When Dragon Age came out 8 years ago, it set itself apart from other games, including choice-based RPGs, by placing "adult" relationships front and center. What made Dragon Age special is that their 'identity' mattered to the character and story. Characters were everyone on the relationship spectrum, and these things were intrinsic parts of their character far beyond if you could sleep with them. Consensual relationships were not treated as a secret, dirty thing you could get away with in the game, or like the absolute end-all be-all of romance; it was treated more realistically, as a step in a relationship. Who you choose to fall in love with, whose heart you break, and how you handle these things are some of the most important story choices you can make.
Sure, the game is ultra-friendly to the romantic, idealistic gamer who wants their character to find their one, true love. But, you don’t have to play that way. Want to see if you can get away with a polyamorous relationship? I’m not promising it’ll work out, but go for it! Maybe you’re a mischief maker who likes sewing chaos in a carefully programmed universe. Well, Bioware has provided ample opportunity for breaking hearts, being lewd, or even downright shocking to folks. A good choice-based RPG is ultimately about how much ownership you can take of the narrative, and Bioware made sure that romance was an integral part of how you defined your story. Your choices even influence your partner's personality, with the option to encourage them to be kind people, or to "harden" them (stop giggling) into badasses.
Sebastian may have been your Hawke’s true love, but you’re out of luck if you expect things to be consummated. Lace Harding may have charmed your socks off, but the awk-dorable dwarf never gets beyond going on a date with you, which happens only in reference. Did you fall for Felicia Day’s elven incarnation, Tallis? Well, you can flirt, but don’t expect much else. Vivienne seems to be screaming potential-love-interest, but try and you’ll find out she’s in love with someone else. Maybe you asked Kaitlyn of Redcliffe for a kiss as payment for saving her brother’s life (you’re a bad person and you should feel bad if you did this), but that’s all you’re getting. No matter how you try, you just can't pursue a full romance with these characters. It’s good writing that not every romance is treated the same way, but damn does it suck when you’re gunning for someone and it doesn’t pan out in one of these games.
Accidentally broken the hearts of all 3 of your love interests and are now being disdained from every angle? Never fear! Bioware has you covered with a wide variety of "for-money" options. Sure, some of us like to jump into the skin of our character and take every moment seriously, but other people like to name their character “Dr. McBoobs” and treat the game like a sort of satirical playground. If you’re one of these sorts, you probably took the time to check out the options at the various brothels in the Dragon Age series. These encounters range from vaguely smutty to bizarre to downright depressing to absolutely hilarious. They’re almost all plotless and utterly unfulfilling, and they end as soon as your wallet is empty. But, it’s nice to have a backup option.
Calling Minister Bellise a romance is a bit of a stretch, but you are afforded the opportunity to proposition her while at Orlesian court, in order to gain political favor. She claims she’s “too old for your charms,” but will quickly change her tune once she realizes the offer is sincere, giving you the political favors you need and a healthy ego boost, to boot. Yeah, Orlesian politics gets dirty, but hey, it’s still not as bad as D.C. It's indicative of Dragon Age's layered and sophisticated relationship options that a character like this one can be included on our list. So many other games have failed to have off-the-beaten-path options for romance — even in epic RPGs. This is a relationship options you won't soon forget.
Look, Bella’s romance (if you can call it that) is basically you harassing her and then paying her to kiss you. It’s all portrayed a little more charmingly than that, you can be a really good person and help her achieve her dreams in life to get out of her current, impoverished situation. But at the end of the day, it makes your character seem pretty creepy, which your accompanying party members will gladly point out to you (except Oghren, because you know, he has no standards). That being said, this proves (yet again) Dragon Age is willing to let you role-play as a variety of different archetypes. Like true D&D, if you want to be a monstrous abuser, Dragon Age will let you do that.
In Dragon Age: Origins, there were 6 different opening chapters of the game, depending on the race/class/gender choice you made for your character. In most of these stories, there was the opportunity for at least one romance scene, letting players know right off the bat that physical attraction and love would be central to their stories. You might be a city elf pushed into an arranged marriage, or a dwarven noble having a royal affair, or a mage breaking the rules by flirting with their templar guards. Whoever it was, these characters felt special because they were unique to your character’s specific story, and helped you form your first impressions of them. Unfortunately, most of them don’t develop much beyond the initial origin story quests. It’s clear that the game is directing you towards other, more fleshed out options.
