Video games are just one more facet of the entertainment industry where women and queer people have been fighting for representation. In a medium that spent much of its existence obsessed with bulky men and their large weapons, some more recent titles have provided gamers a breath of fresh air with the inclusion of more diverse characters and sexualities. We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite video games where you are free, nay, encouraged to be gay while you play.
The Last of Us Part II
The 2020 sequel to the original post-apocalyptic game sees Ellie’s queerness take a central role in the narrative. This wasn't the first time the series explored Ellie's sexuality, the 2014 DLC (Downloadable Content - A term used to describe add-on content to already launched games) “Left Behind” featured a brief glimpse at Ellie’s life before the original game and the tragic story of her first love, a queer romance with her childhood best friend, Riley.
The Last of Us Part II takes that thread and carries it through to the next chapter of this story. Now, Ellie is the lead and crushing madly on her friend, Dina. Throughout the game, their relationship is explored as a symbol of Ellie’s humanity, which contrasts sharply with the vengeful path that she finds herself on. Without spoiling, this game handles Ellie’s queerness with a level of acceptance and simplicity that is often missing in queer-led media, providing a unique perspective for players to participate in the story as a queer character.
The franchise is currently expanding into television with the recent release of the premiere episode of the HBO series by the same name. This game is currently only available on PlayStation 4 and 5.
Life is Strange
LGBTQIA+ representation has been a part of the Life is Strange franchise since the first game. Since then, every iteration of the series has allowed for choice between a male character and a female character as the lead’s love interest. This is not an unfamiliar method used by game developers to include queer stories without forcing the player to have to engage in them, which can often be a way for players of different sexualities and genders to experience the romance in the game closer to the way they’d prefer.
Of course, this has also been a source of frustration for queer gamers, who hope to see themselves represented as something other than “the other option” more in the future. In answer to this, many games have a clear favored love interest. In the original Life is Strange from 2015, the protagonist's narrative is heavily driven by the deuteragonist, Chloe, who also functions as a potential love interest.
Life Is Strange is a franchise of episodic games where the choices made by the player have a direct impact on the story that differs depending on the path taken. You can play any of its three games on virtually any gaming platform right now!
Dragon Age: Inquisition
In 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, players journey to settle civil unrest while traveling between worlds in a variety of POVs. The franchise has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to queer representation and in this installment players can again choose to play either a male or female character with both straight and queer romance options. While lauded by the LGBT+ community, the decision to lock romance options behind queer identities was met with some backlash by those who felt their options were limited in comparison to past titles. Still, the inclusion of lesbian and gay identities is a step in the right direction for queer representation in high budget, AAA video games.
Dragon Age: Inquisition joins a steadily increasing line up of games that allows the player choice in who they play as and who they romance, along with Mass Effect, Cyberpunk 2077, and Saints Row IV, to name a few. You can currently play the game on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC.
Delightfully featuring a cast of LGBTQ+ and POC characters, Ikenfell is a turn-based RPG that is both wild and comforting. Maritte Hildegaard is a teenager who travels to a magical school to search for her lost sister and develops an unexpected talent for pyromancy.
This game is a bit of a different style than the previous games on this list as an indie title, but still incredibly charming and just as impactful for its queer representation. It’s been praised for unapologetically featuring an incredibly diverse cast of characters, including representation for asexuals, non-binary individuals, and, of course, homosexuals amongst a cast of characters with different racial identities.
If you like pixel art games with fun stories of adventure and magic, this is a game you have to check out. The visual elements are reminiscent of early Pokémon games with a little more flare and exploration, plus a pick up in battle-pace. You can grab Ikenffell right now on Steam or on the Nintendo Switch.
Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Valhalla
An assassin can still look for love in their downtime! One of the fun aspects added to the two most recent games in the Assassin’s Creed franchise is the ability to romance a variety of different characters throughout the games. Similar to Mass Effect, players can choose between the male or female main character, which doesn’t change the story much at all, but can have an impact on how players relate to the character and the NPCs (non-player characters) that they’re romancing.
For both games, several Sapphic romances are available to the female lead. The two games do differ a little when it comes to commitment, as in Odyssey, Kassandra (or Alexios) is a free agent and can have short or long-term relationships with many characters at a time without issue, but in Valhalla, there are both flings and committed relationships. Some of the relationships will require a break up before you can start on another.
Overall, the system tends to be simple, but effective, and has proven to be a departure from previous games in the franchise where a character’s romantic story was fixed. While some don’t love this newer RPG-style direction for the series, the latest two games have had massive sales, and many players have enjoyed the ability to romance men and women across ancient lands.
BONUS: Stardew Valley
A favorite in the cozy video game world is Stardew Valley. Between running your own farm and heading off on adventures, you can also fall in love with any of the 12 romantic options you have available to you - male and female characters. While the game unfortunately stays firmly in the gender binary, the town is supportive of whoever you choose to marry.
Stardew Valley is a fun game where the romance is light and cute. You can currently play it on virtually every console but Xbox.
While the list of queer representation in video games is shorter than we’d like (though longer than this list, thankfully), we’re always looking for more! Did we miss any of your favorites? Leave them in the comments below and you might see them in a follow-up article down the road.