The world of video games can be a strange place for queer people; we’re everywhere within it – ‘game developer’ is a trans stereotype at this point – yet we’re still marginal to the scene and rarely centred in big-budget releases. We’re also still dealing with the shadows cast by GamerGate and the related right-wing harassment campaigns of the mid-2010s, where fascists sought to drive women, people of colour, and queer and trans people out of the industry. But they didn’t succeed; gaming is a richer place than ever for queer people, and queer games have massively exploded in the past 5-10 years. Some of the most brilliant works of contemporary gay art and narrative can be found on Steam or itch.io, as can a lot of hours of good, silly, sexy gay entertainment.
So, where can you find good gay games? Almost everywhere – but we’ll give you some good recommendations in a range of genres, for both big, modern-classic, gameplay-heavy games and smaller indie gems, and for gay men, lesbians and trans people. Gay and trans stories have a close affinity with visual novel and text game forms, which will be reflected here; but we also have a good foothold in all sorts of role-playing and storyline-heavy games, from action-adventure to puzzle-platformer to cosy management sim. We’re focusing on games that have substantial queer content, but it’s also common now for many big games to have customisable queer options or to have gay characters on their roster, like Apex Legends and Overwatch.
There are still some glaring limitations on this list; the games industry skews heavily towards funding white developers and representations of white cis queers, and there is an immense scarcity of games that centre Black queer and trans people. (Keep an eye out for action-puzzle game Spirit Swap and its cast of Black “witchy demons” in 2024, by the way.) But if you’re looking for an entry point or to find some new gems, it’ll hopefully be a useful resource.
Try the soon-to-be-classics
It’s too early to have a solid queer ‘canon’ of games, but a cluster of games have become giants in the queer community: three of them are Celeste, Hades and Undertale. If you haven’t played many games, one of them would be a good place to start.
Celeste is a beautiful, fluid 2D platformer, where you must guide Madeline, a trans girl travelling up a mountain, through a range of levels with grabs, jumps and dashes. Madeline’s transness is subtly cued, and her journey through anxiety and self-doubt is raw and beautiful. (It’s a tricky game, but there are ample customisation options to make levels easier.) If you prefer fighting monsters and flirting with half the Greek pantheon, Hades is a hack-and-slash dungeon crawler where you play as Zagreus, Hades’ disgruntled bisexual son, who is trying to escape the underworld; each time you die and wake up again in your Underworld home, you gain new abilities, learn about Zagreus’ motives, get to know your friends and romantic prospects – and get a little closer to getting out. And Undertale is a role-playing game that follows a child who has fallen into an underground world; it’s a game that defies explanation but it’s both a work of immense darkness and a brilliant comic romp, with a very sweet lesbian storyline.
Enter a new world
If you’re a fan of D&D or fantasy novels, and want to throw yourself into a big, colourful, combative adventure where you can romance mercenaries and elven warriors, you’d probably have fun with 2023 Game of the Year contender Baldur’s Gate 3. (A Twitter mutual who plays BG3 just informed me that his non-binary character is hooking up with a tentacle monster, a wizard, and “maybe a devil lady.”) If you want a cheaper option, try 2014’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, another role-playing fantasy game where you must rescue the world from demons; it has a range of bisexual and gay love interests, and one of the first trans characters in a major release, whose characterisation still mostly holds up.
RPGs are often beloved of queer players, both because of their queer cast members and an apparent gay affinity for role-playing. The Witcher 3, Disco Elysium and Fallout: New Vegas all have gay cult status, particularly F:NV, given both its iconic gay companions and its ability to explicitly adopt homosexuality or bisexuality. (Bisexuals get a 10% boost to all damage.) If you end up preferring Disco Elysium’s old-school tabletop-style gameplay and lack of combat, Citizen Sleeper is a quietly immersive, immensely deep and very nonbinary game that follows a cyborg, who has escaped its corporate ‘owners’, trying to survive on a space station without access to its owners’ patented fuel. And I Was a Teenage Exocolonist is a similarly sharp narrative RPG with card-based battles, where you live out your teenage years on an alien planet and try to keep your settlement alive.
I’d also be silly not to mention Dontnod Entertainment’s episodic adventure games, including the Life is Strange series, which all feature queer protagonists (including several queer protagonists of colour), and Tell Me Why, which features the first trans protagonist in an AAA game. The games follow teenagers with psychic powers, navigating relationships and traumatic events; I have my issues with the first Life is Strange – it’s much more harrowing than advertised – but they’re beloved of many queer players.
Cosy queer games usually do have some emotive and hard-hitting themes, but warmth, connection, pretty art and soothing music are the order of the day. Visual novel Butterfly Soup – which is pay-what-you-want on itch – is an adorable game about “gay Asian girls playing baseball and falling in love,” while Game Grumps’ dating sim Dream Daddy is a funny, tongue-in-cheek, yet surprisingly thoughtful dad dating sim, where you date the seven other hot dads who coincidentally all live on your cul-de-sac. Meanwhile, one night, hot springs adopts a very cute art style to tell a quietly lovely story about a young Japanese trans woman, who is nervous about attending the hot springs with her friends.
Face the worst
Cosy nights in are good to have, but sometimes you need to confront the worst, and few artists do that better than queer game developers. Post-apocalyptic survival horror games The Last of Us and The Last of Us II have received widespread praise for their hard-hitting queer storylines, and some of my favourite games on the market are queer games that stare into hell, such as Aevee Bee’s hour-long Christian camp horror We Know the Devil, Porpentine’s intimate and monstrous Twine game With Those We Love Alive, and Infinite Fall’s Night in the Woods, one of the most intelligent and aesthetically distinctive video games ever made. All three of these games are not unrelentingly bleak – they are, at times, full of hope and love and humour – but they stick with you for years after playing, full as they are of the complicated catharsis of depicting and releasing queer pain.
Stare at hot people
Erotic video games tend to not be well-advertised on major platforms, but there are some real gems out there. My personal favourite is Christine Love’s Ladykiller in a Bind, a madcap lesbian BDSM visual novel where a woman must disguise herself as her twin brother and attempt to win a popularity contest without being rumbled. (Prior warning, there’s a few deliberately troubling scenes of sexual manipulation.) And Mice Tea, a visual novel “full of transformation, sex, and steamy, hot beverages,” is sweet and sexy and full of pretty much every transformation-related kink you could think of. If you’re more of the gay guy persuasion, Robert Yang’s games explore public/illegal/taboo sexual practices and game conventions, such as The Tearoom, a game in which you engage in oral sex at a urinal, but all penises involved are replaced with guns. (Notably, games are much happier showing murder than sex.)
Trans women in particular are also making incredible work on itch, which is a flourishing platform for erotic games: check out Nadia Nova’s can you say my name again, boarlord’s Plot Hole (a rare haven of fat, queer sex), or Ana Valens’ Blood Pact.
Come out changed
Games have a close association with frivolity, but queer games can be genuinely life-changing, from providing a first experience of being gendered correctly to plunging you into intense experiences of cruelty, culpability and loss. Whatever you choose, we hope these games can mean something special to you, too.