She may be “evil,” and she may often be an enemy to battle, but for a moment you’ll have the chance to have a less combat-oriented encounter with one of these alluring monsters. What’s not to love about a demonic naked lady who wants to help you live out all of your wildest fantasies? I mean, aside from the fact that she’s actually draining your lifeforce away from you and cutting you off entirely from reality. Oh, also she’s ruining a little boy and his family’s life and cooperating with her may doom and entire town… but hey, people have done stupider things for lust. Still, you *are* taking your life into your own hands ...decisions decisions.
Merrill is the designated introvert of the series; she’s a loner with few real relationships, cut off from her old life, and obsessed with a magical project. Like Anders, Merrill was a side character in Origins who upgraded to a lead party member in DA2. Also like Anders, she’s painfully depressing. Unlike Anders, Merrill actually acts as though she cares about Hawke, and your actions as Hawke can have pretty major impacts on how she develops. If you like the idea of a love interest feeling like you’re the only person in the world they trust, Merrill’s got some appeal, for sure. You’ll just need to be ready to periodically check that her blood magic hasn’t allowed a demon to possess her. No biggie!
There are two entries on this list from Dragon Age: The Last Court, a choice-based browser game that served as a prelude to Inquisition before it was released. One of these characters is lame, the other one is ridiculously lame. Welcome to our buddy, The Wayward Bard. What is there to say about the bard? No, really. Is there anything? Dude doesn’t even get a name, because he’s so like, wayward, I guess? Like the spin-off game he appears in, The Wayward Bard is utterly unmemorable, bland, and pales in comparison to just about everything else in Dragon Age. The game tries way too hard to insist that he’s a worthwhile romance, not by showing you anything to convince you, but just by crudely stating that he is “experienced…both in politics and the bedchamber.” Yeugh. At least he can play guitar, or lute, or whatever.
Playing a villain? One of those people who just likes to watch the world burn? Love screwing with social expectations? Then you might just be a fan of Cammen and Gheyna. These two young Dalish elves are clearly meant to be together, but they’re having a little bit of trouble getting the relationship going. Sure, you could be a good person and help out, or a neutral type and just decide that their romance is none of your business… but then there’s the option to sleep with either of them, tell the other partner, and ruin everything. Situations like these would be awful in real-life, but in the context of your RPG experience, getting to mess with other characters like this is hilarious and, of course, cruel. #relationshipgoals
We’ve reached the first party member! Unfortunately, we’re dealing with Sera. Allow me to give the disclaimer that Sera is my all-time least favorite party member in the entire series, so I’m extremely biased but also I’m irrefutably right about this and Sera is a garbage character. SO HOW’S ROMANCING HER THEN, YOU ASK? It’s awful. But she’s a party member, which means it’s at least nice and fleshed out. Sera ought to be a kooky, authority-subverting prankster, but quickly turns out to be a curmudgeon, constantly scolding your character anytime they do something she doesn’t like. It really undoes the whole punk-rock thing they had going for her and makes her seem childish instead. Her love story, like the character itself, seems to progress arbitrarily and randomly. Sera’s got some pretty saucy scenes, but her trying-too-hard-to-be-clever ramblings and constant cackling are pretty serious mood killers.
Remember that second, slightly-less-lame romance option from Dragon Age: The Last Court I mentioned before? This is her! She doesn’t have a name either, but at least your relationship with her has a bit more flavor to it. Whereas your relationship to the bard seems seedy and arbitrary, the forbidden romance between you and a clergy member of the chantry has the making of a pretty solid romance novel, even if you only get a paragraph or two dedicated to the situation. But, let’s be real, nobody really plays Dragon Age for the text-based adventure spin-off. Unless that's your thing? Everyone is entitled to their own opinions...
Blackwall’s name is right-on-the-nose; he’s deadly serious, often depressing, and emotionally shut off. Many players will see Blackwall as a sort of romantic challenge, expecting great rewards and payoff if they pursue him. Well, have fun constantly getting lied to, repeating the same tired woe-is-me conversations, and eventually getting abandoned without being told why. You CAN have a happy ending with Blackwall, but the guy is so wrapped up in himself he drags the rest of the story down, especially when he’s your love interest. Pursue at your own peril, probably only if you have a strong fascination with rugged types and stables.
