Marriage has a complicated relationship with video games. Take for instance this study from Brigham Young University in 2012. It claims that 75% of spouses in a relationship with an MMORPG player wishes their partner would focus less on games, and more on their marriage. Yet, the same study found that 76% of couples who both game say that this has a positive impact on their relationship.
The internet’s full of these kinds of yo-yo examples. Type ‘marriage video game’ into Google on a separate tab now. Go on. We’ll wait. What did you find? We’re willing to bet you’ve just scrolled through a bunch of forums where anxious husbands and wives have gathered to seek comfort with others experiencing a similar rifts in their homes.
So, things are not all straightforward as far as video games and traditional romantic relationships are concerned. And really, we should have seen this coming. Even when some fundamental human rights are skewed heavily in favour of married couples, the portrayal of marriage in popular culture has been bleak. And it’s bled its way into our games, too. You’d think that the same cultural imagination that’s brought us incredible virtual realms, made-up languages, and widely-discussed events that never took place IRL, would be able to create a way for two consenting adults to do their thing without issue. But, no. Apparently not. We want gritty reality riding right alongside our suspension of belief. Here are fifteen games giving marriage a bad name. Mind your spoiler step.
15 Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
Elena Fisher and Nathan Drake are an endearing match. They’ve been on a ton of adventures together, and they can each hold their own in a fight. They’re also both gamers, as we learned while playing Crash Bandicoot with them in Uncharted 4.
Which is why it was so disturbing to watch Nathan Drake lie his way through this last iteration in the series. For whatever reason, instead of talking openly about his returned brother, Nathan pretends he’s taken another salvaging job in Malaysia, stalling for time when he’s had setback by blaming a monsoon. Worried, Elena hurries to his aid, only to find herself as the last to know. The lesson here is that even brilliant relationships can’t survive the pressures of a video game franchise in need of a bit of drama. Take a look at what we know about Uncharted: Lost Legacy here.
Vincent Brooks was never married to either Catherine, or Katherine, but we reckon it still counts since the overarching narrative works around his fear of intimacy, and of marriage by extension. Katherine is interested in taking things to the next step, solidifying their five year relationship with an engagement.
Vincent panics, and the game, by constructing another Katherine that is the antithesis of the original, provides Vincent with an unstable solution to his perceived problem. It’s an honest move from Japanese developers, Atlus, but we’re not as keen as they are to pander to Vincent’s skewed understanding of commitment.
13 The Sims
Many of us were married a few hundred times over in Sims before our first kiss with a real person. It’s what Sims do. You get a crappy plot, hit CTRL + shift + ‘c’, type in ‘motherlode,’ build a dream house, then start the serious business of marrying of all your compatible Sims.
To get your Sims to point where they’re ready to wear a ring, they’ve got to connect. A lot. That means hours and hours of conversation, flirting, and making out, most likely to the detriment of their health. After all, your Sims can bathe some other time, but a flirty mood is a fleeting moment. When they finally do get hitched, their interest (and yours) wane, making for the shortest honeymoon phase in video game history.
12 Grand Theft Auto V
It’s difficult to know where to begin on this one, but if you’ve ever played the GTA V campaign, you’ll know that this has Michael and Amanda De Santa all over it.
Michael’s a semi-retired crime boss who's unable to see his role in creating the animosity his wife and children feel towards him. Amanda is a fed-up homemaker who, it’s implied, frequently beds visiting fitness instructors in an effort to salvage any form of fulfilling sexual contact still available to her. Through this #winning combination, these two have raised spoiled teenagers obviously feeling the effects of growing up with more money than stability. A charming family portrait. And how is it that Michael and Amanda try to rekindle their commitment to one another? A couples yoga session that ends with Michael in the pool as he swings at and misses the hulky yogi teacher, who promptly leaves with Amanda.
11 Broken Age
This Kickstarter-funded comeback kid is every bit as quirky as we could have expected, coming from Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Games. But not every aspect of this time-traveling narrative is sweet.
