TOP 10 LGBT CHARACTERS IN VIDEOGAMES

In a world where LGBT characters and personalities are becoming far more common, with shows like Shameless, Orange is the New Black and Rupaul’s Drag Race providing mainstream entertainment with queer people from all types of backgrounds. But as TV and film diversifies, gaming is a often a medium left behind.

It’s far more rare for a mainstream game to feature a female character let alone a gay one, though things are getting better and LGBT characters are beginning to worm their way into games providing diverse tales with the interactive and immersive storytelling that only videogames can muster.

So I have gone through videogames past and present to find my Top 10 LGBT characters in games, we’re sticking to games from Western developers as the Japenese could probably have a list all their own.

10. Trevor Phillips from Grand Theft Auto 5

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Grand Theft Auto is often lambasted by critics for it’s incredibly graphic violence and glamorisation of guns and gang culture, but many miss the nuances and subtext of the world and diversity of the characters within the games. There have been a few LGBT characters in GTA, but Trevor Phillips is the first time you take control of an (unconfirmed) pan-sexual character.

Trevor is a violent sociopath, killing without remorse, but he is also fiercely loyal to those close to him – a complicated and well written multi-layered person which is equally important for LGBT representation in gaming. He is certainly not a positive influence to the LGBT movement but having characters of all backgrounds is important especially with GTA being such a massive franchise played by millions of gamers. Evidence for his pan-sexuality come from him openly and joyously admitting to raping men in prison, his “any holes a goal” mentality is refreshing in the heavily heterosexual gaming landscape, as well flirting with anything that moves.

Special mention to GTA 4 and the Ballad of Gay Tony. Rockstar are one of the few developers that are never afraid to diversify their character rosters and long may in continue, hopefully with more positive characters in the future for both women and the LGBT community.

9. Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect Series

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Mass effect gives the player the option to romance certain characters regardless of their gender. Bioware are pioneers of choice making games and their RPG’s set a template that all other western RPG’s have followed. As the male Commander Shepard players can even sleep with another male character if romanced properly. In Mass Effect 3 the player can flirt with Cortez to the point where they wake up in bed together, ding dong!

The Mass Effect fanbase has largely accepted these options, however the games have received some ire from gamers on the political right with many expressing displeasure at the time of Mass Effect 3’s release, this hasn’t stopped Bioware continuing with choice regarding sexuality in their other games though. On the other hand others have complained about the lack of options when playing the game as a gay man with very few romantic options for gay men compared to both gay women and heterosexual characters.

After Mass Effect Andromeda’s disappointing reception and Anthem being… well terrible – it might be a while before Bioware get another chance to represent the LGBT community. But we are hoping for even more depth and breadth for role playing as whoever you want to be in their next installment.

8. The Hero (Chicken Chaser) from The Fable Series

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The Fable games are a one of a kind RPG, a dark and comedic fantasy world where forming relationships are just as important as slaughtering your enemies. The 2004 original game was well ahead of its time in terms of representation, with the role playing elements of the game meaning you can fall in love and marry almost any NPC in the game man or woman.

For the games sequel things were expanded further with the player choosing whether play as a female or male, the ability to cross dress and marry someone of the same sex – so you could live out your life as lesbian, gay man or a bisexual. It features on this list as the Fable Universe had gay marriage even before the UK or the USA did, which in my book is mighty impressive!

Fable 2 also features a side quest whereby you must find a suitable partner for a farmers son, who hints at being gay, with the father accepting the sons sexuality after only presenting him with female suitors. Very progressive indeed. Maybe we’ll see more of this in the rumoured Fable reboot?

7. Jim Miller from Deus Ex Mankind Divided

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Many games either shy away from introducing gay character or will have them as comic relief flamboyant characters that serve little purpose to the story. Jim Miller bucks this trend featuring heavily in Mankind Divided as the stern and commanding leader whose goal is to keep people safe, a gay man that doesn’t follow any stereotypes and his main notable trait is being good at his job.

His sexuality is discovered gradually through the game and his complicated relationship with his husband and adopted children is a convincing, a rarity in all forms of media and especially a videogame.

Despite him being a supporting player in the game, Miller is a complicated and layered character, he’s someone with an interesting past that could easily be explored further. The Deus Ex world has many potential stories at it’s disposal, it would be great to see Jim explored further if the series ever continues.

