Last Updated on May 21, 2023 by Zachary Brictson
When people think of romantic JRPGs, two different categories come to mind: Epic JRPGs with love stories central or important to the plot, or JRPGs that simply feature romance options, or something similar to dating simulators.
The article features sections for both.
This is a carefully curated list of the best JRPGs that either feature a powerful central love story, or ones that have an enjoyable set of love interests to engage with.
This list only continues to grow, so feel free to leave a comment if you’d like to make suggestion!
Table of Contents
- Best JRPGs with Great Love Stories
- Best JRPGs with Great Romance Options
- Suggest a JRPG that Features Romantic Elements
Best JRPGs with Great Love Stories
This section is for quality JRPGs centered around a primary, powerful relationship between two characters, or a romantic relationship that ties to the main themes of the story.
Final Fantasy Series
The main numbered Final Fantasy games almost all feature love stories of some kind between either the main character, or other party members. However, a few stand out above the rest:
Final Fantasy VIII
Final Fantasy VIII is perhaps the quintessential recommendation for anyone looking for an epic and central JRPG love story. The marketing around the game, and even its box art, puts the relationship between Squall and Rinoa front and center.
Final Fantasy VIII’s fantastical story may be absurd and trippy at times, but it remains grounded in the struggles of the main character, Squall. He’s a complex character who has withdrawn from others due to past trauma, but Rinoa’s affectionate prodding and support helps him open up and grow.
Final Fantasy X
In Final Fantasy X, the love story between Yuna and Tidus is a refreshing departure from the typical JRPG romance trope. In fact, in FFX, Yuna is driving the plot while Tidus just kind of tags along.
The two characters share similar backgrounds, as both are young prodigies following in the footsteps of their legendary fathers. This commonality creates a deep connection between them that gradually grows stronger throughout the game.
The romance between Tidus and Yuna is portrayed in a believable and nuanced way, with no rushed confessions or over-the-top gestures, though like many Final Fantasy games, it has its moments of cringe.
What makes the love story so powerful by the end is that Tidus must come to terms with the fact that their love may be fleeting, given the circumstances of the world.
Final Fantasy X can be played on PlayStation 2, emulated via PCSX2, or enjoyed in its HD remastered version on most modern platforms, including PC.
Final Fantasy IX
Final Fantasy IX features great chemistry between Zidane, a rogue, and Garnet, a princess that he stumbles into “kidnapping” in the game’s famous opening scenes.
FFIX is interesting in that Zidane comes off as a crude womanizer type at first, and Garnet is put off by it. Of course, over time it becomes more flirtatious, and finally heartwarming. In this sense, the relationship feels more realistic than those in other games that come of as forced or unnatural.
That being said, some may even prefer the romantic subplots in Final Fantasy IX, such as between Steiner and Beatrix, that are undoubtedly cute little story arcs themselves.
Final Fantasy IX can be played on the original PlayStation, emulated via DuckStation, or enjoyed in its remastered version on most modern platforms, including PC.
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony
Lunar: Silver Star Harmony (Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete on the PS1) tells the story of a young adventurer named Alex, who dreams of becoming a Dragon Master like his hero, Dyne. Along the way, Alex meets a cast of colorful characters, including his childhood friend Luna, a priestess with mysterious powers. As the story unfolds, Alex and Luna develop a deep bond and their relationship evolves into a sweet and romantic love story.
This is probably the sweetest, and most innocent love story listed here. If you are looking for heartfelt simplicity between childhood friends, as well as classical turn based gameplay, Lunar (and its sequel) is the way to go.
Lunar Silver Star Harmony can be enjoyed in various versions, but the PS1 and PSP iterations are typically recommended. These can be found on the original PlayStation, emulated via DuckStation, or enjoyed in its remastered version available on the PSP or PPSPP emulator.
The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky
Although the primary plot is centered around politics and intrigue, The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky features a charming relationship between the two lead characters, Estelle and Joshua.
Joshua is adopted into Estelle’s family and the two are very close since childhood in a sibling like relationship. Throughout their journey, their relationship gradually evolves from friendship to something more, as they face numerous challenges and obstacles together.
It’s not rushed, and the buildup of romantic tension is done gradually, making it feel authentic and believable. The relationship between Estelle and Joshua is one of mutual respect and admiration, and the player can’t help but root for them to end up together.
The Legend of Heroes Trails in the Sky is available on many modern platforms, including PC, and can be emulated via PPSPP.
