JRPG Collection

Best JRPGs with romance systems

You’re a globetrotter and a skilled fighter, on a quest to save the world with a team of brilliant men and women who are fast becoming your best friends. What would make this adventure even better? How about… falling in love?

Some of the best romances in videogames are from JRPGs. Cloud and Arieth. Tidus and Yuna. Pairings that inspired joy and jealousy as you watched the characters falling in love. But these couples do not appear in this article. It’s one thing to watch a romance story unfold, and another to play an active part in it!

When romance becomes a gameplay system, we want what we want in any gameplay system: interesting decisions. Yes, that includes a choice of which character to romance, but we also want to choose what to say to them, and whether we fight alongside them in battle. Decisions should also have consequences. If you court one character, that’s probably going to put off another character, or perhaps them jealous.

But this list is not just about gameplay mechanisms. Feelings play a big part too! The most interesting systems won’t impress us if the datable characters don’t make our hearts flutter. Sometimes a lack of complexity is made up for with, well… je ne sais quoi. That’s the case with the first game in the list. 

Dragon Quest V (1992)

Bianca from Dragon Quest V

Here’s a story that demonstrates that lasting impact of the romance system in Dragon Quest V. Three full decades after the game was released in Japan, a shareholder of Square Enix asked the new president, Takashi Kiryu, a very important question at his first shareholders meeting:

I would like to know whether Director Kiryu chose Bianca or Nera.


Bianca and Nera are the original two “Heavenly Brides” that could be married in Dragon Quest V (a third, Debora, was added in the Nintendo DS remake). Kiryu himself explained the differences in personality between the two: “Bianca is vivacious, whereas Flora is quiet.” Kiryu choose Bianca, but we can be sure his answer will not settle this debate, which has lasted over 30 years now.

What makes the heavenly brides worthy of note is that your choice of partner is also a choice of party member. Nera is more magically attuned; Bianca is better at hitting things with sharp objects. If you choose one, you cannot choose the other. It’s a simple system, but it has all the elements we’re looking for: the player has an active role in choosing to build a relationship with the women they vibe with the most, and this choice is reflected in the gameplay and the story. That the two brides were great enough characters to stand the test of time is a very nice bonus.

NPC comments "Ah, what a beautiful wedding it was" in Dragon Quest V screenshot

Enhancing Dragon Quest V‘s romance is a narrative arc that spans multiple generations, which, in typical Yuji Horii style, is equally inventive and compelling. The protagonist embarks on a quest that sees them grow from a child to an adult, experiencing various trials and tribulations along the way. Central to this journey are the relationships forged with a diverse cast of characters, including those potential love interests.

To this day, Dragon Quest V stands as a shining example of how romance can be integrated into JRPGs to enrich the player experience. It’s a great place to start the discussion, but the complexities of the romance systems take off from here. 

Thousand Arms (1998)

Released during the late ’90s, this PlayStation cult classic is one part Breath of Fire, one part Tokimeki Memorial. The system it devised was the first of it’s kind, making Thousand Arms the prototypical JRPG/Dating-Sim hybrid, and still quite a good one. 

Intimacy level with Kyleen increases in Thousand Arms screenshot
Screenshot taken by Bobbin Threadbare and uploaded to Let’s Play Archive.

At the core of Thousand Arms lies a dating sim mechanic that intertwines seamlessly with the traditional JRPG format. Players step into the shoes of Meis Triumph, a cheeky blacksmith with a penchant for both forging legendary weapons and capturing the hearts of various love interests. The game breaks away from the one-size-fits-all approach often seen in romantic subplots by allowing players to actively pursue relationships with different characters. These aren’t just aesthetic choices; each romantic path unveils unique storylines, character developments, and even specialised abilities that tie back into the main quest.

