Hold up there, Mass Effect fan. I know you walked in here ready and eager to see where your favorite BioWare beau ranked on a list of best boyfriends, but let’s make sure we’re all clear on the criteria here
I am not ranking Mass Effect boyfriends based on how good they are as characters, though of course there’s some overlap; this is all about whether or not the men Commander Shepard and Pathfinder Ryder can smooch would actually be good boyfriends outside of the video games. What are the realities of these relationships when you’re not trying to save the galaxy? Who’s the one you want to come home to? Which of these boyfriends will help you feel the relationship is stable, built on trust, and that you are safe at night?
That in mind, read on for my ranking of the Mass Effect boyfriends based on whether they’d actually be good real boyfriends.
Unfortunately for Jacob, his story in the Mass Effect trilogy is entirely centered around dishonesty, so he had to fall straight down to the bottom of this list. I know we’re trying to talk about a hypothetical relationship here, but for Jacob, we gotta talk about how dirty BioWare did this man for no real reason.
Yeah, he wasn’t a popular love interest in Mass Effect 2,and his romance had some grimace-worthy bedroom talk about how Shepard was a “prize” worth sneaking into the captain’s quarters for. But that was no reason to take his storyline in the direction the studio did in Mass Effect 3, in which he went off with another woman and got her pregnant.
This wasn’t helped by how weird and stunted the dialogue options to confront the guy on this were, as they stopped short of letting players who entered a relationship with Jacob in Mass Effect 2 even get mad at the guy for his actions in the third game. Some of this was rectified in the Citadel DLC, which let Shepard actually confront him in a meaningful way (slap to the face included), but the entire storyline just felt unnecessary and played into gross stereotypes surrounding Black men with the trilogy’s only Black love interest. It’s garbage. It’s BioWare’s fault, but I can’t trust Jacob as a real boyfriend, so he takes the bottom spot here.
Again, if we’re talking about trust issues, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s Reyes has to take a tumble down to the bottom of the list as well. Sure, as the roguish adventurer Han Solo type, Reyes made my heart flutter. But this is a guy who was running an entire criminal faction on Kadara Port, using Ryder’s status and connections to do work under their nose, and only reveals himself when his lover happens upon a violent negotiation with opposing forces. It’s a great, dramatic twist, but I would not trust that man farther than I can shoot him, which I did.
Liam, Mass Effect: Andromeda’s designated human male squadmate, means well. He’s trying his best, and that’s what keeps him from falling to the bottom of the list. But we can’t be settling for liars, even when they’re trying to do good. Liam jeopardizes the entire Andromeda Initiative by trading secrets with people his team and leader don’t even know about. Sure, he’s learned his lesson by the end of his (excellent) loyalty mission, but if you can’t trust that man with your intergalactic migration movement, can you trust him with your heart? Your financial records? Getting your children to school on time? Trust is the foundation of any great relationship, and while Liam’s trustworthiness might not be the worst here, the ground beneath this romance is shaky, at best.
James Vega is a fuckboy, but he has a heart of gold underneath his skin-tight tank top and well-defined chest. He flirts with female Shepard throughout Mass Effect 3, and while yes, that’s unprofessional and you can call him on that, the dude’s a scared puppy if you actually ask if he plans to make good on any of his advances. The Citadel DLC does give Shepard and James a chance to have a fling, but he admits he’s gotta down a few drinks for his nerves. Ultimately it doesn’t go anywhere beyond one night, and that kind of encapsulates James Vega as a possible boyfriend: annoying, mostly harmless, and never quite what you need him to be.
The Tempest’s engineer has a lot of shit to sort through when you meet him in Mass Effect: Andromeda, but there’s pretty much no one in the series who flirts as well as Gil does. That man has a silver tongue, a great poker face, and when it comes down to actually getting to business, he’s very respectful of Ryder’s comfort. Gil is the kind of guy who seduces with slyness but is actually a sweetheart when it comes to the relationship. Then he gets dragged into Andromeda’s extremely weird (albeit probably well-meaning) story about a repopulation initiative and asks questions about if he, as a gay man, should feel obligated to help with that in any way.
The entire thing sends him into a tailspin and he is more or less talked into it by his friend. You can talk him out of it as the player, but it does raise the question: Can this man think for himself? Do you want a man whose life is often shaped by what people suggest to him? Will he simply mold himself around what you ask of him, giving up all his agency to satisfy the wants and needs of others? Some people like pathetic men, but Gil is not incompetent enough to be pathetic, so it’s easy to see that this relationship would frustrate both those who want someone who will go along with whatever they say and those who want a man of action. At least he’s cute, will be good to you, and is funny. We’ve reached the point in this list where any of these guys would be good boyfriends, but you gotta take the good with the bad.
