Women are awesome, and beneath the cacophony of noise generated by Master Chief, Nathan Drake and Kratos, they continue to slowly grow in prominence, taking on bigger and better roles. With a lot of focus often on the lack of women in games, or the sexualised nature of women in games, we sometimes forget that gaming has given us some incredibly well written and powerful female characters who are well worth celebrating.
Bayonetta – Bayonetta
Bayonetta’s body is encased in her hair, she summons demons, shapeshifts into a panther and freezes time. She’s representative of many different things; to some, she’s an acrobatic vehicle of destruction; to others, she’s a mark of gender disparity and indecent exposure. Whatever your opinion, Bayonetta fills a necessary void: a badass female character. We have plenty of brilliant female characters in games but we have distinctly less that are actually playable.
Bayonetta is given an incredible assortment of weapons and abilities, in a game that’s not asking to be taken seriously. It’s a ridiculous, nonsensical thrill ride and in Bayonetta, you have the perfect killing machine to guide you through the madness.
Makise Kurisu – Steins;Gate
Makise is cut from an entirely different cloth to her female counterpart. Born out of the terrific visual novel, Steins;Gate, Makise serves as the series’ main female protagonist, providing intelligence, wit and an all-round likability. The consequence of her appearance in a visual novel is a lack of distinct gameplay mechanics, but this doesn’t diminish her impact. Makise isn’t a killer or a warrior, but she is a grounded, realistic interpretation of an ordinary woman.
Liara T’Soni – Mass Effect
A faithful, powerful and intelligent companion, Liara elevates herself to more than just the common love interest. A master of biotic powers, highlighted beautifully in the Shadow Broker DLC for Mass Effect 2, Liara is a deep and complex character. The relationship my Shepherd forged with her over the trilogy was the catalyst for a sad farewell by the time Mass Effect 3’s credits rolled.
The Boss – Metal Gear Solid 3
With two Metal Gear Solid titles establishing Solid Snake as the ultimate soldier, it was jarring to see his father, Big Boss, relentlessly pummelled by The Boss in Metal Gear Solid 3. As others trembled in the presence of the game’s main antagonist, Volgin, she remained seemingly nonplussed, carrying a permanently cool head atop her broad shoulders. Her story, her bravery and her sacrifice cement her as one of gaming’s most formidable female characters.
Rise Kujikawa – Persona 4
Take every anime girl stereotype possible (abnormally large eyes, clapping your hands and laughing at everything, a cutesy voice) mush it all together, and you won’t be far off of Rise Kujikawa; that is, until you really progress through the game’s 60 hour campaign. Persona 4 focuses heavily on its characters’ ability to be at peace with themselves, and Rise’s main insecurity is born out of her fear of lacking any individuality. Her celebrity status results in an identity crisis, but to see Rise resolve and overcome her inner conflict throughout the game is a fascinating insight into a relatable and commonplace issue. Not to mention she’s incredibly helpful in battle, too.
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider
A torch bearer for her gender, Lara Croft carries the burden of being gaming’s most iconic and recognisable female character. But she’s come a long way from the hot pants and tank top days of the PlayStation era. Her reimagining in Crystal Dynamics’ 2013 reboot brought the most grounded and gritty Lara to date. The unneeded emphasis on her appearance had all but gone, with her down to earth personality relegating her fellow characters as painfully shallow by comparison.
Clementine – The Walking Dead
I love Clem. I mean, it’s impossible not to. As a little girl who finds herself separated from her parents at the time of a zombie outbreak, it is your task as Lee to ensure her survival. But as frail and fragile she may initially appear, she never imposes herself as a burden. Her sweetness, naivety and adaptability deflect any possibility of subservience. I wanted to protect her, I was willing to put my character’s life on the line for hers whenever needed. And if I said something that visibly upset her, I was overcome with a tidal wave of immense guilt. Sorry if I let you down, Clem.
Elizabeth – Bioshock Infinite
I really, really hate escort missions. But, more often than not, it’s because the game has failed in making me care about who it is I’m meant to be escorting. Take Resident Evil 4: one of the best games of its time, but also one of the most frustrating. Ashley was a nuisance: a hindrance in battle, non-existent personality and an unfathomable lack of even a modicum of common sense. If it were a real life situation, I’d have abandoned Ashley at the first opportunity without a second thought. Escorting Elizabeth is the exact opposite experience. She’s everything Ashley’s not. Bubbly, useful, caring, interesting, intelligent – a wonderful companion.
Kyoko Kirigiri – Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc
Danganronpa concerns a group of talented Japanese teenagers who have been trapped in a school by a robotic teddy bear and forced to kill each other to escape; just another day in Japan, then.
Among the madness, Kyoko is the calming presence. She’s not a damsel in distress, she’s not a love interest, she’s not sexualised, she isn’t written as fan service nor does she pander to the audience. She is in fact the most intelligent character in the game, often coming up with the solution when no-one else can. It is the playable character, Makoto Naegi, who finds himself consistently masked in the darkness of her vastly superior shadow.
Ellie – The Last Of Us
Born into a world that’s already sunk deep into chaos, Ellie manages to add levity to every situation. She’s immediately likable; she’s funny, badass, helpful, and the bond you forge with her grows stronger with every conversation. Her role as a gameplay mechanic isn’t to be scoffed at either. She’ll often throw bricks or bottles at the enemies or even stab them in certain instances; she’s more than just a piece of luggage. There is nothing about Ellie that adheres to convention; nothing that fails to subvert expectations; nothing that is dislikable, unrealistic or degrading. Ellie is an exceptional character. By any standard.