6. Parvarti from The Outer Worlds

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2019’s Outer Worlds released to a warm reception, the game harkened back to a simpler time of RPG’s that didn’t just constantly expand the physical world, but concentrated on the characters that lived within it. Parvati is a character you discover early on and she instantly became the most popular character in the game.

Parvati is incredibly endearing; she’s sweet, caring and shy but also a capable mechanic and fantastic friend, who prefers to avoid violence, a great ally if you play through the game in non-violent manner. An early mission sees the playable character playing cupid with Parvati and Junlei, you can offer advice on their relationship and learn of their blossoming romance and the difficulties the characters have connecting physically due to Junlei being asexual.

It’s a genuinely sweet mission, and something of a rarity in modern games. Parvati is a loveable character that is certain to feature in the next Outer Worlds game and I can’t wait to see it.

5. Kung Jin from The Mortal Kombat Series

Kung Jin was the first homosexual character to be entered into the Mortal Kombat series, Jin was trained under The White Lotus Society – being gay he believed he would be rejected.

He is the nephew of franchise mainstay Kung Lao and like his uncle is a master of projectiles, coming equipped with his trusty bow and arrow. Kung Jin is unique in that he possesses two types of fatalities which includes decapitation with a round house kick and an impaling arrow move. As in all Mortal Kombat games it’s over-the-top, barbaric and strangely amusing.

Despite Kung Jin being one of the only confirmed LGBT characters in any fighting game, his sexuality is barely mentioned with only this quote “They care only of what is in your heart, not whom your heart desires.” alluding to his homosexuality in the actual game. With such a large roster we’d like to see more from all the fighting game franchises in the future, maybe Kung Jin could have a boyfriend in a future instalment.

4. Cremisius Aclassi from Dragon Age Inquisition

As this lists demonstrates, LGBT characters are usually side characters or are only gay when the player chooses so, it’s a typical attribute of an RPG. This is not to be sniffed at as all forms of representation are important and the community is slowly working its way into mainstream games. Though gay and lesbian characters are becoming more prevalent as time goes on trans representation is still very low.

Bioware feature heavily on this list and their character work is some of the best of all RPG developers, it’s was truly remarkable when they included Krem in Dragon Age Inquisition. Born as a girl, Krem realised he was different from the girls, later in life he concealed his gender status to enlist in the army, which almost lead to his execution for falsifying military documents. After running away he joins Bull Mercenary Company and rises to be second in command.

Interesting storytelling for a character in a fantasy world and handled well by the developers. Krem’s inclusion would be even better had a trans actor played the part. Hopefully in the future Dragon Age games Krem may return for his story to be expanded further.

3. Chloe Price from the Life is Strange Series

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This punk rocker from the Hipster minds at Dontnod Entertainment, Chloe is a remarkably deep character whose journey is not only compelling, but is the catalyst for the entire game. Chloe and Max play estranged friends that rekindle their friendship as Max uncovers a mystery regarding Chloe’s lover Rachel.

The game weaves a tight story about friendship and love, in an engaging fantasy coming-of-age story. Chloe is a stubborn young woman with trust issues, she suffers with depression and has had suicidal thoughts – it’s a realistic interpretation of LGBT youth and a daring insight into the mind of a young member of the LGBT community.

The big draw of Chloe is that she features heavily in the first season of Life is Strange and was the leading playable character in the spin-off Life is Strange : Before the Storm. Dontnod’s next title “Tell me Why” will feature a playable trans character, it’s an exciting prospect from a developer with a skill for deep character work and a entertaining stories.

2. Makoa Gibraltar from Apex Legends

It’s rare to find gay men as playable characters in any games, especially those where it’s not the choice of the player . What a surprise it is to see a western developer who are known for creating “dude bro” shooters create a character with surprising depth as well as representing the gay community in a battle royale shooter.

Gibraltar is described as being a “gentle giant” standing in at 6 foot 4, despite the fact he has the ability to crush skulls with his bare hands. Gibraltar’s sexuality is not shied away from with his boyfriend Nikolas playing heavily in his backstory, as well as a complicated history with his father.

He is also notable for being Polynesian as well as gay, Respawn deserve a lot of credit for including Gibraltar in their game and here’s hoping there’s more to come!

