One thing nobody talks about with Horizon: Zero Dawn is that Aloy only has two people she either shows interest in or flirts back with in the entire game, along with one maybe.
One of them is Varl, a black Nora hunter from her own homeland who is roughly Aloy’s age (if a bit older), someone who Nora could see as an exemplar of her own culture (to the extent that Aloy is allowed to participate in Nora culture at all), albeit she’s discomfited with his superstition and limited worldview. She still evinces interest in him, and mentions at Rost’s grave that he “left an impression.” Unashamed appreciation, for a black man, from our white female protagonist.
The other one? Petra, a massive slab of a white woman who is much older than Aloy (albeit we’re not told how much older), and whom flirts outrageously with Aloy. She’s quite butch; if born in modern times, one feels like Petra would be found in a garage working on an outsized motorcycle. Aloy is obviously at least a little interested even in their first conversation (making flirty remarks back), but the real kicker comes at the end. Before the final battle, Petra, if her sidequest is done, is present; her and Aloy talk one last time. Petra flirts, Aloy flirts back, and Petra offers her to come back to Free Heap.
Aloy’s response is stuttering, because Aloy cannot be tied to one place, has so much left to do and world to roam, but she’s awkward trying to explain this; Aloy, the girl who has THREE DIFFERENT WAYS to tell Avad, the Sun King of Meridian, to go fuck himself when he evinces improper interest in her. STUTTERING when trying to turn down Petra’s open offer. Petra accepts it with grace, and says she always had a weakness for free-spirited types.
So what we are left with is this: despite the fandom’s fascination with Nil (who is, admittedly, the handsomest man in all of Horizon Zero Dawn), whom Aloy evinces nothing but confusion and disgust and some pity towards, and Avad, whom Aloy openly turns down at one point, the two main love interests that the game itself presents… are Varl and Petra. A black man and a butch woman. That’s kind of a big deal? They get little respect from most of the fandom because, well, black dude and butch lesbian, but that’s who the game itself presents as people Aloy is attracted to.
Moreover, the one “maybe” is Vanasha, who flirts with Aloy, but also flirts with Uthid and literally everyone else she talks to for more than a minute- the woman’s a spy and a rogue, it’s how she operates- but who has a more open and honest moment right towards the end, where her and Aloy meet before the final battle and Aloy says something that could be considered quite flirty. Vanasha herself runs with it like a football on fire, of course, because that’s who she is, so it’s an open question whether Aloy intended it flirty, or if the line reads as flirty because, well, Vanasha. Vanasha gets some love from the fandom because, well, fuck, have you seen her goddamn abs?
So if Vanasha’s included, then Aloy’s possible love interests are… a black man, a butch lesbian, and a black bisexual woman.
One honorable mention. Notably, Aloy is very friendly with Erend and obviously trusts him more than most of her compatriots- when talking with Erend before the final battle, Aloy makes the situation clear to him and his Vanguardsmen without any of the hiding or talking-around she does with other companions (Varl included, but not Petra, since she’s working around Varl’s Noran fanaticism and mysticism); she thinks of Erend when he’s not directly involved in her quest a few times, albeit usually in a fondly-exasperated way; and she’s reassuring of Erend when he mocks himself at the end of the Dervahl/Saving Meridian questline.
His Vanguard, notably, seems to ship it, albeit Erend himself is nothing but respectful to Aloy after their first meeting (during which he spends some time trying to be cool and flirting, badly, with her; he’s being disrespectful and a bit facetious). He takes the advice to “grow up quick” quite seriously. Erend I can see as a possible “love interest” figure, which is interesting given how much older than Aloy he is and that he’s a portly, not traditionally handsome figure, meaning even if he’s added- putting a white guy in the mix- his dorkiness and rather endearing humbleness mean he’s still not a “standard” romantic option. “Fat sweet guy” is not usually there, except in movies trying to make a point.
Still, I interpret Erend as the brother Aloy never had; there’s some sexual tension there, but it’s all on Erend’s end, and I think by game’s end he’s grown out of it. Notably, it’s his Vanguard who hassle him about it, not Erend himself.
And I just think it’s incredible that these are the choices they made. Incredible… and uplifting. This is the freedom I like to see.