Every year on March 8th the world comes together to celebrate International Women’s Day and the team at TBG are no different. In recent years the portrayal of female characters in the digital form has shifted away from the outdated damsel in distress of yesteryear and evolved into something much more appealing. Game designers and writers have worked hard to help drive this change and introduce a whole new breed of accessible heroines for the modern audience while also revisiting and updating some of our all-time favourites.
As a tribute, we’ve decided to take a look at some of the best female characters in video games today. An easy ask on the surface you may think but it wasn’t until we began to frantically scribble down ideas that reality hit home. The sheer amount of strong female leads and personalities in video games made this a reasonably difficult task, we’ve refrained from numbering our list and hope you enjoy!
Clementine – The Walking Dead
Growing up in a post-apocalyptic world isn’t an easy ask. Only the strongest stand any chance of survival so it was refreshing when Telltale released their take on the popular Walking Dead universe in the form of an episodic interactive video game. This story focused on a young girl named Clementine, a seemingly odd choice at the time. Yet over the course of a four-season run we have had the pleasure of being a part of her journey from a young innocent child into a strong, wise and confident woman hanging on to what’s left of humanity. Disaster struck with the collapse of Telltale leaving the series in hiatus until, thankfully, Skybound Entertainment took over the helm promising to give fans and Clementine a fitting finale.
Cortana – Halo
Behind every great man is an even greater woman. This statement has never been truer than what Cortana is to everyone’s favourite genetically enhanced supersoldier the Master Chief. Cortana is an A.I. in a holographic embodiment, she was originally based upon Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, and guides the big guy by providing key information as required. She is instrumental in preventing the destruction of all sentient life in the galaxy and the pair’s relationship is one of the standouts from the series. Microsoft had so much faith in Bungie’s creation that Cortana has become the figurehead for their own personal assistant to rival Siri.
Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn
Machine Hunter, Seeker, genetic clone and total badass. Created by GAIA, the governing body in Horizon Zero Dawn, for the sole purpose of neutralising HADES a rogue A.I. that is hell-bent on wiping out all life. Taken in as a baby by the Nora tribe she grew and became strong spending years mastering the skills of survival before facing the Proving. With a great storyline told by the team at Guerrilla Games we have a fierce new heroine for Sony’s PlayStation.
Commander Shepherd – Mass Effect
When BioWare released Mass Effect it became an instant hit. They wanted to create something special for their lead character and a sense of importance within the world. Early on during the development, they decided to give the audience the freedom to choose what gender, among other key attributes, our protagonist would be. Femshep, as she is commonly known, was born. Much of her characteristics and attitude can be tailored during the events of the game but it is clear that Shepherd is strong and confident while having a sensitive side. Her popularity was so great that BioWare even created trailers specifically featuring the character in female form for the sequels in the series.
GLaDOS – Portal
GLaDOS, Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System, first appeared in the original Portal game as an A.I. voice that guides the player throughout and is responsible for maintaining the Aperture Science research facility. We soon learn of her true intentions as the story progresses exposing her passive-aggressive and narcissistic personality. Ellen McLain’s portrayal is perfect as GLaDOS and subsequently, the pair went on to win a number of gaming awards including best new character. It was a buck in the trend for female characters in video games and helped pave the way for what we have today. GLaDOS even gave a great performance singing ‘Still Alive’ over the closing credits of the game and was later released as a free to download track for the Rock Band series:
Princess Peach – Super Mario
Peach started life as a pretty 2D, no pun intended, damsel in distress that was in constant need of rescue by Mario and his brother Luigi. To Nintendo’s credit, they have been quick to move with the times expanding and adding to the Princesses repertoire as the years have passed. Today we have a very different Peach who is tough, strong-minded and not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the best of them cameoing in a number of hit titles and recently made the roster once more in the ultimate cross-over brawler – Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
A notable outing was in 2006 when she earnt a starring role in the Nintendo DS title Super Princess Peach, having to save the brothers Mario from Bowser in a role reversal.
Amanda Ripley – Alien: Isolation
Daughter of Ellen and lead in 2014’s scary as hell video game Alien: Isolation, we just had to include one of the Xenomorph ass kickers. During early production of the game the development team had a clear vision that their main hero would be female but it wasn’t until later that Amanda Ripley was confirmed. Following in her mother’s footsteps we are presented with a tough, determined figure that is pushed to the edge by all that is going on around. Sadly this sometimes leads to her feeling cold and distant but generally, this motion-captured performance received critical praise and was voiced by the talented Andrea Deck.
Samus Aran – Metroid
Since 1986 Samus Aran has been the main focus of the long-running Nintendo series Metroid. Ex-soldier and bounty hunter encased by an exoskeleton that is armed to the teeth. She is one of the earliest examples of a strong heroine in a video game series that has continued to see a massive following even today. Sadly at the time of its original release we didn’t manage to finish the game so didn’t see the end credits roll and character reveal minus power suit.
I mean surely we can’t have been the only ones growing up that assumed Samus was just a guy in a suit…
Ellie – The Last of Us
In a similar vein to Clementine from The Walking Dead series, we have Ellie from Naughty Dogs excellent The Last of Us. Again set in a post-apocalyptic world and follows an emotional storyline with traits of the classic buddy movie formula played out alongside lead male, Joel. The mission is simple yet seemingly impossible, survive and help find the cure to an infection that has ravaged the land with Ellie believed to be the key. She will return in the upcoming Part 2 and take centre stage as a more mature and hardened representation of the character we grew to love:
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider
Incredibly intelligent, highly likeable, archaeologist that has been breaking bones and raiding tombs since 1996. Lara Croft hit the PlayStation 1 for her first adventure, Tomb Raider, by Crystal Dynamics and became an overnight sensation. Now with a catalogue of over 15 games and 3 Hollywood blockbusters, so to speak, she has been elevated into everyday life. The series had lost its way a little until 2013’s reboot gave Lara the gritty and dark origin story she had always needed. It gave a real account of the emotional roller coaster her character endured in being pushed to the limit in order to survive after becoming stranded on the island of Yamatai.
Chun Li (Street Fighter) / Ms Pac-Man / Amaterasu (Okami) / The Boss (Metal Gear Solid) / Bayonetta / Faith (Mirrors Edge) / Yuna (FFX) / Kassandra (Assasin’s Creed Odyssey)
So there you have it just a glimpse at some of the great female characters in video games. We couldn’t list them all so would love to hear any suggestions you may have in the comments section below, on Twitter or our Facebook page!