January 28, 2023

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It feels like almost too many games are released every year. Many of us talk about our backlogs and how we secretly hope that new, upcoming game gets delayed, if only to catch up with the handful of games we already have lined up. Still, I think we could always use more games with LGBTQIA+ themes and representation.

Sure, we get games that are unofficially weird, like Sonic Frontiers and PowerWash Simulator (no, I won’t go into that), but we have to keep demanding better instant rendering. Fortunately, 2022 featured a slew of unmissable releases with queer and trans themes. Here are 10 essential 2022 games with LGBTQIA+ themes and representation.

1. Boss Game: The final boss is my heart

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Bossgame: The Final Boss is My Heart stars two lesbians, a witch and a master of swords, battling evil fiends, which instantly makes it cooler than most games. Video games need more witches and strange people. Bossgame has both.

But the gameplay, story, music and everything in between make Bossgame one of the most special games you can play this year, queer or not. Bossgame takes you on a colorful, pixel-driven journey alongside Anna and Sophie, the game’s two lesbian protagonists, as they battle devils and try to pay their rent. An absolutely infectious soundtrack, filled with mesmerizing riffs and beats, will keep you going when the onslaught of rhythmic boss battles feels like they’re too much. And if the game ever feels like it’s too much, you can enable Invincibility mode in the options and keep the devil going.

Bossgame: The Final Boss is My Heart is available on PC, Android and iOS.

2. Signal

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Signalis is one of the most special games to be released this year, and not just because it’s a love story. It’s also one of the most “Silent Hill 2 games” you can play that isn’t called Silent Hill 2.

It’s rare that games feel as special, real, and meaningful as Signalis, though much of that is due to the player’s freedom of choice and the game’s vague, dreamy sense of discovery. On the face of it, though, without illuminating the path ahead: Signalis subverts sci-fi expectations, choosing to lean towards horror at almost every turn, but its scope and possibilities are still tight around Signalis’ world and twisted society wrapped. There’s both a cyberpunk and a Lovecraftian squeeze on both sides, but the core of the game is a love story between two women. And I think we can call them trans women because of the way Signalis builds his world.

And what I like most about Signalis is something you might not get from it, so it can’t be a spoiler. Signalis survival horrors are mostly based on the same fabricated and casual misogyny that ignores women for ideas, choosing instead to sacrifice ourselves for what we can give.

And yet, no matter what ending is reached, these two women still manage to find love in all the wrong places. Signalis may be part of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, but it’s also a game about women who love women regardless of the horrors around them.

Signalis is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

3. The Sims 4

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2022 was a big year for The Sims 4, one that saw many changes to the game and the series to make it the most inclusive game ever. While EA and Maxis have strived to make sure everyone can create themselves in The Sims 4, it’s never been easier than it is now.

Gender was always binary in The Sims until this year’s updates added a slew of customization options, including a non-binary gender option, gender clothing preferences, and even pronoun preferences.

Trans women and trans men are both also better represented. Players can choose whether characters sit or stand to use the bathroom, whether characters can get pregnant, and the pitch of character voices.

Sims were also all essentially bisexual in previous games, thought it wasn’t explicitly stated or defined. Essentially, all characters were attracted to male and female characters by default, with players unable to clearly define their Sims’ sexuality.

But now everyone has a voice. This year’s updates allow players to select their Sims’ sexual orientation, down to preferences, or just plain exclusivity. In other words, EA and Maxis gave players the ability to create real Sims, which was also not possible before.

The Sims 4 is free to play with paid add-ons on Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, and PC.

4. Bayonetta 3

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Bayonetta 3 is a spectacular and thrilling action-adventure game that also ends the trilogy with the undeniably hot and powerful Bayonetta, a devil-defying witch on Nintendo Switch.

And the titular character is also a strange woman, making this the second game on our list of cool, strange witches.

In GameSpot’s Bayonetta 3 review, Jessica Howard called Bayonetta 3 “a fast-paced and joyful adventure that achieves its goals with an abundance of charisma and style.”

Bayonetta 3 is available exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.

5. AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative

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AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative is the sequel to 2019’s AI: The Somnium Files, and the story picks up six months after the events of the first game.

The game follows detectives who investigate murders in a cool and unique way. Players draw information from victims’ memories and dreams to solve crime in what is arguably one of the most stylish titles of the year.

AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative is on the list because the game screams in support of queer people and other marginalized groups. In 2022, that will be very well spent and the LGBTQIA+ community will say, “Thank you, cool, beautiful detective game.”

AI: The Somnium Files – Nirvana Initiative is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

6. Apex Legends

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Apex Legends said “trans rights are human rights” loud enough for the whole world to hear when Catalyst, my new favorite video game character and friend, was announced for the game’s 15th season, Eclipse.

Apex Legends has featured characters with queer and trans representation in the past, but Catalyst is the game’s first trans woman. Respawn even got an important character detail right by having her talk about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in her announcement video when she was talking to another character, something we all love to do. At that moment I knew she was just like me.

Apex Legends is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series and PC.

7. Kirby and the Forgotten Land

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Kirby and the Forgotten is one of the most colorful and beautiful titles you can play this year. It’s also warm and feels a bit like a hug when you play it, something every queer and trans person could probably use right now.

Kirby isn’t just hot, though. Kirby is also a non-binary character. You’d be forgiven for not knowing that, though. Kirby’s non-binary identity isn’t something Nintendo really talks about. In Japanese media, Kirby uses gender-neutral pronouns, while in America, Kirby uses masculine pronouns, though Kirby’s gender is still presented as quite neutral. Nintendo isn’t very vocal about it, but Kirby is still a non-binary champ for anyone waving the yellow, white, purple, and black flag.

Kirby and the Forgotten Land is available exclusively on Nintendo Switch.

8. Butterfly Soup 2

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Butterfly Soup 2 is a visual novel starring queer Asian-American teens as they navigate the dangers and problems of high school, covering everything from relationships to homophobia and racism.

The game is full of strange conversations and the girls’ love of baseball, and every moment is just so deep and meaningful. And the art style also adds to the warmth, with colorful, sweeping visuals.

Butterfly Soup 2 is set in 2009, in the lives of four different characters: Diya, Min-seo, Noelle, Akarsha. And together you go on a journey with friends through love and baseball. Who doesn’t like strange girl stories and baseball?

Butterfly Soup and its sequel, Butterfly Soup 2, are both free on itch.io, but you can support the developer by spending a little money on each game’s bonus extras.

9. We are OFK

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We Are OFK is a journey through life, love, pain, loss and all those gross, mushy, in-between feelings that everyone who cares for life experiences almost daily. And it’s beautiful.

We Are OFK is a visual treat, but we have to talk about the music. After all, it’s about a band: a band called OFK. The indie pop music and sweeping colors of the game’s signature art style all tell the story of a band and the people in it. And they are a real band with problems, dreams and insecurities.

We Are OFK features strange characters exploring who they are, which is something we need more of in video games.

We Are OFK is available on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5 and PC.

10. Wylde Flowers

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Wylde Flowers is a cute and cozy farming sim where you also learn magic while becoming a witch. The game stars Tara and during the day, players will enjoy fun and refreshing farming tasks on the family farm. But at night, Tara will brew potions and hone her magical powers.

The game features fishing, brewing potions, and all sorts of exciting tasks, but perhaps most importantly, players can choose between male, female, and non-binary romantic options.

Wylde Flowers is probably the best game of its kind since Stardew Valley, and it shouldn’t be missed by any fan of the genre.

Wylde Flowers is available on Apple Arcade, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

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