Ryne And Gaia Should Have Been Final Fantasy’s First True Gay Romance

I’m totally guilty of going “this should be gay,” to countless different games, films, and anime. Your Name? Make it gay. Yakuza? Make it gay. Hades? Oh wait – that one is already a little bit gay. That’s mostly because I relate more to stories that correspond with my identity, to pieces of entertainment that aren’t afraid to tell queer stories. The medium is slowly adopting characters and narratives like this, and I welcome them, even if representation still has a long road ahead before reaching perfection.

Despite a number of blockbusters embracing queer stories in recent years, Final Fantasy is one franchise that hasn’t quite reached these heights just yet – but it’s so damn close. Ryne and Gaia from Final Fantasy 14 are two characters who are mere steps away from being a supremely powerful lesbian duo. When the official artwork for Patch 5.4: Futures Rewritten was released, fan speculation was sent into overdrive, many of us absolutely certain that this was going to happen, ignorant to the fact that our gay little hearts were about to be broken.

Chemistry between the two girls had already hinted at something beyond friendship, but now we had a poster that featured them tapping shoulders and holding hands, displaying a level of intimacy far beyond just gals being pals. Spoilers for the Eden Raid series of quests, but this doesn’t happen, they don’t become girlfriends who are ready to fight monsters and cause chaos together. The subtext is there, so much so that if this was a straight romance I’m convinced it would have been far more concrete. But alas, fans were left to read between the many lines left by Square Enix.

Following the main quest of Shadowbringers, Ryne decides to remain in The First as the Scions of the Seventh Dawn return home, unable to ever come back. Thancred, her father figure of sorts, is among them, leaving Ryne to fend for herself in a world that is dangerous, yet slowly but surely adopting a sense of peace following the defeat of Emet-Selch. You can still visit and say hello, but Ryne audibly places her trust in Gaia, a close friend she can confide in and spend time with now her party of heroes are gone forever. The duo are excited to “have coffee biscuits together” which I’m convinced is a euphemism for something.

Anyway – the final selection of Eden raids strengthens the bond between Ryne and Gaia to enormous levels, both aware their friends have now left them and the strongest connection they have is with each other. In the wider narrative, Ryne is seen as a personification of light, while Gaia represents darkness. They are polar opposites when looked at without further knowledge, but it’s these exact aspects of their personalities that bring them together in the first place.

Beginning as bitter rivals, they warmly accept one another, learning that life without company would seem meaningless. See, why isn’t this gay?! It’s a beautiful tale of seeing through initial differences and accepting the person found underneath, even if at first they seem stoic, rude, or borderline unapproachable. Gaia is all of these things, but once she bears witness to the kindness Ryne is capable of, she leaves her shell, befriending the confident girl that stands before her.

Fighting alongside two girls during the final quartet of raids is genuinely epic, culminating in a wondrous emotional crescendo. While their narrative arc has concluded for now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the duo surface in Endwalker – perhaps The First finds a way to hop across worlds, helping the Warrior of Light as she tries in vain to fight off a seemingly insurmountable threat. I sincerely hope this happens, as the chemistry between Ryne and Gaia is briefly brought to the forefront as the Hydaelyn and Zodiark storyline reaches its conclusion.

Fans taking a queer-coded relationship between two characters and building upon it is all well and good, but Square Enix embracing this in an official capacity would make history for Final Fantasy. The MMORPG has long been a place of comfort for diverse individuals, with entire communities springing forth that encompass queer identities and those who fear they wouldn’t be welcomed anywhere. I have friends who met through Final Fantasy 14 and are now married in the real world, showcasing the impact this game has had.

Imagine if Square Enix echoed this with a concrete, canonical lesbian relationship in one of the biggest RPG franchises of all time. It would be a watershed moment for representation that so many would welcome. The cynic in me is convinced this won’t happen for Ryne and Gaia, but if they are merely the precursors to something greater, it can at least be the start of something. The Futures Rewritten art was a cheeky bit of queerbaiting, but I’ll forgive Square Enix if it promises to deliver the goods next time. Please, my hopeless gay ass needs this.

Next: Endwalker Has Already Mastered The Art Of Narrative Hype

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Jade King is one of the Features Editors for TheGamer. Previously Gaming Editor over at Trusted Reviews, she can be found talking about games, anime and retweeting Catradora fanart @KonaYMA6.

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