Gaming from the Heart
Posted by Sean Aaron
Games that tug the heartstrings
Valentine's Day is sometimes derided as a "Hallmark Holiday" - a day created for shops to sell stuff like greeting cards and chocolates due to feelings of obligation. Despite this, it must be said that having a day in which you're expected to express love and devotion to those closest to you can't be all bad.
Although video games are not traditionally associated with sentiment or love, as they've increased in sophistication the number of games with strong emotional themes has increased, so we thought it would nice to mention some of our favourites to get you in the lovey-dovey mood.
It's hard to think of another game in which your character's sole purpose is to make other people in the game world happy. The feel-good story of Chibi Robo is heartwarming and quite touching, covering themes such as marital strife and reconciliation, death and the celebration of life.
A Boy and His Blob is a game about an unusual friendship between a boy and an alien. The gameplay is focused around platforming and puzzle solving, but this is the only game we can think of that has a button assigned to giving hugs.
Pikmin is a lovely action game with brilliant character designs, but it also has a nice story attached. Captain Olimar shares his thoughts and feelings on being stranded in his daily journal. He makes observations about his newfound helpers, the titular Pikmin, but is also concerned that he'll never see his wife and children again. The Pikmin themselves are cute, but you're unlikely to form the same emotional bond with them as you do Olimar. Still it's always sad if you don't remember to round them all up at the end of the day and have to see the lone stragglers running desperately to catch the ships as they fly away and the monsters close in...
The story of the little king in the land of Alpoko is wry, cute and bursting with charm which is why it makes our list. You can chat to all of your subjects who will tell you how much they love living in your kingdom and they'll often send you letters saying they think you're great. You can become involved in their lives by marrying them at the church and then seeing them raise children. The fact that they have names and grow in experience can cause you to grow a bit attached to them, so it's nice that if they do unfortunately meet their demise you have a good chance of finding them resurrected and washed up at the beach, whew!
Emotional content in RPGs is certainly nothing new, but Opoona is certainly amonst the rare ones where the player character has a "Love" stat. Opoona is always smiling and happy and the people he meets on the alien world of Landroll are all interested to meet and help him find his way. Developing friendships with other characters he encounters is necessary to drive events in the story and unlock new areas to explore and helping people feels good!
Mario's first 3D outing on the Wii presented some new gameplay challenges to the Mario franchise, but another new addition was the strongly developed and moving story of Rosalina and how she came to be the mother of the Luminas. Super Mario Galaxy 2 will apparently have reduced story elements, but after the great job done in Super Mario Galaxy, we're sure some people will miss it.
Twilight Princess is first and foremost an action game, but it has some surprising emotional content to the story which is ably conveyed by the excellent character modeling seen in the cutscenes. Despite a lack of dialogue Link's facial expressions convey a great deal of meaning to the viewer and give a sense of urgency to the action sequences that follow. The ending is brimming with sentiment and unrequited love and is as satisfying as the best Hollywood has to offer.
So, eat some chocolates, cuddle up with a partner, put on one of these games and let a little love into your heart!