Games

[Pride Month 2018] 10 LGBTQ Positive Visual Novels

Hey Hey Heroes, Travelers, and Wandering NPCs, I’m back… well, kinda. It’s June and that means it’s LGBT Pride Monththe annual celebration dedicated to the richly diverse LGBT community. As an ally of the LGBTQ community I wanted to do something to celebrate here on Blerdy Otome, so I compiled a list of ten LGBTQ Positive Visual Novels I think you guys should check out. I tried to compile a list of games that I thought were representative of the LGBTQ community, so expect a wide range of titles with diverse characters and subject matter.

I want to emphasize that I went for games that represented the LGBTQ community in a positive light, so I shied away from titles that seemed to hypersexualize LGBTQ relationships, so don’t expect any overtly sexual BL or Yuri games on this list! As with any list, your mileage may vary, so if you don’t agree with my choices, you are more than welcome to suggest other games down in the comments section. So, without further ado, let’s get this party started, here’s my list of 10 LGBTQ Positive Visual Novels, you should definitely check out this Pride Month!

*Also be sure to check out Pride Month 2019’s list for even more LGBTQ friendly VNs!


Lone Wolf

Loan Wolf (2016)- Team Rumblebee

Romance Options: Female

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Loan Wolf is a short supernatural slice-of-life visual novel developed by Team Rumblebee for Yuri Jam 2016 and is available for Windows, Mac, and Linux. You play as Laika an overworked werewolf as she navigates her dead end job, student loans, and her budding social life. Between her nymph best friend and her new succubus coworker, Laika’s life is about to get a lot more exciting!

Team Rumblebee seamlessly integrates elements of fantasy into an every day modern setting, giving Loan Wolf a distinctly slice-of-life feel despite the supernatural undertones of the game’s premise. The characters are all a lot of fun and I especially loved how dynamic the love interests were, whether you choose to pursue steadfast botanist Daphne or sinfully seductive Victoria, you’re definitely in for a great experience. This is just a very chill game and I appreciated the subtly of the romance elements, the characters and not their sexuality are at the forefront, and despite the rather short runtime of the game, you don’t feel like things are being rushed.


butterfly soup.png

Butterfly Soup (2017)- Brianna Lei

Romance Options: Female

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Butterfly Soup is a short, sweet coming of age story about four LGBTQ Asian-American teens, as they navigate the ups and downs of high school and friendship. The game offers an interesting look at the lives of all four of the girls, and their relationships with one another, particularly the budding romance between Diya and Min-Seo as they come to terms with their budding feelings for one another. While the game does address the complex nature of their relationship, the game is relatively lighthearted, and hopeful.

Game is available in English and Traditional Chinese.

I’m usually not a big fan of “yuri” games, they either fall into one of two categories: fanservice fodder or depressing melodrama, with rarely any in between. Thankfully, Butterfly Soup is neither of those things, with it’s quirky vibrant cast and delightfully lighthearted storytelling, this game wound up being one of my favorites! But, don’t let that fool you, Butterfly Soup deals with some rather serious issues, such as sexual identity, self acceptance, as well as the expectations of their families. Surprisingly, the game handles this with equal parts humor and reverence, befitting it’s young protagonists.


one night.png

One Night, Hot Springs

Non-Binar(Transgender female)

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

One Night, Hot Spring is a short visual novel created for Trans Gal Jam 2018 by Npckc & Maxdotine. The game follows Haru a transgender Japanese woman who is invited to the spend the night at a local hot spring. She wants nothing more than to enjoy the hot spring with her friends, but for Haru a simple night out with friends is full of many obstacles as she attempts to navigate the rigid gender structures of a Japanese hot spring. The game is roughly 30 minutes long, with both good and “bad” endings, and I highly recommend playing through the entire game if you can! It’s also available for download for android

Game is available in English, Spanish, Japanese, and Korean.

