Games are not always a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ players. Major studios are historically run by and cater to cis, straight men. Online interactions and user-generated content can be toxic. There is also a general lack of LGBT+ representation in characters themselves–and even when they are present, they often embody tropes like the Sissy Villain (i.e. their villainy is linked to their flamboyancy and effeminacy) or Bury Your Gays (i.e. the openly gay character dies).
However, all is not hopeless! Even games that are not purposefully queer-friendly by design can find fans in the community thanks to features that provide the option to choose a character or clothing outside traditional gender roles or the ability to engage in relationships outside the (hetero)norm. Many games also leave enough room in the narrative for open-ended interpretation and imagination that allows fans to fill in their own blanks. Moreover, plenty of games are still intentionally welcoming to our community, either through diverse character creation options, well-done relationship mechanics, or solid narratives.
We’ve put together a short list of five games that are staff favorites! The representation they provide might not always be perfect, but in their own way, they each work towards a more inclusive (and fun!) gaming experience.
Developed by Young Horses
Investigate a disappearance amongst an expedition on a mysterious island filled with food-shaped bugs (or bug- shaped food?) like Bunger the burger beetle and Cinnasnail, a cinnamon roll … snail. After a rough landing on the island and standard tutorial, players are introduced to the island’s inhabitants. There’s a colorful cast of characters, Grumpuses, whose charming cartoon muppet personas contrast with the complex and often dark storylines that unfold. While investigating and assisting these Grumpuses, you’ll find that some of them are in queer romances, which are presented as naturally as any of the straight relationships or friendships in the game. Bug Snax was even nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Video Game in 2021. This is a great title if you are into exploration, Pokemon-like catologues, and a refreshing presentation of queer stories. —Randall
GET IN THE CAR, LOSER
Developed by Love Conquers All Games
Get in the car, loser! Join your ex-girlfriend, her new partner, and a renegade angel on an unplanned road trip to save the world from the Machine Devil and their cultists. The writing, which approaches heavy and sometimes complicated topics like relationships, abuse, and gender dysphoria, is authentic, representative, and endearing. The story is told through a series of deep and funny conversations that allow you to choose your responses. These dialogue sequences are interspersed with real-time combat encounters inspired by classic JRPGs like the 90’s Final Fantasy games. Everything is presented through bold colors and beautiful expressive pixel art. The amazing character illustrations are complemented by an anime-worthy soundtrack. This is a unique entry from an independent developer who’s writing about queerness and looking to “make the world a cuter place!” —Randall
CATHERINE: FULL BODY PS4, PlayStation Vita
Where do I even start with this game?
Basically made as a tech demo before ATLUS developed the super popular Persona 5, this game was at first just a one-off that gained a following for being a gaming experience like no other. In the Full Body version, just like wine, you enjoy a broader experience and a higher quality gameplay for only a few more dollars.
Catherine is a horror-themed puzzle tower climbing game that is pretty short in length. Fun since it has about 12 different endings that you can achieve.
Play as Vincent, a loser with no real direction. He is dating Katherine with K, but is being swallowed by the pressure to marry and procreate. God, straight people got it tough. Katherine with a K has brown hair and glasses.
When Vincent is not at work or on a date he is at the bar with his friends. The only waitress at the bar is Erika, a trans woman who really holds her own with these scumbag dudes, and though there is some VERY clumsy writing and she could have had less jokes made at her expense, the character of Erika I LOVE and she adds much needed common sense to the room when she can get the guys to listen. WE STAN ERIKA SHE IS OUR DIVA.
Enter Catherine with a C. Catherine and Vincent become involved and, well, drama drama demon anime drama drama you know? Blond hair and lots of boobs cause issues for Vincent’s love life.
In the normal version of Catherine, you either get with Katherine and settle down, or Catherine and go wild, or fail to do either and just die or end up alone.
In Full Body there is another option. Qatherine with a Q.
Yes. Yes. The Q in LGBTQIA+ also stands for ummmmm Qatherine.
The mysterious pink-haired piano player from the bar. Qatherine changes and interrupts the story with their presence. Unlike the responsibility-driven dialogue with Katherine and the sexually charged dialogue of Catherine — Qatherine and Vincent have discussions about art, music, and ideas. Over the course of the game Qatherine and Vincent find ways to rescue each other from a philosophical standpoint if the player makes the right choices!
