The 8 oldest games with queer representations
Over the years, queer representation has increasingly become normalized across various forms of media, and games are no exception. At the stage we fin...
Over the years, queer representation has increasingly become normalized across various forms of media, and games are no exception. At the stage we find ourselves currently, a strong queer representation in a game is not truly considered newsworthy and is generally expected in games that offer multiple romance options or a diverse range of characters.
However, that was not always the case, and in the early days of gaming, it was far from being common. Part of the reason why queer characters are now treated with less controversy in modern games is because the groundwork was laid by earlier portrayals. So, who are the queer characters in older games that started it all?
8 Le Crime Du Parking - Paco
The earliest documented example of queer representation in the gaming world is the character of Paco in "Le Crime Du Parking" from 1985. This was a French mystery game where a significant portion of the narrative was conveyed through text and simple illustrations.
Unfortunately, Paco falls victim to one of the most common tropes when it comes to queer characters in the media: he is portrayed as an antagonist. Despite the potentially problematic depiction of Paco, he is at least an important character in the game's storyline, serving not only as the main villain but also as a tailor and merchant.
7 Super Mario Bros 2 - Birdo
One of the more well-known queer characters in the gaming world comes from an extremely popular series - Birdo, a character from the Mario series who first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 2 in 1988. Unfortunately, Nintendo's portrayal of Birdo does not showcase the character in the best light.
In the game's manual (a much more common means of storytelling in the early years of gaming), Birdo is described as "thinking he is a girl" and would prefer to be called Birdetta. This portrayal depicts Birdo as a transgender woman, albeit in a mocking manner. Although Birdo's gender identity hasn't received much attention in future Mario games, she appears in many spin-off titles, ensuring that she is not entirely forgotten.
6 Dracula Unleashed - Alfred Horner
"Dracula Unleashed" is a story-driven PC game that was originally released in 1993. It is one of the earliest portrayals of a queer character in the gaming world and notable for Alfred Horner, who is the first openly gay character in a game with a speaking role.
Despite this achievement, Alfred's portrayal in the game is not particularly compassionate, as he behaves incredibly perversely and lusts after the main character. While his identity is at least clear, the stereotypes he embodies are unfortunately all too common in early depictions of gay men in the media.
5 Phantasmagoria 2 A Puzzle of Flesh - Curtis & Trevor
"Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh" is an extremely controversial horror point-and-click game that was released in 1996. The game faced significant censorship in various countries due to its explicit sexual content, with queer content playing a part in contributing to the controversy.
The main character of the game is Curtis, who has a close relationship with his openly gay colleague Trevor. Later in the game, he confides in a psychiatrist about his feelings for Trevor, expressing his belief that he might be bisexual. As the story progresses, the two of them come close to being intimate and nearly share a kiss. This makes "Phantasmagoria 2" one of the earliest games to feature a playable openly non-heterosexual character.
4 Star Ocean: The Second Story
"Star Ocean" is a beloved JRPG series that has maintained its popularity over the years. The second installment of the series was released in 1998 but has seen frequent re-releases and ports, including an HD-2D remake for PlayStation and Switch in 2023.
The game gives you the option to play as either Claude or Rena. There are various romance options throughout the story, regardless of whom you choose to play. Both Ashton and Precis are available as romantic interests for both characters, which means that Claude, Rena, Ashton, and Precis are all bisexual characters.
3 Persona 2 - Tatsuya & Jun
Another JRPG series that has gained enormous popularity with its recent entries is Persona. The latest installments of the series have received some criticism due to the lack of queer romance options, and there is evidence that this was already removed in Persona 4.
This is ironic considering that the series has already included queer romance options, as Persona 2 was released as early as 1999. The main character Tatsuya's best friend, Jun, is depicted as having romantic feelings for him, and the game gives you the opportunity to later choose a romantic option between them.
2 The Sims
The Sims is perhaps the most successful and long-standing life simulation series available in the gaming world, and a noteworthy aspect of the series is that it has included queer representation as an option for the characters you create right from the start.
The development of the first Sims game, released in 2000, was arduous, and a long-discussed question among the developers was whether queer relationships should be included or not. Although the decision was made to exclude them, they were still programmed, and during a live demo at E3 prior to the game's release, a lesbian kiss was shown, making it too late to remove the feature.
1 Star Wars Knights Of Tthe Old Republic - Juhani
The Star Wars multimedia franchise has been around for decades. However, the first openly queer character in all Star Wars media was not confirmed until 2003.
Juhani is a party member in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. Although there were errors in the original game that made her sexual orientation more flexible, she was later confirmed to be primarily interested in female characters through updates. This made it easy for a female main character to enter into a romantic relationship with the character. Even if that wasn't the case, Juhani was given a strongly implied romance with the female non-player character Belaya.