We all miss going out, but do you know who misses going out the most? Your significant other, that’s who. It’s hard to blame them, it really has been such a long time since it was really safe to go out. To make matters worse, it’s nearly Valentine’s Day! I’m sure that you, being the responsible, compassionate lover that you are, already have plans for a special dinner and dessert at home. But what of entertainment? You’ve likely been watching movies on the streaming service of your choice for almost a year, that shit doesn’t feel special anymore. Music and dancing in the den? Solid choice, but what are you going to do when your out-of-shape ass (thanks quarantine) gets tired twenty minutes in? I’ll tell you what you’re gonna do, you’re gonna grab a pair of controllers and play some goddamn video games.
I know, I know. Your knee-jerk response is to object, and some of those objections are valid. Depending on your situation, you may have to do some serious sweet-talking to get your special someone on board. Perhaps your sweetheart doesn’t play video games, and is afraid of being embarrassed. Maybe YOU’RE the one afraid of being embarrassed! Fear not, for I bring with me today a video game sampler platter that I am confident has something for everyone.
I’m going to start with the most intense game on the list, and slowly, sensually, work my way down to something a little more…relaxing. Grab your candles and massage oil, it’s romance time!
The most intense game I’m presenting to you today hides its true form behind the facade of a cutesy cooking game. The controls and objectives are all relatively simple and non-threatening, and if you limit your play session to the first world or two the mood should stay light and breezy. Be warned that as you progress, Overcooked! is going to move closer and closer to a game of frantic shouting and grease fires. The key here is going to be preventing a frantic atmosphere from becoming a hostile atmosphere. If you and your partner are the sort to just laugh it off when things start to go awry, Overcooked! has a lot of joy to give. Just remember: the importance of communication in a relationship cannot be understated…but communication is even more important in Overcooked!.
Stardew Valley is by far the most mechanically complex game on this list. It has a lot of menus, controls, and systems that you’re going to need if you want to get your farm off the ground. Stardew Valley is also the most time intensive game on this list, it’s going to take more than one session to really get your farm going beyond the most basic “plant, water, harvest, repeat” level. That said, building a farm together with someone you love is an immensely rewarding experience. Being able to work together to clear the debris from a dilapidated field, to re-work that same land into something functional, and to literally reap the benefits of your hard work all in one night is the stuff great dates are made of! Who knows, playing Stardew Valley together could become part of your regular routine! Just try not to fall too hard for the townsfolk…
I know what you’re thinking, “You want me to play a Mario Party with my partner!? The game series second only to Mario Kart when it comes to destroying friendships??”. You’re damn right I do. Mario Party doesn’t have to be a source of animosity, and all you have to do is abuse a CPU opponent. Is Yoshi getting a suspicious amount of high rolls? Has Donkey Kong found one too many stars in hidden blocks? Show the game that your love is stronger than its favoritism! Is one of you on the same team as “the target’ in a 2v2 minigame? Refuse to participate. Land on a Boo space? Take the target’s coins and stars, and leave your significant other alone. Working together to destroy a common enemy isn’t the sort of thing most date nights let couples experience, but it can be good fun if approached with the proper mindset.
This one is going to require some prep work on your part. Dust off your Switch, load up Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and go back to your long-neglected island. Pull the weeds, take down the decorations from whatever holiday you celebrated before falling off the game, and start building. The goal here is to take your island and make your own romantic landscape. Make a lovely park with fountains and waterfall views. Build a little outdoor cafe overlooking the ocean. Plant flowers in your partner’s favorite colors to mark your route. This is your opportunity to shape the very land itself with your affection, and make something memorable. Then, on the big night, hand your significant other a joy-con (ideally the one that doesn’t drift) and take them on a tour of what you made for them. This is the closest thing to a “night out” on this list, and it gives you the power to shape it into something meaningful for the both of you.
I’m gonna give it to you straight: this is basically movie night with extra steps, and that’s ok. Once upon a time, Telltale Games was the king of these “interactive stories”. The Wolf Among Us and The Walking Dead are great games that are just as engaging for spectators as they are for players. A cornerstone of this genre is making choices that have consequences for the rest of the narrative. Ask your partner for input on these choices, feel free to pause if you need to. The Wolf Among Us is great if you like mysteries, and The Walking Dead is great if you’re into being incredibly sad. Both games are broken up into chapters that you could easily finish in a single sitting, making them perfect as substitutes for a more traditional movie night. If you’ve already played those games or just want something different, Life is Strange and Until Dawn are both solid substitutes.
I tried to make sure to highlight games across a variety of platforms for a variety of skill levels, in hopes that at least one of these suggestions could help you complete a special evening. Regardless of what you decide to do, I hope you and your special someone have a wonderful time together.