1. Ellie from The Last of Us Series

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Coming in at number 1 could only be Ellie from The Last of Us. As mentioned previously most of the people on the list are side-characters, though Ellie played a supporting role in the first game, she takes centre stage for the games recently released sequel.

Naughty Dog are masters of story-telling with unprecedented skill in writing deeply flawed and engaging characters. Ellie is no different, in the first game a young woman coming to terms with herself. Growing up in this violent world has a serious impact on Ellie’s mental health, which goes far deeper in the sequel. Ellie’s first coming-out moment featured in the DLC for the first game, with a deeper and more adult orientated relationship blossoming in part 2 with bi-sexual character Dina. We even see both women raise a child together, showing how motherhood can change a characters outlook on life, it’s a sweet and heart warming relationship that’s treated with the utmost respect.

The Last of Us represents Ellie as a lesbian but doesn’t dwell on it, it isn’t the driving force for the story which is commendable in this landscape, especially a AAA mainstream game. All of Ellie’s relationships are relatable and her thirst for vengeance in Part 2 takes the player on a unique journey of an LGBT character that has never been attempted before – it’s a game that deserves the highest praise for its character work.

Special mention must also be made for also introducing other LGBT characters in the Last of Us games such as Bill and trans character Lev, bravo Naughty Dog – you deserve the top spot on this list!

THE LAST OF US PART 2 REVIEW

Sony’s first party studios have carved out a niche of delivering stellar story-heavy action adventure games, usually in third person perspective. The God of War reboot and Horizon Zero Dawn have been important games to the PlayStation 4 and have cemented Sony’s console as the best place to play these type of narrative driven games. Naughty Dog really are the masters of this type of story-telling, their character studies are unlike anything else in the industry (with the possible exception of Ninja Theory) and The Last of Us Part 2 goes further than any other mainstream game. Here is my full review of The Last of Us Part 2.

STORY

MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD The Last of Us Part 2 takes the player on a journey of revenge, a well trodden path that many games and films have gone to before, but it’s the games execution that sets it a part from the rest. You take on the role of Ellie from the first game, this time all grown up with a extra dash of angst – told through flashbacks we learn that Ellie has grown distant from her father figure Joel since the events of the first game, it plays into one of the many themes of the game – actions have consequences. An early event which sees the brutal murder of Joel at the hands of new character Abby is a gut punch, an emotional and unsatisfying end to a character you grew to love in the previous game – killed by a woman who dispenses of the man with what seems like glee. It’s hard to witness and Ellie’s cries of anger are devastating and a reaction most gamers will feel along with her. All this emotional pull comes in the first 2-3 hours of the game, in any other mainstream game this would have been a finale or a lead up, but The Last of Us dares to be different.

The game challenges your perspectives on where a videogame narrative will venture. As you play through the storylines of two characters entwined together with completely different outcomes. Both characters illicit sympathy, you will question their actions and yet still understanding their motives. They are both equally complex and chapter concluding flashbacks provide insight into the actions the characters take. This is a style of storytelling rarely done in videogames and it’s incredibly compelling – it’s incredible how the two scenarios both mirror one another and the first game in tandem. It’s deftly put together, and mostly works. The pacing struggles to juggle the narrative in the third act of the 2nd character campaign, it starts to feel a bit “hollywoodised” and limps towards its conclusion instead of the thrilling climax it deserved – it feels a bit silly and out of place. It’s shame this section made into the game, it’s in stark contrast to the rest of the game – it felt more like a Resident Evil game, which in some ways might be unavoidable due to both games featuring the “undead” but after such thought provoking character studies in the preceding chapters it feels wrong, some odd choices were taken here and I feel without them the game length might have been more digestible as well. Luckily as the 2 campaigns converge in the last few hours the game it gets back on track to an emotional and satisfying resolution.

The Last of Us Part 2 has a by-the-numbers plot with truly ground-breaking story about revenge, forgiveness, bereavement and the consequences of violence. The narrative will divide gamers, but it’s worth experiencing – no other videogame has dared to tell a story with this much depth and that’s including the first game.

