Video games were seen as a medium that was used exclusively for children for a long time. It wasn’t until the PlayStation era of the late ’90s that this view started to change.
The 16-bit era of gaming brought strict censorship to the medium, which was mainly restricted to violence. Sexual content would later be added to these rules, as the technology improved to the point where it could include semi-realistic portrayals of human beings.
The video game industry has often been accused of over using titillation to try and sell games. This only works one way, however, as developers have gone out of their way to censor gay and transgender characters in their titles.
We are here today to look at the times that video game developers and publishers decided to remove any trace of sexual or gender diversity from their titles.
From the spotty record of the first transgender character in gaming to the unusual status of the poisonous beauty of the Final Fight series, here are the 15 LGBTQ Characters You Didn’t Know Were Censored In Video Games.
15. Birdo From Super Mario Bros
The first boss in Super Mario Bros. 2 is a pink dinosaur named Birdo. This boss is often considered to be the first transgender character in video games, as the English manual claimed that Birdo is a boy who believes himself to be a girl and wants to be called Birdetta instead.
Birdo would become one of the few Super Mario Bros. 2 characters to be brought into the larger series canon and would go on to appear in other Mario games.
The question of Birdo’s gender became muddied over time. She has been referred to as either a male, female, or of indeterminate gender on numerous occasions.
The Japanese-only game Captain Rainbow featured a storyline where Birdo was arrested for trying to use the female bathroom and the player needs to find her vibrator to prove her innocence (seriously, that happened in a Nintendo game). The European website for Mario Strikers Charged also refers to Birdo as a male.
14. Ayla From Chrono Trigger
One of the reasons that Squaresoft stopped developing games for Nintendo and moved over to Sony was because they were sick of dealing with strict content guidelines.
Square wanted to tell more adult stories but were being held back by Nintendo’s archaic ideas about appropriateness. The censoring of their games was even worse outside of Japan, which meant that classic titles like Final Fantasy VI and Chrono Trigger needed to have their content changed.
Ayla from Chrono Trigger was originally depicted as bisexual in the Japanese version of the game. Her dialogue states that she is attracted to strong people, regardless of whether they are men or women.
Lucca will even tell her that she isn’t into that sort of thing if she is in the party at the time. This dialogue was changed for the English language version of the game but was later restored in the Chrono Trigger DS port.
13. Ash From Streets Of Rage 3
The Streets of Rage series is one of the most beloved franchises from Sega’s 16-bit era of gaming. You played as a group of vigilantes who took on criminals in brutal street fights. This series is known for its tight gameplay and awesome soundtrack.
In Japan, the Streets of Rage games are referred to as Bare Knuckle. The third game in the series featured a boss named Ash, who was depicted as an offensive homosexual stereotype.
He was dressed like the biker from the Village People and would prance around the battle field like a ballerina. Ash was also a secret playable character that could be accessed with a code, though his move set is very bare bones.
Sega decided to remove Ash completely from the Western version of Streets of Rage 3. His boss battle was replaced with a fight against Shiva and he could not be accessed as a character unless you used a cheating device.
12. Gracie & Saharah From Animal Crossing
How could the Animal Crossing series possibly require any sort of censorship? It is the most laid back video game series of all time. Did Tom Nook originally break the main character’s legs if they didn’t pay back their loan on time? Was Mr. Resetti capturing the residents who tried to leave town and keeping them in a pit with some lotion and a basket?
No, it was two effeminate men that needed to be removed by Nintendo, and were changed into women instead.
The giraffe named Gracie and the camel named Saharah are both females in the English Animal Crossing games. In the original Japanese versions of the games, they are both males who speak in an incredibly feminine way.
11. Beauty Nova From Pokémon X & Y
This is more of a case of a character being toned down rather than removed completely. Pokémon X & Y included a trainer who strongly hinted that they had received gender reassignment surgery. The English localization toned down this reference considerably.
