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All the characters you can romance in the Mass Effect trilogy

mass effect romance - thane
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The Mass Effect romance options are an integral part of relationships with your crew in all three games. While you can just choose to be friends with everyone, taking some relationships to the next level unlocks new scenes with your chosen partner and reveals more about them. Then, of course, there's a steamy scene or two. 

Romance choices carry over to later games in a way, though you’re never locked to the person you started romancing in the original Mass Effect. Some options let you develop several relationships at once with no consequences to your primary romance, and others depend on your Shepard's gender. One route (there are spoilers ahead and throughout, by the way) ends with your brain exploding during sex, and not in a good way. 

This Mass Effect romance guide outlines every available special someone across the trilogy and what you need to do and not do to ensure your relationships flourish. The following is based on the existing versions of the original trilogy, but I'll update it if there any changes that arise in the upcoming Legendary Edition. So if your Shepard is single and ready to mingle, here's who they can get to know better in each game in the Mass Effect trilogy.

Mass Effect

Shepherd and Liara kiss

(Image credit: EA)

The first Mass Effect is the simplest of the trilogy in terms of romance, with just two choices each for male Shepard and female Shepard. There’s also a 'consort' route that doesn’t affect the main romance and doesn’t earn the Paramour achievement. Best practice is to build relationships by talking with the object of your Shepard's desire after every mission and giving Paragon-aligned answers. Renegade responses won’t help a relationship and can sometimes lock you out of pursuing it further. 

Each character will also have several key moments where you need to choose them over another. Some of these are life-and-death decisions, so think carefully about who you want on your crew.

Mass Effect Ashley romance

Shepard: Male

  • Comfort Ashley after the Prothean Beacon incident.
  • Speak to Ashley after the Noveria, Therum, or Feros missions to take the relationship further.
  • Tell Ashley you have only a professional interest in Liara once she joins the crew and you’ve spoken with her at least once.
  • If that’s a lie and you’ve been flirting with Liara, too, you’ll then be confronted by them both and forced to choose with whom you want to form a relationship. This locks the other romance route.
  • During the Virmire mission, you must choose to save Ashley or Kaidan. The person you don’t save dies, which, naturally, ends your relationship with them.
  • After the Virmire mission, assuming you saved your love interest, choose Paragon options during the conversation.
  • Before the final mission, Ashley visits Shepard’s quarters, but you’re free to choose here. Paragon decisions unlock a special scene. Renegade choices make her leave, but your romance is still considered permanent enough to carry to Mass Effect 2.

Mass Effect Kaidan romance

Shepard: Female

  • Comfort Kaidan after the Prothean Beacon incident.
  • Speak to Kaidan after the Noveria, Therum, or Feros missions to take the relationship further.
  • Tell Kaidan you have only a professional interest in Liara once she joins the crew and you’ve spoken with her at least once.
  • If that’s a lie and you’ve been flirting with Liara, too, you’ll then be confronted by them both and forced to choose with whom you want to form a relationship. This locks the other romance route.
  • During the Virmire mission, you must choose to save either Kaidan. The person you don’t save dies, which ends your relationship with them (obviously).
  • After the Virmire mission, assuming you saved your love interest, choose Paragon options during the conversation.
  • Before the final mission, Kaidan will visit Shepard’s quarters, but you’re free to choose here. Paragon decisions unlock a special scene. Renegade choices cause them to leave, but your romance is still considered permanent enough to carry to Mass Effect 2.

Mass Effect Liara romance

Shepard: Either

  • Speak to Liara after she first joins the Normandy, then tell Ashley or Kaidan you’re interested in her.
  • If you’ve already started a relationship with Ashley or Kaidan, tell them and Liara during the confrontation that you’re interested in Liara.
  • After Virmire, speak with Liara and choose Paragon choices.
  • Choose Paragon or Renegade choices when Liara visits Shepard’s room before the final mission.

