What if I told you there was a better way to spend time with your Valentine, beyond fine dining, candles, or chocolates? How about a way of spending quality moments with one another through encouragement and support, fostering better communication and improving your empathy, releasing stress through friendly competition, fine-tuning your problem-solving skills, and bonding over a shared interest?
That’s right. It’s video games. Don’t listen to your Boomer relatives, video games are actually one of the healthiest ways to enjoy the company of others as you learn more about them and create shared experiences that real life simply can’t compete with. Sure, Dan and Sara might have had a fantastic time in Bali last summer, but have the two of them ever teamed up to lop the head off of a 100-foot-tall, fire-breathing dragon? I didn’t think so.
Better still, it’s fun. Real fun. Not that fake fun most couples have to engage in as one person is dragged through a day of mall shopping, helplessly sitting outside of changing rooms as a mindless, shambling passenger trapped within a five-hour free trial of the 4th circle of Hell. Or, of course, attempting to engage with your partner's favorite game of sports-ball as you befuddlingly question and enquire about every aspect of the action in front of you.
Questions resulting in the love of your life slowly building into a pressure cooker of irritation that forces veins to bulge from the forehead and a creeping red haze to encroach from the periphery of their vision. A slow rage that builds up behind the eyes in a way that threatens to leave them sitting in an orange jumpsuit two months from now proclaiming: “I just don’t know what came over me, Your Honor.”
The 7 best Valentine’s Day games for couples
Anyway, where was I? That’s right. Video games. Long gone are the days of video games being labeled as little more than satirical sex worker murder simulators. It’s now a medium acknowledged for the depth and breadth of the stories it can tell, the lessons it can teach, the emotions it can evoke, and the gambling addictions it can push onto the young and impressionable.
Co-op gaming, be it on your couch or over the internet, is a fantastic bonding experience and, by contrast, makes movie night look like a lame, pale, horse just waiting out the remainder of its days before taking a trip to the local glue factory. But even enjoying the right single-player game with company can be a fantastic bonding experience for couples (if you’re one of those who don’t mind a little backseat gaming, anyway).
So this Valentine’s Day, ditch the Rom-Coms and spend the evening with your other half, gamepads in hand, exploring worlds anew with our selection of the 7 best Valentine’s games for couples.
1. It Takes Two
Have you ever wondered what it might be like if Pixar made a video game that wasn’t utter trash? The answer is Hazelight Studios’ genuinely incredible co-op experience “It Takes Two,” a roller coaster of platforming and puzzle solving with an earnest and endearing narrative that’s rife with humor and emotion.
As good games go, this one’s nothing short of a masterpiece and is never afraid to change things up at a moment’s notice. It constantly introduces you to new gameplay mechanics — only to immediately toss them out of the window like a soiled Victorian bedpan the moment it becomes even remotely familiar. “It Takes Two” keeps you on your toes with its gameplay and on the edge of your seat with its narrative arc, making it a must-play title.
2. Bread and Fred
No, it’s not a horror-themed survival game about a man with a gluten intolerance slowly starving to death in a baguette factory. “Bread and Fred” is a charming 2D co-op platformer designed to so thoroughly test the limits of any relationship that its completion should be one of the official requirements for gaining a marriage license.
In this game, you control the titular penguin pals as they, tethered to one another for safety, attempt to reach the top of the snowy summit. This means timing your jumps to reach new heights and taking daredevil risks as you get inventive with the ball-and-chain physics puzzles you’ll need to overcome along the way.
Yes, it’s stressful. Yes, it’s tense. And no, you likely won’t ever finish this egregiously punishing platformer. But there’s nothing quite like being worked up into such a tremendous tizzy over your partner's fumbling thumbs leading you both off a cliff, that you turn to them, flooded with frustration and overly invested, before somehow finding the restraint to not unfurl a relationship-ending barrage of insults over a couple of pixel-art penguins.
