If your S.O. agrees to watch one of your favorite movies, they are committing four hours of their life – tops – to see why you love it. If you want your S.O. to play one of your favorite video games, you could be asking around a hundred hours of their life.
If it feels like you only have one chance to get your S.O.’s introduction to video games right, your gut may be correct.
The good news is that it can be done, and that there’s pretty much a game for everyone. You just need to find a game that your S.O. will be interested in that will make the learning curve worth it. Before I recommend genres and games*, though, there are some things you need to not do.
Your S.O. will choose to play games differently than you. Just because they’re inexperienced doesn’t make it the wrong way. If you try to micromanage their game play they will either give up or bludgeon you.
Don’t try to make all your favorite games your S.O.’s favorite games. It’s nice if things work out that way, but don’t be a jerk who cuts off other gaming options due to your own preferences. That kind of behavior will drive your S.O. away from gaming entirely.
Don’t throw your S.O. in the deep end and expect them to swim. First-person shooters, PvP, and raiding are not 101 video game experiences. The fast-twitch responses and familiarity with controls necessary to enjoy them just aren’t there yet for most newbies. (Oh the joys of looking at the ceiling while walking into a wall and getting shot in the back.) Once your S.O. gets the hang of things, you can come back to them.
RPGs are a great choice for those who love stories. The controls are relatively straightforward and the narrative arc is the main focus instead of sheer player ability.
The Final Fantasy series is classic, and the early games allow for a slower, more deliberate battle system if necessary. Heavy Rain is a gritty and emotional mystery. Telltale has several excellent games based on comics, TV, and even other games like The Wolf Among Us, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, and Tales from the Borderlands. For anime lovers, the Persona series is an easy win.
Beat ‘em ups
Perhaps your S.O. is the kind of person who’ll skip cut scenes and wants to be actively playing most of the time. In this case, RPGs are too slow and your S.O. will feel like they’re being railroaded. For consistent action, a kind of beat ‘em up may be the ticket, and even better if it’s co-op.
Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 is a romp of wrecking your enemies and surroundings. It’s kind of ridiculous, but thoroughly enjoyable. The Lego video games offer lots of destruction opportunities along with humor and puzzle solving embedded in familiar fictional realms. Many people have a soft spot for Harry Potter, Star Wars, or Lord of the Rings, which can be a great initial hook. If all your S.O. wants is the efficient demolition of as many things, people, and monsters as possible, Diablo III: Reaper of Souls is the game you’re looking for, with the addictive touch that Blizzard Entertainment is known for.
Maybe your S.O.’s thing isn’t narratives or joyous, wanton destruction, but there’s a lot in between. Puzzle games and/or platformers are rarely vaunted the way other games are, but they provide a good mix of challenge and satisfaction.
Little Big Planet is full of cute things, customizable options, stage building, and teamwork. Catherine is an intense puzzle/platformer with a creepy story about mysterious deaths and a commitment phobic protagonist. Portal is an iconic puzzle/platformer that’s wonderfully creative and makes you feel like the smartest person to ever smart once you get it right. (Or like a monster. I’m sorry companion cube!!!!)
If your S.O. has been burned by gaming or gamer culture before, low-risk, highly enjoyable digital fluff maybe in order. “Good” games reward skill, persistence, and risk taking. After a stressful job or getting a baby to sleep, may be a “bad” game is what your S.O. needs.
Artifex Mundi makes loads of puzzle games that are not particularly challenging or logical with plotlines that are all kind of the same; yet these games are relaxing and satisfying. Hatoful Boyfriend is a hilarious mess of a dating game involving a world where birds are the dominant species, but you’re a human looking for love anyway. Blue Toad Murder Files: The Mystery of Little Riddle is a delightful episodic game where you improbably solve murders by solving puzzles to gain circumstantial clues.
None of these games came close to winning game of the year, but that’s not the point. Even with a bit of casual gaming, your S.O. will be able to connect with some of your video game experiences. That’s, after all, what you wanted in the first place.
* Sorry it’s so PlayStation heavy, but it’s what I have, and I wouldn’t recommend anything I haven’t played. **
** Yes, I played the pigeon dating game. It is exactly as advertised.
This article originally appeared on Fanboy Report as “The guide to playing video games with your girlfriend.”