Mass Effect Sha’ira romance

Shepard: Both

  • Find and speak with Sha’ira on the Citadel and follow the quest line to clear her name with Xeltan.
  • Express dissatisfaction with the affirmation she offers, and you’ll unlock a romance scene instead.

Mass Effect 2

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Mass Effect romances carry to Mass Effect 2, in a sense. Shepard will have a picture of their former love interest on their desk in ME 2, though the crew change means none of the surviving love interests remain a part of Shepard’s life. Mass Effect: Legendary Edition includes the Lair of the Shadow Broker DLC, however, which brings Liara back.

Mass Effect 2 romance revolves around maintaining good relationships with your intended partner and completing their loyalty missions. Loyalty missions earn new powers for that squad member, but completing them is vital for continuing their romance and ensuring they survive the game's ending. 

Each romance character has a 'lock-in' point later in the game. This is where they’ll bring up their relationship with Shepard, and responding with positive interest locks Shepard in that romance route. The original ME 2 lets you continue romancing other characters, though it requires you reverse the original lock-in. That seals the first character off for romance as a result.

Mass Effect 2 Garrus romance

Shepard: Female

  • Focus on positive dialogue choices to earn his trust
  • Your choice doesn’t matter during his loyalty mission, but it’s a good chance to earn Paragon or Renegade percentage points

Mass Effect 2 Jacob romance

Shepard: Female

  • Chat as often as possible, and suggest the idea of a relationship when prompted.

Mass Effect 2 Thane romance

Shepard: Female

  • Speak with Thane in the Life Support room at every chance.
  • Tell him to be alive with you when he visits Shepard’s quarters at night.

Mass Effect 2 Jack romance

Shepard: Male

  • Loyalty mission choices have no bearing on Jack’s romance.
  • Avoid early romantic offer: It bars Jack from being romanceable.

Mass Effect 2 Miranda romance

Shepard: Male

  • Flirt often, as she’s interested in Shepard from the start.
  • If you want her to live on in Mass Effect 3, complete her loyalty mission even if you aren’t romantically interested.

(Image credit: BioWare)

Mass Effect 2 Tali romance

Shepard: Male

  • Express interest in her when prompted.
  • Do not show evidence of her father’s experiments during her loyalty mission.

Mass Effect 2 Kelly romance

Shepard: Either

  • Romancing Kelly Chambers doesn't affect any other relationships.
  • Invite her for a meal when the option presents itself.
  • During the Suicide Mission, pass through the Omega 4 Relay immediately to save Kelly.

Mass Effect 2 Samara romance

Shepard: Either

  • Romancing Samara doesn't affect any other relationships.
  • Can’t pursue final scene if Renegade percentage is too high.
  • Must side with Samara during her loyalty mission (Morinth is killed).
  • Final scene is not romantic, but is necessary for developing Samara’s relationship in Mass Effect 3.

Mass Effect 2 Morinth romance

Shepard: Either

  • Romancing Morinth doesn't affect any other relationships.
  • Must side with Morinth during Samara’s loyalty mission (Samara is killed).
  • Can initiate sex after the final mission, but Shepard dies in the process.

Mass Effect 2 Liara romance

Shepard: Either

  • Must have romanced during original Mass Effect.
  • Must choose to remain friends or re-commit to each other.
  • Can still romance other characters before and after Liara.

Mass Effect 2 confrontations

Mass Effect 2 includes confrontations with romantic interests, Jack and Miranda, and then Tali and Legion. Siding with one party bars the other from being romanceable (except Legion, who isn’t anyway) and makes the other party disloyal. Using Charm or Intimidate options can salvage both relationships, though.

Jack and Miranda

  • Charm requires 80% Paragon/40% Renegade.
  • Renegade requires 80% Renegade/40% Paragon.
  • No chance to salvage romance if you side with one or the other.

Tali and Legion

  • Charm requires 80% Paragon/40% Renegade.
  • Renegade requires 80% Renegade/40% Paragon.
  • If your Renegade is high enough, you can side with Tali, then speak with Legion afterward and say you lied. Legion becomes loyal again.

