From indie games like the recently released VN her tears were my light and the critically acclaimed platformer Celeste to AAA titles such as Rune Factory 5 and Dragon Age: Inquisition, the LGBTQ+ community now has more games than ever that represent them respectfully.
Thanks to positive social change, developers big and small have started being more inclusive, and every year, more games no longer feel the need to limit themselves to heteronormative standards. With numerous characters and stories, these video games have proven to have excellent representation for the LGBTQ+ community.
Friends of Mineral Town
Friends of Mineral Town is a remake of the classic Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town. It’s considered by many to be the best entry of the franchise, but being a game from 2003, there was no official gay romance option. Amusingly, reaching maximum affection with a male NPC was instead called the “Best Friends” system, despite by all accounts being gay.
Thankfully, the game has changed significantly in 2020, as localizer XSEED was given full approval to just call the “Best Friends” system what it’s always been: marriage. It isn’t just switching pronouns either. They went out of their way to make the dialogue reflect the unique experience of same-sex relationships, showcasing the care and thought the writers always intended, but Japanese culture at the time wouldn’t allow it.
Rune Factory 5
The Rune Factory franchise actually started as a fantasy farming spin-off of Harvest Moon. Despite having four games and two spin-offs across its 15 years of existence, LGBTQ+ romances were simply not a part of the story. Thankfully, the developers have since realized that wholesome stories are for all people, and they developed the bachelors and bachelorettes to be bisexual.
At first, it was only for international versions, but it was soon patched in for free in Japan. It’s a cute romance, but what makes this particular romance stand out is the ability to have children as a same-sex couple, a rarity in video games. It won’t do to spoil how this works but suffice to say, it’s not a traditional adoption. In fact, it’s quite a magical experience.
Stardew Valley is the premiere indie darling of the farming sim genre, and much like its inspirations features romance as a gameplay element. The romance is all-inclusive, as every character can be romanced by the player regardless of gender. It also avoids the pitfalls of playersexual dialogue as there is unique dialogue for the genders.
The best part, however, is that the game allows players to marry each other in-game. For queer couples who want to play a relaxing farm game together, there’s an option for them to get married. Basically, any person of any orientation or gender can get married in the game with their significant others. A heartwarming and beautiful addition to a beloved game.
Star Wars: The Old Republic
Star Wars: The Old Republic is an established MMORPG with over a decade of history at this point. While it was initially lacking in LGBTQ+ representation, the game has since added nine LGBTQ+ romance options across all the DLC. Not only that, some have unique dialogue as opposed to being “playersexual”, a common trope with this many LGBTQ+ options.
This was a huge turnaround, especially considering Bioware’s former reluctance to include queer romances in older games. It’s a testament to the team’s commitment to proper representation that a 10-year-old game got updates like these, and hopefully, continue to do so for years to come. It should also be noted it’s one of the few games to have an exclusively gay male romance option, Cytharat.
Despite the rather lewd name, Boyfriend Dungeon is actually quite a fun dungeon crawler with well-written gay/bi romances to boot. The romance is seamlessly integrated into both the narrative and gameplay and in this world, some humans have gained the ability to turn themselves into powerful weapons.
Of course, that means to gain affection, the player must use the weapon forms of their romances regularly, alongside the normal dating sim shenanigans. It also respectfully portrays all the characters as human beings, with their own grounded flaws and admirable qualities. There’s also always the option to just stay friends, which should come as a relief to min-maxers who don't want the awkwardness of rejection to affect their combat.
Monster Prom is a hilarious dating sim that has the player rush to get a date before prom in three weeks. The game takes place in a non-heteronormative society. Nobody bats an eye to what gender (or monster) the player dates. Monster Prom just oozes style and comedy, and with the surprising multiplayer mode, it can even be enjoyed with friends.
As a bonus, it also has very positive nonbinary and transgender representations, to show that their representation isn’t merely token.
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous
Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous takes a lot of care in its representation. With its roots in the already rather progressive Pathfinder franchise, this entry offers fresh and in-depth romances with fleshed-out characters. There are seven romance options, all of which potentially tie into the main narrative. It makes the romance feel less like a side quest and more of an active part of the story.
Uniquely, the game also takes the orientation of its characters seriously. There are straight characters who will only ever be friends with the player. Bisexual characters do not mind either way and even have unique dialogue. It also features one gay character, Sosiel, who will only enter a romance with the player if they are male. Not to mention, orientation matters just as much as the character’s moral alignment, giving the relationship a lot of depth.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Inquisition is the current latest entry in the Dragon Age franchise, which at this point was already leading the fight for more representation since the first game. Each game refined the queer representation with better writing and more seamless integration into the main narrative. Dragon Age: Inquisition is the culmination of all that experience.
The sapphic Sera and the snarky Dorian are only interested in players of the same sex as them. The powerful Qunari warrior Iron Bull is bisexual and values honesty and strength above all. They all have their own personal questlines that give a ton of depth, making them feel like real characters.
Hades was one of the most critically acclaimed indie titles and it deserves every accolade. In a veritable sea of beautiful roguelites, Hades stood out with its fantastic cast of characters, all based on Greek myths of old. They stayed true to their established lore, but with modern twists that made them feel much more relatable.
Zagreus himself is an obscure figure in lore, and the writers took that liberty to create a loveably snarky and stoic character. Also, he has three romantic options in Dusa, Megaera, and Thanatos. They are equally fleshed out and the romance leading up to either option is done really well. There is a lot of history shared with the player, and neither romance ends up feeling forced.
Haven is a wholesome sci-fi adventure RPG with great healthy relationship representation. The conflict lies in their journey to escape the oppressive Apiary that threatens to pair them with more “suitable mates”. After some deep discussion by the devs, they revealed that there were originally going to be eight different couples planned (via FanByte).
Since they can’t put them all in, however, they decided to add a “Couples Update”, free of charge, that allowed the characters to turn the couple into both male and female. This inclusivity perfectly fits the themes of the game. Kay and Yu came from a society that imposed strict rules and labels on everything they did. The choice by the developers to allow for three different canons shows that Kay and Yu’s love transcends the conventions of heteronormative romance.
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