by Emily Reuben
Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and time is running out to get a date, to buy some flowers, and to express your undying love to another human being. The stress of finding a perfect gift and a person to give it to can be overwhelming. But hey, the stress is better than ending up lonely on Valentine’s Day…right?
What if I were to tell you that you can eat those fancy candies yourself and keep that adorable teddy bear while still having a relationship? The video game industry has you covered, friend. Marriage and dating are factors in many role-playing games, and with the amount of dating simulators on the market, finding a suitable digital romance is a breeze.
Let’s be honest, what’s the point of a physical relationship when you can have a virtual one with little-to-no commitment? Chocolate is expensive and once you spend the money and eat it, it’s gone, but games can last a lifetime.
So, are you lonely? Do you want a quick and easy relationship with no consequences or expectations? Do you want to play some video games instead of reserving a seat at some overrated, crowded eatery on Valentine’s Day? Then sit down and scroll through, because this is the list for you!
1. Harvest Moon/Story of Seasons
In Harvest Moon you can live two fantasies: finding a lover and becoming a wealthy farmer! Now, the latter may sound strange to some of you. After all, don’t we play video games to avoid doing work? Why would you want to play a game about farming and chores?
Because the Harvest Moon series is delightful. It’s a low-stress game where you can decide what crops to grow, what minerals to search for, who in town to befriend, and even which wife or husband to pursue.
Now to be transparent, getting a date in Harvest Moon does require some leg work. You’re going to have to give gifts and buy a nicer house, but hey, that’s better than spending real money.
From the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Nintendo 3DS, the Harvest Moon series has tons of entries with various bachelors and bachelorettes to choose from. If you want my personal recommendation, go for A Wonderful Life/Another Wonderful Life if you want to focus primarily on marriage and raising a family. Other great choices are Magical Melody on the GameCube, Friends of Mineral Town/More Friends of Mineral Town on the Gameboy Advance, and Animal Parade on the Wii.
Now, we have to address some inconsistencies with the series. First off, modern Harvest Moon titles are almost universally regarded as terrible. This is because the modern Harvest Moon games aren’t even Harvest Moon games at all. Marvelous Interactive, who had produced the series since 2002, established an American division that they named Xseed Games. However, Natsume owned the right to the Harvest Moon name and they decided to continue making farm games under the Harvest Moon moniker, though these games are not terribly resemblant of prior games in the series. The actual Harvest Moon games rebranded into Story of Seasons. So now we have both Harvest Moon and Story of Seasons on the market, but Story of Seasons is the actual Harvest Moon we all know and love. Confusing right?
Long story short, if you don’t want to play older Harvest Moon entries, jump into Story of Seasons and avoid modern Harvest Moon titles like the plague.
2. Stardew Valley
It would be criminal to add Harvest Moon to the list and not include Stardew Valley. The indie farming simulator is based on the Harvest Moon franchise, but is far better in many respects. There are tons of collectibles, plenty of customizable options for your farm, lots of objects to craft, various animal and crop types, a large map, and constant updates to the game.
When it comes to marriage, the rules are similar to Harvest Moon: all you really need are some home upgrades and to give some gifts, and there you go; you’re married.
Something that Stardew Valley does better than Harvest Moon is inclusivity. Sadly, older Harvest Moon titles require you to buy a specific version to play as a boy or girl, and many games don’t have the option to play as a girl at all. Additionally, all of the marriage options limit you to a heterosexual relationship.
In Stardew Valley, you not only have the option to play as a male or female, but you can marry any of the bachelors or bachelorettes no matter what gender you choose.
Stardew Valley is available on Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, and Steam if you want to go ahead and grab your hoe, spread your seed, and plow your fields.
What’s awesome about Skyrim is you can go slay dragons, kill bandits, and then come home to a loving spouse (or completely ignore them like I do).
For a small fee of 200 gold, you can buy an Amulet of Mara and marry the man or woman of your dreams. Marriage in Skyrim also gives you some added perks, such as the “Lover’s Comfort” bonus when you sleep in the same bed as your spouse which increases how quickly you gain skills.
Skyrim doesn’t limit who you can marry. You can be a female Nord and marry a female Dark Elf, a male Khajit who marries a male Nord. There are almost no restrictions… well almost. Not everyone in Skyrim is eligible for marriage, but out of the list of available partners, anything is fair game.
Skyrim is available on practically every system known to man, so nothing should stop you from your perfect match today!
3. The Sims
The Sims series lets you do almost anything you could think of. Want to make a world-famous author? No problem! Want to build a mansion and fill it with nothing but self-portraits? Perfect. Want to make a sim to keep trapped in your basement to make easy cash for the family living above ground? That’s kosher.
The freedom in The Sims is unparalleled, and this is especially the case with character creation. The Sims allows you to not only make yourself in-game if you so choose, but you can make anyone else to your exact specifications. You can quite literally create your ideal specimen of a mate.
Take your long, tan, and handsome date around Sunrise Valley, buy them dinner, and go home for some WooHoo. If you want to add some spice to the relationship, add some Vampirism to the mix and you can live out your own Twilight fantasy in no time!
Though The Sims 4 has the most aesthetically pleasing Sims, you can pick up earlier versions of the game for much cheaper if you feel the urge to craft your perfect soulmate.
4. Emily is Away
Emily is Away is a free-to-play interactive visual novel set in the ancient AOL Instant Messenger. The indie game centers around you and your relationship with Emily as it grows throughout and after high school. You customize your profile, click links Emily shares with you, and navigate between chats, all of which results in an insanely nostalgic feel for those of us who grew up with the primitive internet.
