Earliest/ most niche romance narrative games?

Hi, apologies if this is the wrong category!

I am giving a lecture at Nordic Game 2024 about romance design in video games. This includes a section about the history of the game design premise.

I am wondering what you guys, as experts in this topic, would consider some of the first games with an actively interactive romance arc. Not a game with a romance story, but a game where romance was modelled as a part of gameplay. Not just from CoG, but all of gaming history.

Equally, if there’s a game you think does it in a very unusual or innovative way, that would be cool to hear!

No surprise this is coming from the Don’t Wake Me Up author, aha

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As far as CoG titles that pushed IF boundaries upon their releases, I would start with the following:

  • Alter Ego (Technically not part of the CoG library)
  • Affairs of the Court
  • Choice of the Vampire
  • Creatures Such as We

Others (from the CoG library) that had great impact include:

  • Slammed
  • Hollywood Visionary
  • Hero Rise series

Edit: I also do not consider myself an “expert”, only “opinionated”.

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The first one that comes to mind is Plundered Hearts (1987) - I read a review of it from Emily Short ages ago which I can’t now track down, but Aaron Reed wrote about it in 50 Years of Text Games. I haven’t played it myself but it really piqued my interest!

A lot more recent, but I remember finding Even Cowgirls Bleed (2013) quite startling when it was released. It felt like it was in conversation with a lot of other Twines around that time which were very much going for anti-wish-fulfilment in romance and were often quite bleak or grim. This one also caught my attention because of using Twine in such an innovative way.

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Some of the first games that had romance as gameplay that i played would probably be the Rune Factory series and the Story of Seasons series. Then sortly after that i found Fire Emblem.

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The 1st game I played that had a romance? Would be Planescape Torment (1999), and BG2 (2000).

The 1st game I ever played that let me play a female was Metroid (1986) :laughing:

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Thanks Eiwynn!

It’s really tough, but some entries deserve a shout out:

  1. Hollywood Visionary was written by Aaron Reed, past Spring Thing organizer and IF Comp participant.
  2. Creatures such as We was a top 3 entry in IFComp 2014.

This is coming from somebody who has a footprint on both the intfiction.org forum and here.

If you bring up Twine, be sure to mention Porpentines and Anna anthropy’s stuff. These came at the time when the Twine community was rapidly expanding and more accessible.

If you’re talking Nintendo, of course you have to bring up Metroid and (later era) Fire Emblem.

As somebody who isn’t an expert, this is about the best I can give.

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Does saving the girl from donkey kong count? :laughing: If so, that might be one of the earliest romance games where romance played a role—it’s the motivation for the MC to complete the objective.

But with more interactive romance… I feel like the most common one I’ve heard being people’s first gaming romance experience to be the baldurs gate series? I suppose sims and fable 1 also did some unique things imo :thinking:

Other than that, I have heard that the origins of the VN was some… more adult type Japanese games. And then there’s also the first otome game Angelique (video game series) - Wikipedia
Which was quite a long time ago (I have never played it though, so I can’t tell you how much gameplay it has).

My personal first experience of it, where it felt impactful, was through BioWare games, I believe.

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Does tokimeki memorial count? The main theme is obviously romance but it’s more interactive for sure compared to a visual novel.

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LovePlus. Maybe?..

I was about to say this :sob:. the first interactive romance i ever came across was Tokimeki Memorial Girl’s Side that and … Otometeki Koi Kakumei Love Revo!!…………would not recommend that one though…

The first romance in a videogame I can remember, and an impactful one it was, is from Defender of the Crown. 1987 I believe. Commodore 64, Amiga etc. This was the first encounter with serious visual romance for thousands of young boys :slight_smile:

Very tasteful and with an important gamplay effect. You even become more confident after rescuing and marrying your wife.