Decision-making takes centre stage in this romantic ballet. Meis must navigate through dialogue choices, gifts, and actions to woo the chosen companion. However, this isn’t a mere flirtation simulator – the consequences of these choices ripple through the fabric of the wider game. A successful romance isn’t just about personal satisfaction; it often means unlocking additional gameplay perks, offering a tantalising blend of emotional investment and strategic advantage.

The cast of Thousand Arms

Yet, the million-polygon question remains: does Thousand Arms pull off this romantic rendezvous with flair? For the most part, yes. The variety in romantic pursuits and the tangible impact on the overarching narrative are commendable. The game succeeds in making romance not just a side quest but an integral part of the gaming experience. However, some might find the system a tad formulaic, with certain decisions leading to predictable outcomes. Despite this, the game’s ability to blend heartfelt connections with tangible gameplay benefits ensures that the romantic journey in Thousand Arms is a worthy detour from the main quest – a detour that adds both depth and dimension to the JRPG experience.

Star Ocean 2 (1999)

Rena from Star Ocean 2

Released in the late ’90s for the PlayStation, this space-faring epic not only took players on a cosmic journey but also allowed the player to navigate various romantic pairings. The Private Action (PA) system, which facilitates these romantic options in the Star Ocean series, is quite clever. It works like this: instead of entering a town as a party, you can always choose to enter the town alone, and your party members split off and do their own thing too, activating new dialogue options and events.

So “Private Actions” can be described like this: what do the protagonist and other party members get up to when the rest of the group aren’t looking? It’s no surprise that by the second game, Star Ocean: Second Story, Private Actions were used to explore romantic pairings between the characters. Claude can meet Celina at the shops and buy her a nice piece of jewellery, or meet Rena at the library and agree to become her tutor, and eventually the character you have the most affinity points for get a special moment with the protagonist in the game’s ending. 

Affinity and choice of partner doesn’t affect the gameplay too much, but the system is undeniably praiseworthy. It goes beyond the typical ‘choose your sweetheart’ mechanic and weaves the romantic subplot seamlessly into the larger tapestry of the game. In doing so, Star Ocean 2 manages to offer a satisfying blend of emotional storytelling and player engagement.

A historical note: the developers of Star Ocean worked previously on the Tales series, and Private Actions fill a similar role to the skits of Tales, though with the player taking a more active role. We could also say Private Actions were a precursor to Social Links, the system that the next games on the list are known for.

Persona 3 (2006) and 4 (2008)

Developed by Atlus, these JRPGs are masterpieces of videogame romance systems. They manages to do it all: make the romance relevant to the monster-raising-dungeon-crawling mechanics at the core of the series, while also giving us heart-warming connections to nurture across a range of lovable characters.

Whichever of the Persona games you choose, the romance system is Social Link mechanic. As the protagonist navigates the towns of Tatsumi Port Island (in Persona 3) or Inaba (in Persona 4), they forge bonds with various characters, each represented by a distinct arcana.

For example, players can pursue a romantic relationship with Rise Kujikawa, a former idol who temporarily moves to Inaba. Players can support Rise as she grapples with her identity outside of the limelight, leading to a deeper emotional connection, which also levels up the arcana associated with Rise. 

This makes you more powerful in battle. As you level up the Lovers arcana by romancing Rise, the monsters your fuse that are associated with the Lovers arcana get a flood of bonus experience. Brilliantly, social connections and romance become the pathway to unlock some of the most powerful monsters in the game. 

Persona even tries to simulate break-ups. If you leave a lover in the cold for too long, or offend them, their social link will reverse. This happened to me when I accidentally ignored Yuko the sports captain in Persona 3, despite intending to complete her social link, after many hours of learning about her and winning her affection. I was genuinely shocked and upset! Thankfully, these reversed social links can be recovered.

What sets the romance in the Persona apart is the emphasis on character development. Yes, the social links are a linear checklist, but they’re also about delving deep into the psyche of each character and uncovering their vulnerabilities. When you add that to the advantage you get in battle as a result, it makes for one of the most addictive JRPG romance systems of all time. It’s easy to get totally lost in it!

