Happy Pride Month all! I wanted to take this week to celebrate sexual and gender minorities within video games, but moreover to point out how few of them there are. This is probably news to no one, but there are barely 10 characters that even qualify for this list at all. This list is made up of characters that are canonically part of the LGBT+ community within their game worlds. Characters where the player decides the sexuality by choosing to romance them or not (or as I like to call it, Schrodinger’s Gay), do not qualify. Sorry, Garrus fans. My intent is not to reduce these characters to their sexuality, but to examine how their unique experiences might have shaped them. Let’s get to it!
10. Tiny Tina (Lesbian) – Borderlands
Tiny Tina is the shining example of what Borderlands does best – ridiculous characters with realistic motivations. Orphaned by Handsome Jack at a young age, Tina took up arms to destroy Flesh-Stick, the man who sold her family into slavery. Tina joined the story by working for Mad Moxxi, a woman she had a crush on. Tina’s pretty kickass, to say the least, and is probably the closest thing we have in video games to a Harley Quinn character. She’s crazy, she’s funny, and she doesn’t take sh*t from anyone. Tina is infamous for her Borderlands 2 DLC Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep, in which she narrates a Dungeons & Dragons inspired adventure and leads what is probably Borderlands’ best ever content.
9. Arcade Gannon (Gay) – Fallout: New Vegas
No, Arcade Gannon is not an 8-bit Zelda villain, and he wishes you’d stop asking. Gannon joined the Followers of the Apocalypse, a humanitarian organization, to fight oppression the best way he could – with his mind. Gannon is the smartest companion in Fallout; he’s actually a doctor, though he doesn’t affix the title to his name because he didn’t earn a degree. Nevertheless, Gannon is an enemy of both the New California Republic and the Legion, determined to tear down any organization that would oppress people or take away human rights, citing his own struggle for independence and recognition as a gay man. He’s pretty charismatic too – he’s known all across the wasteland, and having him at their side gives the Courier a big advantage interacting with people around the Mojave.
8. Jacob Frye (Bisexual) – Assassins Creed: Syndicate
Jacob and his twin sister Evie serve as dual protagonists of Syndicate; while Evie is more stealthy by nature, Jacob is more of a brawler. Jacob and Evie work together to assemble The Rooks, a gang dedicated to toppling the giant corporations that were enslaving child workers in Industrial Revolution England. Jacob is all about grassroots organization and toppling the one percent, taking the law into his own hands. He’s impulsive, reckless, quick-witted and looking for a fight. During the story of Syndicate, Jacob has a flirtatious partnership with Templar henchman Maxwell Roth that tragically ends in his assassination at Jacob’s hand. They share a kiss as Roth dies, and Jacob’s experience having to kill someone he had feelings for frames his actions for the rest of the story.
7. Undyne (Lesbian) – Undertale
Before anyone @s me, Dr. Alphys did not make this list because she’s annoying and I hate her. That being said, Undyne is a wonderful character among many in Toby Fox’s Undertale. Undyne is the Captain of the Royal Guard and begins the story by hunting down the protagonist, clad in intimidating black armor. She’s known to be brash, hotheaded, and a highly skilled warrior, but secretly loves anime and pranks. It is indeed anime that brings her together with her eventual girlfriend Dr. Alphys, who is about as weebish as they come. Undyne and Alphys actually get to develop their relationship a good bit during the course of the game, and their passion for one another motivates them to aid the protagonist when fighting the final boss. It’s hard not to love Undyne – she’s a big nerd with a bigger heart who’s the best fighter in the kingdom. What more do you want?
6. Damien Bloodmarch (Gay Trans Man) – Dream Daddy
Any one of the cast members of the Game Grumps’ hit dating simulator Dream Daddy could have been on this list, but I chose to talk about Damien because of his status as a gay trans man (dare I say maybe the first one in video game history?). Damien is the resident goth daddy (though he prefers Victorian era enthusiast), and no, he is not a vampire, thanks for asking. Full disclosure, I’m actually a big Mat stan, but Damien is one of the more interesting daddies because of just how weird he is. He’s not the most tech-savvy of the date-able dads, but he puts in the effort, and that’s what counts. Although he is a vegetarian, loves dogs and has an antique knife collection… hmm… maybe I’ll go for him on a second playthrough.
