For decades, video games have been dominated by male protagonists. Damsels in distress and the brave men who rescued them were popular when games told simpler tales. Both Super Mario and Link built the Nintendo empire on these sorts of stories. As the medium grows and digs deeper into storytelling, it's obvious hulking heroes of testosterone don't always work. Not only do male protagonists have to be better now, but gamers demand well written female protagonists that can hold their own. Thankfully, the future is bright for leading ladies, brighter than it has ever been. Still, we've already seen our share of excellent female protagonists. These women (and in some cases, young girls) are some of the best examples of the genre's move toward redefining what was once considered the "weaker sex".
Please assume spoilers are present for any game featured in this list.Honorable Mentions
Amanda Ripley - Alien: Isolation
We don't get to see her much with the game being presented in first person, but Amanda is arguably just as heroic as her famous mother. It's a search for the Sigourney Weaver-portrayed character that leads Amanda to the same horrific circumstances her mom faced, and though she certainly is terrified at times, she pushes forward and goes face to face with the Xenomorph on more than one occasion. Her greatest feat is outsmarting the famously cunning alien.
Aurora - Child of Light
Told as a visual fairy tale and poem, Child of Light
introduced us to Aurora, a young girl whose courageousness is as big as her hair. Her name translates to "dawn" in Latin, which symbolizes her place in the fantasy world in which she finds herself, literally representing the light in a world full of darkness.
Anna - Valiant Hearts: The Great War
At the age of 22, Anna left school to work in a munitions factory and help out any way she could when the ironically named "War To End All Wars" broke out. When her father was kidnapped, Anna enlisted as a battlefield medic. During the course of Valiant Hearts
, she is often found risking her life to patch up soldiers she's never met before, regardless of their alliances, and escorting the rest of the main cast to safety via a requisitioned taxi while bombs fly overhead. Top 55.
Faith - Mirror's Edge
Death-defying parkour and expert hand to hand combat made Faith fun to play as, but her selfless motives to save her sister in an Orwellian surveillance state made her memorable. She doesn't always heed the advice of looking before she leaps, yet still she lands on her feet (or sometimes tucks and rolls). The upcoming prequel/reboot of the series is said to go deeper into her character too, which is a welcome addition for fans of the original.4.
Bayonetta - Bayonetta
With a bodysuit made of her own hair and high heels that double as pistols, it's obvious Bayonetta (real name Cereza) is from the minds of Japanese developers. But the land known for oversexualizing their females in fiction found a unique mix with the Bullet Witch. She has sex appeal by design, but her worth as a character doesn't end there. At least one games journalist considers her to be the "embodiment of female empowerment". Of all the women on this list, Bayonetta is arguably the strongest and most effective combatant, too.3.
Commander Shepard - Mass Effect series
She came in many colors and faces, and for many she was no she
at all, but those who played the Mass Effect
trilogy as "FemShep" were rewarded with a unique take on the story. In fiction, the ratio of male to female saviors of the universe vastly favors the men. To take on Saren, the Collectors, and the Reapers, while politicking with the Council and keeping her crew of dozens happy and safe is no easy task, and Shepard does it all without ever losing her cool. Unless of course you had her punch Khalisah al-Jilani. But still that's a pretty good track record.2.
Lara Croft - Tomb Raider series
In some ways, Lara is the female protagonist by which all others are measured. She stars in one of the most storied franchises in gaming and is one of the first heroines that can say that. The recent reboot saw her come alive in ways she never has either, as players experienced her birth as a survivor. This fall, her adventure continues with Rise of the Tomb Raider
. Like she has proven so many times before, we expect she will prove again — where there's a will, there's a way.1.
Clementine - The Walking Dead series
When we meet Clementine, she is a very little girl, terrified, hiding in her treehouse from her undead babysitter. To think of where she is now, at the conclusion of season two of the The Walking Dead
is simply remarkable. She has endured so much, learning a lot of it from her guardian Lee, but having to move on without him and adapt to a world that is unkind to anyone who shows weakness. It's unfair for someone once so innocent to be put in the situations she has faced, but through it all she becomes one of the easiest characters to root for that has ever been seen in the medium.
As always, this list is just one interpretation and are meant to promote discussion. Who else would you include on a similar list of your own?