While the game itself is pretty optimistic, it does focus on some issues transgender women in Japan might face, common things like filling out an intake form or deciding which bath to use are all much more difficult for Haru and One Night, Hot Spring handles each situation with a great deal of care and sensitivity.  Even as a cis individual, I felt the weight of each and ever choice I made in the game, as every action directly effected how not only Haru perceived herself, but how those around her perceived her. Haru’s anxieties as she navigates being a transgender woman in a Japanese hot spring are very real ones and the developers did a wonderful job of handling each and every obstacle Haru faces with the appropriate amount of care. The supporting cast ranged from supportive of Haru to at times mildly judgmental of Haru and her situation a notion I found added realism to the game while still retaining a sense of levity.


a foretold affair

A Foretold Affair (2017)- GB Patch

Romance Options: Male, Female, Non-Binary

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Steam

A Foretold Affair is a steampunk fantasy romance visual novel from indie English developers GB Patch. After catching a glimpsing their own future, Abnormal, Buffalo Seer, will leave home on an epic quest to locate their intended spouse! But, the road to the future they foresaw won’t be easy, with enemies all around, Buffalo Seer will have to keep their wits about them and rely on three mysterious strangers in order to make their happy future a reality.

I first came across the demo for this game last year and I was enamored with it’s unique premise and interesting cast, but what really set A Foretold Affair apart from the rest was it’s diverse cast. Unlike most romance games on the market, players can choose the gender pronouns (they, she, or he) Buffalo Seer uses throughout the game. This is a level of detail that takes into account not just the changing climate of gaming but, the types of audiences playing visual novels, making for a much more inclusive gameplay experience. In addition to that the pursuable characters in A Foretold Affair features not only male and female love interests, but also a non-binary individual as a potential romance option.


forget me not.png

Forget-Me-Not (2014)- Boniae

Romance Options: Male

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Forget Me Not is yet another teen coming of age story visual novel, but what sets this game apart from the rest is its realistic characters and the care in which it handles sensitive issues, such as: abuse, depression, and sexual identity. The game is pretty substantial taking anywhere between 3-6 hours for one playthrough, with three distinct outcomes.

The game follows the relationship between social outcast Emmett and Michael, a mysterious stranger he meets one summer. As their friendship blossoms, Emmett realizes his feelings for Michael are more than that of just a friend. Things only become more complicated when Emmett senses that Michael is harboring a big secret, suddenly he is forced to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t really know all that much about his closest friend. This game is a bit of an emotional sucker punch, a bit heavy on the melodrama, but in a way that doesn’t come off as gimmicky or overly dramatic. You really feel for these characters and their struggles and by the end of the game… well, let’s just say you’ll feel things…


Inverness Nights.jpg

Inverness Nights (2017)- Kitsubasa

Romance Options: Male

Get the Game: Windows,Mac, Linux

Inverness Nights is a historical fantasy visual novel set in 18th century Scotland, the game follows an immortal tailor named Tristram Rose as he attempts to break things off with his partner Alasdair. Rather than focusing on the rose colored beginnings of a romance, Inverness Nights is about the end of one. Tristram must settle things with Alasdair while keeping his tailoring work and the other aspects of his complicated life as normal as possible. It takes about 4 and a half hours to get through the entire game, with three pathways (each with their own distinct outcomes): have Tristram prioritize his work, his relationship with Alasdair, or pursue someone new.

This game sat in my backlog for quite some time before I picked it back up again and I will admit that it was a slow go at first, but the game slowly draws you in with its rich storytelling and setting. As a gay man in a time where homosexuality was punishable by death, Tristram’s journey offers a unique look at the rigid social structures of the past, while offering a rather realistic look at some of the issues many in the LGBTQ community still face today.  While romance is an integral part of the narrative, at times it takes a backseat to other aspects of Tristram’s life, making for a much more immersive gaming experience.


where-we-lay-our-scene

Where We Lay Our Scene(2016)- Cyanide Tea

Romance Options: Male, Female, Non-Binary (Transgender Female)

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Christian Marino is a model in crisis, when faced with the reality that his youth and good looks are indeed fleeting, he attempts to seek out a new purpose in life. So, when a role as the lead in a film based on a bestselling novel falls right into his lap, Christian sees this as an opportunity to broaden his horizons and ensure the longevity of his personal “brand”. But, the jump from modeling to acting isn’t exactly a smooth transition and Christian is faced with a new set of obstacles and challenges as he adjusts to the hustle and bustle of a film set. The game features four romancable characters, two male, one female and one transgender female, with a total of 13 distinctive game outcomes.

