Romance sims aren't for me, but Sucker for Love: First Date is still my game of the year

Eldrich waifu L'neta standing in a bathroom, looking cute enough to smooch
(Image credit: DreadXP)

Sucker for Love: First Date is a game that shouldn't work at all, but space and time is truly a fungible fabric stretching ever onward into the vastness of a cosmic void where madness-inducing realities are kept at bay only through indomitable human ignorance. 

And in that void, it turns out that you can smooch Cthulhu and ignite an anime love quadrangle between eldritch dieties who will gladly melt out your eyes to make you their one and only as our reality is torn asunder. 

As existence descends into madness, does any of it make sense? No! But as a mix of cosmic horror and light-hearted humor, Sucker for Love: First Date is easily the best Lovecraft-inspired game since Darkest Dungeon and is a must play for any fan of the Cthulhu mythos.

What in the non-euclidean plane is an eldritch dating sim?

Sucker for Love: First Date is a Lovecraftian dating sim that is about as ridiculous as it sounds, but it somehow became the gaming crossover that, like the rise of dead Cthulhu himself, we've waited a lifetime to see and which can never be excised from out hearts.

Sucker for Love: First Date is a very traditional Japanese-style dating sim, which is not a genre that has gained a whole lot of traction with Western audiences broadly, but which has found a smaller niche over here. That's understandable, since dating sims are not for everybody, and I, personally, fall in that camp.

The game itself is played in the form of a visual novel, with certain choices made to affect events based on whatever you click on while holding certain things with certain variables (like lights) either active or not.

Estir, the King in Yellow, standing in an apartment with stabby knives emerging from her dress

(Image credit: DreadXP)

As far as gameplay goes, this is one of the simpler gameplay experiences you can get, but there is depth to it.

There are branching storylines for the narrative based on what you chose to do, and these decisions can impact everything from how the subjects of your affection treat you to what kind of tragi-comical end you come to. As Ln'eta says, no amount of contact with an outer god is safe for humans' sanity, and she's not wrong. 

And while it should be clear who my preference was in this game, the Cthulhette Ln'eta is just the first of three potential "girlfriends", and the interaction and jealousy between Ln'eta; Estir, the King in Yellow; and their aunt Nyanlathotep, a mature, one-eyed anubis disturbed by the Outer-God-and-human love triangle and seeks to put a stop to your courting her neices (but since the connection between the realms is already in place, she might as well see what all the fuss is about, right?), is what makes the story of this game so compelling.

Sucker for Love looks at the Cthulhu mythos from an angle few have explored: a Cultist's POV

A pretty-boy cultist surrounded by eldritch gods competing for his affection

(Image credit: DreadXP)

Beyond the obvious falling in love with an outer god who ends reality with a kiss, there is more to Sucker For Love: First Date than it seems. 

As, or something (we all have problematic favs, ok?), it is rare to come across a Lovecraft-inspired game that actually adheres so faithfully to the mythos. Hear me out. Yes, this game totally reimagines Cthulhu as a dateable – and adorable – love interest. That really does cut against the entire mythos, right? Not really once you start to think about it.

Anyone who's read any Lovecraft knows that there are weirdo cultists who hope to bring about the restoration of the outer god they are devoted too, or are proto-Roko's Basilisk heads who do the imagined bidding of an eldritch deity to hopefully avoid being destroyed by it when it inevitably returns. 

This game, in a very compelling way, recreates that cultist, and that cultist is you. End all of human reality for a kiss from an outer god? Yes please! F--- them kids. 

What's more, there is a genuine element of horror in Sucker For Love: First Date that you won't be anticipating at first, but which will nonetheless hit you hard when it does present itself.

This is a horror game, despite is kawaii presentation, and that very presentation makes it horrific in a perverse way.

Is Sucker for Love: First Date game of the year material? Yeah, obviously.

While it might seem simplistic at first, Sucker for Love: First Date is a lot more than just a quirky eldritch romance sim, it's also a minor masterclass in game design fundamentals that we wish more developers took the time to study and perfect rather than skip over for big eye-candy set pieces that generate a lot of hype, but ultimately leave you empty in the end.

As for whether you should buy this game, it's ten dollars. You can spend that at the bodega buying beer or snacks, or whatever. There are so many worse ways to spend that money than picking up Sucker For Love: First Date. If you're a Lovecraft something or other like the rest of us, this game is a necessity.

Nearly a year has passed since I finished the final possible ending to the game, having replayed and revisited past bad and good decisions along the way and enjoyed every single consequence of my actions, and I have yet to find another that lets me get as lost in its world as I did in this fairly straightforward conversation tree with animated artwork.

I might have put hundreds of hours into Elden Ring, but Sucker For Love: First Date is still the best game I've played all year, and it's honestly not even close.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).