It’s Valentine’s Day again. That time of the year when couples can get all smugly lovey-dovey, while us single folk are sent into a self-pitying spiral of despair. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Thanks to the immersive nature of games, you can easily lose yourself in another world without a care about what day it is.
However, for those of you without a date but still want to feel the pangs of romance, then a virtual experience can be just as fun and meaningful, and certainly more eventful than a fancy dinner.
As an alternative to a real-life date this Valentine’s Day, we’ve compiled a list of the best dating games where love is never too far out of reach.
While much of this list features games where dating is an optional feature, Table Manners is all about the date itself, as you swipe a beau of your choice then wine and dine them in some of the most glamorous restaurants in town.
There’s just one problem: you’re also a disembodied hand with the haphazard physics of Surgeon Simulator. The simple act of picking up your cutlery or pouring a glass of wine is only ever one move away from snowballing into complete chaos.
Depending on your disposition, this could be a comedy or horror, but either way you’ll be glad your IRL dates will surely never be as disastrous.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
The latest entry in Nintendo’s strategy RPG series actually dials back romance, with marriages between characters and their offspring not even part of the gameplay.
Yet by getting rid of this admittedly creepy exercise in breeding, it allows for more meaningful layers of characterization and camaraderie between the students of Garrach Mach Monastery, which can still lead to something more, at least for the protagonist.
Instead of big gestures, it’s the little things like training with an ally or bonding over a cup of tea that makes the downtime between life-or-death battles worthwhile. Three Houses is less about in-your-face romance and more about emotional connection.
The Sims 4
The Sims really does encapsulate all kinds of life goals, whether it’s building a dream house or pursuing a dream career. Naturally, playing matchmaker with your Sims is one of the many highlights.
Whether you’re looking for dates, messing around or even settling down to get married and start a family, you’re likely to cover all the facets of love. The Sims 4 also has updates and mods that include blind-dates, dating apps, as well as more public ‘Woohooing’ spots for the more exhibitionist among you.
The series has also blazed a trail for the LGBTQIA+ community from its first game by allowing same-sex relationships. Changes such as discarding gender restrictions on clothing further cement The Sims’ reputation as one of the most inclusive games ever.
The Phantom Thieves of Persona 5 are all about stealing the hearts of corrupt adults in a bid to reform society. But when you’re not crossing into the Metaverse and fighting shadows, you can also steal the heart of a special someone.
Your male protagonist is restricted to heterosexual choices but there’s still a wide variety of potential romances. Besides fellow Phantom Thieves, you’ll also make confidants out in the bustling city of Tokyo, although getting romantically involved crosses into tricky territory considering most of them are adults while you’re still a minor.
You can even be a bit of a Casanova and woo everyone if you want. Just be warned there are consequences for playing around come Valentine’s Day.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
BioWare has seen better days but at its zenith the studio has been responsible for some of the strongest storytelling in games, as well as a penchant for creating many an opportunity for its diverse cast to get it on.
Dragon Age: Inquisition may not necessarily be the studio’s best game but, amidst its fantasy apocalypse, it offers some of the most memorable layered characters. Unlike the previous entry where everyone was apparently bisexual, Inquisition’s cast have more nuanced sexual preferences, including the openly gay mage Dorian – even if he’s still game with flirting with the opposite sex.
But really, it’s all about Iron Bull.
Who’s the daddy? Well, you are. In this visual novel, you create your own single dad who moves with their teenage daughter to a new town, which also happens to be filled with other single dads looking to woo you.
They’re a fun and varied bunch, whether it’s the buff fitness dad, the hot teacher dad or the dad who sports his belly with pride. Even if the game started out as a dad joke, Dream Daddy ended up being the gay dating sim we all needed.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Set in Ancient Greece, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey takes a leaf from BioWare’s book by not only turning into an action RPG but also becoming a full-on bonking simulator.
Romance has been a staple of many an Assassin’s Creed game, but Odyssey isn’t so much about relationships as it is about a quick hook up with lovers at every port. Some might take a few missions to yield results, but the point is you’re never far away from a night of hot passion before you’ll likely never see the other person again. But as long as you both had fun, who’s judging?
For something short but beautifully sweet, Florence puts you in the shoes of twenty-something Florence Yeoh as she experiences the pangs of first love, from the awkward first date to first fight, from moving in to when things unfortunately fall apart.
Through its simple but playful little puzzles that move you from one scene to the next, you essentially play through a whole relationship in less time than going on a real date. Ultimately, Florence is about more than just about romance but awakening to your own dreams and figuring out what you want to do with your life.