I’m not a big believer in the concept of “guilty pleasures.” If you like a thing, like it — if it’s not illegal or harmful, there’s no reason to feel guilty. The same is true of crushes on fictional characters: my threshold is pretty high when it comes to what’s “too weird,” even when we start treading into villain or Genuine Bad Person territory.
And then there’s gacha games: titles in which you grow your personal army via random in-game card draws, occasionally shelling out game (or real) bucks for a super-rare character.
I love gacha games. They appeal to my love of collecting and my love of “raising” games where you train up the team you build. I’m a sucker for collaborations and holiday theming, so the promise of winning one of my faves in a Santa hat can make me at least consider reaching for my wallet. They also increasingly populate their character pool with… let’s say “uncommon” types. A reincarnation of a mythical hero? Of course! Warships? Sure! Vegetables? Why not!
And this would be fine if they didn’t also go out of their way to make them hot.
This is where even my open-mindedness about there being no such thing as a weird crush kind of crumbles. Because… well, let’s just say I never saw myself crushing on an actual boat.
And so, for your consideration, five crushes I’ve developed thanks to mobile games. Have I crossed a line?
1. Roman Emperor Nero Claudius
Kinoko Nasu’s Fate franchise alternates between asking questions that raise interesting possibilities about history and mythology, and asking questions that literally no one has ever wondered about. On the one hand, what if Sir Bedivere refused to return Excalibur to the Lady of the Lake, forcing King Arthur to age for centuries into a heartless demigod? On the other, what if Blackbeard was a horny nerd?
Many of the “what ifs” amount to “What if this person was secretly hot?” — or, more often, “What if this guy was secretly a hot girl?” The aforementioned King Arthur, Sir Francis Drake, Oda Nobunaga, and Leonardo da Vinci were all apparently ladies. Guys who stayed dudes like Dr. Jekyll, Sherlock Holmes, Cu Chulainn, and Robin Hood could still get it. Mobile game Fate/Grand Order brings them all together in a gacha festival with an underpinning of time travel antics and apocalyptic consequences.
Enter Emperor Nero Claudius, originally hailing from the branching narrative of Fate/EXTELLA. Not only was Nero apparently secretly a hot girl, she also bears a striking resemblance to franchise fave Altria Pendragon. On top of that, she foregoes traditional Roman attire to do battle in a ballgown with a see-through front and a butt window.
That said… gosh, Nero’s cute. Like, super cute. Especially when she does that confident little “Umu!” thing. I don’t like that this puts me in the company of Caligula (who in the game is neither a girl nor hot, just kinda weird-looking), but what can I say? She’s just great. And they keep giving her new outfits that are even more great… and will likely require spending real money to obtain. I think I might see the cunning plan at work here.
2. Śakra, Ruler of the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven
Sexy Buddhas in your area want to meet you!
Namu Amida Bu! isn’t available to play yet, but they’re warming up for a spring release in Japan. Much like the Fate-verse, the game reimagines historical and mythical figures as hotties. Except this time, they’re all major figures in Buddhism.
Seemingly in the Best Boy spot, judging by their marketing, is this fella. Taishakuten, a.k.a. Śakra, is the ruler of the heaven of the 33 devas, and plays major roles in both Hinduism and Buddhism. Apparently he gave the Buddha his first bath and is a protector deity along with Bonten (who is also in the game).
What any of this means is a little beyond me, even having done some research. According to the game’s advance press, though, he is a handsome long-haired boy whose voice actor was also in Gun Gale Online. He also has that look about him like he needs a kind woman to melt his frosty heart. And I really can’t say no to that.
3. Just a plate of lobster
At some point in my life I must have said, “I love this lobster so much, I wish I could marry it.” Because there is no other explanation for this.
Food Fantasy is a game whose siren song may have reached you via social media ads. You play a chef in a fantasy world where Fallen Angels roam the land. To combat this threat, Top Men created a method to extract sentient fighting spirits from food. You establish bonds with these Food Souls — literal humanized sandwiches, brownies, and variants on rice dishes — to save the world.
One of the first characters you meet is Boston Lobster, who is not introduced as being particularly awesome. From the get-go, you’re looking at either a villain or an antihero with a redemption arc.
He’s also, let’s not mince words, a white-haired bishonen with that whole open-shirt emo thing going. The fact that he is the magically extracted spiritual essence of a steamed lobster isn’t even a turnoff at this point. If anything, it’s kind of a bonus.
4. A legendary Japanese ruler’s sword
At this point, Touken Ranbu is one of the most famous “What if inanimate objects were hot” franchises out there. It’s got a game, multiple anime series, stage plays popular enough to be planning revivals, and live-action films. It’s also the reason katanas have a fangirl following, apparently.
In the game, you play as a sage wandering Japan and bringing legendary historical swords to life. Of course, they all look like hot guys — because seriously, if I were in charge of making people versions of swords and stuff, I would err on the side of hotness.
For the record, I know nothing about swords, Japanese or otherwise. I looked up some information on the actual sword Ookurikara, which was apparently smithed in 1350 C.E. and may or may not have actually been given to legendary daimyō and tactician Date Masamune some two hundred years later. I can’t really follow the history of this whole mess, but if human-form Ookurikara wanted to tell me about it, I’d probably at least pretend to listen.
5. The USS Hornet
Thanks to Chinese developers wanting a piece of what Japan created, you now have double the chances to fall in love with a literal boat.
The creators of Touken Ranbu optimized their mobile game spread with Kantai Collection, the first mobile game to ask, “What if boats were cute girls?” Then along came Shanghai Manjuu and Xiamen Yongshi’s Azur Lane, asking the question, “What if boats were cute girls and the gacha rates didn’t suck?”
Hornet is a plucky, decidedly not-sulky twintail who just wants to impress you and not be outdone by her older sisters. She’s also a Yorktown-class aircraft carrier and, like the other boat girls in both Azur Lane and KanColle, you can marry her if she likes you enough. Yes! At last, one of these fool games lets me make good on my weird crush. I may not be able to show my true devotion to Ozymandias or a plate of brownies, but the boat-girl people know what I need.
New gacha games are coming out almost too quickly to track. What’s my next crush going to be? A race horse?… Wait, they’ve done that one. A zoo animal? No, they’ve done those, too. At this point, I don’t think anything could surprise me.