female characters in video games

Remember Lara Croft? Yes, the appealing female protagonist from Tomb Raider. This top-heavy figure was specifically designed to appeal to male heterosexual audiences. However, the gaming industry has evolved since then. Today it’s rare to see impractical female characters designed only to add to the game’s sex appeal. In some games, you’ll even notice some female avatar options are much stronger. In this article, we’ll discuss the importance of female characters in video games and how they have evolved with time. Without further ado, let’s get started. 

Importance and history of video games with female leads

It’s no secret that female characters were portrayed as weaker than male characters and less threatening if at all they were playable. In the past, players choosing female characters had to avoid head-on battles.

It seemed female protagonists were simply created to tick the “diversity” box. Even as recently as 2012 there weren’t many examples of video games with primary female characters. After a while, the “Gamergate movement” created a stir in the gaming industry and the series Tropes vs. Women was put forth by Anita Sarkeesian. Both of these events contributed to breaking the stereotype faced by female characters in video games. 

Since then, there have been obvious public-facing efforts from developers. The gaming industry has started including more female protagonists that aren’t unnecessarily appealing. But, in their defense, the demographics had already started shifting from the earlier 2010s. For example, Horizon Zero Dawn started development in 2011.

Important Female characters in video games

Samus Aran – Metroid 

best female game characters

When Metroid was first launched on Nintendo, most players weren’t aware that the protagonist was a woman. After a few sequels, it became evident that Samus Aran was indeed a badass woman making her one of the first female video game leads. Even before the reveal gamers were obsessed with the space bounty hunter in the yellow power armor. She has inspired countless woman characters in video games

Since then, Samus has gained quite a fanbase. People actively write fan fiction about her and spend hours crafting her iconic yellow power armor from scratch. This female space bounty hunter has impacted the lives of many gamers. After playing, you cannot help but feel connected with her character. 

 Chun-Li  – Street Fighter II 

playable-female characters in video games

One of the first playable female characters in video games Chun-Li created history when she was first seen in Street Fighter II. She was fast and boasted an impressive skill set, which was as good as (if not better) the skills given to the male characters.

Chun-Li came off like a fierce and strong woman who proved to the 90’s audience that women are just capable as men. In addition to her commendable fighting skills, Chun-Li had an interesting background. Turned out she was working for Interpol to take down a criminal M. Bison. Don’t think it ends there. She had a personal motive behind this too. In the game, M. Bison was behind the death of Chun-Li’s family. Her appearance in the game paved the way for many other characters like Sonya Blade and Kitana in Mortal Kombat. 

GLadOS – Portal 

female protagonists in video games

GLaDOS’s distinctive singsong voice, smart dialogues that were both disturbing and entertaining made her one of the most memorable video game villains. In the game, she doesn’t have a lot to say, she still is one of the best female antagonists in video game history.

GLaDOS became popular after a meme of hers went viral. It is a series of memes that were based on the fact that GLaDOS promised players cake after they finished a task (but never delivered). 

GLaDOS was so iconic that many games featured her in cameos. She even appeared in Lego Dimensions and DotA 2. 

Princess Zelda  The Legend of Zelda

The first version of the game displayed Zelda as a typical “damsel in distress”. However, she was later given many active appearances. 

Yes, she is a side character and not the protagonist. But besides assisting Link (protagonist) Zelda also possesses psychic powers. Telepathy and precognition are a part of her arsenal and she is considered to be a wise and capable ruler. Despite Link being the hero, the game’s timeline is decided by Princess Zelda’s decisions. 

Lara Croft  – Tomb Raider

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Lara Croft was perhaps one of the first female protagonists on PlayStation. Before her, the gaming scene lacked not only notable female characters but video games with female leads in general. If the rumors are true, then the main character was initially set to be male. But thankfully, the developers switched the lead for the best. 

Although, the modern interpretations of Lara Croft are somewhat misguided. She was a smart and adventurous woman who enjoyed venturing into ancient ruins to collect interesting artifacts. Tomb Raider was among the best-selling video games of its time. It proved that female-led games could also do well on the market. 

Female Representation in Video Games

After the Gamergate fiasco, all eyes were on the Electronic Entertainment Expo. The industry insiders and observers were closely inspected to see how leading brands like Sony and Microsoft would reflect on the heated conflict. 

Microsoft launched a game named ReCore. It was led by Joule, a woman exploring a desolate world with her companions. Similarly, EA revealed that women’s teams will be available in the next FIFA soccer series. As for Sony, they introduced the world to Aloy, the huntress of Horizon: Zero Dawn. 

If you look at numbers, The E3 conference held that year featured 70+games. Out of these, just SEVEN games centered on female protagonists or characters. That’s less than 12% of the games that were launched. Honestly, given the hype, female representation in video games is not getting better. The number of female protagonists is still a lot less than the male-centered games. However, the future looks bright as there has been encouraging progress since Samus Aran arrived in the first Metroid game.

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