Common Game Elements is a feature where I talk about something that reoccurs a lot in video games. It may be something very prevalent or something that I noticed because it has come up a few times in recent memory. The first ever feature dealt with the protagonist, and this one shall be dealing with the role of the heroine (main supporting female character) in the story. As someone who primarily plays RPGs, most of these will only be applicable to them, but I do try and add other genres and do a bit of research when adding in games I haven’t played (although for the most part, these are games I have played).

Something I’ve noticed a lot when playing RPGs or games that try and tell a story is that the main female character tends to become the love interest of the male protagonist (the character the player plays as). It’s not as prevalent as last time’s feature on protagonists, but it’s still quite a common element and dates back from the earliest beginnings of the medium to the present. So it’s been around for awhile. I’m making a distinction here that it’s a male protagonist with a female heroine because the reverse phenomenon, while also present, comes up a lot less than this one. So for part 2, I’ll be looking at this phenomenon only:

If the protagonist is male, then the leading female (the girl that joins first and/or has the most plot relevance) will be his love interest.

Just a warning: Because of the nature of this topic, a lot of these examples will spoil endings and important parts of games listed below. I did try to be as spoiler free as possible but it’s kind of hard when you are trying to say why Character Y is in fact the love interest of Character X, especially since most games don’t quite make it apparent until the end of a game and in certain cases, in the sequels.

Examples:

  • Rosa (FFIV)– She technically joins the party after Rydia, but she is still the first female character to make an appearance in the

    Rosa from FFIV is one of the most well known heroines who is featured in a romantic plot.

    game. She’s also the driving force behind Kain and Cecil’s relationship and has more plot relevance than Rydia (although both ladies are not very important to the story).

  • Aerith (FFVII) – Implied heavily with the Golden Saucer date and her death. Cloud and Aerith also appear together a lot in Amano’s official art.
  • Aerith (FFVII: Crisis Core) – This time she’s Zack’s girl. Implied heavily in FFVII and Advent Children as well.
  • Tifa (FFVII) – After the death of Aerith, Tifa fills the role of leading female love interest. She also gets together with Cloud after the credits as seen in Advent Children.
  • Rinoa (FFVIII) – Second half of the game is dedicated heavily to her love with Squall.
  • Garnet (FFIX) – The embrace at the end is pretty evident that they mean a lot to each other.
  • Yuna (FFX) – The iconic kiss scene, need I say more?
  • Nina (Breath of Fire) – While in the original game nothing was implied. In the sequel (BoFII), Nina returns and confirms that she and Ryu did in fact get hitched.
  • Life Signs: Surgical Unit – Baring Suzu, the other two important female characters, Hoshi and Aoshima, are potential girlfriends if the player meets certain requirements by the end of the game.
  • Shiida/Caeda (Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon) – Heavily implied in her death quote and early in the game. She becomes Marth’s bride-to-be after the final battle as well. In the sequel, Marth and Caeda are officially married.
  • Shiki (The World Ends With You) – Heavily implied through out the game, especially at the end of week one, where she becomes Neku’s admission, and therefore his most precious thing.
  • Ninian (Fire Emblem) – While Lyndis is the official main female and the first female character the player is introduced to if they play the introductory tutorial, Ninian is the most important female character plot-wise. And while Eliwood (and the player) does have a choice of two other brides-to-be, both this game and the sequel hint (pretty heavily in my opinion) that the canon pairing is indeed Ninian and Eliwood.
  • Marle (Chrono Trigger) – Heavily implied in the PSX opening, official artwork, and most of the endings. There is also a particular scene with Marle and Chrno if she is in the player’s party at the time.
  • Lucia (Luminous Arc) – Very heavily implied at the end. The ending basically gives all the signs of them being an official couple except outright saying the two are indeed dating/living together. Let us also not forget that Alph saved Lucia with the “power of love”.
  • Luminous Arc 2 – The two most important female characters, Althea and Fatima, are the only two who have special romantic endings with the main male lead. Arguably Althea’s ending is canon because it doesn’t need to be triggered and she is also the first female character to join the party as well as being the most important character, plot-wise.
  • Luna (Lunar: Silver Star Story) – Once again, it’s heavily implied with Alex desperately trying to get Luna back and Luna only listening to Alex at the end.
  • Zelda (The Legend of Zelda series) – Usually only hinted at, but it becomes more implied in Ocarina of Time, Wind Waker/Phantom Hourglass, and Spirit Tracks. Skyward Sword furthers this by having their relationship play a central role in Link’s journey.
  • Princess Peach (Mario series) – Like most earlier video games, this is only heavily implied by Mario going to great lengths to save Peach and in later instalments, Peach giving Mario a kiss on the cheek for his efforts.
  • Heroine (Sword of Mana) – Very heavily implied at the end and in the sequel.
  • Kirie (Kingdom Hearts) – Pretty apparent from the first game’s beginning where Sora wants to share a special fruit with Kirie that is said to bind the two who share it forever. Only gets more apparent as the game progresses and in future games.
  • Nemu (Da Capo) – Although Da Capo is a dating sim with a handful of girls to choose from. Nemu, the first girl we met is heavily implied to be Junichi’s canon love interest as the sequel (Da Capo 2) features her and Junichi’s two granddaughters.
  • Yuzu (Devil Survivor) – Implied with some of the speech choices for the main character, such as calling Yuzu, “my (main character’s) girlfriend.”
  • Gwendolyn (Odin Sphere) – Although there are multiple protagonists, male and female, Gwendolyn is the first character that we are introduced to and she and Oswald are visibly shown to care for one another.
  • Rozalin (Disgaea 2)– The female lead, who by the end of the game forms a mutual love with the protagonist, Adell. DLC in

