Video games can help shape a person, so it’s important to acknowledge the titles that give LGBTQ+ voices and characters a positive spotlight. Many questioning their sexuality often come across a barrier as societal pressures mount upon them. However, within that noise, video games can lend a hand to a person’s journey with relatable characters and positive images of queer and gender non-conforming minorities. Here are seven mainstream LGBTQ+ games that truly stand out, presented in alphabetical order.
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EA and Respawn Entertainment’s Apex Legends has possibly the most LGBTQ+ characters in any multiplayer first-person shooter, and it depicts all of them in a tasteful manner. There are at least six confirmed LGBTQ+ characters in Apex, and they’re all front and center in the Overwatch-like cinematics and comics. Certain lines explicitly mention their sexualities without portraying negative stereotypes. For example, Gibraltar is gay and has a warm personality, while Fuse is a very masculine and showy individual who’s pansexual (he’s often called the ladies man and a man’s man). It’s cool to see one of the biggest battle royales in the business have so many LGBTQ+ characters, and we’re here for it.
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This hard-as-nails platformer is a beautiful journey through protagonist Madeline’s battle with depression. It makes the high-level platforming a part of the story and makes the player feel accomplished by the end. It also tells an excellent tale of fulfilling a goal, despite Madeline’s setbacks and doubts. While the game makes little to no mention of her being a trans woman, that’s quite the point. “Well, yeah, of course, she is,” Celeste creator Maddy Thorson said about her gender identity in a blog post. “This feels painfully obvious to a lot of (mostly trans) people, and likewise it feels painfully obvious to me too, in retrospect.”
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Thrilling combat, a captivating overall story, and relatable characters — those are the tenets of an amazing RPG. BioWare’s Dragon Age Inquisition has some engrossing same-sex relationships, on top of all of that. For example, we learned the ins and outs of the Iron Bull’s personality, background, and charm. Something that stood out about him, in particular, is how his hard exterior crumbled to a soft mesh at delicate moments. As the relationship moved forward, there was more depth to the relationship than just casual sex. That is one of the many meaningful queer dynamics within BioWare’s catalog of titles over the years.
In this beloved indie by The Fullbright Company, you play as a woman exploring an abandoned house looking for her mysterious sister Sam. As you pick up letters and other clues, you’ll find out the story behind your character and Sam’s familial relationship, along with Sam’s personal history. At first, it feels suspenseful, but as you play through Gone Home, it takes on a somewhat nostalgic tone. The writing is excellent and it handles its representation with finesse — you just have to be into walking experiences to get into this.
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Max and Chloe, one of the most notable couples in gaming, came to be in Dontnod Entertainment’s riveting Life is Strange. This relationship over five episodes flows in a natural way as they work through their issues, and you truly understand how much they care for each other. Max makes Chloe feel wanted in a downtrodden situation, while Chloe opens Max’s eyes to a new world. Some may find the writing to be cringeworthy in the first episode, but as the story continues, it unravels to become an intriguing and dark mystery that will grip you from start to finish. The game’s main mechanic, time manipulation, is excellently used as you can alter conversations on the fly or work around unique puzzles.
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Similar to Celeste, Overwatch doesn’t explicitly highlight that Tracer and Soldier 76 are LGBTQ+ characters, but Blizzard makes a big statement by making the former the star of the series. Tracer is depicted as caring, resourceful, and bubbly, a character that anyone could relate to. Meanwhile, Soldier 76 presented a stoic hard-ass who gets the job done. These two contrast to the stereotypes that all gay men are extravagant and that all lesbian women are butch. Characters that fit the stereotypes can be great, but it’s good that our LGBTQ+ heroes can vary from traditional portrayals. Players who don’t fit those personality traits of being extravagant or butch can feel validated too and help them with their own journey of discovery. Regardless, Tracer and Soldier 76 are very fun to play in a multiplayer title that took the world by storm when it released in 2016 and is still being played to this day. If you had to place anyone as the face of Overwatch, it would have to be Tracer, as she’s in almost every cinematic and piece of publicity.
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Naughty Dog included multiple LGBTQ+ characters in the narrative of The Last of Us. Ellie is a strong lesbian character in a multi-million selling franchise; it’s probably one of, if not, the most successful series in Sony’s arsenal. The Left Behind DLC for the first game told an emotionally gripping narrative about Ellie showing her love towards her crush Riley that will leave you in tears. And then in The Last of Us Part 2, we saw a natural bond between Ellie and her love interest Dina that grew as the game moved along. Part 2 also features a young trans man named Lev, brimming with personality but burdened with a society that hates him due to his identity. Part 2 covered heavy topics, and Naughty Dog handled them rather appropriately, especially with the casting of a trans man actor for Lev, Ian Alexander.