We’re constantly fed the notion that the gaming industry is “a guy thing”, which we all know to be one of the biggest farce, ever. Yet despite knowing that there are many female gamers, there is an imbalance of gender roles of playable characters. Equal representation is crucial and being a member of the LGBT minority myself, being under-represented does feel, well… a bit shit. I do, however, feel a bit taken aback when I hear people talk about the lack of female playable characters. While the ratio is still very much unbalanced, there are more female characters than that of Lara Croft, Bayonetta and Commander Shepard. So for my list this week I thought I’d shine a light on some worthy female characters.
Like with all my lists, there are a few rules. A) I must have played the game to completion, B) The character must be playable and C) Be from a game between 2015 – 2017. If I go any further than that my list will turn into an unending scroll…well, more than it already is.
Alex – Oxenfree
A teenage story for the ages. I’ve written about Oxenfree before and praised its story-telling, relatable characters and stellar voice acting. The hero of the game is definitely Alex. Not only is she the main character who must solve the mystery of what is happening to her and her friends, but their very lives are in her hands. There’s a lot of depth and complexity in her character as she’s dealing with the loss of her brother, her parents’ divorce and her new step-brother, Jonas. Oxenfree is a compelling ghost story and should be played by everyone, especially if you want to see what a good game is.
Moira Burton – Resident Evil Revelations 2
There is no denying my love and admiration for Resident Evil. It’s one of the few franchises that has a clear balance of male and female leads. Almost every instalment has a playable female character, even Resident Evil 7, though that section is very short. Resident Evil: Revelations 2 brought not only my favourite Resi character, Claire, back, but introduced 2 new playable characters: Moira Burton and Natalia. One might argue that Moira and Natalia are supporting characters for Claire and Barry, however they are playable and pivotal to your survival and eventual victory. Claire will always be queen in my eyes, but Moira was a impeccable addition to the cast. Seeing her bloom from a rebellious and scared young woman into courageous survivor will give Lara a run for her money. She starts off in the game with a lot of baggage, because who doesn’t, and under the guidance of Claire Redfield, manages to overcome her fears. She’s a powerful character by the end of the game and I can only hope that she will become the next Rebecca Chambers and receive her own game.
Clementine – The Walking Dead
Few introductions are needed for this Walking Dead character. Now I haven’t played the latest season, but there’s no mistaking that Clementine is one tough teen. Surviving the apocalypse can’t possibly be easy while going through puberty, but she kicks its ass and shows who’s boss. From season one to the end of season 2, she goes from being fully reliant on adults to survive (because she is just a child) to becoming a young woman capable of protecting herself and others. Of all the characters in this post, I’m most excited to have my niece play as Clementine because I think she would make an incredible impression on her. She’s only 6, so I might wait a few years before I let her play the game.
Mercedes, Velvet and Gwendolyn – Odin Sphere Leifthrasir
Odin Sphere and its remaster, Leifthrasir, is a wonderful hidden Square Enix gem. It features five playable characters, three of which are female. Their screen time is well balanced and each character is vital to the story. First there’s Princess Gwendolyn who tries her best to be the warrior valkyrie her sister Griselda was. Her journey from underling to saviour is captivating as is her blooming affection for Oswald. Princess Mercedes on the other hand must now protect her people after her Mother, Queen of the fairies, dies at the hand of Gwedolyn’s Father, Odin. Then there’s Princess Velvet, my favourite character in the game. Shunned for being a witch and granddaughter of the mad king, Princess Velvet is an outcast and warrior from the start. She shows a great deal of wisdom and compassion, caring greatly for her people, the Pookas (cursed people who are turned into rabbit-like people). She also has a Romeo and Juliet like relationship with Cornelius, Prince of Titania and recent victim to a curse that transforms him into a Pooka. The story is complex but wonderful and the stunning animation is only better on the PS4. I urge all JRPG fans to play this underrated game.
