In a series with multiple titles spanning several decades, Final Fantasy has had a plethora of romances throughout its lifespan. While some have fallen flat, I found most character relationships charming and rewarding. And, although not all are universally beloved, it is worth discussing with our favorite Hallmark Holiday approaching. Here are my personal favorite Final Fantasy Valentines.
Please note these are in no particular order and may contain spoilers for their respective games. These are also my personal opinions. And while not everyone will agree with my takes, I would love to hear why you agree or disagree on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Discord, or however you most enjoy interacting with us!
Snow & Serah
While the Final Fantasy XIII trilogy has been oft-criticized, I enjoyed the ones I played (XIII & XIII-2). One part I enjoyed about XIII was the characters and how their relationships motivated them. Sazh and his son’s relationship stood out, but I truly enjoyed Snow and Serah. At first, Snow appeared to be some meathead with no redeeming qualities. And while many who played may agree with that assessment, I loved how they propelled each other forward throughout the narrative. Watching Lightning criticize Snow for failing to protect Serah and ultimately giving the couple her approval was remarkable to experience. It felt natural that big sister Lightning may not be the most accepting of someone dating her sister. Seeing Serah evolve and stand up to her sister throughout XIII provided us with insight into their relationship. And in the moments Snow and Serah reunite (i.e., at the end of the game), it results in some rewarding dialogue between the entire party. The happy couple gave me some delightful scenes and dialogue — which made Final Fantasy XIII-2 much more impactful.
Squall & Rinoa
For several years (nearly a decade), I did not understand the love story of FFVIII. Squall “Whatever” Leonheart may have been the least personable Final Fantasy character of all time — and that’s saying something. To teenage me, it seemed like Squall and Rinoa went into space, Squall fell in love with her, and voilà! Happily ever after. Sort of. When I replayed VIII as an adult, I felt more of an attachment to the couple. We see Squall battle against his insecurities throughout the game, and I’m sure many of us can relate. Watching their relationship blossom and evolve might be one of my favorite JRPG love stories. Rinoa herself is charming, ambitious, determined, and has her sights on the bigger picture in terms of her moral compass. Yet, even she deals with thoughts we all experience. She fears becoming something monstrous. She’s insecure about being alone again and losing those she’s become close with. Their romance felt very human and based in reality while occurring in a game where swords can shoot bullets. In a weird way, I had a lot in common with both Rinoa and Squall throughout the game. Squall letting his past affect his views on opening up to love can be profound if you’re willing to dig through the many “…”s and “whatever”s.
Locke & Celes
“I’m not a thief; I’m a treasure hunter!” Between Locke’s dashing, pixelated good looks (I assume) and the charisma and flair of a treasure hunter, how could I not fall in love with his character immediately!? Locke losing Rachel obviously changed his view on love and life. Locke adopted a sense of chivalry in protecting the “damsel in distress.” Those who played Final Fantasy VI know that Terra and Celes don’t fit that label. Sure, they have their moments of weakness in which they need the help from friends, but who doesn’t? Final Fantasy VI depicts love in a very human, authentic fashion. The opera scene may be one of the most iconic scenes in gaming history, JRPG or not. From that scene came one of the first instances of Locke and Celes acknowledging their feelings toward each other. Both are afraid to lose someone close to them or get hurt again. I’m sure many of us could relate to their struggles to open up and recognize their feelings.
Cloud & Tifa
Before you take out pitchforks, Cloud/Aerith fans, please keep reading! The reasons I chose Cloud and Tifa instead of Cloud and Aerith are numerous. One of the main reasons I chose this pairing was due to their upbringing. I always felt Tifa and “The Real” Cloud forged a bond in those moments. Their relationship started platonically when they were children, but we learn more about their shared history, struggles, and losses over time. We see Cloud through Tifa’s eyes for much of the game, culminating with Tifa and Cloud sharing several beautiful moments toward the end of the game. Tifa displays how caring she is towards Cloud, even after everything they have been through. A lot has been said about the scene with Cloud and Tifa under the airship, but to me it’s a beautiful screenshot of their relationship: Tifa longing for just a few more moments together with Cloud as he acts and talks like “the real” Cloud. There’s no denying that Cloud and Aerith have chemistry. I believe that Tifa loves “the real” Cloud for who he is, flaws included. And to me, that is beautiful.