Metroidvania Collection

Best multiplayer metroidvanias (available on PC)

Fuse the exploration of a Metroidvania with a multiplayer dynamic and you get the small be special gaming niche that we are talking about today. Multiplayer metroidvanias feature both cooperative challenges and character progression, set within interconnected worlds ripe for exploration.

These titles often present a refreshing alternative to other multiplayer genres, offering both challenge and companionship. The satisfaction derived from synchronised teamwork to conquer intricate levels, or races thought those levels to claim elusive treasures, has a distinct flavour that can’t be found elsewhere.

The PC platform, known for its versatility and expansive player base, hosts an array of these gems. In this feature, we’ll recommend our favourites, explaining the multiplayer dynamics and rating their overall appeal so you can pick the games that align with the gaming preferences of you and your friends. 

One note: We’ve avoided examples where a second player can only take on a small role, like Timespinner, Outbuddies or A Robot Named Fight — though all of those games may be worth trying, depending on what you’re looking for. For this list, anything where both players can have a roughly equal experience is in the running. 

Without further ado, here are eight amazing multiplayer metroidvania available on PC. 

1. Guacamelee! 2

Four players in a spiky room in Guacamelee 2 co-op
Guacamelee! 2 screenshots from Drinkbox Studios

Guacamelee! 2 (2018) takes its predecessor’s vibrant world bursting with Mexican folklore, punchy combat, and a seamless blend of platforming challenges, and amplifies it, which includes introducing a refined multiplayer experience.

The co-op feature was no afterthought: the game’s main campaign was developed with it in mind, and it shows. Joining forces with a buddy to navigate the vibrant, interconnected world of the Mexiverse adds a new layer of enjoyment. Don’t get us wrong, the campaign is compelling for solo players too, but the multiplayer dynamic amps up the fun factor, allowing for strategic cooperation or chaotic hilarity as you and your partner unleash moves and combos in tandem.

Four players in combat in Guacamelee 2 co-op

The PC version is feature rich, catering to keyboard and controller preferences alike, with no performance issues. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and Xbox One. 

By the way, if you purchase “Guacamelee! 2 Complete”, you will be treated to all the DLCs. It’s nothing too exciting — just an extra level and some extra characters — but it ensures you and your friends dive without missing any content.

It’s worth noting that while the local co-op is a highlight, the absence of an online multiplayer option might deter some players seeking remote collaboration. However, for those eager to share the thrill of this visually striking world side by side on the same screen, Guacamelee! 2 offers an inviting invitation to leap into its colourful Metroidvania universe.

Co-Op Footage

See the Guacamelee! 2 multiplayer in action in this four-player gameplay video from Dan’s Travel Tips.


2. Unepic (Co-Op Dungeons)

Two players fighting boss Ulakk in Unepic co-op screenshot
Unepic screenshots from Steam user VebonT

Unepic (2011), an indie gem developed by Francisco Téllez de Meneses, blends the charm of classic RPGs with the exploration elements of metroidvania, offering a compelling experience for PC gamers, including those seeking a multiplayer adventure.

The game has a main single-player metroidvania campaign, but it also has a suite of multiplayer modes that permits gamers to team up with friends online to delve into the labyrinthine dungeons and overcome challenging foes together. The main attraction are the co-op dungeons. 

Those playing on PC can amplify their gaming experience by adapting their control schemes—whether using a keyboard and mouse or a controller—or by installing user-made mods. The selection of unofficial maps is quite impressive, and even today there are new ones made every year!

Two players fighting boss Sux Mortis in Unepic co-op screenshot

While Unepic excels in blending genres and offers a multiplayer aspect, the game’s difficulty spikes and complexity might deter those seeking a more casual gaming experience, as progression often demands strategic planning and skillful execution. The lack of local co-op might also deter some interested parties.

