7 queer video games you can play right now
Be gay, do crime and play games.
For a long time, video games were considered the domain of cisgender heterosexuals. That assertion, of course, was not correct: queer people have always been gamers, playing everything from Tetris to Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. Despite this, the gaming industry has been lacking when it comes to quality LGBTQ+ representation. Up until recently, queer characters were either non-existent or, in the case of games like Grand Theft Auto, the butt of a joke. For a long time, it felt like The Sims was the only game in which queer people could express their sexuality in gaming.
That has, thankfully, changed. Given that gaming now far outstrips movies and music when it comes to revenue, and with the reality of diverse gaming demographics finally forcing developers to acknowledge that it’s not just white cishet men who enjoy games, the industry has begun to change, at least where LGBTQ+ representation is concerned.
In fact, some of the biggest games of the past decade have featured characters who are queer, including popular titles such as Overwatch, Life is Strange and the Borderlands franchise. Add those characters to queer-coded icons like Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, Mario’s brother Luigi and basically every Final Fantasy character ever (only a gay would be called Cloud, soz) and gaming is, well, pretty gay. So, for all your LGBTQ+ gaming needs, here’s a list of some of the best queer video games that you can play right now.
1. The Last of Us, The Last of Us: Left Behind, The Last of Us: Part 2
Platforms: PS4 (backwards compatible on PS5)
Developer Naughty Dog’s apocalyptic epic is not only one of the most ambitious narrative gaming experiences ever made, but it’s also home to some of the better LGBTQ+ representation in gaming, especially when it comes to the character of Ellie. While the first game ranks fairly low on the Kinsey Scale, its DLC, The Last of Us: Left Behind, is a truly tender and beautiful queer story about the awkwardness, excitement and fear of young love. Building in Ellie’s queerness after the base game made players reassess what they thought they knew about the character, something that Naughty Dog expanded upon with its sequel, The Last of Us: Part 2. This follow up took the franchise’s queer representation further, making Ellie’s lesbian identity a central and essential aspect to the narrative, while also introducing a trans character, Lev. However, if you’re looking for a game where queer people get to live happy and untraumatic lives, then The Last of Us is not for you – these games are bleak af.
2. Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC
When the Assassin’s Creed series pivoted to a more open-world RPG format, developer Ubisoft also gave players more choice over their characters. This included the ability to choose which gender you wanted your character to be (still stuck in a binary of male and female, unfortunately) and who your love interest in the game could be. In the ancient Greece-set Assassin’s Creed Odyssey meanwhile, you can be gay, straight, bisexual, a lesbian or even asexual -- although most of these interactions are limited to side quests and don’t play a central part in the plot. The same can be said for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, which sees you play as Eivor (once again, either a man or a woman), a viking who invades England and who can romance people of both genders. It’s not necessarily the most robust LGBTQ+ representation, but for games as immersive as Assassin’s Creed, it’s a nice touch for those looking to sink 60 hours into an epic adventure.
3. Mass Effect Legendary Edition
Platforms: PS4 (backwards compatible on PS5), Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC
The first Mass Effect originally came out in 2007, which might make it hard for some gamers to play it now. Thankfully, earlier this year, developer Bioware released a remastered and slightly tweaked version of this epic sci-fi RPG trilogy. The thing about Mass Effect is the sheer amount of choice players are given, whether those are decisions about plot or who you might want to get it off with. In the first two games, you can’t really play a queer character; although no matter what gender you choose to play as, you can romance Liara, an Asari (a species of alien) who is technically agender despite presenting as female. In truth, the third game is the only one in the trilogy that allows for queer romance. What’s unique about it is that the choices you made in the previous games will dictate who you can romance in the third, and getting to develop those relationships is genuinely an exciting journey.
4. Life is Strange, Life is Strange 2, Life is Strange: True Colors
Platforms: PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, Switch, PC, Mac
This critically-acclaimed episodic narrative adventure game series is stuffed full of LGBTQ+ representation. In each of the games, players are able to make decisions which can lead to queer relationships and, unlike in many games, queer characters are explicitly labelled as such. Take Arthur and Stanley Peterson, a gay couple who appear in Life is Strange 2, or the handsome Jacob Hackerman, whose community forced him to undergo conversion therapy. There’s also the pansexual character Finn McNamara and series favourite Chloe Price. In the most recent addition to the series, Life is Strange: True Colors, players take control of Alex Chen, a young bisexual woman who has psychic empathetic super powers. Essentially, Life is Strange is a game series in which queer characters don’t just appear but are also fundamental.
5. Tell Me Why
Platforms: Xbox One
Another episodic narrative game, Tell Me Why was one of the first AAA games to be developed with a transgender main character. In the game, you take control of estranged yet telepathically linked twins, Tyler and Alison Ronan, who return to their childhood home after a traumatic event led to the death of their mother there a decade prior. Along with making decisions and solving puzzles, players will have to confront the tragedy that has shaped Tyler and Alison’s life. While making the game, developers Dontnod Entertainment consulted with experts at GLAAD to ensure that the character of Tyler was an "authentic representation of the trans experience”. Of course, no one’s experience of being trans is the same, but Tell Me Why does a good job at exploring some of the commonalities that can occur. Nevertheless, the game does deal with heavy and traumatic themes, and criticism has been levelled at the developer for not hiring a trans writer to tell Tyler’s story.
6. Dragon Age: Inquisition
Platforms: PS4 (backwards compatible on PS5), Xbox One (backwards compatible on Xbox Series S/X), PC
Dragon Age: Inquisition is probably the queerest entry into the Dragon Ages series. As with Bioware’s Mass Effect, players are given immense choice into who they can romance – fancy being gay with a one-eyed Qunari, a bull-like race, called Hissrad who leads the mecanry group the Bull's Chargers? Fine, go be gay with the hot bull-like man. It’s also notable for introducing the series’ first trans character, Krem, who acts as Hissrad’s second-in-command for the Bull's Chargers. Krem’s transness is not some plot device or the entirety of his character. Instead, it makes up his origin story and isn’t even mentioned unless players decide to dive deeper into his background by engaging in conversation with him. If you decide to ignore him, Krem is just another man you encounter on your journey.
7. Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator
Platforms: PS4 (backwards compatible on PS5), Switch, PC, Mac, iOS, Android
This visual, interactive novel is all about dads who want to date other dads. You play as a lonely single parent who moves to a new cul-de-sac with his daughter, only to find that most of the fathers who live on said cul-de-sac are also single and looking for love. Players can customise their characters, play mini-games and romance seven (!) different daddies with the aim to find love. Gameplay-wise, it’s all very simple, and the pace can be a little slow, but the writing is top notch. Also for a game that is all about dating daddies, the gay stereotypes and cliches are kept to a minimum.