Hey Blerdy Tribe! It’s a brand spankin’ new year and you know what that means… new game releases!! But, if you’ve been around for awhile you know that there is one thing that I look for in my games: REPRESENTATION! As a black female gamer, I am always on the look out for games created by and featuring characters of color and of course that sweet, sweet LGBTQIA rep! The gaming community is made up of all sorts of people, so don’t you think the games we play should be representative of the people that play them? Well, I do! And I’ve made it my mission here at Blerdy Otome to create a space where we celebrate diverse games and creators. Every Monday I spotlight one game that tell stories centering on characters of color or from the LGBTQIA community.
But, this week I wanted to shake things up a bit by not just spotlighting one game, rather I wanted to bring attention to several diverse games making their debut in 2021! However, I am just one person, so I did an open call on Twitter for diverse indie games set to be released in 2021… and boy did you guys come out in full force!!
Does your upcoming game feature any of the following?— Naja B. | Playing MAMIYA (@BlerdyOtome) January 3, 2021
🌟BIPOC cast of characters
🌟characters living w/ disabilities
Looking for diverse #indiegame projects set to be released in 2021 for a post I'm working on. Please drop some names in the comments~ pic.twitter.com/SxtBEkve9w
The response was overwhelming! Thank you to everyone who sent me their projects or shared the tweet–you guys are the real MVPs! So, I spent a week going through all the responses and checking out game pages for this post and y’all I am excited for all of these games! If you’re like me and you’ve been craving more diversity in your games, this is the list for YOU!
Welcome to Love Shore, a city that transforms at night. The futuristic metropolis just happens to also be populated with cyborgs, old gods hidden in the depths of a criminal underground, and humans eager to crawl their way to the top, no matter what the cost.
After a fertility crisis changed the landscape of the city for good, a single company stepped in to help the residents: Life S. Incorporated, a biotech firm that claimed to be able to build life out of raw DNA, creating a fully formed human with thoughts, feelings, and morality of their own.
Their minds, physical appearance, and personality would be drawn from their parents’ DNA, but the children would be ‘born’ using artificial bodies. This new generation would be called the S.Humans: a non-aging, tough form of new life.
Love Shore features two playable protagonists with four storylines and romanceable options, each with their own storylines. Sam and Farah are two completely different characters suffering from the same circumstances: they’re S.Humans, one of the 100 cyborgs created by Life.S. before the company vanished.
Kicking off this list is Love Shore, the cyberpunk visual novel from indie studio, Perfect Garbage. The studio’s mission is to “tell stories we’ve always wanted to see, the way we want to tell them”—well mission accomplished. Love Shore is a queer positive sci-fi adventure visual novel that takes players into the futuristic city of Love Shore, a place where humans and AIs coexist. But Love shore is far from the sci-fi utopia—step into the shoes of Sam and Farah, two artificially created humans as they navigate the city’s criminal underbelly. Align yourself with a colorful cast of characters as you attempt to uncover the truth behind a mysterious death. But, be careful who you put your trust in, not everyone you meet is a friend!
High Elo Girls
Play as Rafaela, a college dropout seeking direction by trying out for Momentum Gaming (MMG), an ambitious team of five high level players come together to compete in a once in a lifetime competition, The Targon Invitational, for entry into the closed League Championship Series (LCS).
I will readily admit that I am not big on League of Legends or the Esports scene, but that didn’t stop me from falling in love with Split Fate Studio’s upcoming visual novel, High Elo Girls. This game features not just one but a whole host of kickass female gamers, each with their own unique gaming styles and personalities—from a bubbly internet cosplayer to a popular pro-streamer—High Elo Girls proves that gamers come in all shapes and sizes!
Anywhere can be the city of love if you’re willing to try hard enough, and some of these folks from Jercy City are desperate. ValiDate presents a smorgasbord of relationships to bear witness to— but the dating scene is difficult even when you aren’t marginalized in six different ways, so happiness continues to fly just out of reach for these unlucky lovers.
Modern dating isn’t easy, navigating awkward hook-ups and the latest dating app can make you want to pull your hair out! Indie game studio, Veritable Joy gives us a very real look at the ups and downs of dating for 12 LGBTQIA and POC singles in the fictional Jercy City! Follow these struggling singles as they balance finding love with being an adult! Most romance games feature one or two characters of color, but Validate gives you a full cast of BIPOC characters from a wide range of identities and orientations. And you can be sure that the representation will be on point, because the entire Veritable Joy team are LGBTQIA and BIPOC!!
