Queer video games have seen a substantial rise throughout the years, highlighting the riveting and immersive storylines of LGBT+ characters.
Though queer identities were often times hidden from the main game play, there has been a noticeable willingness to engage with these storylines in recent releases. From indie to mainstream developers, there are a host of video games for LGBT+ gamers to enjoy.
With the LGBT Gaming Archive and several exhibitions on queer gaming culture, the vibrant rise of queer characters in video games has been well documented.
Here are some of the most iconic queer-themed video games and characters:
The Legend of GayBlade
The Legend of GayBlade is believed to be the first commercially sold LGBT+ video game. This historic game has recently resurfaced and can be found on the Internet Archive.
Occasionally referred to as Dungeons and Drag Queens, players must rescue Empress Nelda and return her to Castle GayKeep by exploring a deep dungeon filled with homophobic enemies. Game creator Ryan Best described it as, “This game gives lesbians and gays—and straight people—a chance to strike back at homophobia from behind our computer screen.”
Developed by Llaura Ash McGee, alongside Dublin-based independent studio Dreamfeel, this breathtaking interactive novel was definitely a stand out queer video game from 2020. If Found compares the tale of a trans woman navigating life in 1990’s Ireland against a surreal sci-fi backdrop.
Speaking to Dublin InQuirer, McGee shared, “I think Kasio is the first of a generation that can start speaking up and can start writing a history that’s not just a self-destruction and it isn’t just a self-erasure.”
Tell Me Why
The most highly anticipated one on this list of queer video games Tell Me Why blazed across headlines with the first trans character in a leading role. Though Tyler Ronan’s identity does not heavily influence the main narrative, it still remains at the forefront in this story exploring history and hidden truths.
Director of transgender media and representation at media monitoring organisation Glaad and consultant on the game Nick Adams said,”The good thing about the game, I think, is that it strikes a nice balance of not shying away from the fact that Tyler is trans and showing the way in which it affects him, and mostly that relates to how other people react to him.”
The Last of Us Part I & II
After a huge successful first game, The Last of Us returned with an absolute knock out of a sequel, both devastating and gripping. Although the first iteration did not confirm Ellie as a lesbian character, rather leaving it up to players, the second came back with a massive groundbreaking LGBT+ cast.
In The Last Of Us Part II, the main character Ellie is a lesbian and two of the biggest supporting characters are queer: Dina, a bisexual woman, and Lev, a trans teenage boy. Author of The Queer Games Avant-Garde Bo Ruberg said, “LGBTQ players are feeling excited and empowered by the presence of these characters in such a prominent game.”
Throughout this franchises history, it has seen the inclusion of numerous LGBT+ characters, with many of them identifying as bisexual. One popular character among gamers includes the Iron Bull, a pansexual one-eyed Qunari mercenary.
In the same game as the Iron Bull, Cremisius “Krem” Aclassi made his introduction as the first trans male character to appear in any video game, according to LGBTQ Game Archive. His storyline gripped fans as he had to hide his identity for years in the military before coming out in a firmly unapologetic narrative arc.
Life is Strange
In this canonically queer game, a high school senior learns she has the power to rewind time when she saves her childhood friend, Chloe Price, from being killed. Throughout the game, protagonist Chloe will admit she has romantic feelings for Rachel. The game also includes a bisexual character of colour.
With a colourful art style and intriguing premise, this is a wonderful story to follow.
Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead
Throughout this series, there are many established LGBT+ characters including Violet and Zachary. Violet has both previous and current same-sex love interests throughout the game while Zach is the boyfriend of Jonas.
For any fans of the T.V show or comics, this is a great expansion on the Walking Dead world, bringing new characters and some ghoulish zombies to the franchise.
A Dad Dating Simulator/Dream Daddy
This is the only queer video game out there which explicitly deals with the experiences of GBT+ men. It gently and earnestly explores queer identity, fatherhood, and love of all kinds between men. Dating as a father and being a good father is the focus so prepare for all the feels.
Plus with an absolutely adorable art style and a wide range of customisable options, this queer video game is a must.
