Opinion: Top 5 Female Video Game Characters
Some of gaming's best
In celebration of International Women’s Day, I wanted to take a look at the influential female video game characters across the console generations. I believe it’s important the medium of video games be inclusive of all types of characters, not only allowing for relatability and inclusion but also to give people a different perspective with which to play.
The newest contender to enter the ring, and in many ways, the most important. Aloy is poised to become the next face of PlayStation, as Horizon Zero Dawn is not only garnering critical acclaim but is expected to sell insanely well. The greatest thing about Aloy is that in no way does being a woman define her. Granted, she’s living in a fictional era where gender equality seems to be less of an issue, but it’s still great to see other characters accept her strength and resilience without question.
Aloy is a part of an extremely matriarchal society that's deity is the All-Mother. Despite this, you never feel beaten over the head with the sentiment, and Guerrilla Games deftly weaves these notions into the story and gameplay. Recently an article came out deeming Horizon Zero Dawn to be appropriating Native American culture in a negative light. I personally find these remarks to be a stretch and in some ways inappropriate to assume that a tribal culture in the far flung future that battles robot dinosaurs to be connected with Native Americans. It completely overlooks the accomplishment of creating a relatable female protagonist with an enduring legacy in video game culture.
For similar reasons to Aloy, Samus finds her way on this list since her feminism is not her defining trait. When the original Metroid released, it was a clear design choice to make Samus’ appearance gender neutral. In fact, many of the more casual gamers likely assume Samus is a male. Granted, they also assume her name is Metroid, but that’s another article entirely.
Metroid by its own admission borrows heavily from the sci-fi masterpiece Alien, which you can not only see in its design but also in the parallels between Samus and Ellen Ripley, Alien’s groundbreaking female protagonist. The creators conceived the notion of Samus being female mid-development and even went so far as to have the instruction manual refer to her as a male in order to surprise gamers. It was an incredibly smart tactic on their part and helped Samus become the icon she is today.
Whilst many players enjoyed the Mass Effect trilogy as a male, multiple gamers chose to make their Commander Shepard a woman which the fandom has affectionately labeled FemShep. Bioware pushed the envelope significantly with these games, including erotic homosexual relations between some of its characters. This all started with the female Commander Shepard, which was carried into cultural awareness by the fandom rather than the developers themselves. And once again, due to the ability to choose Shepard’s gender, her womanhood does not define her.
In the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda, Bioware seems to have evolved their female protagonist even further. Rather than it simply being the same person, gamers can choose between the Ryder siblings Scott and Sara. This will ultimately allow for Sara Ryder to differentiate herself, specifically in the way she moves as Shepard’s movement, regardless of gender, was always a male motion capture model.
Probably the most recognizable of all the female gaming characters, Lara Croft defines badass. The Tomb Raider has stood the test of time and has recently been blessed with a renaissance in both video games and movies. Originally conceived of as a male, Lara took form after developer Eidos wanted to steer clear of any connections to the legendary Indiana Jones. And before being British, Lara was conceived as a South American known as Laura Cruz.
Lara also helped usher in a different design philosophy when it came to gameplay, as the team angled to more fluid and methodical movements rather than quick, haphazard motion. Lara will continue to inspire generations of gamers to come with the rumored Shadow of the Tomb Raider and the film reboot starring Alicia Vikander.
The Last of Us for many reasons is considered one of the greatest video games of all time, and a lot of that is due to Ellie. Whilst she is only playable for a brief portion of the game, she is without a doubt the character of Joel’s equal. Not only what she means to Joel, but who she becomes in the bleak apocalyptic future, is the crux of the story. And with it confirmed that Ellie will be the main playable protagonist in The Last of Us Part II, it’s clear Naughty Dog understands her importance to the gaming medium.
On top of that, Ellie is one of the few gay video game characters, and that reveal was handled expertly in the additional story Left Behind chronicling her time with her friend Riley. Whilst it’s left up to the audience to decide on Ellie’s sexuality, writer Neil Druckmann has definitively said that he wrote her as gay. What’s excellent about the way it’s portrayed is that just like her femininity, her homosexuality changes nothing about who she is or how she behaves. Whilst it would be great to see this side of her further explored in Part II, to not address it would be just as powerful.
There are so many other female video game characters to promote: Cortana, Faith, Bayonetta, Shell, Clementine, Elena Fisher, Jill Valentine, Princess Zelda, Chun-Li. It’s awesome to see how the gaming industry has created these characters, and how their legacies define a lot of our gaming culture now and in the future.