Nova never thought she would return to Stonewater after her grandmother passed away three years ago– but when she inherits the home she spent her summers in as a child, she finds herself returning to the small beach town.
Mysteries abound when she receives a package containing four intricately carved frosted glass spheres and a letter from her grandmother telling her to break open her happiness.
She didn’t understand at first…
But everything changed when she fell into the ocean.
I love everything that indie developer Jellyfish Parade creates, but I am especially excited for Ocean Pearls, a fantasy indie otome where you get to romance hot mer-kings! Not only are all the love interests and supporting cast characters of color, but you get to play as a Black heroine—I can’t tell you how long I have wanted a game with a Black heroine! But, what makes this game really stand out is that Jessinia (the creator) is a Black woman, and she brings her personal experience as a BLACK WOMAN into her writing, so there is a nuance to the characters that you don’t find in games written by non-POC creators and I AM HERE FOR IT!!
As the 31st Chosen One of Anoldor, rule over your country, negotiate with gods, tame magick and forge the destiny of your people as much as your own. Having so many lives to protect and guide during this time of political chaos is a heavy burden, but you don’t have to carry it alone. You may rely on your friends and true love, as long you don’t mistake your enemies for your allies…
Anoldor is an upcoming historical romance fantasy visual novel and will be available in English and French. The game features male and female love interests and the devs tried to include characters that represent a wide range of sexual preferences. But, what initially drew my attention to the project is the ability to customize the MC, by choosing between three distinctive skin tones. Customization is a great way to give players the chance to really craft their own story and even though it’s limited in Anoldor, being able to change the MC’s skin tone goes a long way towards making the game accessible to more players! While the full game won’t be ready this year, the team does plan on releasing the first route sometime this year.
As a necromancer, Raenelle Talisko is tasked with the job of reanimating the corpses of the recently deceased to help them fulfill their last wishes. Between the never-ending workload and the myriad of angry or distraught spirits she has to deal with, Raenelle longs for a vacation — and more importantly, a promotion to a different position.
As though the Twelve Deities have heard Raenelle’s prayers, all the spirits somehow vanish overnight, giving her the break she’s been asking for. That is until Raenelle is summoned to the Headquarters of the Imperial Necromancy Authority along with all death mages, tasked with resolving this crisis that has thrown the kingdom into panic.
Unfortunately, there is no time for Raenelle to rest — not when she finds herself becoming increasingly entangled in the mystery of the missing spirits, discovering much more than she asked for.
Reanimation Scheme has just about everything I love in a game—a strong female lead, immersive fantasy story (with extensive lore), and a diverse cast of characters—Wind Chime Studios has a clear winner on their hands! Two of the five love interests are people of color, one of which is female love interest and the devs have confirmed that some of the main characters are canonically bisexual and lesbian. So, if you’re looking for a fun fantasy adventure with some great rep, you can’t go wrong with Reanimation Scheme!
After a night of drinking Eleadora “Ellie” takes a shortcut home through the woods. She’s angry, frustrated, and sad. At the crossroads she trips and cuts her hand on some broken glass. While looking over her wounds she mutters a wish out loud that calls upon an ancient and forgotten force that changes her life forever.
She wakes up in an unknown room, in an unknown house, on an unknown plane of existence. Surrounded by horrors and death she must attempt to find an ally among the other occupants of the house. It’s clear they don’t have her best interests in mind, and trusting them could be deadly.
Survive and try to maintain your humanity.
Escape, if you still want to.
Escape, if they’ll let you.
I am a longtime fan of Jaime Scribbles Games, so when I saw that they were working on a new game, I wasted no time playing the demo… and I was not disappointed! In Blood is a a gothic romance/Lovecraftian horror visual novel that is dark and sexy and perfect if you’re looking for a romance game with a bit more bite. Like their previous games, In Blood features a diverse cast of supernatural beings to pursue and an rich fantasy world to explore.
The Sky Left Us
From the deepest miasma to the shimmering veil, everything is in its place. The Peakborn rule, the Sunken toil, and the Unmoored trade. But Clear Skies Technology could rewrite the atmosphere, and with it the culture of planet Zé.
It all depends on how you use it.