GAMEPLAY AND GRAPHICS

To put it bluntly this is one of the most impressive looking games that’s ever been made. Lush vegetation scales the walls of the abandoned buildings, decaying furniture litters houses and the grass moves in the wind and realistically deforms from character impact. It’s seriously impressive. Water effects, particle effects and lighting are all stunning, the dark rooms filled with spores illuminated by just your flashlight look particularly fantastic. The environments feel like real, lived-in places – it’s very immersive and believable – small details like graffiti, mould and trinkets left behind from survivors add another level. The game is mostly linear, but deceptively open, barring your initial arrival in Seattle you are led through a series of open combat zones and enclosed corridors to traverse and yet the game feels like it’s open world and you can go anywhere, you can’t but it’s very clever level design none-the-less. Character models are beautifully detailed – the motion capture is best in class, with emotions being convincing portrayed – clothing and skin looks as close to real as this generation has ever gotten, Naughty Dog have set an incredibly high bar for their next game.

The gameplay loop is similar to the first; Walk through the environment in heavily scripted information dumps, stealth combat, loot, traverse environment, rinse and repeat. For a game that takes around 30 hours the gameplay does lose it’s lustre in the latter hours of the game. That’s not to say the gameplay is bad, combat is violent and satisfyingly crunchy. Pulling off a head shot with a bow whilst prone in tall grass is a buzz and solving the riddle of how to take on each stealth scenario can pose a credible challenge. The weapons are varied and each comes with its own sets of positive and negative attributes for use in each situation. Bombs and molotovs can be crafted on the fly to cause distractions or off enemies without giving away your location. It works well and at points can be a real thrill – human enemies and infected enemies provide variation and forces you to slightly change tactics for each encounter.

Other parts of the combat don’t fare quite as well. Enemy AI is dumb and will often walk into danger alone despite the characters being aware of your presence, meaning you can take out 2-3 enemies from one location without moving. Another aspect the game doesn’t really try and should, is to force the player into being more aggressive. I appreciate the game is stealth focused but with bombs at the players disposal it feels like a missed opportunity to not use them, it makes little sense for enemies not to form close groups when there’s 2/3 of them left to take out, Batman Arkham City is a good example of this, as it truly tests the player to fully change tactics on the fly as the enemies work together to find you – something The Last of Us doesn’t do. The samey-ness of the combat wouldn’t be an issue had the game only been 20 hours, but stretching this out over 30 hours makes it wear thin, to the point where I rolled my eyes at yet another combat scenario. Follower AI is also poorly utilised, occasionally they provide helpful assistance, but more often than not they do little to help and break immersion by running in front of enemies who never see them.

Music and sound ties the whole game together beautifully. The score goes for understated guitar strums over an operatic string section, it’s in perfect harmony with the setting and story. The voice acting is the best in the industry with each character having convincing, realistic and heart wrenching performances. The sounds of the clickers and runners is truly unnerving especially in the early game, also using environmental noise and silence to great effect – it’s all very tense and well incorporated.

CONCLUSION

The Last of Us Part 2 is a crowning achievement in videogame storytelling, a deep character study where few other games will dare to venture. Though not perfect the game, it is a flawed masterpiece that should be experienced by anyone with even a passing interest in videogames.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Pro’s

  • Excellent storytelling
  • Beautiful environments
  • Compelling and complex characters
  • Satisfying combat encounters and weapon variety
  • Incredible performances from the entire cast

Cons

  • Too long and too reliant on samey combat
  • AI of human enemies could be improved

ORI AND THE WILL OF THE WISPS REVIEW

Ori and the Blind Forest was a standout game in 2015 for it’s challenging platforming, beautiful world and heart warming story. Xbox Game Studios has a good track record for supporting independent games like Ori and Cuphead by giving them both the audience and budget to truly achieve their vision. The second Ori game released in March 2020 attempts to broaden the scope of the original by adding new and exciting ingredients to the well balanced formula. Here is my review for Ori and the Will of the Wisps.

STORY

Unlike many side scrolling platformers Ori and the Will of the Wisps puts it’s story front and centre, following on directly from its predecessor Ori, Naru and Gumo are taking care of baby owl Ku, we see the love and affection they all have for each other – it’s a heart-warming start. Ku is unable to fly due to an damaged wing until Gumo affixes Kuro’s (Ku’s mother) feather to it. Ku and Ori go on a flight that ends up taking them out of their home and into Niwen, a storm erupts separating the two adopted brothers and our story begins with Ori tracking down Ku.

