Love is weird. As humans are wont to do, we yearn for the affection of those around us and we put ourselves out there for the sake of finding “that special someone.”
As such, it’s only inevitable that the dreaded “awkward first date” will creep up from time to time. Whether you’ve watched it from the comfort of your restaurant table or you languished through a weird evening with a prospective mate, it’s always cringe-worthy.
Believe it or not, videogames have also delved into this deadliest of social minefields, letting us play through a myriad of awkward dates. Not unlike their real life counterparts, sometimes we watch and cringe, while other times we’re smack dab in the thick of it.
With Valentine’s Day approaching this Friday and an inevitable tide of romantic outings on the horizon, we thought it’d be appropriate to chronicle our favorite misadventures in the tragically awkward realm of videogame dates. Join us as we look for love in all the wrong places.
Oh yes, and happy actual Valentine’s Day as well. You guys are perfect for each other.
Most awkward date: Cloud and Barrett in Gold Saucer - Final Fantasy VII
Cloud is second only to Link and Commander Shepard in terms of the absurd amount of romantic suitors fawning over him. Of course, we all know Cloud’s stoic clone heart only beats for Aeris (or Aerith, if you take things too seriously), though that doesn’t seem to stop Barret from falling for Cloud’s Mako-infused eyes.
About halfway through the first disc, the group gives itself a break from chasing after Sephiroth and decides to enjoy the rides and attractions at everyone’s favorite theme park/prison: Gold Saucer.
At this point in the game, nine times out of ten, Cloud will go on a date with Aeris. In typical fashion, the scene is quirky and heart-warming. Aeris, after all, is a character that had previously convinced Cloud to dress as a woman and squat competitively for a proper wig.
Although Cloud canonically loves Aeris the most, Cloud can change his fated date depending on the player’s actions up until this moment. The game keeps a surprisingly complex tally of your actions, and depending on your chivalry, manners, and preference in brown hair, you can end up enjoying a firework filled night with Tifa, Yuffie or even Barrett.
Barrett gets my pick because, like any good awkward date, neither of them wants to be there. It seemed like Barrett just wanted to get some fresh air, but the ambiance is relentlessly romantic. Barret and Cloud end up talking about which girl they’d rather be with, eventually leading Barrett to ask: “Why the hell do I gotta be here with a foo like you?”
Sorry Barrett. I guess we can still be friends.
- Stephen Hilger
Most awkward date: Cyber Dwarf and Ivory Latta - Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden
As if Barkley Gaiden wasn’t a big enough parody of Japanese videogame tropes, the game decides to throw in a little dating sim sidequest towards the end of the game that can lead to one of the most awkward pairings in videogame history.
Using the B-Ball Dimension dating service, the player can pair the lonely, basketball-textured mutant Cyber Dwarf with Ivory Latta, a North Carolina WNBA player. From there, a multiple choice-styled dating sim is unleashed, allowing the player to pick the most appropriate (or inappropriate) responses to the things Latta talks to Cyber Dwarf about.
Pick the most inappropriate responses will result in a hilariously awkward situation where poor Latta will continue putting herself down while Cyber Dwarf focuses on the one shallow thing he cares about: applebottoms. Combine this with an incredibly unflattering photo of Latta and you’ve got a recipe for the most disastrous date you will ever witness.
“Did someone put a bushel of granny smiths down your pants because you got one fine applebottom.” I’d be cringing right now if I wasn’t doubled over in hysterical fits of laughter.
- Patrick Kulikowski
Most awkward date: Arngrim and Jelanda - Valkyrie Profile
He is Arngrim, a battle-hardened mercenary in the employ of a Norse-inspired kingdom. She is Jelanda, a bratty princess whose special ability is a lack of self-awareness.
For those of you haven’t played Valkyrie Profile, this gem of a PS1 title can best be described as gloriously somber. Sad things happen. Even during the comedic asides that follow, doom and despair is not too far ahead for the game’s many recruitable characters. But what do you expect when your plot revolves around drafting the souls of the fallen to fight in the upcoming apocalypse? You can expect dialogue like in the screenshot here.
So you may be surprised to find that there is a dating sequence within the first 45 minutes of this game. After slaughtering an army on behalf of the king, Arngrim is presented with a congratulatory ceremony, an occasion he reciprocates by personally insulting the king and calling out his deplorable warmongering. Since no guard would dare try and mess with a guy with a seven foot long sword, the king’s daughter princess Jelanda, decides to off Arngrim in perhaps the most round-about and ridiculous scheme ever, by disguising herself as a village girl and taking him on a date in order to convince him to take on a “special assignment“.
The date is awkward in its public embarrassment. After being taken to an Eastern-styled restaurant, Jelanda throws a fit over the food and outs herself as the princess in the process. Nevertheless, Arngrim feels guilty about insulting the king in front of his daughter and agrees to take up the job of escorting one of her men through the forest. Only, the whole act is a farce. The king’s army chases Arngrim down, Jelanda having snuck into the cargo in order to make it seem as if she had been kidnapped. But the joke’s on her, as her duplicitous servant decided he has had enough with the princess and turns her into a monster.
After effectively killing his date, Arngrim goes off to confront Jelanda’s manservant, who ends up dispatching him before he can so much as raise his sword. Valkyrie Lenneth then whisks both Arngrim and Jelanda’s souls to Valhalla, capping off what could best be described as the worst date in videogame history.
- Maxwell Coviello
Most awkward date: Paz and Big Boss - Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
The Metal Gear series always had some hints of romance, whether it was Snake and Meryl or Otacon and Sniper Wolf. Of course most of the time, it’s more about the sexual bits than the romance. Eva was a tease the whole way through Snake Eater and the Beauty and the Beast unit was completely based off the sex appeal of models.
But then you have the very awkward date between Big Boss and Paz. I mean, moving past the whole “4o year-old war grizzled soldier bringing a 24 year-old girl seeking peace out on a date on the beach” thing, it shouldn’t be so bad, right? Well…
As we all know, Big Boss is the best sweet talker in the world. Well, when it comes to guns, anyway. I guess that really does get him riled up. But that’s besides the point. To “talk” to Paz during the date, you use the CO-OPs COMM to tell her words like “Thanks” and “Good Luck.” You can also use CQC to “grope” Paz. That’s something us men do on a first date, right? …oh.
And of course, to end the umm… mission, you use a Love Box or any cardboard box, where she will join you for some… mission debriefing. Yeah. Achieving an S-rank in this mission/date will give you the ability to replay it with Paz dressed in her underwear.
So when Otacon asked Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid if he thought that love could bloom even on a battlefield, it should’ve been kept as a rhetorical question and not as a Mythbusters moment.