The Mass Effect trilogy is a lot of things to a lot of people, but we completely understand if you see the release of Mass Effect Legendary Edition as an excuse to cruise across the galaxy looking for romance or, at the very least, the chance to hook up with an alien.
Mass Effect wasn’t the first RPG with a romance system, and the first Mass Effect‘s romance options could most generously be described as limited, but the ways that the Mass Effect games compellingly use romance as both a character-building device and a fun diversion has long made them a favorite among those who can’t help but look for love in digital places.
Which Mass Effect romance is the best of them all, though? While we could never deny you your memories of the time you spent with your personal favorite partner, this is our ranking of every romance (no matter how brief) in the first three Mass Effect games.
18. Diana Allers
Players will have the chance to romance journalist Diana Allers while she’s working on a story about the Normandy in Mass Effect 3. It seems like it’s supposed to be a Captain Kirk kind of moment, but the whole affair feels…off.
Actually, Diana even expresses concerns that her brief encounter with Shepard could potentially ruin her career. Between the short flirting phase and the potential lingering ethical concerns, this romance just falls flat.
Asari consort Sha’ira is really the only “hidden” romance opportunity in the first game, but aside from that factoid, she’s certainly not the most exciting partner in the Mass Effect trilogy.
It also always felt a bit strange that Sha’ira only sleeps with Shepard if the player says they’re dissatisfied with her gift of words. It almost makes this encounter come across as a kind of a Renegade option, which would have felt better if there was an equivalent Paragon side relationship available. This whole thing just seems like an afterthought.
The “romance” with Samara is hardly a romance at all (at least by Mass Effect standards). If you push past Samara’s code and keep flirting with her, you can eventually get Shepard and Samara to kiss. However, the relationship doesn’t go much further than that.
It’s interesting that this romance is a bit different than the others so far as that goes, but between the lack of a payoff and the fact you’re kind of forced to push past Samara’s respectful initial “no,” it’s hard to rank this romance above most.
There are different types of romances throughout the Mass Effect series, but few are clearly intended to be “romances” that the player’s character is meant to regret.
Yet, that’s pretty much what happens the morning after Shepard sleeps with Javik. While the joke of these two getting together fits into the humorous style of the Citadel DLC the hookup happens in, this is a one-note romance that’s little more than a quick gag.
14. Kaidan Alenko
Granted, Kaidan becomes a slightly more interesting character in Mass Effect 3 when players are given the chance to rekindle their romance with him before a big battle, but it’s hard to get over just how generic Kaidan was in the original Mass Effect.
Even in a game that offered very few romance options, Kaidan felt like a piece of toast with no butter. It’s not really what you want to see in the morning, but you’ll live with it if it’s your only option.
A lot of fans hate the Morinth romance option for the simple fact that it’s the only one in the franchise that leads to the direct death of Commander Shepard. To be fair, that’s certainly not the best outcome.
Yet, the shock of that conclusion makes this one of the better “one-off” romance options in the Mass Effect franchise. It’s hardly a legendary relationship, but the surprising “payoff” is at least memorable.
12. Jacob Taylor
One of the great things about the Jacob Taylor relationship from a storytelling and design perspective is that it’s one of those relationships that initially doesn’t seem possible. It’s only after you really start to form a genuine relationship with Taylor that the path to this romance becomes more obvious.
Still, the hilariously awkward nature of Jacob’s main pick-up line (“But the prize…”) takes this one down a few notches on the overall romance rankings. There’s also the simple fact that a lot of people just don’t like Jacob as a character.
11. Steve Cortez
As the first male romantic partner exclusive to male Shepard characters, Steve Cortez helped to break a barrier that some fans wondered if BioWare would ever be willing to break. The absence of that option cast a shadow over the first two Mass Effect games, and it’s great that Mass Effect 3 finally addressed it.
Still, this isn’t the most exciting romance, and Steve is hardly the most developed character that you have the opportunity to be with. Maybe he would rank higher if he were introduced earlier, but such as it is, he’s one of the lower-tier romance options overall.
10. James Vega
Mass Effect 3’s Citadel DLC is sometimes called an elaborate piece of fan service, but there are times when that approach at least led to memorable moments that finally gave some fans the payoffs they had been looking for.
That’s especially true of the DLC’s options romance with James Vega: one of those fan favorites who were previously platonic. It’s hardly the most impactful romance, but so far as one-night stands go, it’s much better than Javik. James even makes you eggs in the morning.
