6 Amazing Indie Games About Love
February is a very romantic month thanks to its signature holiday, Valentine’s Day. While couples are the primary focus of Valentine’s Day, the month of February can be used to highlight examples of love that fall outside the traditional sense of the word.
You can celebrate familial love, the love you feel for a friend, or even the love you feel for a pet who’s stuck with you through good times and bad.
The word “love” reflects a complicated emotion comprised of countless layers and dimensions, all of them different and distinct. I’ve often seen this reflected in indie games where love is presented in ways that are both deliberate and subtle, romantic and platonic.
Indie games themselves are also examples of love as they’re made from the heart by passionate developers motivated by the sheer art of creation. Yes, you can feel love for your work and your hobbies. Why not? They’re things that keep you company and help you feel less alone.
To help celebrate love throughout the month of February, I want to share with you some amazing indie games about love – not only romantic love, though I will be including a few – but love of all types!
6 Amazing Indie Games About Love
Firewatch tells the tale of long-distance friendship and the difficulty that comes with the experience of loss in an established relationship. In Firewatch, the loss isn’t separation or death, but rather the disintegration of familiarity as the main character's wife succumbs to early-onset dementia.
The amount of pain you’d feel in seeing your loved one forget you is indescribable, so it makes sense that Henry would want to run from the fiery destruction of his former life. He does this by taking a remote job with the Forest Service as a fire lookout.
As life has made his wife forget him, Henry yearns to forget her and forget that deep, burning pain.
As he gets pulled into the mysteries of his new job, he keeps constant contact with his new boss, Delilah. The only form of communication you’re given with Delilah is via walkie-talkie. You never see her, she never sees you.
There’s a nice push and pull feeling of reaching out to Delilah and, in turn, having her reach back out to you. In the process of conversing with one another, you’re able to cultivate a close friendship. You even have the ability to shape your conversation, like using responses that seek Delilah out in a more romantic sense.
The ending is always the same, though. You can’t run from your responsibilities or the past connections you’ve forged, and for the sake of avoiding spoilers, I’ll just say that in the end Henry grows as a person thanks in many ways to Delilah’s love and support.
Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is a beautiful example of familial love between a father and his sons, and between siblings. In the game, you play as brothers Naiee and Naia who must work together to seek out a cure for their dying father.
The story is made all the more tragic given that their mother died at sea earlier in their life; an event that was particularly traumatizing for Naiee who feels somewhat responsible for being unable to save her from drowning.
The gameplay emphasizes the need to work cooperatively to solve puzzles and problems. In Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, many of these puzzles force you to switch back and forth between each brother repeatedly.
All of this shows that journey towards the Tree of Life isn’t one you can make on your own, which is a similar metaphor to life in general.
Sometimes you need to call upon another person for help like your siblings or parents.
This can be difficult at times as no relationship is perfect. Sometimes you don’t want to admit that you need help, or you want to be the one that’s helping rather than being helped. This is shown in Brothers: A Tale of Two sons as Naiee and Naia face challenges that test their bond with one another, particularly when their journey is close to an end.
In the moments leading up to the game’s climactic conclusion, tragedy strikes again. To avoid giving too much away, I’ll just say that the ending genuinely left me in tears. As a whole, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons reminds me a lot of Homer’s The Odyssey in its emphasis on a family’s strength to guide each other in times of need. It just goes to show how timeless a story like this is, and it's one that everyone should experience in some way whether in-game or in real life.
The bond between family members is one that’s not always guaranteed. You can’t pick your blood relatives, but you can pick your friends and those you consider “family” in a broader sense of the word. Max and Chloe from Life is Strange are key examples when it comes to choosing who you call a friend and how you care for that friend as if they’re your flesh and blood family.
The relationship as presented in the game starts with the two having a falling out as Max had left to join her parents in Seattle. Rather than keep in contact, she stops speaking to Chloe for five solid years. Chloe is, understandably, upset about this. As Max returns to her hometown of Arcadia Bay to attend Blackwell Academy, she reunites with Chloe and is able to begin the process of working through some of their issues.
Of course, the issues become a bit “stranger” after Max develops the ability to turn back time.
Using her newfound powers, Max works to both set things right and save her friend Chloe from a terrible fate. Life is Strange is like an emotional rollercoaster with too many twists, turns, and loops to count. It deals with a lot of heavy themes, and you may need a tissue box or two in order to see the game through to the end as there are some real tearjerker moments in there as well.
