The best games to play with your special someone(s) on Valentine's Day
Whether you believe Valentine’s Day represents love and appreciation for your partner(s) or a symbol of capitalist greed profiteering off of human emotional weakness, one thing’s certain: a lot of us love spending time with their significant others.
So what choices do game players have if they want to indulge in their favorite hobby together on a day like today? Glad you asked.
Arkham Horror: The Card Game
For partners who want to have new experiences.
“Shared adversity builds companionship,” they say. If true, Fantasy Flight’s trademark technique of pitting players against seemingly insurmountable odds is sure to raise your relationship to new heights. Ostensibly a card game reimagining of their sprawling Lovecraftian board games, Arkham Horror TCG immerses players in a a series of macabre mystery-adventures featuring enigmatic strangers, demon cults, and otherworldly monstrosities aplenty.
Gameplay happens over a series of sessions and provides an excellent model for a healthy relationship: you spend time alone between scenarios, customizing your deck and improving yourself, and then you converge to support each other through harrowing adventures, learning each other’s qualities and flaws in the process. The scenarios themselves are fun and very story-rich, and your actions have real consequences in future sessions.
Bonus: investing in additional core sets let’s you bring in up to two more players, meaning that poly relationships can bring in their paramours!
Breaking the Ice
To flirt with that cutie who caught your eye.
Nothing says “I’m cool” better than eschewing the standard dinner-movie affair for something a bit quirkier. So if you wanna impress that hottie you keep bumping into in the park, why not suggest an evening of what creator Emily Care Boss has admitted to as a “great game for flirting”?
As a roleplaying game where you play two individuals going on awkward dates, it might get a little meta, but what better way to explore your relationship than pretending to be in a fictional one? The game’s also easy to pick up: a “freeform” game, it lacks the mental algebra and superhuman rules-memorization skills that many mainstream roleplaying games demand, meaning you can jump into play pretty quickly.
The best bit? You have an alibi for any awkward romantic tension that springs up.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
For couples that need to work on trust issues.
Some people recommend trust falls. I, however, recommend defusing a bomb together. Specifically, Steel Crate Games’ excellent hop-in/hop-out Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes. The game is all about asymmetrical information: one player keeps their eye on the bomb (on screen or in VR) noting its physical details, while the other, unable to see the bomb, must listen to their partner's descriptions and furiously rifle through a bomb defusal manual, trying to find the precise steps needed to disarm the particular explosive in play. The game’s core mechanic is basically Pictionary crossed with an open-book physics exam.
Not only will players have to rely on each other to ensure that they both don’t explode, the adrenaline rush the game inevitably produces, thanks to an ominous ticking-down timer, will carry on after the game’s over. Perfect for other... shenanigans.
Yes, I mean sex.
For a couple that doesn’t know what the future holds.
If you enjoyed bawling during any of the recent Pixar movies, this is the game for you. It will give you feels. It may make you happy. It will definitely make you a sad.
Adapted from a short story by Charlie Jane Anders, this card-based roleplaying game starts out by asking players a series of questions designed to increase intimacy and heighten their emotional investment (inspired by this now-famous NYT article). Following that, each player takes on the role of either Sam, who can see the future, or Dylan, who can see all possible futures. Then, players play out scenes from their romance, exploring the question of how a relationship can survive when the end of it is predestined and known from the start.
Interestingly, the designers told me that the game has, on more than one occasion, inspired new romantic feelings between strangers playing it for the first time. And if that’s not a Valentine’s Day game, nothing is.
Heroes of the Storm
For your polyamorous quintad.
As a horny, nerdy middle-schooler, I had crushes on loads of dudes at school. In the depths of my geekiness, I would imagine what it would be like if I were on a crime-fighting, superhero team with all of them. (No, this is probably not the most embarrassing personal detail I have mentioned in a videogame article.) Cut to the late 2010s, and it’s possible to get some semblance of that feeling through MOBAs. Yes, Blizzard’s million-dollar title may not appear all that romantic to begin with, but give it a shot and you’ll see that the game is actually designed to promote teamwork (and minimize the toxicity often attributed to the MOBA genre). And your polycule may very much enjoy strategizing together how to best assault and annihilate your puny opponents.
If you have a primary partner, why not play two-headed ogre Cho’Gall together? With one of you controlling the body, and the body other controlling the more powerful spells, you can be that powerhouse couple that mows down opposition in a blaze of dark magic.
Fog of Love
For the couple that’s been together for decades.
What if you’d been high-school sweethearts? What if you’d been a professional burglar when you’d met? What if you’d hated the breakfast your partner brought you the first time you slept together?
In Fog of Love, these questions take center stage, as players attempt to navigate the tricky waters of a new romance. Straddling a line between roleplaying game and cooperative strategy board game, Fog of Love is a delightful build-your-own-romance game that’s great for exploring funny, sometimes all-too-real relationship situations.
Maybe it’ll spark memories of what you’ve been through together. Or maybe it’ll just make you laugh at the sheer absurdity of it all. Either way, there’s fun to be had.
Divinity: Original Sin
For the couple that does everything together.
Larian Studios’ Divinity: Original Sin series is the closest you’ll probably come to journeying alone with your partner through a dangerous fantasy landscape of monsters and traps. Since you need to play the turn-based, narrative-heavy RPG titles as two characters in their single-player modes, it feels only natural that you can instead link up with a partner, each controlling one of the hero-duo.
And it isn’t just a hack-and-slash fest. Partners will need to carefully consider attacks and spells, keeping their environment and each other in mind at all times. During tricky conversations, partners may disagree and each say different things to NPCs. They may even clash in a battle-of-wills in order to take certain actions, represented in-game by a cute, rock-paper-scissors style mini-game. I mean, much like in a real relationship, right?
Bonus: the sequel bumps it up to 4 players. Again, it’s ripe for bringing in your paramours!
For the one who’s mired in unrequited obsession.
Orwell by Osmotic is a disturbing game discussing issues of terrorism, privacy, state-sanctified surveillance and the nature of justice. It forces you to make difficult decisions about culpability with only fragmented, scant information. The fate of both a nation and its individual people rest in your hands.
It’s also an excellent stalking-simulator. From the basics -- mining social media -- to the pro -- phone-tapping --the game will let you indulge in your Rear Window fantasies like no other. It’s also a lot of reading, so perfect for a lonely evening, where you ensconce yourself in a sofa, tub of ice cream in one hand, surveillance fantasy game in the other.
Torment: Tides of Numenera
For the happily single.
You know what you don’t always need? People (or listicles) telling you that you need to be dating someone to find happiness. So this Valentine’s Day, reaffirm the fact that your relationship status is your own choice by playing a game that ruminates on the nature of choice itself.
“What does one life matter?” InXile’s Torment: Tides of Numenera asks. What do our individual choices mean? Can we ever make a difference? This science-fantasy RPG is all about the consequences of your actions; even tiny decisions you make during a random conversation with a seemingly inconsequential NPC might ripple down the time stream and have major effects in your story. And the emphasis is on the “your" -- you shape the world and the people around you, you are powerful, and you don’t need a romantic partner to find fulfillment.
No, the game really means it: unlike, say, the Mass Effect or Dragon Age titles, Torment: Tides of Numenera isn’t a dating sim with some RPG elements (come on, you know you’ve thought it). With no blue aliens to seduce, or bull-men to try BDSM with, you’re left with your own sense of worth, and the responsibility of your own choices.