After spending well over 400 hours playing each of the four routes (plus DLC) of a Fire Emblem game with a marriage mechanic in it, it was inevitable I’d make this list.
As a player whose primary interest in video games is in virtual romance, Fire Emblem: Three Houses made me happy. But it also makes everyone happy with its thoroughly engrossing story, satisfying RPG mechanics, and a relationship system that does not needlessly force in children units which make no sense narratively.
So it is probably already abundantly clear that I have spent my fair share of time throughout Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ war shipping the units — and most of this is down to the thoroughly entertaining support chains that had me frequently tossing around who to match up with whom. Time well spent, if I do say so myself. (I see no problem here – Ed.)
This list is completely my own opinion — and for that reason, prepare yourself for the majority being romantically compatible pairings over platonic endings. I’m a sucker for romance.
With all that out of the way, I have just one rule worth mentioning before we dive in. We will be sticking to one character mention for all 10 places, as with 35 romanceable options, favouring a certain few individuals can be hard to resist — Dimitri, Marianne, Hilda and Mercedes have so many worthy choices especially. Without further ado, let’s agree to disagree in the comments below or via the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, and enjoy what I consider to be the best ships in Fire Emblem: Three Houses.
F!Byleth x Ignatz
We start off strong with my favourite choice for our female player character — and it is bound to be a hot take for some.
I was besotted with Fire Emblem: Awakening’s Libra, a character who, among other things, is an artist — and my first choice of Ignatz continues this personal preference of mine. While Ignatz’s supports do not show him actively painting and gifting Byleth with a portrait as Libra did for Robin, Ignatz’s supports establish a major theme of Fire Emblem: Three Houses: ambition versus destiny.
For every single character of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, their births set in stone what would be expected of them, and this is no different for the non-Crested Ignatz. After all, his father placed him in the academy to become a Knight, despite his skillset not being at all right for the role.
His ambition lies in his hobby of painting, which we see the significance of during his supports. While he is determined to keep his painting as a hobby and continue on as a Knight, Byleth’s exhibition of the painting he gifts her before their S-rank support makes Ignatz’s father take notice of his talent. It ultimately opens his eyes to his son’s worthiness as a painter, and he believes Ignatz should work towards becoming a painter after all.
Witnessing this conclusion in the S-rank support felt so gratifying and feel-good, and it was followed up by the cutest confession from all the male characters — even beating the cinnamon roll that is Ashe, hands down.
Additionally, his fixation on the Goddess, and an early scene at the Goddess Tower scene (where he thinks the Goddess has gotten closer to him as you pray together) is great foreshadowing for when you marry him. Or should I say if you do.
Overall, Ignatz is adorable. His bashful and shy verbal trip-ups and kind-natured personality are the basis of his character. He has a surprising amount of patience when it comes to conversing with and understanding others, but all these adorable and positive traits do unfortunately go by the wayside for the majority of players for fairly shallow reasons — at least from casual observation.
When competing with Ashe, I can’t really be surprised. But Ignatz makes me want to fully support him, and see him live the life he should be living to fulfil his artistic passions and improve upon his natural talents. In the end, I just feel guilty taking him away from Raphael’s sister, Maya, who just had to have a life-long crush on him. Am I always doomed to feel bad about this in these games? Urg.
Linhardt x Lysithea
Linhardt and Lysithea’s supports start out with some heaviness to them. Linhardt’s teasing and Lysithea’s resistance to his approaches and questioning on her rather sore topic of her Crests makes the dynamic feel cold and uncaring — at least initially. This support chain seems to be incredibly underrated, which probably is no surprise considering the popularity of both characters when paired with M!Byleth.
For one thing, Linhardt was originally the only appealing queer option for M!Byleth until we thankfully got the beauty that is Yuri as another option, and Lysithea ranks as players’ second favourite female character. But through Linhardt’s own pressing on to improve Lysithea’s deathly situation, we see true growth from his character, who is otherwise always seen as lazy and unmotivated.