If you visit the Battle Maison in Pokémon X & Y, you can battle a trainer called Nova, who belongs to the Beauty class. In the English version of the game, she states that she was a Black Belt a year ago and that she had transformed. This statement can be read a few different ways, several of which have no connection to her gender.
The Japanese version of the game has Beauty Nova attribute her transformation to medical science, which is a lot clearer in its meaning. The localizers changed the dialogue just enough to make it non-committal as to what her change was about, though players can likely work out the true meaning on their own.
10. The Best Friends Ceremony From Harvest Moon DS Cute
The Harvest Moon series was one of the first mainstream franchises to include relationship mechanics. One of the main quests involves you seeking out a suitable woman and courting her until she agrees to marry you.
This will eventually lead to children and the end credits screen. Later games in the series allowed you to play as a woman, which meant that you could go on the prowl for the man you wish to marry.
Harvest Moon DS Cute allowed the female protagonist to seduce women in a PG way in the Japanese version of the game. You could court women in the same way that you could a man, which built up your “best friends” score. This led to the Best Friends ceremony, which was a gay marriage in everything but name. The couple would later be magically blessed with a child.
The Best Friends ceremony was cut out of the English language version of Harvest Moon DS Cute, even with it being as PG as it was. Fans created patches for the game that restores the ceremony if you were playing it on an emulator or flash cart.
9. Caina From Wild Arms 2
Squaresoft pretty much ruled the roost in the 32-bit era of JRPGs. The Final Fantasy games on the PlayStation helped bring the genre to mainstream success in the West.
It seemed as if every other JRPG on the system was an attempt to copy the Final Fantasy formula, which most failed to do. One of the best non-Squaresoft JRPGs on the system was Wild Arms, which was a game that mixed a 2D overworld with a 3D combat system. The game received a sequel in 1999, which was met with mostly negative reviews.
Wild Arms 2 suffered from a terrible localization, which made the game incomprehensible at times. One of the changes made to the game involved turning Caina into a woman. In the Japanese version of the game, he was openly in love with another man. This change was also helped by the fact that Caina had a very feminine appearance.
8. Yuan From Shenmue 2
The Shenmue series became infamous for its shoddy voice acting. This is surprising when you consider the fact that it was the most expensive video game ever made at the time of its release. You would think that Sega would have used some of that budget to hire a couple of decent voice actors.
Shenmue II featured an effeminate male character named Yuan, who is referred to as an okama (which is the Japanese word for homosexual) by other characters. The English dub of the Xbox version of the game gave Yuan a female voice actress and referred to him as a female.
Microsoft would not allow Sega to use their English language dub of Shenmue II. This meant that Sega Europe had to use the original Japanese dialogue with subtitles. They still went out of their way to find a Japanese female voice actress to redub all of Yuan’s lines.
7. Hans From Bloody Roar
The Bloody Roar series was a short-lived fighting game franchise from the 32-bit era of gaming. The roster was made up of lycanthropes, who possessed the ability to transform into powerful beast forms during battle. This meant that everyone had a “were” form, and everyone had their own distinctive animal that they could transform into.
The first Bloody Roar game featured a British fighter, with the non-British name of Hans. This was a character with an incredibly feminine design, to the point where you may not realize at first glance that he is supposed to be male. Hans is a kickboxer who possesses the ability to turn into a fox.
Hans was correctly identified as a male character in the Japanese and American versions of Bloody Roar. He was changed into a woman in the European versions of the game. Hans only appeared in the first Bloody Roar game and never returned for any of the sequels.
6. Vivian From Paper Mario
Nintendo might be inconsistent with their treatment of Birdo, but at least they actually included a transgender character in one of their earliest games. They would be less welcoming to a later trans character that appeared in the Paper Mario series.
Vivian is a male character who identifies as female in the Japanese language version of the game, along with a few others. Vivian’s sisters tease her about this over the course of the game. The English language version of the game changed Vivian into a female and made her sister’s insults be about her appearance, rather than her gender.