The cast of Until Dawn
Now, here’s one example that might get me into a little bit of trouble. Until Dawn is a play on all forms of horror tropes, not just in the scares, but in the characters as well. What I liked about the female characters in this game, all of which are playable at some point, is how memorable they were. I remember two of the boys, but I felt their characters were weak overall. Sam, played by Hayden Panettiere, is the standout as the main hero of the game. She has drive, a backbone and easily the most relatable character in the game. Emily is also a great character, despite being seriously injured she pushes through until she reaches relative safety. Ashley is another star, despite going through a few traumatising SAW-like games, she pulls through in the end, unless you make bad decisions that get her killed. Despite being tropes, they are worthy of praise.
Vella Tartine – Broken Age
If you haven’t played Broken Age yet, then you’re missing a comedic gem of a game. I was in stitches most of the time while playing as Vella and Shay. For me Vella’s story is the strongest of the two and her character is a little more developed and interesting than that of Shay’s. Vella is a rebel and unsatisfied with her village’s cult-like culture. At the start of the game Vella is expected to be sacrificed to a monster called the Mog Chothra in a Maiden’s Feast. If chosen, the Mog Chothra will leave the village alone. Not happy with this life and her forced sacrifice, Vella fights back and sets off on a whacky adventure to defeat the Mog Chothra. I can’t say how her story links up with Shay’s, but it’s brilliant and oh so clever.
Amanda Ripley – Alien: Isolation
Following in her mother’s footsteps is Amanda Ripley, the second best hero of the Alien franchise. Just like Resident Evil, I’m a hardcore fan of the Alien series and Ellen Ripley. In Alien Isolation you play as Amanda Ripley, an engineer who goes on a mission to find her missing mother. This leads her to the Spacestation Sevestapol which has recently been haunted by a Xenomorph. Amanda’s resourcefulness and courage eventually gets her through in the end (plus about 500 restarts at checkpoint) where she proves she’s just tough as her mother. It’s a great stealth horror game and Amanda’s fear at the start is very relatable and convincing. As the game progresses I felt a very close bond with her as she toughened up and started taking on the Alien. It’s a special game and scary as heck!
Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn
Here we have the latest kick-ass hero capable of rivaling that of Lightning, Lara and Samus Aran – Aloy. Before I talk about her, let me just say this, Horizon Zero Dawn is one of the best video games I’ve ever played. Story-wise, it has the most mind-blowing twist that not even I could see coming. Seriously, it’s good and you should play it. Now to Aloy. When I first saw Horizon Zero Dawn at E3 a couple years ago, I knew this game would be special. It was the same feeling I had when I saw The Last of Us, and I was right. Aloy is an outcast and shunned from her community for not having a mother. The lore is complicated, but it makes sense in the game. Under the guidance of her foster father, Rost, she becomes a skilled warrior who basically puts everyone who shunned her, in their place. Depending on how you play, she can become a compassionate and skilled person. Her journey is also one of self-discovery and learning about her and what caused the near-destruction of mankind, is beautiful and emotional.
Max and Chloe – Life is Strange
Life is Strange is a game that came out of nowhere at put Max Caulfield and Chloe Price in the middle of sinister college drama/thriller. Max and Chloe both do a great job at showing off their various attributes, along with the battles many woman face while in college. Max has a gift though, one that allows her to manipulate time, which ultimately sees the two going through various butterfly effect scenes. Both Max and Chloe have a strong presence, but they both play on your emotions that pulls you into the world of Arcadia Bay, never to be forgotten again. By the time the game is done both Max and Chloe are etched into your memory as two very special characters in the world of gaming.
Those are my picks for this list. There are more that I want to write about, but I’ll save them for another time. Which other female characters do think should get more recognition?
Morgan Yu – Prey; Emily Caldwell – Dishonoured 2; Mae – Night in the Woods; 2B – Nier: Automata; Michonne – The Walking Dead; Teresa – Dragon Quest Heroes 2; Shante – Shante and the Pirates; and Tracer – Overwatch.