Facts: ChuChu is smolgender. Kirby is agender and panromantic. The two are madly in love.
That’s according to Tumblr, which still maintains one of the internet’s largest de facto libraries of queer Nintendo memes. There are, to put it roughly, zillions of them. Perhaps more than any other gaming system, Nintendo is particularly (if unconsciously) adept at generating queer and trans characters and memes. Few of these characters are “out,” per sé — there’s a lot of projecting going on — but that doesn’t make them any less meaningful to the queer community.
It’s unclear how Nintendo got to be so queer, and it certainly doesn’t appear intentional:
“Historically Nintendo has generally shied away from representing sexuality generally (though they do rely on heteronormativity to be sure),” Adrienne Shaw, associate professor at Temple University and founder of the LGBTQ Game Archive, told Mashable. “In part this is why of the major game companies they’ve also had relatively little explicit LGBTQ content.”
In 2014, Nintendo actively removed a bug from Tomodachi Life that would have allowed for same-sex marriage. After considerable pressure from LGBTQ fans, Nintendo pledged to be more inclusive in the next version of the game. Whomp whomp.
The brand has been able to generate a queer fanbase because of its accessibility more than any other variable. Of all the gaming systems, Nintendo has one of the broadest audiences, attracting serious gamers and more casual players. Many characters lack traditional stereotypical gendered characteristics. The visual language is universal — a.k.a. meme-able. Everyone knows who Mario and Luigi are. Only a select, elite few know the lesbian subplot to Harvest Moon: Friends of Mineral Town.
“A lack of specificity is also what makes characters ripe for queer readings,” Shaw says. “Things that are more cartoony also have a long history of being read queerly precisely because they help display how constructed gender norms are. That is if all it takes is a bow to make Pac-Man into Ms. Pac-Man, maybe we don’t have to get so caught up in biological binary gender determinism.”
Expand your mind. Here are the internet’s best queer Nintendo memes:
Machoke/Machamp is the go-to bara Pokemón
Bara is a genre of art, literature, and media from Japan created by gay men and geared towards a gay male audience. Most of the men depicted in this genre are muscular, have body hair, and a “bear” body type.
Muscular and thicc, Machoke and Machamp Pokémon are generally the default bara Pokémon. We’re not sure why Nintendo went out of its way to sexualize these characters, but we’re not going to kink-shame anyone here.
Dugtrio is actually three muscular gay men
Sorry to destroy your heteronormative fantasy, but Dugtrio is actually composed of three gay men in a happy, healthy polyamorous relationship.
Harvest Moon was the precursor to many lesbian awakenings
Before the game introduced a female character, the default Harvest Moon character was a straight male. While you built your imaginary farm, you also had the ability to romance and marry any of the eligible bachelorettes in town.
For gaymers out there, this was a very “meh” situation, but for all the budding lesbians who were also dedicated fans of the game, this was pretty much their sexual awakening. This comment thread and meme says it better than we ever could.
Have you even played Super Smash Bears?
The imaginary game title alone is suggestive enough. But taking it a step further and turning the characters from Super Smash Bros. into a troupe of gay bears and daddies is pure meme gold. Nintendo needs to make this a reality ASAP.
Big Gay Al is…gay
Surprise, surprise: South Park’s Big Gay Al is gay. He’s even a playable character in South Park Rally. Alas, Big Gay Al isn’t about to marry anyone in the game, nor is the he the best representation of the queer community. At least he exists in a place other than our imaginations.
Tony from Earthbound
This Super Smash Bros. comic proves Kirby is trans/non-binary, and Bayonetta is an ally
Neither a performative femme nor a hyper-masc blob, Kirby lacks all of the traditional gender markers. They are a pinkish blob with feet, which in LGBTQ fandom, leads some to believe they’re non-binary. Bayonetta, a high cis femme who nonetheless tries to be open, is Kirby’s natural ally.
And you thought Bayonetta’s legs were only meant to stay in Bayonetta 1 & 2
Every character can be queer-presenting with Bayonetta’s legs. Sometime in 2015, folks started editing images of her legs onto various Nintendo characters, upping their femme appearance, and giving them all distinct, gender-non-normative presentations.
Birdo from Super Mario Bros. 2
Depending on the version of the game, Birdo identifies as both a female and a male character. As a fictional creation, Birdo has yet to come out for themselves. Some fans therefore classify Birdo as gender fluid. Others insist that Birdo, whatever pronouns they use, exclusively dates Yoshi. What a power couple!
Birdo, a femme who can reproduce asexually & needs no man, is the most explicit queer representation we’ll ever get from Nintendo
— David (@DiscreetLatino) May 16, 2018
Phoenix Wright and Jean Armstrong from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney were queer way before it was “in” to be queer
Characters in Phoenix Wright never seem to get the effeminate chef Jean Armstrong’s gender right. And Phoenix Wright has been heralded as a “bisexual trans man” and given the title of “LGBT: Ace Attorney Character of the Day” by the Tumblr community.
