Welcome to another edition of The Casual Gaymer, an occasional column from AIPT Gaming where I share my questions, comments, concerns, and other unsolicited thoughts about gaming and the games industry as a queer player. In this edition, I want to provide a very timely reaction to the announcement that we are getting six(!) more characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate!
We’re not going to talk about Byleth’s inclusion because I think they’re very cool and y’all need to calm down.
Anyway, as we all do around the figurative water cooler, I’m going to honor the gamer pastime of casting my wishes for character reveals into the universe and let that energy hopefully grow into manifested queer inclusion in the world of Super Smash Bros. Yes, I know Sakurai said the choices have already been made, so it’s less me shifting the direction of the universe and more like I’m praying the universe aligns with my gay agenda. However, I do have more altruistic motives with my picks than just pure fanservice directed at me.
When I first played Super Smash Bros. for the N64, I didn’t know who Link was. I had never heard of Samus or Kirby and only knew Yoshi as the protagonist of Yoshi’s Story rather than as Mario’s longtime steed. Not only is the Smash Bros. franchise a celebration of video games from Nintendo and beyond, but each game also serves as a mini museum exhibiting characters, music, and locales from an increasingly vast swath of video game history. Melee not only taught me who Marth and Mr. Game & Watch were, but I spent hours pouring over every trophy description. It’s there I learned about how Fox McCloud’s nemesis, Andross, murdered his father and that it’s okay that I didn’t know who Mr. Saturn was, because apparently no one does?
Each Smash Bros. game continues to introduce me to new characters from corners of the gaming world I’ve never heard of (looking at you, Terry Bogard), and while the preservation of gaming history as a whole is a concept that’s still in very early stages, the inclusion of queer characters in Smash allows them to be preserved in a way for time immemorial. So, let’s pretend I obtained the Star Rod as it functions in Paper Mario and wished for all the upcoming characters in the Fighter Pass Vol. 2 DLC to be queer inclusions. I think the six I’ve chosen would fit both aesthetically and mechanically and if you’ll notice, I stuck to women, femmes, and trans women. I still can’t believe the only women we got in the first fighter’s pass were a gender option for Byleth and Kazooie. No disrespect to the breegull; she’s a good judy.
The Fool – Sayonara Wild Hearts (2019, Simogo)
I’ve been obsessed with the Sayonara Wild Hearts soundtrack lately, so the first character to jump into my mind when brainstorming this column was The Fool. This dashing lady employs a variety of weapons from swords to bows as well as a killer motorcycle on her internal journey towards self-love and rebirth after heartbreak. As with Byleth, these weapons could be mapped onto various directional inputs, or simply be her special attacks. Getting a dynamic stage based on the wild visuals of Sayonara Wild Hearts packaged with music from its phenomenal soundtrack would be worth the price of the fighter alone, but I think The Fool would make a fun addition that might point new eyes at a game just sparking with queerness who may have missed it last year. For her Final Smash, you know she’ll have to seal the match with a kiss.
Madeline – Celeste (2018, Matt Makes Games)
So Madeline hasn’t been confirmed to be a trans woman, as creator Matt Thorson hasn’t officially commented on whether the trans flag by her computer is a symbol of identity or allyship. However, in the age old tradition of queer people latching onto whatever coding they find in a character and running with it, I’m gonna lace up my sneakers. Celeste doesn’t feature combat in a traditional sense, but if Sakurai can have Animal Crossing’s Isabelle throwing hands, I don’t see why Madeline can’t hop in the ring. I’d love to see Badeline incorporated into her moveset as well, potentially adding some range to her attacks. Obviously a lot of her moves would center around her dashes and the various power-ups and modifications they receive throughout the game.
Vivian – Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (2004, Intelligent Systems)
This is another character whose status as a trans woman hasn’t (and won’t) be confirmed by her creators. However, if you look into The Thousand-Year Door’s translation, there’s more than enough to solidify Vivian as either trans or gender-nonconforming for me. Paper Mario is a franchise I’ve always wanted to see represented in Smash Bros. and in lieu of adding a third Mario to the game, why not my favorite Siren Sister from Twilight Town? Her techniques in Paper Mario, like her fiery punch or paralyzing kiss, can serve as her special attacks, and her Final Smash could work in her fellow Shadow Sirens. It would be especially wild if instead of having her jump, her body just extended way out of the ground from the shadow she’s always lurking in like in Thousand-Year Door. I don’t know how you would account for that with hitboxes. That’s why I’m not a game developer.
Birdo – Super Mario Bros. 2 (Nintendo)
Once again, a character whose gender identity has more to do with looking into old manuals, researching translations, etc. The Super Mario Bros. 2 manual refers to her, in more modern phrasing, as a trans woman and even her trophy in Super Smash Bros. Brawl says she is “of indeterminate gender.” Birdo is an older character, but wow, isn’t it easier when characters are just queer without any back and forth about translations or webcomics most Overwatch players will never look at or whatever else? Anyway, Birdo! Trans icon who appears as a stage hazard but has long deserved her spot on the roster. Shooting eggs, backhanding people with her ring hand, the possibilities are endless. Plus, while it’s always exciting to see what third party will surprise us with each character announcement (I tell you, I screamed at the Bayonetta reveal trailer), I want to see more Nintendo characters and less pretty anime boys! Not that the sight of an anime boy offends, I assure you. I just mean that Piranha Plant was an awesome inclusion and Birdo’s exclusion has long felt like an oversight.
String of Pearls – Heaven Will Be Mine (2018, Pillowfight Games and Worst Girl Games)
So this would be a kind of weird one, but Heaven Will Be Mine is a kind of weird game in the best ways. And beautiful. And transcendental. And important. But imagine a tiny Saturn piloting String of Pearls around the Smash stages and try not to giggle. I can imagine her tiny self hollering from the cockpit during String of Pearls’ taunt animations. Anyway, imagine this “wicked machine” zooming around and digging her poison claws into Bowser or Captain Falcon. I would need Mare Crisium and Krun Macula to show up during the Final Smash, with Pluto and Luna-Terra chiming in with amused befuddlement at the mess Saturn’s gotten into. This is definitely an inclusion I think would fall more into the Marth in Melee camp where a lot of players might be introduced to Heaven Will Be Mine for the first time. All the more reason it’s possibly the most important choice on my list. If you love mechs, queer art, existential quandry, and incredible music, play Heaven Will Be Mine!
Mae Borowski – Night in the Woods (2017, Infinite Fall)
You know Mae can kick ass with a bat. Honestly, if we could get another Ice Climbers situation with Mae and Gregg with a knife I’d live. Or even Gregg and Angus, but I would actually scream if I ever saw Angus get hurt. The point is, Night in the Woods is full of queer characters and while it got a lot of critical reception around its release, I would love for this game to be introduced to any who may have missed it and be forever preserved in Smash history. Mae’s Final Smash could involve some wild Nightmare Eyes sequence and she could even whip out a bass to smack people with depending on her moveset. I insist that her accompanying stage features Selmers reciting her poetry and fully distracting me as I read her glorious verses.
So there are my picks! We’d totally get a queer Fighter Pass, right? This isn’t a complete fantasy that would never happen. If even one of these characters showed up, I would lose it, but I won’t be holding my breath. I feel like the most realistic expectation for queer inclusion would be Tracer, but Blizzard has been a mess these past couple years, so I say just keep them out of it. If you have any queer characters you’d love to see in Smash, comment below or just @ me on Twitter! Till then, we’ll just have to keep maining Bayonetta and Ike.