The Persona franchise has always handled romance well, even in the games without Social Links. The Persona 2 duology features the best-written romance in the series between Tatsuya and Maya, but it’s hard to deny the appeal of romantic Social Links in Persona 3 and onwards. It’s fun getting to know one character, slowly building a romance with them over the course of tangible, in-game time.
With the lightest setting in the series, Persona 4 is the game that best allows players to sit back and enjoy the series’ slice of life aspects. It’s a more casual playthrough overall, meaning that Social Links (and their romances) ease their way in rather smoothly. But not every Social Link is a hit, and some romances are honestly better left untouched.
8 Yumi Ozawa
The Sun Social Links for Persona 4 are arguably the worst in the game, if not across all three Social Link games. Both of them scrape the bottom of the barrel with conflict and neither girl has anything resembling a natural or engaging relationship with the protagonist. Of the two, Yumi’s romance is the worst. Not only is it tacked onto the end of the Social Link with no development, but most of the Link is also spent meandering around Yumi’s bloated personal struggles.
She has daddy issues and mommy issues, with the main character acting more as a distant observer than ever. Even when he does manage to interact with her in some capacity, Yumi’s presence is so overbearing, and she’s so uninteresting, that it’s hard to stay engaged in her plot, let alone develop romantic feelings for her.
7 Ayane Matsunaga
Ayane’s Social Link isn’t much better than Yumi’s in the grand scheme of things, but it is better. Ayane is still a very bland character with an even less interesting storyline (though that’s ultimately for the best considering how suffocating Yumi’s is), but she does develop naturally over the course of the Link, and in a way that incorporates the player.
Through the player, Ayane grows out of her shell, slowly gaining not only confidence but stronger individuality as a person. It’s a nice message for anyone who feels like they need to pick themselves up, but while compelling, it doesn’t lend itself that well to romance. It’s better contextualized, but any romance with Ayane is just shoved into the Social Link because it’s expected. Plus, she looks like a kid.
Tacked onto Persona 4: Golden like a bad wart, Marie is quite possibly the worst “New Girl” Atlus has added to their re-releases. She’s out of place within the game, both visually and in terms of personality. She’s jarringly written when compared to the other characters, and her poems are downright awful.
At the same time, she does manage to develop a decent romance with the main character. While Marie is insufferable for most of the game, P4G does give her enough direction to end the game… better. Not great, but certainly better. If nothing else, her design is cute, even if it doesn’t quite fit Persona 4’s aesthetic.
5 Chie Satonaka
Chie is a fan favorite for good reason. She’s fun, she’s funny, and she pulls her weight as a party member all the way to the very end of the game. That’s enough for most fans to be won over, but a Social Link can make or break romance with a character like Chie, and… Persona 4 doesn’t do that great a job in this regard.
Romance ends up taking a back seat for Chie and the main character – which, granted, does make sense – but it’s disappointing that their relationship doesn’t develop as naturally as it could, especially since Chie and the main character share one of the better dynamics in the game as far as story related material goes. If nothing else, her Social Link is still enjoyable and Chie’s romance-related activities all paint a softer side to the character.
4 Yukiko Amagi
Yukiko’s actual Social Link is mediocre and builds up to an ending that questionably robs Yukiko of her identity, but the romance between Yukiko and the player is handled well, both in and out of the Social Link. Yukiko is weird, funny, and genuinely sweet. Of the main girls, her relationship with the main character feels the most organic as far as the story’s structure goes.
There’s something inherently romantic about rescuing a princess from a castle and then slowly developing a relationship with her. It certainly helps that Yukiko develops quite a bit of agency herself over the course of the game & her Link. As far as post-romance interactions go, Yukiko’s surprisingly flirtier and friendlier than the game’s other girls.
3 Naoto Shirogane
Naoto’s a loaded character who can be read in a lot of different ways. Her relationship with gender is fleshed out considerably in both the main story and her Social Link, but she has romantic threads tied to Kanji along with the main character. Of course, this being Persona, the main character gets first dibs.
And the relationship does play out well. Naoto and the main character have fantastic chemistry (as much chemistry as one can have with a silent protagonist) and their relationship develops organically. Naoto’s Social Link comfortably eases into romance.
2 Ai Ebihara
A controversial character with a controversial Social Link that leads into a controversial romance, Ai Ebihara has one of the most dynamic romances in the series. Treating Ai like any other romance in the game actually leads to her rejecting the main character’s advances down the line. It’s only in getting to know Ai properly that a relationship can form.
From there, Ai develops into a better person with respect for others while keeping her same sassy, flirty, aggressive self. Ai and the main character make a strange pair, but a cute one nonetheless. Of the non-playable girls, Ai’s the player’s best bet when it comes to romance.
1 Rise Kujikawa
Rise is just great character writing all around. There’s so much depth beyond the surface level when it comes to her, something the game reflects on, using said fact to drive her development. Her relationship with the main character plays out smoother than with any other character, and their romance only makes sense should players pursue Rise’s Social Link.
Of course, that can be annoying since Rise’s Social Link almost railroads the players into romance, but giving in does lead to the game’s best relationship. Rise is fun, funny, lovable, and generally just an engaging character with plenty of depth.