Nevertheless, for enthusiasts of metroidvania games looking for a unique blend of RPG elements and multiplayer capability on PC, Unepic presents an intriguing proposition. Its intricate level design, character progression system, and mod support add layers of depth. If you’re up for a challenge and enjoy exploring dungeons with friends online, Unepic might just be the right addition to your PC gaming library.

Multiplayer Footage

See the Unepic multiplayer in action in Wagner Afonso’s four-player gameplay highlights.


3. Rainworld Downpour (Jolly Co-Op)

Four slugcats exploring Rainworld Downpour co-op screenshot
Rainworld: Downpour screenshots from Akupara Games

In the realm of metroidvania games, Rain World (2017) is a unique experience. The DLC expansion, Downpour, takes things even further by introducing a collaborative twist to Rainworld’s previously solitary, survival-based metroidvania experience, allowing players to team up locally and explore its unforgiving world together.

Rain World: Downpour comes with the “Jolly Co-Op” mode for up to four local players. Here, friends join forces to tackle the Monk, Survivor, and Hunter campaigns, in which they navigate the treacherous landscapes as Slugcats, creatures navigating a harsh and dynamically evolving ecosystem. Each Slugcat variant boasts distinct abilities. The DLC amplifies the challenge of the base game by introducing evolved predators and environmental conditions, making teamwork a necessity for survival.

Rain World: Downpour doesn’t merely toss players into a multiplayer frenzy; it demands collaborative strategies, communication, and mutual understanding. The game’s mechanics, such as piggybacking on fellow Slugcats or utilising gestures for coordination, add a playful yet strategic layer to the cooperative gameplay.

Four slugcats exploring Rainworld Downpour co-op screenshot

While primarily designed for local co-op, the game extends its multiplayer allure through Steam Remote Play for online gaming sessions. However, a crucial note for online play is the necessity to adjust keybinds to avoid control conflicts among players, emphasising the importance of smooth coordination for a seamless gaming experience.

For PC gamers seeking a metroidvania experience that challenges both individual skills and collaborative tactics, Rain World: Downpour stands tall as an offbeat yet captivating choice, beckoning players into a world where survival demands unity amidst a beautifully harsh setting.

Co-Op Footage

See Rainworld Downpour’s Jolly Co-Op mode in action in the official reveal trailer.


4. Sundered: Eldritch Edition

Sundered four-player co-op mode screenshot

Sundered (2017), a game exclusively available for PC, effectively intertwines eldritch horrors with cooperative gameplay. Imagine a subterranean world, teeming with ancient  terrors and ever-shifting landscapes. This is the realm of Sundered, where players navigate a procedurally generated labyrinth of challenges, armed only with their wits and their blade. 

The Eldritch Edition stands out from the original game, which only included a single player campaign, by welcoming up to four players into its haunting depths, embracing the spirit of camaraderie in a genre often associated with solitary exploration.

One of the game’s central mechanics revolves around shards – valuable resources scattered throughout the cavernous expanse. These shards are pivotal for character growth, enhancing abilities and survivability. However, the twist lies in the shared ability tree, controlled by Player 1. All players contribute to the collective upgrades, while Player 1 decides how to allocate these enhancements, fostering both collaboration and coordination.

Sundered’s combat is  cooperative gameplay, starting with rudimentary swordplay and evolving into a spectrum of potent abilities. Encounters with nightmarish foes and monumental boss battles amplify the thrill, urging players to synergize their attacks and embrace strategic cooperation.

Navigating Sundered’s treacherous world is a blend of discovery and danger. Players grapple with environmental hazards, puzzle-like terrain, and elusive pathways while scavenging for shards and confronting menacing foes. Yet, the challenge lies not just in surviving the nightmarish landscapes but also in manoeuvring as a cohesive team, facing unforeseen dangers together.