    Rozalin reluctantly falls for the main hero.

    Disgaea 3 confirms the two are romantically involved after the credits.

  • Isabella (Advance Wars: Days of Ruin) – A romantic relationship between her and the main character Will is heavily implied throughout the game, especially when she chooses Will over her evil “family.”
  • Flonne (Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness) – It’s arguable whether she or Etna is the leading lady, so I shall list them both. The ending confirms that Flonne and Laharl do indeed care for one another romantically.
  • Jenna (Golden Sun) – The first female character we are introduced to and the girl the heroes (lead by Isaac) end up trying to save in the first game. The recent DS sequel confirms that Jenna and Isaac did get hitched after the credits as they have a son in Dark Dawn named Matthew.
  • June (999) – June is pretty much the most pivotal character in the game and Junpei’s attraction to her is made pretty explicit throughout the game through Junpei’s inner monologues. And likewise, June’s backstory and own reactions heavily imply that she feels the same way.
  • Kukuru (Arc the Lad) – Heavily implied throughout the game with her stating she will gladly fulfill her destiny with Arc, whereas before she was strongly opposed to doing so and marrying a prince she had not met.
  • Amy Rose (Sonic series) – The first female sonic character and also the one that is madly in love with Sonic. Granted Sonic doesn’t really seem to feel the same but she accomplishes being his love interest all on her own.
  • Elana Fisher (Uncharted series) – First major female character introduced in the series. She and Drake get romantically involved at the end of the second game.
  • Colette (Tales of Symphonia) – Implied heavily throughout the game with Lloyd being the one who constantly want to rescue her the most. In the sequel, Dawn of the New World, there is a side quest where Lloyd and Colette admit their feelings for one another.
  • Jill (Resident Evil series) – Hinted throughout the games and implied heavily in RE5 where Chris desperately tries to get information about Jill’s whereabouts from the antagonists.

Exceptions:

  • Ritz (FFTA)– The only prominent female character in the game, yet nothing is implied to exist between her and the main

    Ritz, surprisingly, isn’t into Marche and she’s not his sister either.

    protagonist Marche.