The love between Fei and Elly isn’t central to the plot of Xenogears, but it’s of its most important aspects. The subtext of their relationship is present from the beginning, with hints dropped throughout the game that build up to concrete moments of realization that are quite powerful.
And it’s not just a simple love story, but a complex one that deals with trust, loyalty, and forgiveness. Fei and Elly’s relationship grows and changes as they do, making it feel genuine and relatable.
Xenogears can be played on the original PlayStation, or emulated via DuckStation.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim is a game that expertly weaves together a complex sci-fi story with elements of romance that serve as the driving force for many of the game’s characters.
The game also tackles the complexities of love, exploring themes such as the sacrifices we make for those we care about and the ways in which love can both inspire and blind us.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim can be played on PS4 or the Nintendo Switch.
Pandora’s Tower features a bleak world and a morbid predicament for the featured couple. Elena is a girl cursed and slowly transforming into a monster. The main character, Aeron, must battle up a tower of monsters to retrieve demon flesh for the girl to consume, to stave off the transformation.
Pandora’s Tower does a great job of making the player feel invested in the relationship, as there is urgency felt between time spend dungeon crawling and helping the girl.
Additionally, there’s simply a lot of sweet moments in Pandora’s Tower, as Elena tries to make the most of the situation by being her best homemaker while you are out collecting monster flesh.
It’s a weird one, definitely!
Pandora’s Tower can be played on the Nintendo Wii, or emulated via Dolphin.
The Last Story
Another Mistwalker title, The Last Story is your straightforward “save-the-world” story but features a lovely central couple in Zael and Calista, as well as a surprise romance between other party members later on.
At the start of the game, Zael, the protagonist, is a member of a mercenary group and is tasked with protecting Calista, a princess who is being forced into an arranged marriage. While Zael initially sees this as just another job, he soon finds himself drawn to Calista’s determined personality.
If you like saving the girl from the clutches of a real d-bag, this is the type of game for you.
The Last Story can be played on the Nintendo Wii, or emulated via Dolphin.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3
Romance is part of all three Xenoblade Chronicles titles, but the relationship between Noah and Mio in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is head and shoulders above the rest in my opinion.
Noah and Mio belong to opposing factions in a never ending war, but early into the game their two squads join forces to take on obstacles much greater than themselves.
The english voice acting in Xenoblade Chronicles 3 is incredible, and makes scenes between the Noah and Mio feel natural and relatable. While the love story perhaps lacks the intimacy you’d might be looking for in other games, Xenoblade Chronicles 3 has some true gut punches in store that help drive home the power of Noah and Mio’s feelings for one another.
Xenoblade Chronicles 3 can be played on the Nintendo Switch. Emulation is currently difficult for this game but you can attempt it with Ryujinx.
The relationship between 2B and 9S in Nier Automata is a very emotionally charged one, to put it lightly.
The two characters are androids tasked to battle primitive machines on Earth in order to save humanity. Things start out as strictly professional, but as the fabric of the world becomes more torn down, 9S’s feelings toward 2B become passionate and wild.
Can android or machines develop feelings? How would an android express desires of lust or love, theoretically?
Nier Automata takes that question to task in some truly powerful scenes and gameplay moments in this critically acclaimed action JRPG.
Nier Automata is available on most modern platforms, including PC.
The relationship between Alicia and Welkin is not the sole focus of Valkyria Chronicles, but rather a part of a larger story that tackles themes of war, politics, and humanity. However, the moments between them are poignant and heartfelt, and the development of their relationship is a satisfying aspect of the game that enhances the overall narrative.
What’s nice about Alicia and Welkin in Valkyria Chronicles is they simply get along well as people, despite their significantly different hobbies, and still can have realistic disagreements and arguments with one another.
Valykria Chronicles is available for PS3 and PC. Valykria Chronicles 4 is also recommended for its romance and is available on PS4 and PC.
Tales of the Abyss
Tales of the Abyss is a game with a very unique love story that takes a while to develop. The main character, Luke, is initially very self-centered and has a strained relationship with the female lead, Tear. However, over the course of the game, Luke matures and the two characters grow closer.
The gradual progression of Luke and Tear’s relationship is very satisfying, and their interactions become more genuine and heartfelt as the story progresses.
Tales of Arise
Tales of Arise is the latest entry in the Tales series and tells the story of two protagonists – Alphen and Shionne – from different worlds who are brought together by fate to take down a tyrannical empire.
As the two come from completely different backgrounds, their relationship begins roughly, but grows organically as the two characters spend more time together and come to understand each other.