Life is Strange is a tale with parallels between Max and Chloe's saga and the complexities and imperfections of real life friendships. In some cases, you’re able to grow up with a friend and treat them as though they’re your sister or brother, and nothing ever changes. In other cases, you change over the years, and your relationship with your friend changes with it.
Still, you never really stop caring for that friend. The memories you’ve created are too powerful for even the most violent of storms to wash away. All of this and more is put on prominent display in Life is Strange, and to this day, it remains one of the best stories about love forged in friendship.
The game also shows how the love between friends can grow into something more and I think that's wonderful. I'm very much aboard the Max and Chloe love train... sorry, Rachel Amber.
Oh man, where do I begin with this one? Unlike the previous entries, To The Moon is very much about “romantic” love, although the message cuts a little bit deeper. In To The Moon, two lovers – Johnny and River – are no longer with one another in the physical sense. Johnny is slowly withering away in a coma, while his beloved River already passed away before him.
To fulfill Johnny’s final wish, Sigmund Corp. employees Watts and Rosalene work to rekindle memories of River that have been locked away in Johnny’s mind. As you, the player, progress through the game, the true meaning behind Johnny’s final wish becomes clearer and clearer. On the surface, Johnny wants to go to the moon, but isn’t quite sure why.
Deep within his subconscious lies the real meaning behind this desire alongside memories of River, and it’s such a sweet story. To avoid spoiling more of the plot, I’ll say that To The Moon feels like a combination of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Pixar’s Up.
It shows that even as we age, and as memories become convoluted or fade completely, the love we feel for someone else never really goes away. It’s always there, deep within, lingering among a constellation of emotions. The final scenes in To The Moon and that last song are so heartwarming that I almost guarantee you’ll cry at the end but hey, at least they’re happy tears.
What would this list be without Undertale? It's one of the most interesting indie games ever made thanks to its combat which is largely optional and focus on pacifism, which is strongly encouraged. Well, it’s encouraged by the motherly figure Toriel who swoops in and tries to protect the main character, a human child trapped in an Underground world full of monsters.
Despite not knowing you personally, Toriel makes an effort to keep you safe, and that act is a form of love in and of itself. You can choose to pay this act of kindness forward as you make your way through the Underground, or you can forge your own path. To deter you further from violence, you’re rewarded whenever you choose to be merciful as you get to befriend those you “best” with kindness.
It’s something that adds a strong aspect of depth to the game as you really are given the ability to strategize how you approach each encounter. Extending love to strangers in this sense can be quite difficult, especially when those strangers are extremely different from you and everything you know.
With bravery and an open mind though, you can bypass these feelings of anxiety and gain new perspectives on life. If you’ve never played Undertale you're missing out (it’s also high on the list of my top must-play indie games). Seriously, you should buy and play this game as soon as possible because it’s absolutely amazing. Plus... it's got Megalovania!
Everyone loves animals. Why wouldn’t you? The love that animals show us is so pure that even though you’re unable to speak to one another, you’re able to instinctively understand the deep bond that you share. Whether you’re dealing with a dog, a cat, or even a falcon, the love between an animal and its human guardian remains universal.
In Falcon Age, you start the game by adopting an orphaned baby falcon. Taking the bird “under your wing” so to speak, you’ll learn how to tend to its needs. You’ll also be able to train it so that it can help you in return. The cooperative exchange between you and your falcon must be earned, which comes in stark contrast to the game’s story of rigid cooperation at all costs.
In the game, you start out with a number rather than a name – 0507. After escaping from the control of the Outer Ring Company you’ll uncover your roots and the traditions that have been slowly eroded away at the hands of emotionless robots. They exemplify everything that’s direct, precise, calculated, and heartless.
You and your falcon represent everything that’s living and alive. The way you work together showcases the power of love that’s earned through hard work and respect, rather than forced. Teaming up with your falcon, you’re able to take out robotic foes and while the story isn’t “perfect” per se, it does show a realistic bond between humans and animals.
It’s also really frickin’ cute. I mean, look at that itty bitty falcon, how can you not want to love and protect it with your life?
Love can be found in indie games of all types, not just the six mentioned in this feature, though they are ones that I feel offer a more "unique" perspective on love and its many forms and variations.
Have you played other games that showcase love in interesting ways? Maybe ones with a story that has elements of love in it, even though it’s not the main theme? In the comments below, I’d love it if you shared some of your favorite examples of “love” in an indie game!