5. Ellie (Lesbian) – The Last of Us
I only just hours ago acquired my copy of The Last of Us Part II, so consider this to be about Ellie as we know her in the first game. In The Last of Us DLC Left Behind, we learn Ellie’s origin story. After the apocalypse but before meeting Joel, she explores an abandoned mall with her friend Riley. It is only when Riley admits she’s leaving to join the Fireflies, a humanitarian group, that Ellie realizes the truth about herself – she is in love with Riley. As they fight their way through hordes of fungus monsters, the two are bitten. They share a kiss and promise to die together here, so that they’ll never be alone. It is only when Riley dies in Ellie’s arms that she learns she is immune – she is the only one that is immune. The terror and fear that Ellie experiences in that moment, watching her future slip away from her, defines the woman she grows up to be.
4. Dorian (Gay) – Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dorian is an exceptionally capable mage, holding the power to duel with the most powerful of foes without fear. Dorian has avoided relationships his entire life, afraid of what might become of him if people knew the truth. He has extensive romance options for male players, leading through something of a well-written gay romantic comedy. Dorian is a great character in his own right, but his presence so high up this list is to highlight the depth of the relationship he develops with the Inquisitor. It is unusual for gay romances in games to have so many options, so many endings, so much significance. Dorian is something of a monster in a fight but endearingly awkward in managing a relationship, and it’s nice to see a side of romantic comedy that allows a gay man to just act, well, human.
3. Madeline (Trans Woman) – Celeste
Celeste is a story of a girl named Madeline trying to climb a mountain. As the story goes on, you’ll find yourself cheering for Madeline to reach the top, to prove to herself that she can. She is shadowed on her journey by the dark part of herself, representing her anger, her depression, her fears, her failure. You’ll find yourself relating to her struggles and feel her victories and failures as your own. You’ll understand the dark part of her when it tries to lull her into giving up, because you’ve heard that voice in your own head a thousand times. But the moral of the story, tying in so perfectly with the game’s mechanics of dying over and over, is this: no matter how many times you fall down the mountain, you can always get back up and climb it again. What’s not revealed until one of the final frames of the game is that Madeline is transgender, and this journey has been simulating her path towards accepting herself. Unless you’re transgender yourself it’s unlikely you noticed that’s what the game was about (I sure didn’t), but it was cathartic all the same. This barely scrapes the surface of why I call Celeste a true masterpiece.
2. Parvati (Biromantic Asexual) – The Outer Worlds
Inevitably I will run out of Top 10 list ideas, and one day we will surely come upon a list of Top 10 RPG Companions. On that list I guarantee you will find Parvati Holcombe from Obsidian’s The Outer Worlds. Parvati holds a special place in my heart in being one of the few Indian major characters in gaming, but beyond that she’s a beacon of kindness in a dismal world. Parvati’s main quest involves her coming to terms with her own sexuality – she is asexual, and has a hard time accepting it because she still yearns for romantic love. She has doubts that such a thing can even exist, but with the help of the stranger, she goes on a dumb intergalactic romantic comedy quest to find it. It’s stupid, it’s fun, it’s handled well, and the overly polite Southern Belle becomes the most lovable character in the game by a wide margin by the end. Parvati both sheds some light on asexuality, which is basically nonexistent in popular media, as well as the fact that sexuality and romance aren’t tied together (see Todd from Bojack Horseman for another excellent example). Acknowledging and accepting people you may not understand is the highest form of humanity.
1. Chloe (Lesbian) – Life is Strange
When I meet anyone who has played Dontnod’s runaway hit Life is Strange, the first thing I ask is “bae or bay?” Chloe is the cornerstone that holds together the story of Life is Strange, who makes the entire thing work. Although she is Max’s best friend (and they can potentially share a kiss if the player so chooses), her sexuality is much more fleshed out in the prequel, Before the Storm. A few months before she reconnects with her childhood friend Max, Chloe’s best friend is a girl named Rachel Amber. Chloe slowly falls in love with Rachel as the two solve mysteries together, and when Rachel disappears Chloe’s vow for vengeance sets up the entire plot of Life is Strange. Chloe’s disgust at the authorities not taking Rachel’s disappearance seriously leads her to take matters into her own hands, and in her quest for justice she finds just how far she’s willing to go for love. And for the record, I chose “bae.”
Be proud of who you are! If you are straight, then let pride month be a reminder to respect and acknowledge gender and sexual minorities. They’re human. Treat them as such. They exist. You exist.
Did I miss any of your favorites? How many of these characters were voiced by Ashly Burch? Let us know in the comments below!