Shionne is a complex character with her own goals, motivations, and backstory that keeps Alphen and the player guessing about her true intentions. Alphen is eventually confronted with an emotional ultimatum concerning the world and his love for Shionne when the reality of her mission is revealed.
Tales of Arise can be played on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.
Odin Sphere is a game that features multiple romance subplots, but the one that stands out the most is the relationship between the two main characters, Gwendolyn and Oswald. The two of them come from opposing kingdoms, with Gwendolyn being a valkyrie from the realm of Ragnanival, and Oswald being a shadow knight from the realm of Ringford.
Their relationship starts off as a political alliance, with Gwendolyn being tasked by her father to bring Oswald to Ragnanival as a prisoner. However, as the story progresses, the two of them develop a deeper bond, with Gwendolyn becoming more sympathetic towards Oswald’s tragic past and struggles.
Odin Sphere is available on PS3, and is also remastered in a PS4 and Vita version called Odin Sphere Leifthrasir.
Best JRPGs with Great Romance Options
JRPGs with romance options often aren’t as powerful, love story wise, compared to games with one central relationship. However, they can be a lot of fun, and having a choice of who to pair with can be emotional and exciting in its own right.
Persona games, primarily 3, 4, 5, feature social rank building with party members and NPCs, some of which can become romantic in nature.
Persona 3 has several romantic subplots, and the Persona 3 Portable remaster allows you to play as a female main character and pursure relationships with male party members.
You can purse the preppy girl, Yukari, or the mature and confident Mitsuri. When playing as female MC, you’re free to engage with the brash boxer, Akihiko, or the class clown in Junpei.
Perhaps the standout romantic subplots is between the protagonist and the character Aigis. What makes this romance special is how it ties into the game’s overall themes of death, loss, and acceptance. Aigis, being an android, struggles with the concept of mortality and initially sees the protagonist as just another subject to observe and protect. However, as their relationship deepens, she begins to develop more human emotions and ultimately learns to accept the fleeting nature of life.
Persona 3 Portable can be played on most modern platforms, including PC. It can also be emulated via PPSPP.
Romance options in Persona 4 explore themes such as unrequited love, societal expectations, and the struggle to express one’s feelings honestly.
The characters’ personalities and motivations are well-written and believable, making it easy to get emotionally invested in their romantic arcs.
Persona 4 can be played on most modern platforms, including PC. It can also be emulated via PPSPP.
Persona 5 Royal, the latest version, features a total of 10 romance options, all female and each with their own unique personalities and storylines.
One standout romance option is Makoto Niijima, a straight-A student and member of the student council. Makoto is a character with a lot of depth and her story arc deals with themes of identity, responsibility, and the pressure to conform to societal expectations.
Another notable romance option is Ann Takamaki, a model and aspiring actress. Her romance with the protagonist is also well-written and features a lot of emotional depth. Ann’s story arc deals with themes of self-esteem, body image, and the expectations placed on women in the entertainment industry.
Persona 5 can be played on most modern platforms, including PC.
Ar Tonelico is a unique JRPG that offers players a chance to choose their own love interests from a group of magical beings called Reyvateils. These characters are not only central to the game’s plot but also the key to unlocking its powerful magic system.
One of the most interesting aspects of Ar Tonelico is the gameplay system where players can “dive” into the soulspace of their chosen love interest. During these sequences, players must help their partner overcome their inner struggles in order to gain access to stronger song magic. For example, a girl who doesn’t want to be hurt by others would lock herself in a prison cell, and it’s up to the player to convince her to come out.
These dives play out like a visual novel, with dialogue choices and branching paths that depend on the player’s actions and choices throughout the game. This not only adds depth to the romance options but also allows players to learn more about their chosen partner and their place in the game’s complex world.
Ar Tonelico can be played on the PlayStation 2, or emulated via PCSX2.
Thousand Arms is a super unique case here. The protagonist, Meis, is a spirit blacksmith who must embark on a journey to find the legendary Sacred Flames before the evil Dark Acolytes use them for their nefarious purposes. Along the way, Meis discovers that he can strengthen his abilities as a blacksmith by romancing the female characters he encounters on his journey.
Despite its unusual dating mechanic, Thousand Arms manages to tell a captivating and humorous story that keeps players engaged. The female protagonists each have their own distinct personalities and backstories, which adds depth and dimension to the overall narrative.
Thousand Arms can be played on the original PlayStation, or emulated via DuckStation.
