Romance has become a staple of modern role-playing games. The days of making canonical ship choices are long gone, and instead, many modern RPGs give you the option to pick and choose who gives your protagonist butterflies.
But there are still some glaring omissions. Sometimes, a character is made to walk a long, lonesome path, and we cannot join them, no matter how much we keep mashing the right buttons for their approval. In games full of player choice, some options are barred off, either for narrative reasons or possibly to spite me, specifically.
These are the characters who left us on read, who never swiped right, and who we were never quite able to romance.
The Boys of Persona 5
Unlike the mainline Shin Megami Tensei games, Persona has had social links for some time, and romance in some form since even the second game. Sadly, aside from Jun in Persona 2, it took adding a female protagonist for the fellas to get any love in the Persona series.
It's a little strange, at best, that a series so often focused on themes of breaking society's limiting expectations and accepting your true self doesn't let its male protagonists go on dates with other guys. Considering the player-character of Persona 5 is able to woo everyone from a disgraced doctor and a teacher to his classmates, including Ryuji or Yosuke shouldn't feel like a stretch. - Eric Van Allen
There are a lot of romance options in Fire Emblem: Three Houses. A frankly staggering amount, at times, given that aside from your own personal Byleth, each of your students (and later, war pals) can pair up for a ride off into the sunset as well. But among the many romance options, there is one missing—the stoic Gatekeeper.
He may not seem like much, but his regular and eager updates on the state of Garreg Mach quickly endeared him to fans. Yet we cannot spend our forever with the Gatekeeper, keeping watch over the monastery and ensuring the gate stands tall. When you can romance the literal voice of god in your head, you should be able to teatime with the Gatekeeper. - Eric Van Allen
Okay, I know. You can technically get a peck from Aria at the end of Mass Effect 3's Omega DLC. But hear me out—Aria is deserving of her own quest line, her own romance, and her own little epilogue to send Shepard off into the RGB-tinted heavens above.
In Mass Effect 2, Aria is the character who makes it clear that you're not in the pristine Citadel anymore. She is Omega, and when she loses that, she enlists Shepard to go on a rampage through her old haunts to get it back. Over the course of Omega, you help her deal with an ex and kill a pretentious chess-playing jerk. And it freaking rules. Aria is stubborn, sometimes vulnerable, yet always ready to knock someone's lights out and launch them into space with biotics. She fought a Krogan one-on-one and won.
This queen of the deepest, darkest underworld in the Milky Way would've made an incredible side-romance, like what you can have with other crew members and non-combat Normandy staff. Aria is the badass ride-or-die space rebel who, in an ideal universe, would've flown into oblivion with my Shepard. - Eric Van Allen
If there's one thing I've learned since starting to play Final Fantasy 14, it's that a lot of people want to latch onto Estinien's lance, if you know what I mean. The moody Dragoon is a tremendous fan favorite, despite—or perhaps because of—his utter disinterest in anything other than dragon-killing.
Driven by a thirst for revenge on the ancient wyrm that tore his life asunder, Estinien isn't interested in hobbies, outings, or friendships. It's a safe bet he's not interested in romance, either—which is interesting, given how the direct inspiration for his character, Final Fantasy 4's Kain Highwind, was driven to betray his friends over unrequited love. To Estinien's credit, he grows throughout Final Fantasy 14's expansions and is gradually learning all-important JRPG lessons about the importance of friendship and companionship. Stick around, and he might be willing to give you a hug someday soon. - Nadia Oxford
The Yakuza series' Mad Dog of Shimano might initially come off as a bad choice for a mate. He's a bit unhinged; that much is clear. But Majima is surprisingly steadfast and loyal, and will go to crazy lengths to protect those he cares about. If you shack up with Majima, you're probably looking at a relationship where rival yakuza hound you wherever you go... but you'll never have a boring date.
Majima has lots more positive attributes. He owns his own construction company ("We Build Shit!"), he loves baseball (who doesn't love spending time at batting cages?), his fashion sense is beyond reproach, and he possesses the uncanny ability to fit anywhere. [Lowers voice to a whisper] Anywhere.
Be warned that while you might be down with the idea of snuggling into Majima's snakeskin shirt, he might not be interested in you. He seems to be holding a torch for Yakuza protagonist Kiryu, and he'll not stop pursuing the Dragon of Dojima until senpai notices him. - Nadia Oxford
Sandy is a friendly merchant in Stardew Valley who runs the Oasis shop in Calico Desert. You can't romance her like some of the other denizens of Stardew Valley, and it's a shame. Her fuschia hair stands out against the beige desert like a beacon, and it compliments her bright, light-hearted personality.
Simply put, Sandy is destined for greater things in Stardew Valley—say, as your loving mate and partner on the cool farm you inherited from Ghost Grandpa. For now, that's not an option. It seems fate has decreed Sandy must stay anchored to the Calico Desert. Forever.
At least she can pass time by discreetly nodding to the people who file in and out of her store to visit Mr. Qi's casino. Sandy knows nothing about the casino, obviously, and I'm sure if Mr. Qi is ever busted, she'll be shocked, shocked, to learn gambling was going on in her establishment. - Nadia Oxford