The community is, of course, completely correct.
cant believe furio tigre canonically flirted with jean armstrong. jean armstrong is SO full of stereotypes BUT this is a thing that happened. furio tigre is gay and u cant convince me otheriwse
— lesbians for tatsuya suou🍓 (@hakyonaIiIi) June 17, 2018
Guillo is genderqueer-o
Guillo from Baten Kaitos Origins has a voice that is both traditionally masculine and stereotypically feminine. Guillo is only ever referred to as “it” and is considered by some to be agender.
guillo, my wisecracking genderqueer robot wizard bestie and favorite jrpg gay, speaking with a woman and a man’s unified voices, inserting themself into love quadrangles, and in battle strangely gyrating their hips and effortlessly contorting and flipping in heels while casting.. pic.twitter.com/jLajxsb7Mw
— erato (@fulgadrum) October 6, 2017
Link from The Legend of Zelda dressing in drag is here to queer everyone’s sexuality
Gorons don’t play by your gender rules
In case you need to brush up on your Zelda lore, the Gerudo tribe is made up entirely of women who don’t allow males, otherwise known as “voe,” to enter their towns and fortresses. But Gorons?That rule doesn’t apply to them.
Ghirahim from The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the true queer Nintendo icon
Ghirahim’s fabulous attire and flamboyant mannerisms make him the poster-child for gay Nintendo memes. Your gay fave could NEVER.
Sidon is Link’s lover
This extremely positive and buff fish-man was always stanning Link in the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. But perhaps he had more than admiration for the young hero?
In a weird Shape of Water twist, Sidon became Link’s love interest — at least in the eyes of stans on the internet. Fans of this non-canon couple made tons of memes about the sexual tension between the two characters. Honestly, we’re on board with this ship, and we’re glad Link doesn’t allow scales and fins to deter him from being with the one he loves. (Sorry, Zelda.)
Zelda loves to dress as Sheik
Despite her masculine-of-center presentation, Nintendo confirmed that and that Zelda sadly doesn’t change her gender as she pleases. But just because Nintendo says something doesn’t make it true (at least in the eyes of serious fans).
Twink from Paper Mario knows where his body stands in the gay community
The star literally comes out and says it. How much more do you need?
Samus Aran from Metroid is trans and beautiful
Samus Aran is a transgender woman according to fans and, to some extent, the game’s creators. It’s great to see transgender representation in the gaming community, even if the miserable people of the internet have a problem with it.
Every Super Smash Bros. character voguing like Bayonetta will give you life
If every character danced like Bayonetta, the world would be a better, queerer place. Just take a look at this delightfully queer/queer-adjacent fan montage.
Splatoon is a home for the queer squid community
Sometime in Summer 2017, Splatoon boards became home to a series of queer and trans-affirming memes. If you’re a queer cephalopod looking for a chosen family, you can find it on Splatoon.
Wario from Super Mario is a lovable bottom and daddy
“Wario is a messy, sassy, playful polyamorous bottom,” Autostraddle wrote earlier this year. “Though he works out constantly and is ripped (look at those arms!), he’s a sweetie who loves playing games and pranks and subverting masculine stereotype.”
Among the Super Mario characters, Wario ranks eighth in terms of queerness. Thanks for being such a leader in the community, Wario!
Isabelle from Animal Crossing is unabashedly pansexual
Isabelle from Animal Crossing has been known to have a mean crush on the main player, regardless of their gender identity. She was pansexual even before most of the internet learned what pansexuality was from Janelle Monae.
Waluigi from the Super Mario universe is a queer icon
There’s a whole section of queer theory dedicated to Waluigi’s gender identity. I wouldn’t recommend digging too far in, but the basic premise is that Waluigi is Luigi’s queer-mirrored self. All of Luigi’s homosexual fantasies are projected onto and experienced vicariously through Waluigi.
Vivian from Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Vivian is reportedly described as a trans woman in the Japanese version of the game — not, of course, in the English version. Characters repeatedly make fun of her gender presentation which is trash, because Vivian would score so hard at a Brooklyn queer party.
Princess Peach from Super Mario
In 2016, Splinter declared Princess Peach a feminist queer icon. They were 100 percent right. Princess was a switchy proud high femme way back in the 1990s, when feminism was a dirty word and tops ruled the world.
Whether or not Nintendo actually intended to make certain characters a part of the LGBTQ community, the internet has had zero problem finding the queerness in all of them.
Kudos to the many hard-working queer and trans Tumblr meme artists out there doing what Nintendo won’t. Without their memes, we might not have the flamboyantly gay neon dinosaur fan art we have today.