Sakura Wars, also known as Sakura Taisen, is a game series that blends tactical RPG and dating sim elements. The story usually revolves around a group of young women who are members of the Imperial Combat Revue, an organization dedicated to protecting Tokyo from evil forces. The protagonist, usually a male character, serves as the captain of the Combat Revue and must lead his team to victory both on and off the battlefield.
One of the key features of Sakura Wars is the romance system, which allows the player to build relationships with the female members of the Combat Revue. Through dialogue choices and actions in battle, the player can improve his relationship with a character and even trigger romantic events.
Building relationships with the other characters is necessary to unlock the full potential of your team in battle, and the romantic events add an extra layer of depth to the characters and story.
The best place to start with Sakura Wars is with fan translations of the originals. However, you can read summaries of the lore and hop in with the officially localized Sakura Wars V: So Long, My Love on the PlayStation 2 (PCSX2) and Wii (Dolphin).
Azure Dreams is a dungeon-crawling JRPG that blends elements of monster collecting and dating sim. The game follows the story of Koh, a young boy who lives in a small town called Monsbaiya, which is built around a tower known as the Monster Tower.
In terms of the game’s romantic subplot, there are multiple female characters that Koh can form relationships with. As players progress through the game and interact with these characters, they can unlock special events and dialogue options that can deepen their bond with them. These events range from simple conversations to more intimate moments like sharing a meal together or watching the stars.
The game’s romantic elements are presented in a lighthearted and charming manner, and are not as central to the plot as other JRPGs, but provide a fun diversion for players looking for a more light-hearted and relaxed experience.
Azure Dreams can be played on Playstation 1, or emulated via DuckStation.
Rune Factory Series
Rune Factory games are an interesting take on the JRPG genre, as it blends in elements of farming and life-simulation games to create a unique and engaging experience. In terms of romance, players have the option to court and marry one of several eligible bachelors or bachelorettes, with each character having their own unique personality and storyline.
What’s great about the romantic aspect of Rune Factory games is that it’s not just a one-and-done affair. The player’s relationship with their chosen partner evolves over time as they progress through the game, with various events and conversations taking place that flesh out the characters and their feelings for each other.
Rune Factory 3 is generally the go-to recommendation for newcomers, available on Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo DS, and PC.
Dragon Quest V
Dragon Quest V is split into three distinct parts, each featuring a different phase of the main character’s life, and his relationships with various characters that develop over time.
The romance system in Dragon Quest V allows you to choose from multiple love interests and experience a range of different outcomes, including marriage, depending on your decisions.
The relationships in Dragon Quest V are not just limited to romantic ones, however. The game also explores the bond between parents and children, as well as the loyalty and camaraderie between friends and companions.
Dragon Quest V can be played on the Nintendo DS, or emulated via Desumme.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses
Fire Emblem: Three Houses features a large cast of characters that make up your army, and bonds can be strengthened in battle and back at base that lead the player down potential romantic relationships.
Each character has their own unique backstory and personality, and as you spend more time with them, you’ll learn more about their hopes, fears, and dreams. This makes it all the more rewarding when you finally manage to win their heart.
Some find the romance options in Fire Emblem games to be shallow, but they can certainly be entertaining, and the character designs are incredibly attractive.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses can be played on the Nintendo Switch, or emulated on Ryujinx.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+
In Tokyo Xanadu, the romantic subplot is a major part of the game’s narrative and character development. The player character, Kou Tokisaka, can choose to romance one of four female characters: Asuka, Sora, Rion, or Mitsuki.
Each romance is unique and has its own challenges and obstacles that the player must overcome. Asuka, for example, is initially cold and distant towards Kou, but as their relationship develops, she opens up and becomes more vulnerable. Sora, on the other hand, is bubbly and outgoing, but struggles with her past trauma and feelings of inferiority. Rion is a shy and reserved girl who has trouble expressing her emotions, while Mitsuki is a confident and capable student council president who has her own secrets and struggles.
These romantic subplot are intertwined with the game’s themes of friendship, loyalty, and personal growth.
Additionally, the game features multiple endings, which depend on the player’s choices and actions throughout the game, including who they choose to romance.
Tokyo Xanadu eX+ can be played on PS4 and PC.
Suggest a JRPG that Features Romantic Elements
What makes a good JRPG love story is highly subjective, but I am all ears when it comes to further recommendations!
If you’d like a game added to the list, leave a comment below and I’ll work to have it added.
Feel free to share this list around, and do check in to see what’s in store for JRPGs in 2023.