while walking closer in the path of light, the path towards God.
Joshua and Estelle (Trails in the Sky Trilogy)
Despite its overuse, 1 Corinthians 13 is always worth rereading (just like the rest of the Bible), and in my most recent read, this particular passage stuck out to me (emphasis mine):
5 It [Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
For better or for worse, throughout history men have struggled greatly with pride and shame (two sides of the same sinful coin). Most every man that has had to come home and tell his wife he was fired from his job, or confessed a burdensome sin to her, has done so with his head hung and his spirit in shambles. I remember my own moment in the car when I discovered that I was on the edge of failing graduate school, or before that, the moment I learned I wouldn’t be able to become a high school teacher after all, as I’d flunked my practicum. Admitting these things to my significant other are some of my worst memories. But through thick and thin, she has stuck by me, and never once questioned my ability to overcome. I realize what a patriarchal take this is, but her supporting me at my very worst is the most I’ve ever felt loved in my entire life, even if I had to break through those clouds of darkness to recognize it.
To that end, I have to pick Joshua and Estelle from the Trails in the Sky trilogy for my entry in this article. At the end of Trails in the Sky FC, Joshua essentially betrays and abandons Estelle due to his own shame and belief that he cannot possibly stay with her because he is too broken, too damaged. Not only does Estelle continue to love him, but in the most Estelle way possible, as she refuses to accept his conclusion and chases him across the entire country. It’s like the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), except the dad went and chased down his son himself instead of waiting around.
Joshua’s eventual acceptance of her love, despite his flaws, takes more guts than any of his prideful attempts at ending the relationship. The best part of this unfolding relationship is found in the following games, actually. Joshua refuses another woman during a discrete chance to be faithless, a beautiful scene that emphasizes just how far their love has come. Later, Joshua and Estelle relentlessly pursue the adoption of Renne, a character who likewise finds herself to be too broken and too damaged to be loved, in the same way that Estelle relentlessly chased Joshua. It is beautiful to see Joshua “pay forward” the way Estelle loved him in their pursuit of Renne. And after two years of chasing our own adoption and the effect it had on my marriage, I can see the exact parallel in the way that God relentlessly pursues His own adoption of us (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 1:5).
Professor Layton and Claire (Professor Layton and the Unwound Future)
I don’t play a lot of games that include couples (unless you count Mario and Peach, which…nah). My gaming tastes just don’t account for a lot of genres that would include much of a romantic element. However, there’s one game, buried deep in my childhood, that to this day stands as not only one of my favorite love stories, but one of my favorite video games of all time.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Professor Layton franchise, a puzzle game series spanning seven games on both the DS and 3DS. What you might not have heard is that these games are incredible. These titles comprise some of my greatest gaming memories, including the ones that have come closest to making me cry. What’s that, I hear you say? What does a puzzle game have to do with romance? Enter Professor Layton and the Unwound Future.
Unwound Future’s story, as you may have guessed, involves time travel and past memories clashing together in what turns out to be a remarkably intense showdown for a game on a family-friendly console. I don’t have time to get into the main story, but I do want to focus on one aspect: the relationship between the main protagonist, Hershel Layton, and his girlfriend Claire. You see most of their relationship via flashback, which plays into the time travel theme, and while we don’t get much, it’s incredible how much character development studio Level5 was able to cram into a few cutscenes.
Claire is constantly pushing Hershel to pursue his dreams of becoming an archaeology professor, asking him about his progress and celebrating every little victory. And when he finally does get the position, we learn that it was Claire that gave him his trademark top hat, which has come to symbolize the franchise as a whole.
Hershel, for his part, doesn’t say much. Throughout the entire series, he’s more of a rock in which the other characters find their stability. This isn’t to say he’s completely emotionless, but he’s a pretty typical English gentleman, and would describe himself as such. But in these few story segments we can see that he wants to ask Claire to marry him. Claire says later in the game that they had many plans for the future. Clearly Hershel wants to hold on to her and care for her, as she’s become a source of strength and hope for him as he pursues his goals, and his calm and caring demeanor has become a source of stability for her in her career. Speaking of which…
Claire works as a researcher at a lab studying time travel. It’s a fast-paced job, and it appears that her time with Hershel serves as a respite and re-centering from a hectic lifestyle. But that lifestyle is also a dangerous one. In the last flashback we get, we see Claire give Hershel his iconic hat, then head to the lab for an important experiment. That experiment turns out to be fatal, as the time machine, with Claire in it, explodes.
But here’s where the twist comes in, both a plot twist and a twist on the knife in my heart. Claire wasn’t killed, but rather shot through time ten years into the future, to the events of the game. She disguises herself as Celeste, Claire’s fictional younger sister, and helps Hershel solve the mystery that comprises the game’s plot. Then, at the very end, she reveals her true identity, and how the effects of the time machine are wearing off, and she’ll be sent back to the moment of the explosion.
I’ve said how Hershel is your typical English gentleman, generally not showing much strong emotion. But the final cutscene of this game makes my heart hurt to this day. As Claire’s body begins to glow from the time machine’s energy, she gives him one final kiss, turns the corner, and disappears, never to be seen again. It’s at this moment that Hershel removes his hat, which he hasn’t removed once before in three games filled with peril, and weeps as snow begins to fall. And let me tell you, seeing this reserved character break down like this clinched this as one of my favorite love stories of all time.
Claire’s support of Hershel mirrors the beckoning of Christ for us to grow closer to Him, and thus grow closer to the best version of ourselves. If we align our hearts with His, our desires will be His desires, and He will guide and encourage us as we chase after them. In the same manner, Hershel’s gentle demeanor and stability mirror the Good Shepherd that invites us to rest in His peace as we walk through life. We may be fighting a fierce battle, especially as evil rears its ugly head time and time again, but God is “our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” (Ps. 46:1)
Claire and Hershel meant the world to each other. To Hershel, Claire was a source of joy and encouragement that he wouldn’t be able to give himself. And to Claire, Hershel was a rock and steady place, a gentleman she could trust with her life. To this day, I am shocked at just how in-depth Level5 was able to get in such a short amount of time, and honestly, it’s nice to see a couple that I can legitimately be happy for (and brokenhearted over), because their love is healthy and real.
(And I know I kind of spoiled the whole story, but still, if you haven’t played this game, do it. There’s an HD mobile port for like $15. It’s worth it.)