Mass Effect Series
Over the span of the Mass Effect series, it has become one of the most interesting queer video games out there. Though LGBT+ storylines are not at the forefront, it’s inclusion of same-sex relationships continues to be ahead of it’s time.
In 2012, Max Effect 3 allowed the protagonist to choose a same-sex relationship with the existing character Kaidan Alenko. Then the games went on to include the formidable doctor, Asari, a monogender-pansexual species. The Mass Effect series includes so many LGBT+ friendly characters including T’Soni’s love interest, Commander Shepard, who presents as gender fluid.
While not an overtly queer video game, Overwatch is beloved by many LGBT+ gamers and a few characters have come to reflect that audience. One of the most recognisable characters Lena Tracer Oxton was revealed to have a girlfriend, Emily, back at home in a comic series.
In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, the Blizzard team said, “From the beginning, we’ve wanted the universe of Overwatch to feel welcoming and inclusive, and to reflect the diversity of our players around the world.”
Grand Theft Auto
LGBT+ characters have featured throughout the Grand Theft Auto series. One of the most prominent is Anthony ‘Gay Tony’ Prince, a fabulous nightclub owner from Liberty City metropolis. Bearing similarities to real life club owners from Miami, New York and Toronto, Prince eventually starred in his own downloadable game, The Ballad of Gay Tony.
Kitty Powers’ Matchmaker
The absolutely supercharged and colorful video game provides players the opportunity to run a match making agency with the help of drag icon Kitty Powers. Breaking the fourth wall, this queen is both an ingame character as well as an onstage performer.
Powers told the Guardian, “I challenged myself to create a game about making people happy. I want people to be able to choose whatever they want to be: an avatar that is like themselves, or something fantastical … like Kitty Powers! My approach was not to make a queer game, but to make a game for everyone that had queer people in it. It’s important to see all humans as equal.”
The ultimate fantastical escapism game provides players with the opportunity to live out their queer life any way they want, from rainbow flags to creating their own nightclub or just a bit of knitting. The Sims has definitely grown since its inception to include both same-sex relations and LGBT+ themes.
Happy Pride! ?️?
— Mav&Clide (@hi_its__nobody) June 17, 2020
❤️????? These are my cute sims for the #sasiPRIDEparade!!! i imagine they are picnicking near the parade just watching it go by while they eat and love each other. #SimsPride2020 #showusyoursims ?️? pic.twitter.com/5xc8KsCoAW
— plummy (@plumaloo) June 28, 2020
In 2020, simmers from all over the world took part in a unique Pride celebration for the first ever Sims Virtual Pride Parade. Players submitted LGBT+ themes looks through the in-game Gallery and social media using the hashtag #SimsPride2020 between June 15 and June 29.
Guilty Gear Series
As highlighted on the LGBTQ Video Game Archive, there are two prominent queer characters in this series. In X, Venom is claimed to be “openly gay,” largely because of his love for Zato. However, there has been much debate over this, so it seems this character’s sexuality has been left to speculation.
There is also the character Bridget, a boy raised as a girl. It is unclear how he identifies, however he does react negatively when people assumes he’s a girl.
In one side quest of the game, the player will be recruited by farmer Giles to find a wife for his son. However, Rupert comes out as gay, which leads the player to helping the father and son reconnect over this reveal.
The artwork in Butterfly Soup is absolutely stunning and down right cute. It is described on the website as “A visual novel about gay Asian girls playing baseball and falling in love.”
The entire game is free to download, however there are options to financially support the artist and get extra sketches in the process. A trigger warning has been included to the game as it involves scenes with abusive language.
© 2020 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
GCN has been a vital, free-of-charge information service for Ireland’s LGBTQ+ community since 1988.
During this global COVID pandemic, we like many other organisations have been impacted greatly in the way we can do business and produce. This means a temporary pause to our print publication and live events and so now more than ever we need your help to continue providing this community resource digitally.
GCN is a registered charity with a not-for-profit business model and we need your support. If you value having an independent LGBTQ+ media in Ireland, you can help from as little as €1.99 per month. Support Ireland’s free, independent LGBTQ+ media.