Today I’ll be counting down my favorite female characters in gaming. These characters manage to transcend the typical view of women that games seem to live by; they’re more than just an over exaggerated set of physical assets covered only by the most poorly designed armor in all of the kingdom. The females on this list actually play large roles in the stories they’re a part of, and enrich them.
Note: The discussion of virtually every character listed here contains some amount of spoilers. If you haven’t played a game that they’re featured in and are afraid of having the story ruined for you, consider yourself warned.
5. Sarah Kerrigan (Starcraft)
Even before Sarah Kerrigan was assimilated by the swarm and became the Queen of Blades she was a bad ass. Her psychic powers and incredible prowess in battle made her incredibly powerful. With the swarm at her back though, the Queen of Blades becomes one of the best stories in gaming. Betrayal, tragedy, redemption, hope; all of these help make up the intricate story of Sarah Kerrigan.
4. Elizabeth (Bioshock Infinite)
Part damsel in distress, part distress itself, Elizabeth makes for a fantastic companion during your journey though Columbia and beyond. As a character, Elizabeth starts out as what can only be described as a full on Disney princess. The big blue eyes, the flowing brown hair, the unbelievable sense of kindness, Elizabeth might as well be Belle. It doesn’t take long before the harshness of the world begins to take it’s toll on Elizabeth though. As Booker’s story unfolds throughout the game, Elizabeth’s does as well. By then end what’s left is an immensely deep emotional journey, one that’s difficult to sum up in a paragraph. Suffice it to say that Elizabeth’s life is as little like a Disney princess as any life could get.
3. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
In the early days, Lara Croft definitely fit the bill for the typical gaming female. Her absurdly large breasts and minuscule waist were so hilariously out of proportion that it was hard to get past her exaggerated looks. As it turns out though, Croft was far more than a blue tank top and some khaki shorts. The first game in the series is absolutely a classic, and while some of the releases in between then and now have been a bit up-and-down, the latest incarnation of Lara Croft reinvents her as a far more realistically shaped female while also bringing to life a beautiful and rich new world for her to adventure in. No Tomb Raider game has ever given Lara Croft the depth of character like the most recent one, and with it’s sequel already in the works, it will be great to see Lara continue to grow (emotionally).
2. Ellie (The Last of Us)
I don’t cry a lot. I’m not sure I’d ever cried during a video game until I’d played The Last of Us. The relationship between Joel and Ellie is so beautifully presented, and Ellie’s growth is handled with such respect that it’s impossible not to adore her. Much like Elizabeth, Ellie typically plays the role of companion, but unlike Elizabeth, Ellie is already scarred by the harshness of the world she’s forced to exist in. Through her travels with Joel, she’s both a help and a hindrance. Ultimately though, Ellie is more than either of those things, and as she overcomes adversity, we as the players learn from her. Very few characters regardless of gender, can claim to be as effective as Ellie in that regard.
1. Samus Aran (Metroid)
Do you remember the first time you saw Samus? What I mean to say is; do you remember the first time you saw Samus without her helmet on? In one of the most shocking twists in gaming history, Samus is revealed to be a woman at the end of the very first Metroid. What makes this so important is that Samus is viewed throughout the entire game as though he must be a man. A game set on a distant planet with a protagonist who is a bounty hunter, it must be some bad ass dude, right? Nope. That moment when Samus’s suit is removed and she’s revealed to be a woman is more than just a cool moment. The character of Samus Aran paved the way for females in gaming to be more than just damsels in distress or scantily clad barbarians. Samus is a self-reliant bad ass who doesn’t need help from anyone to get the job done. As such, the other four entries on this list all her a debt of gratitude for giving females in gaming a chance.