A reader celebrates gaming’s most famous women, from newcomers like Horizon’s Aloy to the trailblazing Samus Aran.
It’s Women’s History Month, as well as International Women’s Day (on March 8th), and with that in mind I wanted to honour some of the best and most iconic female video game characters.
5. Samus Aran
Samus Aran is an icon, the protagonist from the original 1986 game Metroid, this groundbreaking character was one of the first ever female leads in a video game (first female human character, anyway). Partway through the original game’s development the creators decided to reveal the gender of the suited-up hero to be female at the end of the game, an inspired choice for anyone skilled enough to finish it, but also a shocking twist as the game’s booklet implied the opposite.
Heavily based on Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, Samus was never intended to be an objectified character and she is often seen as a tough and enduring solider with her exoskeleton suit being more famous than the woman inside. But credit where it’s due, Samus is still in games and many people are eagerly awaiting a new Metro Prime – come on Nintendo you’ve had years!
Female leads are becoming more common in video games today and Aloy has been part of the recent batch of female characters. Thanks to her unique robot dinosaur setting, Aloy stands out in the crowd. The ginger-haired beauty, with post-apocalyptic style attire is interesting and fun, plus we have a character who manages to rise above the oppression she faces in-game and is still able to treat everyone around her with dignity and respect. Plus, she can take down a robot from half a mile away, which is simply awesome. We’re all looking forward to seeing what she gets up to in the next game.
It’s rare for characters in video games to have such a compelling character progression over such a long period of time, especially from childhood to near adulthood. Despite only appearing in the video game series, Clementine really stands out as one of the best characters in The Walking Dead universe. We meet her as small child just trying to survive and we end with her taking the reins as the mentor and mother figure to someone else’s orphaned child.
Her relationship with Lee in the first season is compelling, Clem feels like a real person and her actions in the game come across as authentic under the circumstances she’s in. Telltale’s Walking Dead series really paved the way for multi-choice story-based games and Clementine is a big part of what made the game a success. Not only is she a well-written child in a game but she is the emotional heart and an excellent addition to how women (and young girls) are portrayed in video games.
2. Jill Valentine
The Resident Evil franchise has produced plenty of strong women: Claire Redfield, Ada Wong, Sheva Alomar, and Sherry Birkin. But none quite measure up to the brilliance of Jill Valentine. We meet Jill at the Spencer Mansion in the very first game, where this tough solider first encounters the deadly T-Virus, armed with a gun and limited ammo against a small army of zombies and other creatures. Jill gets by with tenacity and skill as well her determination to uncover the truth.
Even though Jill was later put into overly sexualised outfits, her initial appearances were notable for her being dressed similarly to her male counterparts, not only that but her relationship with Chris Redfield never falls into romance and the two are only ever portrayed as equally matched colleagues, which is rare in most narratives (Resident Evil would pass the Bechdel test if it applied to games). Despite Jill’s most recent appearance being the disappointing Resident Evil 3 remake, we’re all looking forward to seeing Jill return to the franchise… maybe in Resident Evil Village along with a nine-foot-tall vampire woman.
1. Lara Croft
Who else could be number one really? Lara is the most famous, most enduring female video game character whose undergone several iterations across various pieces of media. She has inspired so many people of all different genders and backgrounds that her influence can’t really be measured, but what we know is the mark she’s left on the video game industry – it’s enormous.
Even characters on this list owe a debt (big or small) to Lara. Originally conceived as Laura Cruz, a Mexican adventurer, the developers at Core Design decided to turn her into a dual pistol wielding English heiress with a long braid and hot pants, an icon was born almost the moment she was revealed.
Despite her wholly inappropriate attire Lara became more famous than the games she starred in. Though Lara’s appearance has been subject of debate over the years, and despite some questionable marketing, Lara’s tough as nails, no-nonsense personality is what we love about her and we eagerly await her return, whatever that may be.
By reader Jay Johnson
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