Life is Strange and it’s prequel, Before the Storm, seem to be at the top of every “LGBTQ female game protagonist” list right now. I’ve already done a fairly extensive review of Life is Strange here, so instead let’s jump into games starring queer women and/or women of color – all of whom actually thrive.
Here are my 3 favorite indie games starring queer women and/or and women of color. These games are all wonderful and life-affirming, and bring joy to me every time I play.
Night in the Woods is by far the best game in its class. It’s a single-player adventure where you play as Mae Borowski, a college student who recently dropped out of school and returned to her derelict home town, Possum Springs.
It sounds depressing on the surface, and indeed the game deals with some heavy themes. Mae and faces the harsh realities – poverty, economic despair, mental illness – and comes through it all with joy, hope, and wonder.
The game itself is a blast to play, as you follow Mae and her friends on various adventures (Or, “Crimes!” as Gregg would say.) While the overall subject matter is intense, the relationships between the characters are what make the game so meaningful.
You have Gregg and Angus, an openly gay couple who adore and support each other. You have Mae’s friend Bea, who’s weary and has Seen Some Shit™, but holds out hope nonetheless. Then you have Mae herself, who’s feeling lost in life, but realizes that she has good people around her as she finds her way.
Night in the Woods is delightful, raw, charming and honest. It gives me hope every time I play.
Canon LGBTQ Representation: Mae is bi/pansexual (she says that she likes both men and women, and flirts with a cute girl at a party); Gregg and Angus are both gay men (who survive and thrive!); Bea is a trans girl, although that’s only been confirmed by the creators, out of game. Still, an impressive LGBTQ cast!
Overall, 10/10 for great gameplay, meaningful themes, and diverse LGBTQ representation.
(Mild spoilers ahead.)
Road Not Taken is a quirky little game that I personally adore. The developers, SpryFox, describe it as, “a roguelike puzzle game about surviving life’s surprises,” but it’s a lot more than that.
You play as a Ranger who must rescue lost children from the woods each winter. Along the way you meet a cast of characters who you can build friendships and relationships with.
While I love the puzzle mechanics of the game – each level is procedurally generated, meaning there are new challenges every time – I love the characters even more. The characters too, change each game, so you have a whole new set of townspeople to know and love.
Canon LGBTQ Representation: Road Not Taken is unique in that both the player character and the cast of townspeople are procedurally generated for each playthrough. The characters have a similar character design each time, but may have different names, races, personalities, and genders (I’ve heard “they/them” pronouns used a couple of times, for example, suggesting non-binary characters.)
You as the player are never named or gendered, so hey! Your own name and gender are canon as far as Road Not Taken is concerned. Also, you’re given the option to befriend and woo as many or few characters as you like, regardless of gender.
Are you asexual? Great! The Ranger can be too! Bisexual? Gay? Polyamorous? All of those options are open to pursue, which I love.
I should mention that although Road Not Taken is life-affirming overall, it does deal with difficult topics, including breakups, infertility, and death. I won’t spoil any farther than that, but since this is a list about thriving LGBTQ characters, it’s important to mention that while Road Not Taken technically does fit the bill, it’s much darker thematically than the graphics let on. Which is to say that the game treats its queer characters right – it’s from a certain point of view.
Overall: 9/10 for fun gameplay, interesting relationships, and constantly changing challenges. Bonus points for a “choose-your-own adventure” approach to gender and sexuality!
And now for something completely different – Tiny Bird Garden!
First of all, I’m not getting paid to say this. Second, I LOVE this game. The art is bright and beautiful, the characters – both the humans and birds – are delightful, and the message is positive and encouraging.
You start out with a backyard garden for “tiny birds,” who you can feed, dress (in the cutest little hats!) and give toys and treats to. The “tiny birds” all have big personalities, and will talk to you throughout the day, reminding you to take care of yourself, or amusing you with wry humor.
The human characters of Tiny Bird Garden are excellent too! They each have a unique backstory and personality quirks, and they’re fun to get to know. They’ll tell you jokes or just chat, and they always makes me smile.
The creator and lead illustrator of Tiny Bird Garden is a Black woman – Daisy Ein. The rest of this list has focused on LGBTQ representation, with some characters of color, but I wanted to end this list by celebrating a Black creator who’s creating Black characters – and in a wonderful game to boot.
Overall: 10000/10 for creativity and cuteness. Seriously, just go play this game. (Free download links at tinybirdgarden.com)
Alright friends! What have I left out? What are your favorite games starring LGBTQ characters and characters of color?
Share your recs in the comments!