Recently, Baldur’s Gate 3 has caused some chaos among fans and YouTubers over its display of nudity and a sex scene involving a bear. For years, I have been playing the feminine characters in Mortal Kombat games or Diablo series as they channeled the glam and fun of queerness, which added to the thrill of gameplay. Through this list, I explore the presence of queer narratives in video games and how they have been explored. Youtuber James Somerton also did a fantastic video essay on Video Games and the Choice to be Gay. Somerton looks into almost everything from Nintendo to The Sims to calling out AAA games.
Much like the dominant media, most of the times, queer representation simply means content featuring more cis gay men. Other times, gamers have also noticed that forceful representation can very well intentionally or unintentionally lead to bisexual erasure when a bi or pan character’s emphasized romance is only with another person of the same gender. Lastly, queerbaiting does exist in video games where larger companies have chosen to fill in tokenistic gay characters that do not make an impact. Perhaps the most crucial point that Somerton brings out is that the queer identity is a political one and the gaming industry is a place where it heads into capitalism. That being said, this list largely comes from the games I have played and saw being discussed often on Reddit.
The Last of Us (Series)
There is a phenomenon where video games have been turned into successful TV show adaptations, of which The Last of Us has excelled in every possible aspect. Although The Last of Us Part II ushered in queer characters and narratives as a video game, there was some criticism over its portrayal of a trans character. The Emmy nominated series successfully redeemed the faults in queer narratives in the gameplay through its series adaptation. Moreover, it saw a tender love story come to life in what is widely believed to be one of the year’s best episodes, featuring slutty Daddy Pedro Pascal (who has been very vocal and supportive of his trans sister) and non-binary star Bella Ramsey in the lead.
Supergiant Games’ Hades is roguelike gameplay perfection. We play as Zagreus, the son of Hades in his attempt to escape the underworld. In general, the game has been noted for its delicate portrayal of family dynamics but beyond that, the different romances of Zagreus with other characters (particularly the one with Thanatos) are adorable and fun. A sequel titled Hades II is already coming up. If two queer dudes romancing it out in hell doesn’t sound fun to you, then I don’t really know what will.
Also read: What’s Worth Risking Eternal Damnation for?
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
While The Elder Scrolls series is among the best action role-playing video games, it is more like Game of Thrones meets GTA San Andreas. The fifth entry, set in the fantasy world of Tamriel (full of dragons, giants, vampires, etc.) introduced the option of romancing another character of the same gender and it just blew up. Being one of the games with a large number of types of mods (and also memes), it’s safe to say that it became a very queer game over the course of its release.
League of Legends
Arcane is yet another video game that has been adapted into a television series released on Netflix. Set in Riot Games’ League of Legends Universe (a multiplayer battle online arena), the fantastic story boasts stellar gameplay which found new fans after the critically acclaimed, Emmy winning show was released.
This 2016 simulation role playing game has been cited as one of the greatest video games of all time. It won hearts of fans over its anti-capitalistic nature and the option for same-sex marriage although the lack of racial diversity received a lot of flak.
Mass Effect (Series)
This action-role play series has featured a couple of queer characters and narratives although they have been largely surface level. It was with the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda that it saw diverse queer representation. And when the titular game’s legendary edition got a gay romance mod, it did make a lot of gay-mers happy.
Dream Daddy: A Dating Dad Simulator
I don’t think the game needs an introduction as its name more than covers almost everything it could offer. In this visual novel game, players can choose from seven single fathers to date. The representation of queer characters was particularly met positively, especially receiving praise for not being stereotypical.
Supported by gorgeous and hauntingly beautiful visuals, this platform game where we follow Madeline as she climbs the Celeste Mountain has been universally acclaimed for its portrayal of anxiety and depression. The journey is also of self-exploration and discovery with queer undertones that were appreciated by the friends. The story also features Madeline holding a trans pride flag towards the end of the game and the game has grown a successful speed running community.
The Missing: J. J. Macfield and the Island of Memories
This puzzle video game with horror elements follows J. J. Macfield has he’s searching for her friend and lover Emily. The game was lauded for being highly personal and what some critics noted as being “transgressive” in approaching queer issues.
Dragon Age (Series)
The Dragon Age series is another well known fantasy roleplaying video games series which has over time transformed into a queer affirmative franchise. The gay kiss in Dragon Age: Inquisition is one of the most widely celebrated queer moments in video games. Specifically, the character of Krem was received as a breakthrough representation of affirmative trans representation in video games.
Some more games that include queer narratives are The Witcher (series), Assassin’s Creed (series), Ironheart, Night In The Woods, and Cyberpunk 2077 among others. Tell us about more video games with queer narratives in the comments.