By the A-rank support, Linhardt poses a heavy yet interesting proposal to Lysithea to make her realise that she does have choices despite her circumstances. We see this hopefulness fully realised when Lysithea reaches out to five of her 12 possible pairings only — Edelgard, Claude, M!Byleth, Hanneman and Linhardt.
In each one of these, Lysithea leads a healthy and happy life, without having it cut short. What makes Linhardt’s support the very best of these, however, is when we take into consideration two exclusive parts of it. Linhardt’s blatant confession of affection and wanting to be a family with Lysithea is one of the few vocal moments of acknowledging romantic interest within a non S-rank support conversation. And this is the only time for both characters that there is confirmation in their prologues that they do end up starting a family.
The two act as polar opposites to one another on first view — Linhardt is lazy, unmotivated and has no direction in life, while Lysithea is a hard worker and attempts to make the most of what she believes to be a short life.
On the other hand, they both share simple interests, such as having a sweet tooth and fearing the supernatural. Not only do such little details add to the chemistry of the pair, but the massive amount of growth from both characters is some of the best in all the game’s potential pairings: Linhardt ends up having a much-needed reason for his research skills and future endeavours, and their relationship fulfils Lysithea’s lifelong wish to be loved, resulting in a family of her own.
Shamir x Catherine
Ah yes, the most suggestively queer pairing of the bunch. Shamir and Catherine hit two staples I love when it comes to a great Fire Emblem pairing: their relationship has previously been established before we meet them, and they are, once again, an “opposites attract” ship.
Shamir, the silent and lone soldier type who uses long-ranged bow attacks, could not appear any more different to the vocal and battle ready, hot-headed sword-wielding warrior Catherine. Yet they both are just as stubborn as each other during their support chain; it captures how their ideologies greatly differ from one another — so much so that it threatens to tarnish their established relationship.
This support chain poses two issues for its characters to confront. Firstly, Catherine is unable to understand how deeply she cares for Shamir — so much so that she finds it difficult to choose whether she cares more about herself or Shamir. The second is Catherine having to pick between Rhea or Shamir. While she is quick to pick Rhea, the realisation of how different their opinions are opens her eyes up to appreciating Shamir in the here and now. Losing Shamir would be on the same scale as losing Rhea to Catherine.
As they reconcile in their following support conversation, the pair attempt to recover from their fallout and become a picture-perfect example of an old, married couple as they awkwardly try to speak at the same time to makeup quite quickly thereafter.
Their established relationship is often referred to as a “life partner” in the dub, and this is thrown around quite frequently in their supports. What really supports the romantic undertones of their relationship is how explicit it is in the translation of its original Japanese text, with Shamir sounding far more serious about the proposal in the A-support — including a mention of same-sex marriage being commonplace in Dagda.
While this was unfortunately missed out in the official translation — it would officially seal the deal between the pair — the highly suggestive language the two use between themselves and how they speak about one another when on opposing sides points to much deeper feelings between the two.
Overall, their supports cover an intriguing aspect to relationships many would rather turn a blind eye to and completely avoid; ignorance is bliss, especially on the topic of opposing ideals. The themes of the fragility of friendships, and how both have lost past partners, makes their conversations all the more emotionally captivating, deep and memorable.
Felix x Annette
Felix and Annette may be the most consistently adored of Fire Emblem: Three Houses’ pair-ups, and it’s not hard to see why — their support chain is so damn cute. With all the talk about food — Annette is involved, after all — there is definitely enough sweetness in these conversations to give us diabetes. And the best surprise of all is that this involves the title’s tsundere guy. We’re in for a treat.
Right off the bat, Felix willingly approaches Annette after hearing her sing, and clearly catches a glimpse of her dancing to her own tune and choreography. Not only does he go out of his way to converse with someone, which in itself is a rarity for Felix to do throughout the game, but the fact that Annette is the only Blue Lions member who Felix actively seeks for company is saying something.
And we hear you loud and clear, Felix, with all of that aggressively adorable teasing towards Annette, such as not being surprised that she would sing about food, and being unable to forget about walking in on her singing and dancing despite her many attempts at bribery.