3. Moving Out 2
Moving house is one of the most stressful experiences for any couple to experience. Unless it's in video game form, that is. “Moving Out 2” is a madcap physics-based coop moving simulator that sees you shuffling furniture in all of the fun ways you wish you could in real life.
Here you’ll be working in tandem to launch sofas through windows in a disorganized dash against the clock, packing up peculiar properties spread across several ludicrous locations.
It’s a fantastic game to help keep those teamwork tendons taut while providing plenty of laughs along the way. To succeed you’ll both need to work as one well-oiled removal machine, reminding yourselves that the secret to any happy relationship stems from you both pulling in the same direction — even if it is just to launch some poor sap’s fridge-freezer combo into the back of your smelly old van.
4. Escape Simulator
If you’re the type of couple that loves a good “Who done it,” then why not try your hand at the virtual vestibules of the “How do we get out of it” genre of video games encapsulated by the brilliant “Escape Simulator.”
There’s all the grey-matter gymnastics of a real-life escape room but at a fraction of the price. And without any of the false pleasantries of interacting with the smelly hipsters cluttering up the foyer as you patiently wait your turn to find out you’re not half as smart as you thought you were while failing miserably at breaking out of a room designed to be solved by six-year-olds.
Not only does “Escape Simulator” come with a generous amount of rooms to solve across various themes, but you also have access to a whole library of user-created content that can range from the outright fantastic to the downright bizarre. So, strap on your thinking caps and get a little cerebral this Valentine’s Day to prove yourselves as the IQ-test couple in town.
5. Stardew Valley
What couple hasn’t thought about upping sticks and escaping the big city to settle down in some podunk backwater town as they turn their fix-me-up cabin into a dream home? “Stardew Valley” lets you do exactly that, as you fashion yourselves into the rural life and ingratiate with the locals after leaving the flashing lights and white-collar world behind.
Just be prepared to put in the work as you spend your days toiling and tilling, crafting your way through the terrifying lows, the dizzying highs, and the creamy middles. Sure, you might offend a few of the bluenoses with your cocky strides and musky odors.
Oh, you may never be the darlings of the so-called “City Fathers” who cluck their tongues, stroke their beards, and talk about “What’s to be done with this union of two?” But you’ll have a damn good time along the way.
6. Don't Starve Together
Looking like it leapt from the pages of Tim Burton’s dream journal, “Don’t Starve Together” is a survival game that sees you both fighting, farming, and battling side-by-side as you explore the Constant, a massive procedurally generated world across several distinct biomes.
It’s your standard survival fare with a few interesting tweaks and a cutesy-spooky twist on top, but don’t let the aesthetics fool you, it still offers a sizable challenge to those seeking to avoid the persistent threat alluded to in the game’s title.
Play to the strengths of each character as you make use of their unique abilities, and do your best to cater to their specific needs during a punishing cycle of seasons that can greatly impact gameplay. Better still, do it all together — facing the things that come out in the dark, world bosses, and a constant struggle for survival that takes planning, strategy, and cooperation.
7. Untitled Goose Game
Valentine's Day is traditionally spent spoiling your significant other with trinkets and tokens that prove your continued affection, likely at great cost through jacked-up prices as companies nickel and dime you through the great hallmark of Hallmark.
It’s all a little cliche, really. But do you know what isn’t very cliche? Spending your Valentine’s Day as sticky-beaked geese who terrorize a small English village with their malicious meddling and antagonistic antics.
“Untitled Goose Game” is part puzzler, part mayhem simulator as you direct your honking gang of geese through quaint Old Blighty on a mischief-making mission to prank and pilfer anyone you come across. It’s simple to get to grips with and worryingly satisfying to honk with laughter in unison as you watch the locals fall prey to your various capers.
More from Laptop Mag
Stay in the know with Laptop Mag
Get our in-depth reviews, helpful tips, great deals, and the biggest news stories delivered to your inbox.
Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.