Gaming has evolved to give its users the opportunity to tap into their greatest fantasies. With the video game industry still developing, story lines, characters, and inclusive narratives are also evolving. While the first known LGBTQ game released in 1989 with Caper in the Castro, there hasn’t been much headway gained since. Reportedly, fewer than 10 games a year from 1988 to 2004 featured an LGBTQ character. Typically a gamer is considered to be a straight, white male thus mainstream games are largely written and developed accordingly. Having said that, the recent past has seen a few LGBTQ+ games finding its place in the mainstream market now.
As a society our treatment to the LGBTQ community is changing and so is the gaming community. Initially LGBTQ+ characters played only a minor part in games, if any at all. However, as games are becoming increasingly diverse so are gender norms and sexual identities within them. The community is also a potential for marketing and sales reasons. As such, LGBTQ+ stories and characters are getting meatier roles and leading characters in some games. Hence, we’ve rounded up six of the best LGBTQ+ games out there that you should play:
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The Sims 4 (2014)
The Sims franchise has been around for more than a decade and is considered iconic. Ever since its first release in the 2000s it has given players the option for same-sex relationships. The Sims 4 even makes for queer couples being able to get married, adopt children and start their own families. It was also announced that clothing for the game’s characters would not be limited by their gender. Additionally, players could pick masculine or feminine frames for their sims and even select if they used the toilet standing or sitting. What’s more, gamers also learned that male characters in the game could get pregnant. These ‘progressive’ updates could seem more like cash-milking gimmicks but it’s great that the franchise has always been supportive of LGBTQ representation.
Overwatch (2015 & 2016)
Overwatch is a futuristic team-based shooter game that has grown to become a global phenomenon. Players could choose from more than 30 characters to play. Each of these characters have their own abilities, play styles and a back story. Like many other shooter games, the backstories are developed outside the game – through comics and/or trailer-like videos. In 2017 Overwatch confirmed Tracer – the game’s mascot – to be a lesbian. Later, in 2019, it was revealed that John Francis “Jack” Morrison, a.k.a Soldier 76, was previously in a relationship with a man.
Dragon Age: Inquisition (2014)
Fantasy adventure game Dragon Age: Inquisition is a ‘chosen one’ style game. The protagonist must travel to calm the chaos on the continent of Thedas. In addition you need to close a mysterious rip in the sky that lets demons in. It has an elaborate romance system where players can win over several lovers. Dragon Age: Inquisition won a Special Recognition Award from LGBTQ advocacy group GLAAD for “the many complex and unique LGBT characters prominently integrated throughout the game.” The story includes a transgender character, a romanceable bisexual female, a romanceable pansexual team member, a romanceable gay team member and a romanceable lesbian team member. What’s more, if the character chooses to forego romancing the pansexual or gay characters, they end up dating each other.
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The Last Of Us: Left Behind (2014)
Several genres have now included LGBTQ representation. The Last Of Us is one of the biggest action-adventure survival horror franchises, in a post-apocalyptic world. A masterpiece from Sony, it follows an unlikely duo of a smuggler named Joel and a disease-immune teenage girl named Ellie. In Left Behind, a downloadable content prologue for the game, Ellie’s past is revealed where we discover how she is immune to the disease. She also reveals her sexuality by confessing that while sneaking into an abandoned mall with a friend named Riley, the two share a kiss and grow intimate. The game’s creators announced that Ellie’s sexuality will be explored more in The Last Of Us II. It was also announced that HBO will be producing an adaptation of it where scriptwriter and executive producer Craig Mazin has given his word to maintain the narrative of Ellie’s sexual orientation.
You have my word.
— Craig Mazin (@clmazin) March 5, 2020
Dream Daddy (2017)
Given that there aren’t many quality games in the genre catering to LGBTQ+ players, this text and story-based dating sim is very welcomed. Being that it is developed by popular YouTube channel and gaming company Game Grumps, the overall look, feel and humour is styled accordingly. Players take on the role of a single dad who has just moved to Maple Bay, a seaside town conveniently filled with single, dateable dads. Your goal is to meet and romance the other dads, including the teacher dad, goth dad and even the bad dad. The artwork and dialogues are pretty good and it’s filled with dad puns.
Life Is Strange (2015)
Life Is Strange is an award-winning episodic video game launched in 2015. Players could ‘tune in’ to new chapters every month. The game’s direction changed depending on the player’s in-game decision. Player choices even determined the centrifugal friendship or potential romance of two young women. The game centres around 18-year-old photography student named Max Caulfield. Max discovers that she has the ability to reverse time and needs to use her powers to save her town from an oncoming storm. While Max’s queerness was hinted at in the original game, the 2017 prequel, called Before The Storm, explored her earlier life including her first love – a same-sex relationship. Later Life Is Strange 2 focused on the male protagonists but still gave fans the option for same-sex romance. The makers of the game at DontNod Entertainment have furthered their commitment to LGBTQ+ stories by introducing Tell Me Why – the first major video game with a trans man as the main character.
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Other LGBTQ+ games worth mentioning
This list may miss one or more of some games that you might consider better. We realise that and think that we should say that these LGBTQ+ games that are also worth mentioning:
Mass Effect: Andromeda (2017)
Mass Effect is primarily an open-world exploration and outer-space type game. However, one of the most talked about aspects of the series is the ability to woo and sleep with other characters. In Mass Effect 3 and Andromeda you could even pursue same-sex relationships.
Gone Home (2013)
This is the kind of game that is good for those into mysteries unraveling at your own pace. You play as Katie, a young woman returning to her rural home to find it deserted. On the door is a note that suggests she not investigate further which obviously only makes it more enticing. Along with receiving critical acclaim for its portrayal of LGBTQ issues, Gone Home is often cited as an example of video games being art.
Night In The Woods (2017)
Another mystery game, Night In The Woods follows pansexual college dropout Mae as she moves back to her hometown – Possum Springs. Unexpected changes, a missing childhood friend and more along with the well-developed characters make this game worth the while. Several characters in Night In The Woods are LGBTQ+ including Mae’s friend Gregg and his boyfriend Angus and a trans character Jackie.
Coming Out On Top (2014)
Coming Out On Top is a NSFW dating sim. Fun story-telling, hot graphic content and more took this game from indie circles to finding its way within mainstream titles. It is a text-focused game with visuals in the background and focuses on romance. As a player your character, Mark, is in his last semester of college and goes out on dates and falls in love.