Niwen is in a state of disarray, with dirty waters and unwanted creatures populating the lush overgrowth. Niwen is still teeming with life with the meerkat-like Moki assist Ori throughout his journey – the plot takes many unexpected turns leading to an encounter with the main antagonist Shriek a deformed owl who rules over the lands of Niwen called The Silent Woods.

The story has surprising depth for a game where both the protagonist and the villain say little to nothing. Shriek in particular is painted as a sympathetic monster, giving you an understanding of his past that tugs on the heartstrings. Will of the Wisps visual storytelling is superb and will melt even the coldest of hearts, if there was a developer that came close Pixar animated narratives in the videogame space then Moon Studios is the one.

GAMEPLAY AND GRAPHICS

Ori and the Will of the Wisps uses a hyper pigmented animation style that resembles brush strokes and to put it bluntly, it’s gorgeous. The world is alive, with bushes and shrubs reacting realistically as you brush past them – wildlife both friend and foe animate smoothly and have a real impact in the world around them. Many 2D side scrollers have a problem when it comes to the world building in that due to the them being a flat picture, they can often feel sterile, with characters that look like they are aren’t really part of the game world – Ori avoids this with 2.5D style that gives the illusion of a three dimensional space on a two dimensional plane. The colour palette is aesthetically pleasing, with the bright colours popping, especially on a HDR display – this could well be one of the best looking games of the generation. The world is a Metroidvania open-world, with a massive and densely animated map that’s a joy to traverse. The games smart use of abilities makes the progression through the map feel natural, whilst giving a small thrill as you discover hidden mysteries along the way.

All this would be nothing without tight gameplay and it’s another area where Will of the Wisps both exceeds its predecessor and all other games in the genre. Controlling Ori is a delight, his is nimble and responsive – starting the game with only a simple jump and the ability to scale a wall, the game is still able to provide clever challenges with the skills at your disposal. As the game continues and you unlock double jump, dig and boost (among many others) the platforming difficulty increases, challenging the player to chain multiple abilities in one sequence – it’s unforgiving but never unfair. Mastery takes time, but the game rarely exhibits the difficulty spikes the prior game had, instead it slowly ramps up the trials, with no hints as to what to do, just the tools to conquer the test. The game now uses an auto save feature in place of the spirit saves from the previous game – this is a welcome addition and thankfully saves are plentiful as you will die a lot and loading is almost instantaneous. In the 2nd half of the game you are tasked with completing 4 separate areas of the map, each with their own unique challenges – my personal favourite being an ice world where you are tasked with melting and re-freezing the world to progress, it’s genius and adds a puzzle solving element to the platforming, keeping the gameplay diverse.

Combat returns in the sequel, but is greatly expanded from the previous game. This is the games biggest improvement, where the combat in Blind Forest felt very one note, Will of the Wisps takes it to the next level – with several options available to taking on opponents, from projectiles and melee weapons. All have differing weights, speeds and costs so picking and choosing the best way to dispense of your foes becomes another of the games difficult mechanics to juggle with. The game features boss fights which rely on the player to be able to switch up tactics quickly as well as navigating tricky platforming, so fighting becomes something of a dance – dodging, redirecting and attacking and like everything else in the game, it’s hard but it’s oh so rewarding.

Ori’s audio work is some of the best in any game released this generation, a mystical and enchanting score which deftly intertwines with both the story and the gameplay – moments of tenderness and triumph are amplified superbly by the score by composer Gareth Coker. Voice and other audio is also handled well, even though none of the characters “speak” they manage to convey everything they need to through noises, it’s really outstanding work. The sound design of slicing through an enemy or bashing them with a spirit hammer is satisfying and impactful – the winds through the forests and trickling water amalgamates to create the perfect atmosphere. It all amounts to a world that you want to stay in, a world that is believable.

CONCLUSION

Ori and the Will of the Wisps is one of the greatest games of the generation and certainly the best Xbox One exclusives. It’s a challenging, beautiful, enchanting, dangerous, near perfect side scrolling platformer, one that exceeds its predecessor in every way. It’s a must play.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Pros

  • Challenging but fair platforming
  • Tight controls
  • Superbly told and emotional story
  • Beautifully realised world
  • Incredible score and audio design

Cons

  • N/A