5. Yosuke From Persona 4
The Persona series isn’t afraid to feature sexual content in its games. This is the series that allows you to collect Mara as a demon and use him in battle. Mara is a giant green penis monster who rides a chariot and makes a lot of erection and ejaculation references.
In the later Persona games, your main character is given the chance to romance other people they encounter in the story. They have yet to allow you to romance a character of the same sex (except in Persona 2, where it had no effect on the story or gameplay).
It was originally going to be possible for you to romance Yosuke Hanamura in Persona 4, but this plotline was removed from the final game. There are audio clips of Yosuke telling the protagonist that he likes him hidden within the game’s files.
4. The Himbos From SimCopter
The flight simulator genre used to be a popular one. This died out over time, especially as you could do more awesome tricks with planes and helicopters in games like Grand Theft Auto V and Just Cause 2.
SimCopter was a helicopter simulation game that was developed by Maxis. This was connected to SimCity 2000, as you could upload your cities into SimCopter and fly around them. You could also perform helicopter missions within the city.
One of the designers of SimCopter became so frustrated with the working conditions at Maxis that he decided to include semi-naked men into the game. These “himbos” only wore speedos and would kiss and hug other men.
Their nipples were also given the same properties as runway lights, so that they could be seen from a distance. The himbos were patched out of the base version of the game and removed entirely from later printings.
3. Nursery Aide June From Pokémon Black 2 & White 2
Pokémon Black & White has a location within the Unova region called Nimbasa City, which is home to a Ferris wheel. Players can enjoy the ride with other trainers and have unique dialogue with them. The Ferris wheel returned in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, which introduced a new group of trainers that can be battled and talked to.
If you play as the male trainer in Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, then you can ride the Ferris wheel with a character called Nursery Aide June. Her unique dialogue involves her talking about her job at the preschool, where she deals with both kids and Pokémon.
In the Japanese version of Pokémon Black 2 & White 2, the discussion with June is very different. She reveals that she is actually a man who dresses like a woman in order to pursue his career, as most preschools won’t hire a guy (even in the Pokémon world). All of this dialogue was removed for the English language versions of the game.
2. Rococco From Style Savvy
The Nintendo DS is the second best-selling video game console of all time (trailing just behind the PlayStation 2). This level of sales meant that the system received a metric ton of shovelware games.
These included a lot of lazy games intended to appeal to female gamers. One series managed to stand out from the garbage and earn a respected place in the DS lineup. It was called Style Savvy and it has spawned several different games across the DS and 3DS.
One of the people who can aid you in Style Savvy is a fashionista named Rococco. She hosts the fashion contests and will visit your shop to offer you help or criticism. The original version of Rococco was actually a very effeminate man, named Pario, who happened to be rocking a sweet ’90s goatee.
1. Poison From Final Fight
Fighting games have generally been cool with using female characters. You might have thought that there would have been some complaining when Chun-Li was allowed to be beaten up by the other Street Fighter II characters, but the opposite happened: fans actually lauded the fact that women were allowed to mix it up with the guys as equals.
It seems that the producers of Final Fight became nervous about the Super Nintendo port of the game, as Nintendo was notoriously strict about their content guidelines. You could battle two female gang members in Final Fight, named Poison and Roxy, which the developers were worried about having to cut from the game.
The people at Capcom pointed out that Poison and Roxy were actually “newhalfs,” which is a Japanese term for a pre-op transexual, so they were technically still men. Nintendo forced Capcom to swap Poison and Roxy out with other enemies.
The true nature of Poison’s gender has been kept murky by the people at Capcom. Yoshinori Ono (one of the main producers of the Street Fighter series) has gone on record as saying that Poison is a post-op transsexual in the West and a man who tucks his genitals away in Japan. It seems that they would prefer to leave it up to the viewer, rather than making a definitive statement.
Are you outraged about this censorship? Do you know about any other LGBTQ characters who were censored from video games? Let us know in the comment section!
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