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Cyanide Tea’s games, not just for their distinctive narratives, but for the diversity they incorporate into each and every one of their games (even Taarradhin). Not only are there characters from a wide range of backgrounds and nationalities, but in many of their games they also offer a number of male and female romance options. Usually more mainstream games will incorporate one “non-traditional” love interest that are either wholly defined by their gender (or in some cases sexuality) with the rest of their characterization leaving much to be desired. However, in Where We Lay Our Scene, each love interest is a person first and a love interest second. They take time developing their characters first before delving into the intricacies of romance. So, while I chose Where We Lay Our Scene for this particular post, I highly recommend checking all of their games out!


a normal lost phone

A Normal Lost Phone (2017)- Playdius

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Steam

IOS & Android

A Normal Lost Phone is by far one of the most controversial titles on this list, due to the invasive nature of the gameplay. In the game, you find a lost phone and must search through the phone’s contents in order to uncover details about its former owner. Through your investigations (searching through text messages, pictures, and apps) you learn more and more about Sam (the previous owner) and the intimate details of their life up until the night Sam seemingly vanished without a trace. Who was Sam? Where did the go? Dig through the last remnants of Sam’s life and find out!

I won’t spoil the game for you, but know that A Normal Lost Phone is definitely on this list for a reason, despite the backlash the game received early on. I will admit that digging through the contents of someone’s phone is invasive, both from a moral and ethical standpoint, however when other mystery/adventure games have player riffling through trash and badgering witnesses as the main source of gameplay, I’m slightly more forgiving of ANLP‘s privacy issues.


Ghosts of Miami

Ghosts of Miami (2017)- Pillow Fight

Romance Options: Male, Female, Non-Binar(Fluid)

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Steam 

The game is set in 1986 Miami, a tumultuous time in US history, Reagan had just started his crusade against drugs and crime was rampant in the streets. The perfect setting for Consuelo “Chelo” Martínez to cut her teeth as an up and coming private investigator. Chelo, is a spunky 20-something with a quick wit and an eye for investigation, when someone goes missing, she’s the lady to call. When her brother’s less than savory employer offers to lend a hand with a few of her investigations, Chelo must decide whether she wants to bend the rules to solve the case or play it safe. Follow Chelo as she patrols the streets of Dade county, following leads and chatting with witnesses! Crack the case, and break a few hearts along the way…

Like Where We Lay Our SceneGhosts of Miami boasts a rather diverse cast of characters and love interests. Of the five romanceable characters, there are two female options, two male options, and one non-binary option. I was particularly interested in the non-binary love interest, Janet, a professional Drag King. Rather than adhering to one set of gender pronouns, Janet uses both: feminine pronouns when referring to herself in public and male pronouns when using her drag king persona Prince Charming. It’s an interesting choice as most games will either defer to one or the other or simply utilize neutral gender pronouns. On top of that the game deals with sexual identity at a time when the LGBT community was not as openly accepted.


who we are now

Who We Are Now (2018)- Spincut

Romance Options: Male

Get the Game: Windows, Mac, Linux

Who We Are Now is a self titled queer, post-apocalyptic visual novel set ten years after a nuclear war devastated the Earth. The game follows Wes, one of the many survivors of an the event that turned the world into a barren wasteland as he attempts to let go of his past. He stumbles upon a settlement called Home, where he meets other survivors, each with their own stories to tell, together they find solace in each other as they pick up the pieces of their lives.

Alright, I’m cheating a bit with this one since the developers have yet to release the game in full, instead opting to release the game in parts. At the time of this post, only two routes are available; Xander and Jesse, but after playing the demo a few months ago I could not in good conscience leave this game off this list! While all of the available love interests are male, this is far from a one size fits all cast. Due to the nature of the setting, each character is representative of a different ethnicity and/or background. As I mentioned earlier games tend to define LGBTQ characters by their sexuality and little else, but with Who We Are Now, each character has their own specific circumstances that are wholly unique to them and separate from their sexual identity. The main focus of the game isn’t the romance, but on the characters learning to move on from their pasts in order to forge meaningful futures for themselves in a post-apocalyptic world.


final thoughts

There we are, 10 visual novels that I thought portrayed the LGBTQ community in a positive light. Of course, not all of these games feature characters representative of the entirety of the LGBTQ community, however, they each touched on issues and characters specific to the community in some way. Whether it’s a diverse cast of characters or narratives that focus on issues of gender identity and acceptance these games provide some insight into the struggles and successes that LGBT+ individuals face everyday. Some of the titles take a more realistic approach, while others a much more fantastical approach, however, the underlying message of acceptance is at the forefront.

This is by no means an end all list, so I urge you guys to not only check out each of the games on this list, but also go out and find all the other LGBTQ positive games that didn’t make this list!

 

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