Pursuing the chief diplomat of the Inquisition is, like Josephine herself, refined, charming, and a bit classical-feeling. Josephine is a refreshing character who relies on her wit, intellect, and skills of political persuasion to make things happen, rather than her skill with sword or spell. Josephine is arguably what keeps the Inquisition ticking, and there is something extremely rewarding about pursuing a love interest whose goals almost perfectly align with your character’s. Josephine is for people who like a bit of refinement in their romance; the innuendo has a lighter touch, the flirtation feels more chaste and subtle, and the climax of the story is more about confessing feelings than physicality. That said, she’s one of the only characters who you actually get to compete with someone else for, which is pretty fun. Because you get to duel them. Dueling for love is awesome.
One of the most controversial characters of the series, Anders starts in Origins as a lovable, wise-cracking wizard with a ton of charm and an unusual code of ethics. When he returns as a full-fledged lead in DA2, he has completely changed. He’s moody, serious, and he’s literally possessed by a spirit of Justice who takes over his body sometimes. This personality switch could have been interesting had Anders himself not already been drearier than a high schooler who just discovered Nietzsche. Instead, you end up with just two ways that Anders is absolutely no fun. Worst of all, Anders essentially becomes a terrorist in this game, and there is no course of action you can take to stop him. Few things are more frustrating in a choice-based game than knowing your character’s actions have virtually no impact on another character’s outcome.
In many ways, Cassandra feels like the most obvious romance option (for a male Inquisitor) in DA:I. She’s the very first character you meet, and her actions are what spur your adventure onward, which she is with you almost every step of the way. Cassandra is an undeniable cool; she’s a no-nonsense dragon slayer with magic-like powers that are different from anything seen in the previous Dragon Age games. She can seem like a tough nut to crack, but if you give it a shot you get to find a poetry-loving, romance-novel-reading, giggling soft side to her that is charming and makes for some of the funnier moments of the game. Also, she’s basically a princess! Well, she’s 78th in line for the throne, but who’s counting?
A polarizing figure, most people seem to either love or hate Isabela. However, if memory serves, she is the ONLY character you can sleep with in two different Dragon Age games. She’s a smack-talking, chaos-loving, badass pirate captain who seems utterly comfortable with her own chemistry in a way that few Dragon Age characters are. I’d also argue she’s the most satisfying romance of DA:2. You get to see her and Hawke grow as people as a result of their relationship, and by romancing her you can have a pretty major impact on the rest of the game’s story (as opposed to Anders, who shares the same tragic fate no matter what you do). Many people criticize Isabela since there’s a conversation where she mentions having had an STD once, but hey, maybe you all should be grateful that she actually knows her physical health and history, ya jerks.
This is absolutely the most spoilery post in this article. YOU’VE BEEN WARNED. Oh, Solas. You had such potential. The enigmatic elf wizard whose origins are shrouded in mystery is one of the hardest romances to pursue in the series (maybe the hardest). You have to be an elven female character (I guess he’s picky), and there are a lot of ways to trip up. What’s great is that advancing your relationship with Solas gives you huge insight into the larger Dragon Age universe. The trouble is, Solas eventually betrays you in about the biggest way possible, revealing himself to be arguably the most significant villain of the series by the end of Inquisition. If you pursued your romance hard enough, there’s a bittersweet “maybe in a different life” sort of moment between the Inquisitor and Solas. Still, unless you like a story about battling your lover for the fate of the world then you should probably steer clear of our cue-ball friend.
Ah, Dragon Age’s dark lord of emo, Cloud Strife Fenris. Fenris may not be a vampire, but this mage-hating elf with a big sword (hey hey) provides the moody, gothic-feeling romance that some players will definitely be craving. Fernis is singularly focused on his mission, and any effort with your relationship will have to battle for attention as a result. It feels like a big win if you can sway Fenris into a relationship, which is great, but ultimately he doesn’t stay with you in the epilogue, too caught up in his drive for vengeance. But it’s ok, I don’t hold it against ya Fenris — I didn’t really like Hawke much either.
