As we enter a month which is a celebration of all things queer in society, we at Antstream think its important to acknowledge the games which have treated the LGBTQ+ with kindness and respect. This isn’t a comprehensive list of retro gaming’s queerest characters but they are some of my favorites. Also, it’s important to note, for this list, I’ve defined ‘Retro’ as anything before 2003.
Morrigan Aensland – Darkstalkers
An iconic character since her debut in the seminal fighting game Darkstalkers: The Night Warriors. She is a demonic succubus who showcased some of Capcom’s early progressive style. She doesn’t care which gender she seduces and is canonically bisexual. Her enticing backstory and stylishly powerful move set ensured her popularity with fans. She has appeared in most of the Darkstalkers titles as well as Marvel vs Capcom and even some Street Fighter titles!
Birdo – Super Mario Bros 2
You don’t need me to tell you that Super Mario Bros is one of the most popular franchises in gaming history. However, it may surprise you to know that one of its sequels’ villains identifies as transgender. She first appears as a boss character in several levels and her appearance changes throughout the game. Pink Birdo shoots eggs from her snout, Red Birdo shoots both eggs and fireballs and Green Birdo shoots only fireballs. Game historians identify the character as one of the first openly transgender representations in mainstream gaming and that, along with her funky character design makes her fabulous.
Tony – Earthbound
Earthbound is an incredible RPG which has achieved a cult-like status over the years. I remember the first time I played a fan made English translation of the game and was blown away by its unusual style and groundbreaking depth. One of its main characters, Tony is revealed to have a crush on his beat friend Jeff. Its an interesting sub-plot but unfortunately is never fully explored. It, along with Phantasy Star II’s Ustvestia may well be the first appearance of an LGBTQ+ character in the RPG genre.
Flea – Chrono Trigger
Flea was introduced as a powerful antagonist in 1995’s Chrono Trigger. A villain who refused to conform to the gender binary and smashing any assumptions that media representation of genderfluidity has only been a recent phenomenon. Flea’s in-game quote of “Male or female, what difference does it make? Power is beautiful and I’ve got the power” is a power piece of writing which is often seen at pride parades on T-shirts and posters celebrating the character.
Curtis Craig – Phantasmagoria 2: A Puzzle of Flesh
When I was a kid, I loved point and click games on my brand-new Pentium PC. As well as playing the Gabriel Knight series, I dipped my toes into Harvester and Phantasmagoria 2. Curtis Craig is on this list as he has the honor of being the first player character in gaming history to be LGBTQ+. Within the story he admits to having feelings for his gay friend and the two of them even share a kiss on screen. This was a time when same-sex kisses were still considered controversial in mainstream media. Curtis also has a girlfriend, showing how progressive this character was for 1996.
Poison – Final Fight / StreetFighter Series
Every beat-em up fan will have at least heard of Final Fight, a 1989 Capcom arcade brawler. As you stroll through Metro City dispensing justice to evil-doers you will come across Poison. A pink-haired, high-heel wearing badass who has an interesting history to her. Originally intended to be a cisgendered woman, she was changed to be a transgender woman. She has become incredibly popular among gamers and features in the recently released Street Fighter 6.
Some LGBT Facts you May Not Know
- The first in-game same sex marriage was featured in Fallout 2. Regardless of the players gender, you could marry either Miria or Davin.
- GTA’S LGBTQ+ district was in San Andreas’ city of San Fierro. It was called Queens and was based on the real-life Castro District of San Francisco. You will find Pride flags prominently displayed along the in-game streets.
- The Rainbow Confederation was another example of progressive storytelling in Fallout 2. It was a group which was dedicated to the gay and lesbian rights in the post-Apocalypse. While it was ultimately cut from the game’s final release, you can find some Rainbow Confederation dialogue in the game files.
- Rockstar’s Bully featured an achievement for kissing 20 guys called ‘Over the Rainbow’. This confirmed that Jimmy’s sexuality as bisexual and you could also kiss both boys and girls for health bonuses.
- The first Queer character in gaming may be found in the strange text adventure Moonmist. Published in 1986 by Infocom you are cast as a detective who must investigate a spooky castle in Cornwall. You will encounter Viven Pentreath and her interaction with her friend Tamara is often considered to be the first evidence of a queer character in gaming.
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