9. Kelly Chambers
It’s tempting to rank this one higher for the simple reason that many players developed a crush on Kelly and didn’t think they’d have the chance to romance her, but the fact that you can only unlock this romance after making some notable sacrifices (and that it doesn’t last long) means it’s a little tough to put it above some of the other options.
Still, Kelly’s popularity, the unique circumstances of your courtship with her, and her now-famous dance certainly elevate this fling above most of the other quickies in the game.
8. Samantha Traynor
Samantha finds herself somewhere in the middle of the romance pack simply because that’s kind of the best way to summarize your romance with her.
The Traynor romance storyline is pretty engaging, has some great moments, and is surprisingly substantial for being limited to the third game. Yet, there are times when this relationship is almost too normal compared to the more dynamic romances in these games. It just lacks some of that spice you get with other characters.
7. Ashley Williams
If Ashley only appeared in the original Mass Effect, she would be much lower on this list. Her sometimes awkward (if admittedly funny) dialog and the first game’s generally weaker romance storylines meant that her best quality as a partner was “not Kaidan.”
However, Mass Effect 3 pays off this relationship in some surprising ways. The game does a pretty good job of building off Ashley and Shepard’s previous encounter with a storyline that also manages to stand on its own compared to other romances. It’s just a strong multi-game romance overall.
It’s very hard to rank the Tali romance without acknowledging that some fans are still disappointed it doesn’t lead to the logical payoff: getting to see her face. We do see a blurry picture of what appears to be Tali later in the game, but some players wanted a more direct reveal.
Even if you were disappointed by that element of the love story, though, it’s hard to deny that Tali and Shepard have one of the most exciting, original, and well-developed romances in the Mass Effect trilogy. Tali’s unique physical restrictions and the chemistry she has with Shepard make the better parts of this romance some of the most memorable in any RPG.
5. Garrus Vakarian
There’s a degree to which the appeal of a relationship with Garrus is based on the appeal of Garrus as a character. In other words, it’s easy to enjoy hooking up with Garrus simply because Garrus is an easy companion to like.
That said, the Garrus romance storyline is also pretty strong in its own right. It really picks up in Mass Effect 3 when the shock of starting a relationship with Garrus has passed and you really get to appreciate how Garrus is one of those romantic partners that are still their own character and not just your love interest when you’re around them.
4. Thane Krios
Not every Mass Effect relationship is a happy one, but few are as outright tragic as the romance with Thane. After all, you start your relationship with Thane well aware of the fact that his disease is slowly killing him.
While that whole thing could have come across like a Lifetime movie of the week, it’s ultimately an incredibly effective story that serves as one of the best examples of how pursuing a romantic relationship with a Mass Effect character really allows you to see them in a different light.
3. Miranda Lawson
Look, there are just times when the romances we tend to look back on with the most glee were also slightly volatile. When you’re far away enough from the bad times, it’s much easier to look back on the more exciting moments.
That’s kind of the dynamic that you get with Miranda. It’s not the deepest romance in the game (and the conclusion of this story in Mass Effect 3 isn’t the best), but the many players who found themselves instantly attracted to Miranda for…umm…reasons will certainly remember the first time they figured out how to make this bad romance happen.
2. Liara T’Soni
Liara’s status as by far the best long-term romance option in the original Mass Effect game is already reason enough to rank her high on this list, but her lofty placement is really all about how your relationship with Liara evolves across the trilogy.
As a potential romance that spans the entirety of the Mass Effect trilogy (even if her best moments in ME2 are limited to the Shadow Broker DLC), Shepard’s relationship with Liara is one of the most complete and genuine in the original games. Their romance is a simply beautiful story that doubles as one of the better examples of the kind of choice-based long-term storytelling that Mass Effect was built on.
You’ll have a hard time getting Mass Effect fans to agree on the game’s best romance option, but the fact that most of them will probably agree that Jack is, at least, one of the most interesting romance options in the game is a testament to the overall quality of this storyline.
The great thing about Jack is that you can either choose to engage in a casual relationship with her or, if you know what to do, establish a more lasting partnership that sheds some light on one of the game’s most fascinating companions. The striking differences between those two options perfectly compliments who Jack is as a character and stands as one of the best uses of romance as a character-building tool within a role-playing game.