At the same time, he voices a surprising amount of care and affection as early as the C-rank support, as he does take care of the greenhouse by watering the plants as Annette leaves, and worries about her falling in the library in their A-rank support.
It also happens to be one of the most blatantly romantic supports of the lot, with Felix continuously looking for her to keep hearing her sing because he keeps hearing her in battle and as he falls asleep. With both of them getting flustered and blushing from the situation in the A-support, it further adds waves to this ship that has officially sailed by this point.
And on a final note, any conversation that has the line of “YOU’RE EVIL, FELIX.” and “And you’re shouting.” as the response will automatically be one of my favourite supports of the game. Hilarious and adorable is the best mixture.
Dimitri x Marianne
This was, once again, a tough decision, but much like Sylvain x Mercedes, and Caspar x Hilda, the primary reason Dimitri and Marianne work so well together is through their genuine understanding of one another.
Marianne has a number of great supports, such as those featuring Ignatz, Ashe and Raphael, but Dimitri’s connection with her is palpable from the get-go. Even if this support tends to be one of the first ones most players experience, their similarities in how they struggle to exist and make their lives worth living immediately connects them more so than most of their other romantic interests.
Dimitri risking his life to save Marianne, and her asking for forgiveness from the Church for endangering Dimitri, has the pair seeing eye-to-eye for their shared perception of the world. But in the B-rank support, we see Marianne call herself unfortunate, while Dimitri sees her as lucky for still being alive.
Dimitri quickly speaks of the central issue being Marianne’s lack of self-care — the fact that she feels guilty for being the only one alive despite her misfortune. This verbal acknowledgement speaks volumes about Marianne’s character, honing in to the very heart of her issue with few words and little effort needed to establish a clear understanding from Dimitri’s point of view.
As if things couldn’t get any better between the pair after Dimitri is pleasantly taken aback by making Marianne smile, their A-rank support after the time skip follows up, sealing the deal of this pairing being a legit, romantic shipping.
Their A-rank support confirms one of my favourite elements of any support conversation — neither Dimitri nor Marianne attempt to encourage change within the other despite how often this is suggested in other support chains. Instead, they implore each other to continue on living in order to avoid upsetting and disappointing one another.
Dimitri’s own character arc is referenced here, as he comments on how he now has the chance to atone for his sins and pay for the lives he has taken. But possibly the best result that comes from this pairing is what it does for Marianne. She finds her reason to live from marrying Dimitri, providing her assistance and words of encouragement and wisdom as his queen.
Her self-respect and confidence is fully realised here, showing she is truly fit to be a leader alongside him. And arguably the very best and most memorable sentence of the entire game is detailed in her journal found after her death; her final words are “I would not trade our time together or the happiness we knew for anything.”
I did not sign up to be in such emotional turmoil, but the payoff was worthwhile.
Bernadetta x Yuri
Another case of opposites attract; another reason to love the shipping of the sweet and shy Bernie with the cool and confident Yuri.
The learning of their relationship during their support chain was one of the most exciting to see develop, as the “old friend” Bernadetta often mentions during other supports is finally revealed in their C-rank support. Her outwardly complimenting her old friend’s appearance as “gorgeous” is the cherry on top as she becomes flustered and embarrassed once Yuri admits it was him.
By their B-rank support we get some good old Bernie action we’ve come to expect from her in the majority of her supports. She attempts to avoid all contact with Yuri because of her father’s mishandling of him in the past, leaving him to die without explanation.
The attention to detail is well implemented here, as we see Bernadetta attempt to run from away from Yuri; she’s immediately body blocked by him, being a humorous nod to his speed stat being higher than hers. The reveal during their A-rank support that Yuri was employed to assassinate Bernadetta explains why Bernadetta’s father kicked him to the curb — it’s a great development and a dramatic moment in their relationship. Alongside this is a teasing line that is cut short by Yuri, which suggests Yuri was not only her first friend and the first person to care about her, but potentially also her first romantic interest too.