Multiplayer Footage

See Sundered: Eldritch Edition’s co-op mode in action in this footage from the YouTube channel Local Multiplayer


5. Salt and Sanctuary

Salt and Sanctuary co-op mode screenshot
Screenshot from Steam user Sr.Maou

Salt and Sanctuary (2016), developed by Ska Studios, transports players into a dark and foreboding world, reminiscent of the classic titles that defined the genre while incorporating its unique style. It offers a deep metroidvania experience with RPG elements, allowing character customization and diverse playstyles. Its unique visuals, while evocative, might not cater to everyone’s taste, but the game’s dark and atmospheric landscapes, coupled with its challenging combat, create an immersive journey for dedicated adventurers.

Like Dark Souls, which inspired it, Salt and Sanctuary allows for co-op play, so you and a friend can tackle the intricately designed levels and formidable bosses together. The multiplayer component has been balanced appropriately. Enemies and bosses are buffed, but not unreasonably. Having a friend alongside you feels like assistance and not hindrance, but both players can still get their teeth into the challenge the game is known for. 

Starting the cooperative mode isn’t as simple as selecting it from a menu, though. It requires a specific item—the Stone Sellsword. Before a friend can join your world, you must acquire this item and reach the first sanctuary. The complexity doesn’t end there; once a Sellsword is placed in a sanctuary, players must return to that location to summon their friend. 

Salt and Sanctuary co-op mode screenshot
Screenshot from Steam user Edy


It’s interesting to have an in-game mechanic to initiate multiplayer, and reminiscent of the multiplayer setup for Bloodborne and Souls, but some players find this intricate process a source of shared frustration. The impracticality means Salt and Sanctuary might not be the best multiplayer metroidvania for those seeking more accessible or casual cooperative play.

Furthermore, the steep difficulty curve might not suit the tastes of everyone in your co-op party. The unforgiving nature of the game demands perseverance and a penchant for challenging gameplay.

If you can look past these, you will find that the depth of character development in Salt and Sanctuary, coupled with the game’s challenging combat mechanics creates an addictive loop that keeps both solo and co-op players engrossed for hours — provided you’re up for the relentless challenge it presents.

Salt and Sanctuary offers customizable controls and optimizations that cater to a wide range of gaming setups. Whether you’re wielding a keyboard and mouse or a controller, the PC version ensures a responsive and engaging gameplay experience 

Co-Op Footage

See Salt and Sanctuary’s co-op mode in action in the official reveal trailer.


6. Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (Lantern Run)

Lantern Run in progress
Screenshot from Anowi on Steam

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet (2011) is a visually captivating and thrilling 2D adventure, and is a surprise standout in the realm of multiplayer metroidvania games for PC. In this game, players are invited into a gorgeously animated alien world, the titular “Shadow Planet”, which is rendered in deep silhouettes and teeming with hostile lifeforms and puzzles. 

While originally acclaimed for its solo exploration, its multiplayer mode, “Lantern Run,” elevates the game into a frenetic yet exhilarating cooperative experience. Up to four players embark on a frantic dash to outrun the menacing lantern monster, embracing the chaos while holding onto their precious lanterns for dear life – and dear points.

Each player pilots their ship, armed with a unique lantern, a versatile claw, blaster tools, and an open slot for various tools found during the challenging rounds. This mode is an endless pursuit that progressively intensifies in difficulty, evolving from simple enemy dodging to intricate cooperative puzzles demanding synchronised efforts and strategic battles against formidable foes.

Lobby of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet co-op mode
Screenshot from Steam user Mr Afternoon

What sets this multiplayer experience apart is its individualistic scoring system meshed with collective survival. While teamwork is crucial to prolonging the game, players are pitted against each other to amass points, fostering a ‘cooper-tition’ where the distance travelled and lanterns retained contribute to the team score. Losing a lantern amplifies the stakes, ratcheting up the tension and introducing more daunting puzzles and obstacles, enhancing the thrill of the frantic escape.