Playing as Shay, you’ll find yourself on a futuristic spaceship that seems largely built around the goal of keeping a much younger version of Shay completely occupied. Cutesy playrooms are centred around themes like ‘ice cream avalanche,’ and mealtimes are accompanied by adorable talking utensils. The creepy part is that the spaceship is manned by two computers, ‘mom’ and ‘dad.’ It turns out, mom and dad are very real people who’ve just chosen to live their lives separate from Shay, and take it in shifts to watch over him through the ship’s security system. Not a recipe for a healthy marriage, we’re guessing.
10 Far Cry 4
It might have been a while since you’ve visited the fictional world of Kyrat, somewhere in the Himalayan mountains. To refresh, you play as Ajay Ghale, returning to Kyrat following the death of your mother. While attempting to reach a reasonably quiet place to scatter your mother’s ashes, you become (inevitably) embroiled in the local politics.
And are they messy! Players have to choose between two opposing leaders in the rebel army rallying against antagonist and hair deity, Pagan Min. ‘The Golden Path,’ they call it. Choose unorthodox Amita and you’ll have to live with your decision to allow Kyrat’s main export to be of the nose-snorting variety, while siding with traditionalist Sabal means okaying his hinted desire to marry a young girl. Good luck with that, then. Check out what we know about Far Cry 5 (2018) here.
9 Alan Wake
Unofficial Stephen King-simulator, Alan Wake, was released a whopping seven years ago, but few of us will forget the new-found appreciation it gave us for strong flashlights. What might be harder to remember is his tortured relationship with wife, Alice.
Following a stint of writer’s block, Alice had planned a trip for the two of them to the idyllic lakeside town of Bright Falls, Washington. Upon arrival, it’s made clear that Alan is not impressed with this obvious show of thoughtful affection, oh, sorry, we mean ‘pressure,’ and he storms out of their cabin. One thing leads to another and Alice is dragged from shore into the cold lake by an unstoppable evil force. Alan was too busy sulking to help in any meaningful way, but he does go on to sulk a lot more later.
8 Stardew Valley
Farming can get too much to face alone. All of this micromanaging would surely be better with someone by your side. You’re a pastoral resident of Stardew Valley, and you want to find someone, and settle down.
There are just some things you need to do first. You’ll chat your beloved up to around the eight heart mark. Then you’re going to need to buy a special bouquet from Piere’s General Store. Trusting that goes well, you’ll then have to think about getting a Mermaid’s Pendant, because they’re awesome AF and a must-have for any engagement. You’ll grab this for a reasonable 5000 gold, which you’ll then give to the Old Mariner who only appears when it doesn’t rain - so, never in winter. After all of this, you’ll just have to ensure your bridge is repaired, and your house upgraded. EASY, HUH? This is definitely not love at low-maintenance.
7 Hatoful Boyfriend: A School Of Hope And White Wings
We sure do let the Japanese indie game community get away with a lot of strange. Enter stage left, pigeon dating simulator, Hatoful Boyfriend (2011). Players in this dōjin soft otome visual novel take on the role of an protagonist, Hiyoko Tosaka - the only human to ever attend the ultra-elite St. PigeoNation's Institute for birds. For. Birds.
Set in a post-apocalyptic world where avian flu has ravaged human populations, your dating pool doesn’t allow you to be picky about something as trifle as species-preference. You also come from a long line of bird-human mediators, so you’re down for non-conformist coupling between people and small, sapient vertebrates. You have so many dishy (?) birds to choose from! The birds can also marry among themselves, as this convoluted storyline proves. Long story short, it’s almost impossible to take marriage less seriously than this game does. Even King Henry VIII would balk.
6 Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag
Edward Kenway was certainly a rakish individual. Looking and sounding every bit like Chris Hemsworth, he would have had many admirers in just as many ports. But don’t let his gold locks fool you - Edward was an absolutely terrible partner.