  • Chalinka (FFCC: Ring of Fates) – The main female lead and twin sister to the male lead, Yuri.
  • Trucy (Ace Attorney: Apollo Justice) – All prospects of her being Apollo’s love interest are dissolved with a revelation in the final chapter of the game.
  • Eirika (Fire Emblem: Sacred Stones) – While some speculate that Eirika and Emphram have something more going on, the literal interpretation of their relationship is just one of close siblings.
  • Final Fantasy V – Bartz doesn’t appear to have any romantic feelings for any of his fellow adventurers, which at one point in the game are all female.
  • Etna (Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness) – While Etna was both the first female to appear and plays an important role in the game (it is arguable whether she is more important than Flonne, but both are regarded as the leading ladies), it is Flonne who becomes the romantic interest of the main lead, Laharl.
  • Flora (Professor Layton series) – She has a father-daughter relationship with the Professor.
  • Catiua (Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together) – I honestly thought this game would eventually go this route and there are some major hints throughout the game that Catiua’s love may be more than sisterly, especially when Vyce is jealous of it and he admits to being smitten with Catiua. Surprisingly though, the game averts this trend as all endings have Denam and Catiua go their separate ways and neither of them openly state their love is more than platonic.
  • Khris (Golden Sun: Dark Dawn) – Nothing to suggest she and Matthew are more than just good childhood friends.
  • Suikoden IV – There is no real leading female character and the main male lead has no romantic relationships.
  • Sami (Advance Wars) – The main female character, Sami, doesn’t like Andy, but rather Eagle.
  • Trista (Lost Magic) – Is more an older sister to the younger protagonist, Isaac.

Tactics Ogre’s Catiua plays around with this element but ultimately averts it.

The exceptions are a lot smaller, mainly due to it being harder to say something is just friendship when the hints are still there but the story never really resolves it (Phoenix Wright big time skip with Apollo Justice) or games where the female lead clearly likes the male lead and their close friendship is sort of ambiguous (Tales of Vesperia and Legendia). Yes, it does take “two to tango” but a love interest in video games can still be one sided if the presence is strong enough (Amy Rose from Sonic) so I had a lot of trouble classing some of these as exceptions and ultimately decided to leave them off the list. Further skewing my list is the fact that a lot of games I did play had romance so looking for exceptions was sort of hard given that I didn’t want to spoil too many games and I actually found more examples this way than exceptions. The games that didn’t have much romance tended to be the “customization” games where the protagonist’s gender is determined by the player and as such, they can’t really fall under the exceptions (especially since there often weren’t leading heroines in these games). So while the list and counter list do give the image of this being a very pervasive trend, I still believe it isn’t as pervasive as the protagonist is a sword wielder from last time. That said, yes this is a common trend and the lists do show that.

So what does this mean? I would say that it means love is a big part of the human experience and as such appears in a lot of stories, even if as just a subplot. In fact this element is actually not unique to video games, but is common throughout all forms of story-telling. As to why the leading female is often paired with the leading male: Well I would say it’s because it is much easier to have the two main, and in turn most developed, characters form a relationship rather than to try and juggle a third female character, who is usually less developed and less important, into the equation. If a third girl is introduced, it can create problems with making the leading heroine appear to be important if this third girl is always stealing her spotlight as the main character’s love interest. Or if the game doesn’t really highlight the third character as much, it can create the problem of her personality being underdeveloped or that she appears to serve no purpose but to be the love interest of the main character. It’s just much easier to have someone who is important to the story and has the most screen time also develop romantic feelings for the male lead (and likewise, it’s more believable that the male lead develops romantic feelings for someone who is constantly there with him through thick and thin). Is it impossible ? No. Tales of Legendia seems to play around with this as Chloe appears to be the third girl, although the game never really delves into this and remains ambiguous about who Senel really loves (other than his deceased lover).

With that said, I don’t think this is necessarily a bad trend as there are many benefits to going this route. The most important, in my opinion, being that it’s a lot more believable that the leading characters develop feelings for each other as they tend to be around each other and interact much more often than other characters (due to plot reasons). Is this all I want to see? No. I think it would be interesting to see a different relationship structure, but I ultimately won’t fault a game that goes the tried and true route. I feel the way the relationship is developed and present is much more important than whether it’s always the leading male and female getting together. So I ultimately do not have any problems with this trend. As for the reverse phenomenon (female protagonist with the male leading hero), well that I shall defer to it’s own post as that has it’s own interesting trend.

–SW

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