The rekindling of a bond once broken is an entertaining plotline to see develop through support chains, from enemies turned friends who are reunited and finally married. Their epilogue retains the unique charm of Bernadetta by having her hold Yuri in a hug, supposedly until he proposed to her from the description of it. She even learns to become a better ruler by his influence after tying the knot. It’s a perfect support, and a happy ending for the both of them.
Caspar x Hilda
First things first with this pick: it was a hard one to settle on. The banter and genuine connection between Hilda and Claude is a tough one to put in second place as my preference for Hilda’s best pairing — and Caspar being paired with Petra is the only one that blatantly suggests that the two spend the rest of their lives together without Caspar upping and leaving for whatever conquest he has in his sights. So what edged me into picking Caspar x Hilda? The complementary colour palette, of course. I mean, at least mostly.
Not only are their pink and blue designs appropriate for their match-up — and extremely suggestive of a potential match-up when you first come across them — Hilda being attracted to a manly man feels extremely fitting and expected of her. My third favourite for her pairing happens to be Balthus for the same reason, but the knowledge that Hilda’s brother, Holst, is so close to Balthus makes this pairing not the most enticing — and if you think that’s harsh, do not get me started on Lucina x Robin. But maybe another day.
Back to the topic at hand: Hilda and Caspar’s bonding can be summed up as surprisingly wholesome and extremely encouraging. Hilda is smitten with Caspar’s ability to do things his own way and without following the rules; this often leads him into fights, but it also has a shockingly positive influence on Hilda.
And unlike how Hilda is often sarcastic and teasing with mostly every single one of her other supports, she is much more outwardly sweet and patient when it comes to Caspar. This is especially the case when we consider Caspar’s denseness when it comes to Hilda’s flirting in their A-rank support; blatant compliments that make even Hilda blush without Caspar realising makes for a hilarious look into their refreshing relationship dynamic.
He takes notice of when Hilda flirts with someone else, but is oblivious when it is towards him. This is especially the case with her final line of the support chain that invites him to her room to aid her in “carrying luggage”. Sure.
For all the teasing and complimenting, Caspar and Hilda together sum up an element only a handful of pairings in Fire Emblem: Three Houses can boast: when both individuals do not change the other, and instead love them for who they already are. That, truly, is the best way for a romantic relationship to unfold!
Mercedes x Sylvain
Sylvain takes the crown for the character I was not expecting to be as great as he ended up being. His depth is best explored in a handful of his supports, such as when with Dedue and Ingrid — but it’s best seen in his relationship with Mercedes, who manages to really delve into the deepest chambers of his heart. The importance of a pairing truly understanding one another is beautifully captured between these two; in this instance, it is no surprise this pairing is almost as popular as Dimitri x Marianne.
There’s something so very wholesome and sweet about the match-up with this pair specifically, however, and this is mostly due to how unexpectedly compatible they are together. Despite Sylvain’s womanising ways, the real reason he puts up such a front is best explored in his support chain with Mercedes, whose sweet and kind personality is the antithesis of facade he puts up to everyone else.
On the surface, the pair appears incompatible, but Mercedes’ careful consideration, quietly encouraging approach and their similar traumas emotionally relieves Sylvain — and this feeling is exclusively seen between just the two of them in their supports. It heightens how special and pure this single connection is between the two.
There’s a lot to love about their support, starting with how simple yet effective their excuse of meeting happens to be. Sylvain’s eyes are quick to be drawn to any attractive woman, and while he blatantly mentions Mercedes’ beauty, he is quick to establish a pure want and interest in getting closer to her by learning more about her interests and background.
It’s an endearingly genuine and sweet approach, as Sylvain comes away having learned of her frequently praying at the Academy as a pastime, and how her origins brought her to the Academy, which can be correlated with his own upbringing.
Their B-rank support shows Sylvain actively searching for Mercedes as he attends the church. At this point, Mercedes fears she has bored Sylvain with their past conversations, and Sylvain thinks he has upset her by bringing up sad memories. But their assumptions could not be any more wrong.