Zack & Aerith
Okay, hopefully, the pitchforks are relatively lowered. But I understand if they aren’t! I love the Cloud and Aerith dynamic. However, it’s technically Zack and Aerith. Cloud “adopting” Zack’s persona certainly leads to muddled feelings, to the point where I’ve always wondered how much of Cloud Aerith was attracted to. Due to what we learn throughout the original Final Fantasy VII, we see Zack and Aerith’s romance bloom into what I consider love. Seeing their first encounter in Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core felt much more organic than Cloud and Aerith’s in VII. Their flirty banter made me feel both were interested in getting to know each other, where it felt like Aerith was leading Cloud by the arm at times throughout VII. Unfortunately, tragic events ended their love before it could fully evolve, which may have led to her “mixed feelings” for Cloud. Final Fantasy VII was a complicated one, but who ever said love was easy?
Noctis & Luna
Final Fantasy XV was controversial and took many detours from the Final Fantasy norms. Nevertheless, I thought it was a great game! And while it focused on “The Boys” of the game, there was always an overarching theme of Noctis and Luna. Admittedly, at times it felt like the romance angle was shoehorned into the overarching plot and struggle of the four boys. That’s not to say Luna wasn’t involved. I have always considered Noctis and Luna as a sort of “divine” couple, as if fate had intervened and decided they would be together. Perhaps I’m looking at this couple with rose-tinted glasses, but the ending scene was one of the more powerful gaming cinematics I have witnessed. It was both heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. Perhaps we could have seen their relationship evolve more organically in more stable times. However, they kept each other in their thoughts throughout the game – through the good, the bad, and the ugly. If that’s not true love, I don’t know what is.
Zidane & Garnet/Dagger
Oh, Zidane. The dashing rogue with a fondness for (several) ladies. I love Zidane as a main character, with his cool weapon designs and Super Saiyan-esque Trance transformations. Throughout the story of Final Fantasy IX, we see Zidane hopelessly attempting to gain Garnet’s attention. Garnet and Zidane evolve as people and attempt to become comfortable with themselves and their pasts. Zidane evolves (slowly) from a ladies’ man into someone more serious about protecting those close to him. Garnet discovers her purpose, as well as her freedom, with a lot of help from her friends. Zidane becomes increasingly motivated to help Garnet throughout the game, showing her that he trusts her and that she isn’t “just” royalty. We see both of them come to terms with who they are in various forms, often with each other’s support. And, of course, we are given a beautiful cutscene with them at the end, sharing an embrace. While their love wasn’t as impactful as some of the others mentioned in this post, watching Zidane’s evolution away from someone chasing women based on appearance was enjoyable. Garnet finding confidence in herself and becoming an increasingly important party member in battle reflected her becoming stronger. It was a testament to how they both changed each other for the better.
Tidus & Yuna
My love for Final Fantasy X has never been a secret. To me, it’s one of the closest things to a “perfect game” I’ve ever played. A big part of that is the romance within the game. Tidus and Yuna meet after tragedy has befallen them, and soon learn their pasts are more intertwined than they could have imagined. We see Tidus struggle with Seymour’s proposal to Yuna, and he isn’t the only one with doubt in his mind, as Yuna makes the party aware. Afterward, however, Tidus and Yuna share more intimate scenes. When Tidus learns the truth about the Summoners and their trials, he breaks down (as did I). All this tragedy and hopelessness evolves into one of the most beautiful scenes in Final Fantasy history, with Tidus and Yuna sharing a passionate kiss in the Macalania Woods. Later in the game, we see Yuna also dealing with the truth about Tidus. Both characters evolve dramatically throughout the game, making their romance feel like it truly made each of them better. The ending to Final Fantasy X breaks my heart every time, as it shows two characters in love who cannot be together even after saving the world and the fates of everyone inhabiting it. A beautiful romance regardless of the media.
Vincent Valentine (& Lucrecia)
How can I not mention the best Final Fantasy Valentine? Mister Vincent Valentine is certainly a fan favorite. However, I’ve always found his history with Lucrecia and Hojo fascinating and tragic. While Lucrecia seemingly had other love interests, she ultimately led to Vincent feeling unimaginable guilt over her death. In turn, Vincent closed himself off to the world — quite literally. Their “love” ultimately affects the world of Final Fantasy VII, as it unintentionally leads to Sephiroth becoming what he is. Vincent’s story is told through various forms of media, with him getting the spotlight in Dirge of Cerberus. And while Vincent never received the love he desired from Lucrecia, Vincent certainly deserves his own section in Final Fantasy Valentines.
There are other Final Fantasy romances worth mentioning, but these are the ones that stood out to me. I’ve always loved a good love story in my media. While Final Fantasy can be confusing with its stories and plotlines, ultimately, I truly enjoy how the series portrays romance and relationships in general. Final Fantasy is filled with great characters with strong platonic and romantic relationships. I’ve always felt these romantic relationships enhanced their respective games, and I’m grateful for them — no matter how tragic some of them might be.