Haunted by the sins of his past and struggling with an addiction to Lyrium, Cullen is the ultimate fixer-upper character. He’s brave, noble, kind, and will genuinely care about your Inquisitor if you pursue him. His development as a character is very tied into your relationship with him (which is what BioWare does at their best), and if you’re willing to weather a few storms to make it work with him, Cullen will come out the other side a new, better man. And you get married! Awwww... It's a legitiamately sweet moment in a series will with epic battles and violent murder.
Antonio Banderas meets Legolas, Zevran is an assassin with a self-proclaimed mastery of seduction. For a lot of folks that sounds FANTASTIC, and he propositions you within almost no time of joining your party. Zevran is remarkably easy, so much so that he’ll frequently share stories of other lovers with you which, depending on the type of person you are, might make you feel intrigued or insulted. The problem is, in a game, things that come easily often feel less important (those of you who have this issue in your real relationships may want to seek some therapy). The game tries to rectify that by having him refuse to sleep with you after a while IF you’ve declared your true love for him, but it mostly just feels confusing when that happens. Did I mention he tries to murder you? He also tries to murder to you. That complicates things.
Dashing, witty, and impeccably mustached, Dorian is the Dragon Age series’ only male companion who is exclusively interested in a gay relationship. Dorian’s story emphasizes the complexity of having a family who rejects your romantic identity. It would be easy for such a story to be painfully dark, but Bioware really knocked it out of the park by making Dorian one of the most likable, funny, and charismatic characters in the series. Well-written, a nice contrast to other stories, and a pretty steamy scene make Dorian a very worthwhile pursuit. Also, dat butt.
Romanceable in Origins, it’s no accident that Leliana is one of the few characters to appear across all three major Dragon Age titles. She’s such an icon that DLC allowed you to play a full storyline AS her. The beautiful bard is one of the most likable RPG characters I can think of; she’s sweet, funny, complex, and impressively skilled. There are some characters that are fun to romance in a game, but imagining them as people you know you wouldn’t go near them with a 10-foot pole. Leliana feels like someone you could know and want to spend time with. Can’t think of a more surefire sign of a worthwhile character. Sure, she may break into the occasional unexpected song and have heretical visions of The Maker speaking to her through plants, but that’s just part of her charm. And those things probably don’t happen in the bedroom. Probably.
How did Alistair make it so high on this list, you ask? He’s a reluctant prince, afraid of responsibility and leadership, perpetually using humor to shield himself. Moreover, he’s a completely inexperienced virgin who seems about as far from “DTF” as it gets. WRONG. Besides the fact that Alistair’s love story has a rich, complex arc that is carefully interlaced into the game’s overall story, if you’ve made the right choices you can get this guy to risk everything, literally a whole kingdom, to be with your Warden. Alistair also has many of the best one-liners in the whole series; he’s a rare laugh-out-loud character who isn’t himself a ridiculous caricature. And how could you turn down someone who starts respond “Your desire is my command” once he’s in love with you? Just try not to swoon. Don’t swoop though. Swooping is bad.
Iron “I like my nipples uncauterized” Bull offers one of the most graphic romances in the series, it’s also simultaneously one of the most gratifying and hilarious options. Qunari society views relationships differently, it’s less special and more casual, meaning that if you want you shouldn’t have too much trouble bedding the mercenary commander. You can end the relationship and choose to make it a casual fling, which Bull is totally down for, but you can also push it into a complete romance into having a much bigger story impact than you’ll see coming. He’s a big guy with a big axe, and a big set of horns — and the whole large-size thing is apparently very consistent across the board, which is confirmed in one of the more hilarious scenes of the game. It’s honestly worth pursuing the romance just to catch this scene.
Arguably the flagship character of the entire Dragon Age franchise, Morrigan is an incredible character in many regards, and Bioware was sure to make her box-art friendly in design as well (stop staring, Alistair). This shape changing witch can be hard to read, making her very unpredictable but alluring. Romancing Morrigan isn’t easy; she’s driven, not easily distracted by social interaction, and her sarcasm game is off the damn charts. She also has strict standards, and can be so hostile as to almost seem antagonistic at times. But, play your cards right and you’re in for the single best romance the series has to offer. Most importantly for this list, one of the most critical plot points of Origins involves having to decide whether or not your Warden (or Alistair, if you’re a female Warden) will sleep with Morrigan in an ethically questionable magic ritual. She’s the only character in the game where consensual relations are an absolutely unavoidable subject, which is why she had to #1.