The Sky Left Us is a sci-fi visual novel about climate change, classism, and how relationships shape our politics. Play as Spire Risan, an off-worlder scientist who becomes entangled in the drama of a mountain they came here to save. Fall in with the denizens of the three castes, and find that things are more complicated than they seem: be it love, family, or the systems that shape us.
Zen: A Gay Sequel
Zen: A Gay Sequel, or ZAGS, is a gay, planner-focused, stat-based, dating sim set in college. It is a full sequel to Yearning: A Gay Story (YAGS), taking place during the spring semester of Chris’ Freshman year of college.
ZAGS, at its core, a dating sim set in college. However, it aims to focus on player choice and integrate the romance (if it happens) within the larger context of the story and the player character’s friendships.
The game is based around a weekly planner, where the player selects actions to perform to raise stats that allow for additional choices and story progression. However, unlike many other planner-based games, the ZAGS planner evolves throughout the game: Normal gameplay sections may unlock additional planner actions, and planner actions may grow more or less effective depending on the player’s decisions.
ZAGS is a direct sequel to Yearning: A Gay Story following the characters during the spring semester of Chris’s Freshman year of college—so you will need to play YAGS to understand some of the main plot points. But, like it’s predecessor, you will have the opportunity to interact with a diverse cast of characters as you navigate the ups and downs of university life. From classes to parties to campus activities, you control your experience. But, what I like most about this series is that the writers give players a chance to explore their own sexual and romantic relationships, whether that means playing the field or finding someone to settle down with, this is your chance to craft your own experience.
Call Me Under
Dive into the 1950s and explore an eldritch-horror infested world soaked in dark magic, mystery, and romance. Call Me Under takes place in the mysterious underwater city of Styx, a haven inhabited by humans, sirens, and a host of unknown otherworldly entities.
Play as a choice of two different faceless protagonists from The Surface seeking to leave their past behind and start fresh in a new city, even if it is one only rumored to exist at the bottom of the ocean. They do say there’s nothing like a clean slate…
But maybe not if you find yourself thrown into the middle of a brewing fight between the Shadows and the Light; two ancient, otherworldly entities embroiled in a centuries-long battle for power.
Set in the 1950s, Call Me Undertakes players on a trip beneath the watery depths to the underwater city of Styx, a haven inhabited by humans, sirens, and a host of unknown otherworldly entities. Eldritch horrors, dark mysteries, magic, and even romance await in what promises to be another exciting visual novel from Lunaris Games. Choose between two distinct protagonists to experience the story through and pursue a diverse cast of characters, like a seductive songstress, a shy Siren, and a quirky medium. In addition to the LGBTQIA rep, Call Me Under also gives players a chance to explore polyamorous relationships, which aren’t often represented in romance games.
After School Afterlife
When the music starts, the world of the dead and the world of the living collide… Make your way out of a haunted Peranakan mansion in this musical rhythmic platformer. On the beat of the music, the player switches between the world of the living and the world of the dead. Listen to the beat to navigate obstacles and escape the mansion!
When it comes to Asian representation media only scratches the surface on all the many different people and cultures that are included under that umbrella. So I was super excited to discover Mini Bunnies’ platformer, After School Afterlife because it explores Peranakan culture, which I’d never heard of before. Peranakan culture originates from Southern Chinese people who migrated to the Malayan and Indonesian peninsula a few centuries ago. You’ll notice lots of Peranakan-inspired art assets in the game and Chinese-inspired music. And that’s what I love about games like this—they give creators from all walks of life the opportunity to create stories that are wholly unique to them.
A Long Journey to an Uncertain End
Not looking good, Captain. That holo-influencer you sent Matias to guard has been “upstaged”. Putting a former drag queen before every camera in the verse? Not the best idea. And the anti-sentience rally we sent Aylah to… that’s a riot now. Not saying it’s entirely her fault the audio drones were hacked but, you know. Probably didn’t help.
On top of that Truly and Denny are nowhere to be found. Any chance of keeping a low profile is out the airlock. Now there’s an incoming message from… your ex?
All in all, a quieter day than most.
You’re a sentient spaceship fleeing an abusive relationship from your former owner. Recruit your crew and send them out on jobs to make sure you’re refueled, repaired, and resupplied. Above all, keep flying. A Long Journey to an Uncertain End is a bit of a departure from my usual visual novel picks, but I love that the writers includes an expansive cast of queer and BIPOC characters. Space is vast, so shouldn’t the characters reflect that?