Mass Effect 3

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Mass Effect 3's romance system is a continuation of 2, but without loyalty missions or strict restrictions on whom you can romance until the lock-in point. Until then you can pursue multiple relationships. However, responding positively to a crewmate during their lock-in scene will alter dialogue with other crewmates so you can’t pursue a relationship with them. Non crew-mates can still be romanced, however.

Mass Effect 3 Thane romance

Shepard: Female

  • Only if you committed to Thane during Mass Effect 2.
  • Can still pursue another romance for story reasons afterwards if you break up with him at the hospital.

Mass Effect 3 Miranda romance

Shepard: Male

  • Lock-in point: After warning her of the dangers that lie ahead, she invites you to the Citadel. Comfort her.

Mass Effect 3 Ashley romance

  • Shepard: Male
  • Only possible if you saved Ashley on Virmire.
  • Choose positive, honest responses, and invite her onboard the Normandy.
  • Lock-in point: During the Apollo’s Cafe conversation on the Citadel.

Mass Effect 3 Steve romance

Shepard: Male

  • Lock-in point: After encouraging Steve to take time off, comfort him twice when he’s mourning his husband. Dance with Steve at Purgatory and kiss him.

Mass Effect 3 Jack romance

Shepard: Male

  • Only if you committed to Jack during Mass Effect 2.
  • Lock-in point: Meet with Jack in Purgatory after the Grissom Academy and Citadel II missions.

Mass Effect 3 Tali romance

Shepard: Male

  • Only if you committed to Tali during Mass Effect 2.
  • Call her to your room before the Priority: Rannoch mission, or the romance option will be barred for the rest of the game.

Mass Effect 3 Samantha romance

Shepard: Female

  • Join her when she uses your shower.

Mass Effect 3 Garrus romance

Shepard: Female

  • Only if you committed to Garrus during Mass Effect 2.
  • Reaffirm your relationship once Garrus re-boards the Normandy, then confess your love during the Presidium date.

Mass Effect 3 Kaidan romance

Shepard: Either

  • Only if you saved him on Virmire.
  • As FemShep, be honest in the hospital scene.
  • As FemShep, invite him aboard the Normandy, then confess your love.
  • Either Shepard can start a new relationship with Kaidan by visiting him in the hospital with a bottle of whiskey from the Sirta Supplies store, then responding positively during the Apollo’s Cafe scene.

mass effect romance - liara

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Mass Effect 3 Liara romance

Shepard: Either

  • Tell Liara you’re willing to break off another relationship, if you started one in ME 2.
  • After Priority: The Citadel II, Liara proposes a meeting in Meridian Place Market, where you can end the relationship or cement it.

Mass Effect 3 Kelly romance

Shepard: Either 

  • You must have started a relationship in ME 2.
  • Complete Priority: The Citadel II and related missions, then speak with Kelly. She asks you to confirm your feelings for her. If you want to pursue another relationship as well, commit to Kelly first to make that possible.

Mass Effect 3 Diana romance

Shepard: Either 

  • Does not unlock the Paramour achievement.
  • Don’t cut Diana’s second interview short
  • Pursue the relationship following Diana’s flirting. This is only possible if you haven’t locked in another relationship yet.

Mass Effect 3 Samara romance

Shepard: Either

  • Only if you pursued Samara’s romance in ME 2.
  • Must prevent Samara from committing suicide on Lesuss.
  • Affirm your feelings when Samara is in Shepard’s quarters.

Mass Effect 3 Javik romance

Shepard: Female

  • No choices made during the Citadel party matter
  • Shepard wakes up next to Javik, and that’s it–no reference is made to it again

Mass Effect 3 James romance

Shepard: Female

  • No choices matter during many possible interactions between Shepard and James
  • As with Javik, Shepard and James can have a one-night stand during the party