LGBTQ+ Visual Novels
by Harriette Chan
In 2018, The Last of Us 2 made headlines for something actually positive. They revealed that the main character, Ellie, was gay and had a female partner. Of course in video games, gay characters are the exception and not the rule since most AAA games still adhere to the straight white man protagonists. LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream games is still scarce but you can find a wealth of gay representation within the indie scene. Visual novels are a great way of expressing LGBTQ+ stories and a lot of them are free to play online making them really accessible. Through these smaller games we can find tons of queer stories told be queer creators. Below are three short free to play visual novels that I would recommend looking into.
One Night, Hot Springs
One Night, Hot Spring is a visual novel that follows a young Japanese woman named Haru. She’s invited to go to a hot spring to celebrate her best friend’s birthday. The story wonderfully portrays the struggles of trans people within the context of shared baths. The game has multiple endings and save files for some replayability. It’s a kind story that is also educational. The art is adorable and completing one playthrough would only take about 5–10 minutes. It’s a visual novel that I would want everyone to read.
Also, if you like the game, One Night Hot Spring is the first in a three part series that follows the three characters in the first game.
Is It That Deep, Bro?
Is It That Deep, Bro? Follows a teenager who is simultaneously watching a gay cowboy movie with his friend and grappling with his sexuality. This game was created by @moawling and @cavegift and was made for the Gay Western Jam, which was a game jam on itch.io that paid tribute to the release of Brokeback Mountain. It only takes 5–10 minutes to complete but it is packed with charm. Is It That Deep, Bro? perfectly portrays the awkward way a lot of people came to terms with their sexuality as the main character examines his feelings for his friend. The game has three endings (and spoiler alert: the good ending is very sweet). Plus, there’s a butt in this game! Do you need any more incentive to play?
On a side note, themed game jams on itch.io like the Gay Western Jam are great ways to find queer video games made by queer creators.
Butterfly Soup by Brianna Lei follows four queer Asian American girls who navigate growing up by joining a baseball club. The game touches on the struggles of growing up Asian, gay, and not conforming to gender roles. If you can relate to any of this, then I would highly recommend that you pick up this game. As a queer Asian woman, the characters in this game really hit home for me. Butterfly Soup has a play time of around 3–4 hours, not too long but you can sink your teeth into it. It’s filled with snappy funny moments and paints wonderful relationships between all four girls. As a trigger warning there are written depictions of parental abuse (no visuals) and ableist slurs within the game.
There’s definitely a long way to go when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation in media, and videogames are no exception. But these are just a few examples of the great queer storytelling that indie developers are doing right now. So I highly urge everyone to support and watch the indie scene for some great LGBTQ+ video games.
About the Author:
Harriette is a cheesecake enthusiast, video game lover, and disgruntled college student. When she grows up she wants to be a writer, or an archaeologist, or a barista. Whatever, she’ll figure it out. She is currently working towards her BFA in Creative Writing in Boston.