Coyote and Crow
A sci-fi and fantasy tabletop role playing game set in a First Nations alternate future where colonization never happened.
While I’m not super familiar with tabletop games, but when I saw the premise and read the developer’s bio, I just had to include Coyote and Crow on this list. Created by a member of the Cherokee Nation, the game seeks to blend together cultural elements of the indigenous peoples with futuristic sci-fi for something wholly unique. But, what I love is that the creators are using the platform to help elevate the voices marginalized groups, while ensuring a positive portrayal of Native cultures outside of the lens of colonization.
My Sweet Zombie
Sam, an over stressed barista, while on her night shift runs into a zombie with a sweet tooth, how does this affect her life…?
My Sweet Zombie is a fun comedy romance visual novel from Tsun-Angelique. There isn’t a public demo just yet, but you can see regular updates on the dev’s public twitter or by supporting their Patreon. But, it seems like a cute premise and I like that players get the chance to pursue both male and female love interests and a poly romance ending!
Field Guide to Memory
Field Guide to Memory is a journaling game about legacy, wonder, cryptids and the vastness of a human life, designed by Jeeyon Shim and Shing Yin Khor. Your mentor, the beloved and illustrious cryptid researcher Dr. Elizabeth Lee, has been officially declared dead five years after she went missing in the field. You will end the game with a physical artifact you’ve created yourself – your journal – in collaboration with us: your own field notes and documentation of your relationship with Dr. Lee. You will continue her legacy.
Field Guide to Memory is a collaborative and narrative journaling game where the player creates a physical artifact of play that is completely unique to their individual experience. As part of the game, you will receive an email with journaling instructions, prompts, and images of ephemera, every weekday beginning on February 8th, 2021, which will continue for four weeks. As you write in your own journal, we will shepherd you through the ecosystem of Dr. Elizabeth Lee’s remarkable and complicated life, as you explore your own feelings and your role in her carefully constructed universe.
Arcalis is a planet with a complex history.
Centuries ago, when humans arrived, they found it abandoned. The only remnants of its previous society were massive bio-domes dotted on the surface and designed as protection from the hostile climate.
With one side of the world bathed in eternal day and the other cloaked in frigid night, the bio-domes are oases where people live sheltered from the scorching winds and storms. But whether in the bright, clean cities of the day side of the planet, or the poor and crime-ridden cities of the night side, life is never simple nor peace easy to come by.
When a fateful encounter exposes Morgan Leone, a young woman who has long hid her ESP, as a queen ranked Esper, she finds herself on the run from multiple factions eager to attain her abilities. Endgame, the planetary defense organization; Crimson, a notorious crime syndicate from Delphine; and even the shadowy group only known as “the Host” – each group sends operatives to retrieve her.
Now, with several paths open to her, she must choose her allies carefully. Between light and shadow lies grey twilight where the lines between good and evil are blurred. And in a world where the only constants are the endless day and night that divide the planet, Morgan learns those who can’t adapt…also can’t survive.
I LOVED Steamberry Studio’s debut visual novel, Changeling —the immersive storytelling, expansive lore, and phenomenal characters made the game one of my favorite games of 2019! But, while I loved Changeling I will admit that I would have liked to have seen a bit more melanin among the main cast, but the team is working to add a bit more representation in their second VN, Gilded Shadows. The futuristic setting lends itself to some great representation because you have characters from different planets and space colonies all living and working together! In Gilded Shadows, not only do you get to customize the MC (choosing hair, skin, and eye color), players will also get the opportunity to pursue a diverse blend of bachelors.
The Future is bright for diversity in games~
Alright folks, that’s my list of diverse games to keep an eye out for in 2021! Of course this is not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start if like me you’re looking for new games to dive into in the coming year. Games have always captivated our imaginations; letting us explore strange new worlds and take on roles we’d never be able to in our everyday lives. No matter who you are or where you’re from games are for everyone and it’s about time the games we play start reflecting the diversity that exists in the gaming community!
I love that there has been a huge shift in the gaming community—creators and gamers are using their own unique voices to tell stories that are representative of their experiences. Finding queer representation in a game is now the norm, not the exception and as a Black gamer, I am loving seeing all these great BIPOC characters in the games that I play! The future is bright for more inclusive games and I can’t wait to see where the future of gaming takes us!
Thank you for reading and supporting Blerdy Otome! If you like what you see be sure to drop a LIKE or leave a comment~