When it comes to major gaming franchises, queer characters or stories are often still left out. Fortunately, the story is different with many smaller games from indie developers. And just because they are smaller games does not mean they have less to offer, or that there are only a couple out there. In fact, there are more to choose from than you might expect.
These games all have either queer characters, relationships, or feature a plot line that has LGBTQ+ elements.
Hades is a game that just keeps growing in popularity. It has received acclaim for its gameplay, music, narrative, and characters, and even won won game of the year awards in 2021, from the 2021 Game Developer Choice Awards, the 2021 DICE Awards, and several others.
If you haven’t played Hades, you might want to check it out. You play as Zagreus, the bisexual son of Hades, as he tries to escape from the Underworld in a roguelike game, meaning each time you play, it’s different. Along the way, you’ll encounters all kinds of characters, including Achilles and Patroclus, the gay star-crossed lovers from Greek literature.
Life is Strange: True Colors
Life is Strange: True Colors is the fourth installment in Square Enix’s series, and features a queer character in the lead role, like each of the previous entries in the series. Alex Chen, an Asian-American bisexual woman, reunites with her brother after 8 years, who then mysteriously dies. The player can choose to pursue either a male or female love interest for Alex as the game progresses and she begins to uncover what happened to her brother. If you’re looking for a game with a great story, this is the one—it won for best storytelling at the 2021 Golden Joystick Awards.
Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
In Dream Daddy, you play as Dad, and your goal is find and romance other hot dads. The visual novel game (meaning it’s narrative focused), plays out as a story, but there’s more to it than dating other daddies. You can build your dad to be exactly what you want with the body you want, too, whether that’s a burly bear or a clean cut soccer dad. On top of that, the game explores what it means to be a gay dad and the struggles that come along with it, and that depth is what makes the game so fun to play.
Similar to Dream Daddy, Arcadia Fallen is a visual novel game, one where your choices impact the story that unfolds, and the game is largely story-driven. You play as a young alchemist apprentice who must band together with an unlikely group of heroes to escape their own doom, and you can form relationships (LGBTQ+ friendly) along the way. On top of that, you can choose to be a non-binary player when you set up your character.
According to reviews, romance is a heavy focus of the game, so if that’s your thing when it comes to video games, this is the one for you. The game was just released on the Switch this month, on January 5th, 2022, so if you act quick, you can be ahead of the trend.
Night in the Woods
Night in the Woods is an adventure game focused on exploration, story, and character. You play as Mae Borowski as she returns to her hometown and explores the strange changes that have occurred, as well as what’s happening in the woods. Featuring gay, bisexual, transgender characters, and pansexual characters, the group that you hang out with has an unapologetic motto: “Be gay, do crimes.”
Stardew Valley is a simulation role-playing game where you can build the farm of your dreams. If that doesn’t immediately appeal to you, here’s why it appeals to so many others: you can build out the game to be what you want it to be. There’s no set agenda that you “beat”—you play it however you want to. Fans of Animal Crossing will definitely appreciate the style of this game. Even casual gamers can easily get into it.
You can also romance and marry characters that you encounter along the way, and the game lets same-sex characters get married, even acknowledging through dialogue that the characters are in a queer relationship.
Celeste is a game for those who like a challenge. It’s known for being a trying game, but rewarding for those who want something a little more difficult. Celeste is a platform game, which is as simple as saying it’s a game where you move from platform to platform to reach the end (ever played Mario?). Celeste herself is transgender, and the creator of the indie game, Maddy Thorson (whose pronouns are she/they) is also transgender.
Undertale is a role-playing, top-down perspective game (think classic Pokemon Gameboy games) in which you explore an underground world with towns and caves and plenty of puzzles along the way. The indie game received critical acclaim and was quickly dubbed a cult video game by several outlets. Undertale features at least five characters who are queer—and three of them have major, varying roles within the game, depending on what choices you make throughout.
A Normal Lost Phone
In A Normal Lost Phone, you can live out your fantasy of reading through every private detail of someone’s phone. The game is an exploratory type game. You have to figure out how to navigate the smart phone interface, uncovering passwords and reading through text messages, to figure out what happened to the phone’s user. The storyline focuses around Sam, who is still coming to terms with their gender identity. Players will learn through Sam’s phone about her struggle with her family, friends, and girlfriend. This game is for you if you’re looking for an emotional story where you connect deeply with the characters and what they’re going through.
Coffee Talk is a game where you sit and listen to people’s problems who come into your coffee shop. There are multiple play-throughs of the game, meaning there are several different ways the storyline could go, and other than listening to your customer’s stories and watching the narrative unfold, you mainly just have to make them drinks to help with their problems. Most of the characters are queer, and some of them are elves, humans, werewolves, vampires, and there’s even an alien. Though this game may not be as deeply rooted in a story about queer identity, the majority of its cast is queer.