The game is unique for its ability to flesh out characters using only text. It’s easy to become attached to Emily and the cast of characters. As the story progresses, relationships grow, dissolve, and change, just like they do in real life. The game does a great job emulating the happiness, drama, stress, and sometimes even panic that can occur when you talk to a crush online.
If you’re looking for a simple high school love story and a hit of nostalgia, Emily is Away is the perfect title to try out on Valentine’s Day. If you like it, you can also check out Emily is Away Too!
If you like Japanese dating sims and visual novels, you’ve probably heard of Clannad. The visual novel was so popular that it has been adapted into anime, movies, dramas, and CDs.
What makes Clannad so appealing? In the game you play as Tomoya Okazaki, a high school student labeled as a delinquent. Now admittedly, this isn’t exactly a dating simulator. It’s a visual novel, meaning there isn’t any real customization or major choices in terms of how things play out. However, there are branching plotlines and five possible endings that result in different outcomes, though only one is the true ending. To get the full story, you’re going to have to do multiple replays.
If you like the cute art style and are looking for something more leisurely and not as intensive as the other entries on this list, give Clannad a shot. The visual novel is available on various platforms including Android, PSP, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4, Windows, and the Nintendo Switch.
6. Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
Do you dream about daddies? Or alternatively, are you the daddy others dream about?
Well fire up Steam and prepare your list of dad puns, because Dream Daddy might be right for you. In the game you play as a single-dad who is moving to Maple Bay with his daughter Amanda. The goal of the game is quite simple: “Meet and romance other hot dads.”
The seven eligible fathers all have unique stories and personalities, making the game fun to replay and explore branching options. Not only are the characters compelling, the art, particularly the background art created by pabster on Tumblr are fantastic.
The mini-games, however, are horrible. Just close your eyes, press random buttons, and I guarantee you’ll have more fun then if you actually attempted to play them.
But when it comes to dad dating, Dream Daddy does it best, and really that’s all that counts.
7. Uma no Prince Sama
Look, I’m not here to judge. If none of these other titles catch your interest, maybe you’re looking for something a bit more…unique.
Uma no Prince Sama (My Horse Prince) is a mobile game where you fall in love with a horse with the head of an attractive anime boy. Yes, this is completely real.
The game starts off when our young protagonist quits her job and visits a horse ranch to pick up young men. There she spots Yuuma, the horse-man-thing. Apparently, Yuuma is actually just a normal horse, but because the protagonist was born in the year of the horse, she sees a man’s face instead of a horse’s. So really you’re just dating an actual horse without any real human attributes outside of what she is hallucinating.
So what do you do? Occasionally chat Yuuma up, put him on a treadmill, and feed him carrots. But you’re not playing for fun. You’re playing to see an anime horse boy, and in that regard this game sure does deliver.
8. Hatoful Boyfriend
Some people believe birds aren’t real, but if that’s the case how do you explain this?
Hatoful Boyfriend is a visual novel where you can in fact, date a pigeon. The game is set in a dystopian future where the bird flu has ravaged the land and destroyed all of humanity. As humanity fought to defeat the bird menace, they knew not that the birds would evolve to have human-like intelligence. You play a female human survivor entering her Sophomore year at the St. PigeoNation’s Institute.
There are an array of pigeons suitors to fly the coop with, so don’t be a bird-brain and pick up Hatoful Boyfriend this Valentine’s Day.
9. Creature to Koishi yo! ~Koko no e Kokoro~
Are horse boyfriends too normal for you? Well do I have the dating sim for you!
~Koko no e Kokoro~ (Creature Romances: ~Here Are Our Hearts~), the fully-voiced dating simulator created by Nostalgia is certain to make your Valentine’s Day a special one.
Your best friend is half-cricket-half-girl, and she’s also your love interest. If you’re looking for a wild ride, Nostalgia boasts the game has “sex appeal, a kissing scene, and bathing suit scenes.” If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what else will. The game is relatively short, ranging from about 30 minutes to an hour, but the impact is sure to last a lifetime.
So boot up your computer and try out ~Koko no e Kokoro~! But please make sure no one is home to see you play it.
10. Creature-to Koi Shiyo! for Otome
Ladies, this one’s for you.
Creature-to Koi Shiyo! for Otome (Creature Romances: ~for the Ladies~) is described as follows, “An original mystery horror love story! An otome game where players will capture the hearts of a wide range of creatures! Ordinary youth. Ordinary love. Which boy will you choose?” How delightfully ordinary.
Creature-to Koi Shiyo! for Otome is the follow up to Nostalgia’s Creature to Koishi yo! ~Koko no e Kokoro~, and it certainly shows in both style and substance. The dating simulator features a cast of colorful half-human-half-monster love interests for you to pursue. The dating simulator is not only unique because of the character designs, but also because it contains elements of horror and gore.
Whether it’s having a nice picnic on a farm, slaying dragons together, or dating a horse, you’re sure to find your perfect match somewhere in the digital universe.
Featured image: Tt Shinkan
Emily is a Telecommunications (Film and Media Studies) major minoring in Japanese and Professional Writing in Emerging Media. Her review Netflix’s ‘Death Note’ grossly misunderstands why the original was a success and her feature article Studying Abroad in Japan: The weebs are wrong won honorable mentions in the CSPA journalism awards categories for Entertainment Reviews and First Person Experiences. She is the 2018-2019 host for the Input 2 podcast. In the past, Emily has interned at WFYI Indianapolis as a Production Intern and studied abroad in Japan.