Then we get into all the good stuff — the emotional baggage is about to drop. Sylvain has assumed that others are only willing to go out of their way to get to know him because he has a Crest and is part of a noble family. Because Sylvain was the son born with a Crest, his older brother, Milkan, has grown up envious of him and goes as far as to repeatedly attempt to murder him due to his inferiority.
Not only does Sylvain resent how he was unwillingly born into this situation and has to suffer such a torn relationship with his sibling as a result, but he also regards any woman who shows an interest in him as having malicious intent: he assumes they merely wanting to have a child with him for the sake of obtaining nobility.
Mercedes happily lends an ear and encouragingly supports him after these revelations. And Sylvain wearing his heart on his sleeve for once, expressing emotion at her approach, is an especially touching moment for his character.
Sylvain’s character provides one of the best explorations of Crests in Fire Emblem: Three Houses — and as a result he’s one of the most well-explored characters in general.
Meanwhile, Mercedes is one of the most supportive and helpful within this relationship compared to her others — especially with her lines of “you actually look more handsome to me with honesty on your face” and “don’t be ashamed of crying. I’m here to protect you. Will you protect me in return?”
Absolutely beautiful dialogue lines, and a solid support chain to boot. What more could we ask for?
Dedue x Flayn
What do we get when we put the giant softie with the adorably tiny, fish-loving entity known as Flayn? A support chain consisting of learning to cook, and the cutest support of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, that’s what.
Dedue with Flayn tickles my fancy for their size difference together (think Overwatch’s OTP with Reinhardt and Ana), but also for how surprisingly compatible they are.
Flayn is the cinnamon roll of Fire Emblem: Three Houses, while Dedue is the quiet giant with a heart of gold. Possibly the best part of their relationship is in their A-rank support, when Dedue allows Flayn to pick a nickname for him.
The countless options results in a very prominent blush crossing Dedue’s features, and the continuing story hints at how significant cooking continues to be even in their married life.
Despite being proposed to while Flayn still had plenty of work to do, she worked hard alongside the guidance of Dedue to achieve the potential she always had in her. Dedue’s encouragement and drive to see Flayn succeed in her culinary endeavours results in a hidden talent for cooking to blossom through their efforts, and she becomes a renowned chef.
The premise is possibly the simplest and least grand of my choices, yet touches upon an important aspect of Dedue’s character concerning cooking — it retains memories of his family and honours them with every dish. It is a heartful, sweet and endearing time with two of the game’s best and most underrated characters.
M!Byleth x Petra
Closing off this list, and it simply has to end on my favourite pick for M!Byleth. And it seems I’m in an agreement with Conor for best girl.
I won’t need to repeat what has already been said about Petra, but to quickly paraphrase, she is a humble, hard-working and skilful warrior. From the outset, she appears as an outsider due to the slight language barrier — and having her by Byleth’s side feels fitting for a character just as new to its world and understandings as she is.
What I find most captivating about Petra’s relationship with M!Byleth is the early indications of potential interest that feel almost amiss with the majority of its other characters. This is never hinted at in early support conversations, but the clear blushing on Petra’s face when Byleth enquires about her back tattoos in the C-rank support seems like solid evidence of a suggestive spark between the pair.
Other interesting aspects exclusive to the pairing to take note of is how their marriage CG is the only one to feature M!Byleth’s face — and she reacts favourably no matter what you choose during their Goddess Tower scene.
Concerning their S-rank support, it is easily one of the most memorable, if not the best of the lot. The romance level is off the charts with this one. If Petra was one of my otome dates, then he would be making my favourite lists in no time if he were to recite what Petra comes out with during her confession.
The cherry on top of such a delightful and sweet confession is knowing how much time Petra spent teaching herself how to phrase it as well as she does. Her improvement of her English for this moment, and the confirmation that the pair help to improve each other’s native languages in their epilogue, only adds to the wholesomeness of their relationship and future together.
So, that’s it. What pairings are your favourites? Why not pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page and tell us all about ’em? Hit up the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right and get sharing those ships!
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