The representation in this game is far from perfect. And the humor sometimes sinks to the level of fart jokes. But I implore you, for a truly interesting storyline that is memorable and touching, choose Qatherine. As a non-binary person I found much to love in the character.
Also if you like puzzle games or would like the thrill of being cleaved in half by a giant monster-baby wielding a chainsaw —this is for you! —Moth Moth Moth
PC, MAC, Switch, PS4, IOS, Android
Ever dreamt of being a single dad raising a precocious teenage daughter? Or moving to a new neighborhood filled with other single–and not so single–dads looking for an intersection of destiny? Look no farther than Dream Daddy. I can hear the title music as I write that!
Despite being funded and developed by mostly straights as far as we can tell, Dream Daddy is a kitschy, visual novel game aiming to give you the ultimate experience of being a middle- aged man whose heart is…ahem WIDE OPEN for um LOVE.
After designing your dad with a plethora of balding options, dive into a world of choices. You’ll be navigating through neighborhood cookouts rife with drama and troublesome kids, traveling through spooky libraries, and marveling at the handsome and downright charming character art.
Dream Daddy is an odd one for sure. It does seem like the makers had their hearts in the right place. As a queer soft butch kinda non-binary guy person I found this to be a hilarious and fun game to play. At no point did I feel like queer characters were made to be the butt of a joke. In fact, the storylines available are quite heartwarming. (Except for the home wrecking you can do, that part is for the messy gays.)
With a short campaign and lots of endings your Dad-bod adventures are just beginning. The content of this game is humorous but not really crass. It has a Mature rating but the most you get are some innuendoes and maybe one scene where Sports Dad is in a Speedo. I don’t know. I did not pursue Sports Dad.
I chose Badboy Dad. The dad with no kids, but instead had a dog and that was a vast improvement.
However, Badboy Dad seems to be the… the HARD mode of the game. I suggest you start with Coffee Shop Dad or Vampire Dad. Though there is always Married Christian Dad– but he seems like more work than he’s worth.
Remember you have a finite amount of time to find your match before your daughter goes to college and you are alone forever! Good luck DAD!!!
—Moth Moth Moth
DEAD BY DAYLIGHT
Switch, PC, PS4
When my boyfriend and our gay family started playing Dead by Daylight I kept thinking, what is with this violent, scary, straight person multiplayer Twitch game?
And I was deeply wrong. Just like with people, often things are gayer than meets the eye.
In this multiplayer experience you can choose to play as a survivor or as a killer. For the survivors there is an array of characters, from witch to conman to ex-rugby player. On the killer side, you have famous friends like Ghostface or the Demogorgon from Stranger Things and new creations from the development team like a scary flesh monster or a spooky ghost nurse!
The survivors and killers are placed on all the playing fields by a thing known only as “the entity” and the survivors must try to open large doors by powering up generators all over the field. Get 5 generators working and you can open the door to freedom.
Also peppered around the playing field are giant hooks that the killers will use. Catch a survivor, put them on a hook to sacrifice them to “the entity”. It’s very gore fest 5000 but also a little more camp the more it happens.
This was a game that has continued to have major updates and spikes in popularity due in some part to the massive amount of queer players and streamers that are on the game every single day. The game play loop of trying not to die or chasing people till they die is on loop in many rainbow households. So much so that the developers have actively added more and more gay-friendly content. Survivors may wear a pride flag keychain and killers can have pride decorations on their hooks. Honey, even “the entity” wants to scream “YAAASSSS GAGA.”
Beyond the surface stuff though, the developers seem to be making more and more effort to illuminate character stories to show diversity of thought.
When the game first came out David King was a survivor character whose story was something about him getting mad during a rugby game and messing up his career. Several seasons later the game is updated to include more story content about how David’s anger and need for self acceptance were important growth points for our King, getting more comfortable with his sexuality just before being snatched by “the entity.”
There is also a very vibrant and queer villain option known as the Trickster. The fan art is bonkers. Be sure you search on a personal device.
Cheap, great fun with your friends. Worth every moment. –Moth Moth Moth