The beauty of “Lantern Run” lies in its combination of collaboration and cutthroat competition. For PC players seeking an adrenaline-pumping multiplayer metroidvania experience, “Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet” stands as a compelling choice. Its captivating visuals, challenging gameplay, and the adrenaline rush of cooperative yet competitive escapades make it a worthwhile addition to any multiplayer gaming library.

Multiplayer Footage

Watch the multiplayer mode of Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet in this live Lantern Run video from GameReviewsandMore.


7. Rabi-Ribi

Four-player co-op fight in Rabi-Ribi
Screenshot from the developer Yue on Steam

Rabi-Ribi (2016) stands as a curious outlier in the realm of multiplayer metroidvanias for the PC. Developed by GemaYue, this pixel-art wonderland blends the exploratory fervour of a metroidvania with the bullet-hell intensity of a shmup, creating a concoction that’s both charming and challenging. 

The co-op mode spices things up, allowing a second player to join the chaos as Ribbon’s trusty partner. Coordinating with a buddy during boss battles or traversing through the labyrinthine world does add a layer of camaraderie to the exploration. Coordination is key as you and your partner unleash a barrage of attacks, combining your magical bunny prowers to conquer formidable bosses and unlock new areas.

It is an enticing addition, though it’s worth noting that it’s more of an auxiliary feature rather than the game’s focal point. Dubbed as a beta experiment within the game, the co-op mode carries a cautionary note regarding its untested nature. The multiplayer functionalities were only trialled during development, not fully tested, and while it introduces exciting dynamics, it may lack the polished finesse found in dedicated multiplayer titles. While the co-op adds a cooperative flavour to the adventure, its untested nature might result in occasional hiccups or imbalance, making it more of an intriguing diversion rather than a polished multiplayer feature.

Four-player co-op fight in Rabi-Ribi

The co-op takes place in the same mode as the single-player adventure but adding a second player does alter some gameplay nuances, intensifying enemy challenge levels, modifying health mechanics, and restricting certain actions like initiating events or changing rooms to Player 1. Also note that the leaderboards are permanently disabled for a save file if an additional player is introduced, because of the change to the balance of the game’s difficulty. 

The game’s design and mechanics accommodate the PC gaming experience, from precise platforming to responsive controls, ensuring a seamless transition for players on this platform.

Its multiplayer element, though not groundbreaking, adds a sprinkle of collaborative fun to the metroidvania formula. For those seeking a metroidvania with a side of cooperative play and a PC-friendly disposition, “Rabi-Ribi” stands as a solid contender.

Co-Op Footage

Watch the experimental multiplayer mode of Rabi-Ribi in this video from SilentChaos512.



Let’s distil our findings. Salt and Sanctuary beckons with its challenging 2D combat, perfect for those craving a skillful duo experience. For the brave souls seeking survival in a post-apocalyptic world, Rain World: Downpour delivers a gripping cooperative adventure.

Sundered: Eldritch Edition invites exploration and strategy in its Lovecraftian landscapes, offering an unpredictable, collaborative journey. Unepic adds a touch of humour to dungeon crawling, making it an ideal choice for those who enjoy a good laugh while conquering challenges.

Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet offers a visually stunning, alien-infested multiplayer experience, blending exploration and puzzles. Rabi-Ribi injects frenetic energy into the mix with its bullet-hell mechanics, promising a fast-paced cooperative escapade.

But our favourite has to be Guacamelee! 2, with its luchador charm, that has the most developed and essential cooperative gameplay, while providing vibrant visuals, clever puzzles, and more than a splash of Mexican folklore — and that’s a combination that you don’t find everywhere!

Whether you’re drawn to challenge, atmosphere, humour, or nostalgia, these titles ensure that your multiplayer Metroidvania escapades on PC are far from ordinary. Choose your co-op companion wisely, and have a great adventure!

Read next: Is Blasphemous a metroidvania?