Oh, Garrus. The turian vigilante is a fan favorite from the original Mass Effect trilogy, and it’s easy to see why. He’s suave, his voice is sexy, and underneath it all, he’s kind of a doofus. His awkward attempts at romance with Shepard are genuinely funny scenes, even if his Mass Effect 2 romance is probably one of the weakest in the series in terms of writing. Mass Effect 3 more than redeems the rough start though, as this is a man who knows how to make a grand gesture, like flying you to an off-limits area of a space station to shoot bottles together.
Garrus would take care of you, and that’s his greatest strength as a hypothetical boyfriend. But in the midst of attending to your needs, he’d also be leaving every night to enact justice on criminals without any sort of oversight. One night he’s out taking shots with you at the bar, then the next he’s out taking shots with his sniper rifle on a nearby rooftop. He is the danger, and danger is sexy, but it does mean that you’ll always be wondering if he’s going to come home every night or if you’re about to get a call from C-Sec telling you something terrible has happened. He’ll get your heart racing when he does something romantic, then you’ll spend the rest of the evening on the verge of a heart attack as you wait for him to come back from fighting crime. Unless you’re a thrill seeker, your mileage may vary.
We’re now at the point of this list where these Mass Effect boyfriends would just be great real boyfriends. Steve Cortez is a late addition to the Normandy’s crew, only showing up in Mass Effect 3, and this guy is an absolute gem. He’s sweet, a huge softy in touch with his emotions, and he’s a top-of-his-class shuttle pilot and engineer, so he’s great with his hands.
The guy will also hold a candle for you if you die, as Steve was deep in the mourning process for his husband Robert during the first half of Mass Effect 3 before choosing to live whatever was left of his life looking forward with Shepard. Writing that out makes it sound like it’s a bad thing and that the man moved on too quickly, but no, he’s just emotionally intelligent, reasonable, and open to conversation and introspection. In another time and life, I would’ve pursued Steve Cortez in the Mass Effect trilogy, and if I was considering a real relationship, I don’t think I could go wrong with this sensitive soul.
Speaking of sensitive souls, Jaal Ama Darav is Mass Effect: Andromeda’s gentlest of gentlemen. The angaran stud is all about conflict resolution and listening to and understanding the emotions of others, and his romance scene makes him seem like a service top, if that’s your jam. Sometimes he’s naive, as he wants to see the good in other people who don’t have the capacity to deliver, but sometimes you need that optimism to help you through the toughest of times, you know? He’s a leader who guides and protects others, but is never unwilling to hear from others about his approach.
Jaal is also a family man, with half a dozen mothers and several siblings and cousins, so if you’re looking for a man who could be a great father on top of a great boyfriend, look no further than 2.537 million light years away from Earth in the Andromeda galaxy.
If you’re not interested in making babies but would still like to cash in on a great dad, Thane is a great dad…eventually. Mass Effect 2’s assassin-turned-teammate is the best of both worlds when compared to Jaal and Garrus. He’s sexy, dangerous, but also tenderhearted and introspective. He’s got a perfect memory, so he’ll always remember where you left your car keys before date night, and will never forget your birthday. He’s also spiritual, if that’s your thing, and he has interesting philosophical takes that make conversation always stimulating.
It’s probably worth noting that Thane has a terminal illness, so your time together would be short, but it would be great, and the prayer he’ll write for you as he passes on will make you cry even harder.
Yeah, Kaidan Alenko, the OG, the first squadmate you get in the trilogy, would make the best boyfriend out of anyone in the Mass Effect series.
Why? He’s kind, you never have to doubt his intentions because he wears his heart on his sleeve, he can provide for you because he has a good job as the second human Spectre and as a biotics teacher, he has hobbies in cooking and tech as demonstrated in the absolute nerd talk he has with Tali in Mass Effect 3, and he’s one of the only people on this list willing to call you out on your shit.
Were you upset in Mass Effect 2 when he called you out for working with Cerberus? Did you ever stop to consider that he was fucking right and maybe you’re just a little too defensive about being called out? Yeah, someone’s gotta keep you from getting out of line and doing ridiculous shit like working with a terrorist group, and if everyone else on this list is going to just be your yes man, you need someone who keeps you grounded. That’s Kaidan Alenko.
He is gentle, supportive but has a mind of his own, stern when he has to be, has a smokin’ hot bod, and your parents are both going to love him. That’s all you can ask for in a potential boyfriend.