We don’t have much space here, so we’ll have to stick to Edward’s first marriage. Alright, he seduces Caroline Scott, talking her out of a commitment to another man in defiance of her family. Caroline breaks ties with them, forgoes her dowry, and moves in with Edward and his family. Then what does Edward do? He becomes obsessed with his inability to provide a life of luxury for Caroline - the woman who, you’ll remember, has just made it abundantly clear that she doesn’t need it. He takes this imagined point of pride and uses it as an excuse to sail the seas for months on end. Wow.
5 Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Season Two
The Walking Dead universe is no place to raise a kid. Alvin and Rebecca from Telltale’s Season Two (2013) made that abundantly clear as they struggled along to find food and shelter while Rebecca was nine months pregnant. Out the gate that’s not the recipe for marital success.
But it was Alvin’s relative mediocrity next to his wife that made them so wholly mismatched. Rebecca had her problems with Clementine, but you got the feeling that she’d never ask her to risk her (young) life, like Alvin did in that shady history museum. He also didn’t have a strong sense of urgency, as Rebecca did. All of this might explain why Rebecca wasn't sure Alvin Jr. was even Alvin’s child. In the end, Alvin is killed by Carver, and Rebecca is left to fend for her newborn on her own. Don’t get attached in an apocalypse, kids. Read more about our favourite and least favourite Walking Dead characters.
4 Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
There you were, simply using Balimund’s forge to do a little upgrade on your Elven Greatsword, when it happened. Your eyes met over the rising heat of the flames, and from then on, everything that happened in your life before that moment was known forever as ‘the days before Balimund.’ All you needed was an Amulet of Mara and tada! You would never have to spend your nights as a lonely Dovahkiin ever again.
Unless you got sick of Balimund. Maybe he wasn’t producing enough gold anymore. Perhaps it’s his cooking, which he divvies out at a paltry rate of only one meal a day. Then again, it might be his undying love, trust in, and respect for you. No worries. All you need to do is kill Balimund indoors (no bounty for you!), and go find someone else.
Not cool, Skyrim. We see you.
3 Dear Esther
Then again, the western-made indie games don’t fare much better as far as kookiness goes. If you’re into experiential games like Firewatch (2016) and Gone Home (2013), it’s likely you’ll have played this little, depressive gem, too.
The game takes place on Hebridean island, somewhere you’ll want to avoid unless you’re looking for a geographical representation of man’s capacity for heartbreak. Through a series of letters read aloud by a numb, disembodied male voice embattled in an effort to stay steady, the player learns that a woman has died. Esther, that is. The man’s wife. Fragments reveal that she may have been killed in a drunk driving accident. The island, and its irksome atmosphere, are the backdrop to the man’s grief. Just to recap then, the game is asking that you never fall in love because the act of losing them will haunt you forever. Cool.
We know that Corvo Attano and Empress Jessamine Kaldwin were lovers, producing little Emily Kaldwin. Yeah, so this is another non-marriage entry, but they would have been married if it wasn’t for Corvo’s lowly status, right? Right.
In that case, let’s look at the kind of life they’re given to live together in hellish, Victorian Dunwall. Forced to keep their affair a secret, their love leaks nevertheless, and creates tension between Empress Jessamine and the dodgier members of her court. Jessamine and Emily are under constant attention in case anyone should have a hankering for an assassination or coup, and it’s Corvo that does the watching over. It’s not a great sign when your family time is enforced in order to prevent loss of life. The bottom line here is that should you ever find yourself with a crush on an empress, take a hard pass.
1 Red Dead Redemption
John Marston’s cavalier approach to household chores on Bonnie McFarlane’s farm might have you thinking he didn’t have a family that needed returning to, but he did. Specifically, John’s wife, Abigail Marston, and his son, Jack. The two he left in order to turn in the rest of his old gang of outlaws.
As the saying goes, snitches get stitches, and that’s how John Marston ended up needing care with Bonnie. Now, John and Abigail have a serious history together, and they don’t spell convention, but we’re sure even they would need the slightest bit of communication in order to continue a healthy marriage. True, he eventually did get back to his family, and well in time to save them from attacking lawmen. But did he need to take his sweet time to get there? You can read more about John’s son in the upcoming Red Dead (2010) sequel here.