Wonderful women in video games

Female characters in video games have come a long way over the past few years. When I was a kid, all we had to look up to was Chun-Li from Street Fighter and pointy-boobed Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. The industry may still have some way to go when it comes to representation but there are far more protagonists nowadays who are worthy of our admiration.

A big thank you to LightningEllen from Livid Lightning for including Later Levels in her Underrated Ladies! tag and giving me the opportunity to write about the following fabulous females. She’s pretty awesome herself so if you’re not already following this lady, do yourself a favour and make sure you check out her blog today. In honour of all the amazing women in video games and the blogging community, let’s take a look at some of the best female protagonists.

A heroine who is always overshadowed by the male characters in the story

Mass Effect, video game, female, FemShep, Commander Shepard, faceAlthough FemShep has a huge following, she’s always overshadowed by male Commander Shepard. He’s the one pictured in screenshots used in articles devoted to Mass Effect; and she was a half-hearted addition to the first game in the series after BioWare only bothered to record a couple of romance scenes, change the pronouns used in conversations and tweak the armour designs. But somehow she works and she kicks butt. In not particularly trying to create a great female character, the developer lucked out and made one of the best.

A heroine who is always overshadowed by the other female characters in the story

Night in the Woods, video game, kitchen, cats, conversation, Kandy, Mom, MaeMy favourite character from Night in the Woods was Candy Borowski. I love the way the story hints at her being more than just a mum: she’s had a history (one I like to think was pretty wild) and she’s dealing with issues she’s trying to keep her daughter shielded from. Although female protagonists Mae and Bea Santello take up most of the screen-time and are the focus of the story, it’s Candy who brings both a sense of humour and the warmth of compassion to the title with her comments about eels and town gossip.

A character who had potential but was greatly underutilised in her story

The Secret of Monkey Island, Elaine Marley, woman, pirate, face, Guybrush ThreepwoodAlthough The Secret of Monkey Island will always be one of my favourite games, I wouldn’t necessarily say Guybrush Threepwood was one of my favourite characters. He becomes more and more sarcastic and idiotic as the series progresses – and it’s poor Elaine Marley who has to put up with that crap. It was she who saved the day in the original title before Guybrush mucked it up and managed to defeat LeChuck through sheer luck – and I think that makes of worthy of being a playable protagonist in her own game.

A character who you want more backstory on

Dreamfall, The Longest Journey, April Ryan, face, womanThe first game in The Longest Journey series featured April Ryan as the primary character; then the next, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, jumped forward ten-years in time to Zoë Castillo. April still made an appearance but she’d changed, the hesitant young girl replaced by a cynical woman hardened by the things she’d been through. Although Ragnar Tørnquist has said it’s very unlikely we’ll ever see a direct sequel to the first instalment, I’d love to find out more about what exactly happened to April in that missing decade.

A character with traits that are sadly overlooked by everyone

The Legend of Zelda, Ocarina of Time, Navi, fairy, LinkEveryone who’s ever played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time really dislikes Navi. I’ll admit she annoys me too with her constant ‘Hey, listen!’ but she has a lot of good traits that are continually overlooked. She’s loyal, staying by Link’s side throughout his quest to save Hyrule; she’s patient, teaching him the controls and providing clues to solve puzzles; and she has his back during battles, becoming his focusing target. So many great and caring aspects to her personality yet all we do is yell at the fairy to shut-up.

A morally-grey character

Fable II, video game, Theresa, babyIt’s difficult to share much about Theresa here as her Fable backstory is so detailed. But the most intriguing thing is the fact you’re never quite sure whether she’s on the side of good or evil: is she telling you all she knows, or has she seen the future and is now trying to guide you down a certain path? Zoë Wanamaker does such a great job at portraying the Seeress, with a perfect balance of mysticism and threat in her voice. Now whenever I see a television advert voiced by her I feel as if Theresa is trying to sell me something.

A character who should be more famous

Cognition, An Erica Reed Thriller, Erica Reed, FBI, face, gunShe may be a kickass FBI Agent who’s searching for the evil Cain Killer, her brother’s murderer, and her ‘psion’ powers might give her an advantage by enabling her to see into the past. But Cognition’s Erica is by no means a superhero and her weaknesses are exactly the reason why I love her. Raleigh Holmes does an amazing job of portraying her as a real person who’s struggling with a stressful job, tragic past and powerful secret. It’s her wonderful voice-acting and some great writing which bring Agent Reed to life.

Thanks so much once again to LightningEllen for the tag and giving me the chance to talk about these wonderful ladies! I didn’t respond to all of the prompts as there were a couple I couldn’t quite decide on answers for, so head over to her post to see the whole set. Hopefully I’ve done enough today though to celebrate wonderful women in video games and she’ll approve!

41 thoughts on “Wonderful women in video games

  1. A cool list, will admit about half I was unaware but some good insight. I did find it creepy how Kaiden in the first Mass Effect interacts with shepherd differently depending on your gender, one of many reasons he took the *spoiler alert* bullet in the first game.

    Navi, a lot less grating than Midna and It still sticks in my mind the final battle when she says she’ll star by your side whatever happens.

    I’m not sure I have the gumption to do a list of my own but always felt Jade was such a great character in Beyond Good and Evil that had a real sense of…pathos and humanity about given the authoritarian state she resides in. Also Clara in the first Watch Dogs who subverted expectations somewhat in her motivations, found her an interesting character in her own right.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Longest Journey is one of my favourite games. I just think the whole story throughout the Dreamfall series is amazing – and April is such an interesting character.


  2. I’m always a bit wary when it comes to female protagonists in video games (that sounds pretty sexist, doesn’t it?) because I think devs are afraid of making women instead of just characters with boobs (pointy or not). I mean, just take a buff dude – maybe in a bit longer pants – and the adventures of Larry Croft are done, without any major changes to the game (at least the original 6 games). In one of my posts, I said how I believe that we should not try to make women and men the same, but celebrate our differences and create awesome characters around them. Of course, all of that only really matters if the game is story-driven and/or its characters are important to that story.

    Liked by 2 people

    • This is an area where Japanese creators have the world beat. In both anime and video games, Japanese creators are unafraid to have characters that revel in their femininity without sacrificing any sort of “capability” to do things. Cute girls doing cute things… and then kicking some ass on the side.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I think this is one of the reasons why I like the female Commander Shepard so much, in a strange way. She wasn’t meant to exist and even when she did, her template was a male. She shouldn’t have worked as a character but somehow she manages to surpass that and be one of the greats.

      I think your right: we need diversity in our protagonists and celebrating their diversity is a good thing. Feel free to leave a link to your post here – I’d love to read it. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have to admit, aside from Ocarina of Time, I haven’t played any of these games. Though I do agree with you. Female characters have come a long way and tend to get the spotlight now depending on the game.


  4. I have never played these games before( except for Mass Effect.) but you inspired me to write a similar article to this ( should go live tomorrow if everything goes alright.)

    In the first two Mass Effect games, I played as default Male Shepard and he died in the 2nd game during the Suicide Run so F to my progress when Mass Effect 3 came around. However, when Mass Effect 3 released, I played as a female Shepard and man, she was awesome. A really underrated character. Jennifer Hale did fantastic as her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s amazing that a female character who was created as an afterthought and based on a male template could turn out so well. But somehow, she works – and she kicks a whole lot of butt along with it.

      Looking forward to reading your post! Feel free to leave a link to it here too, in case anyone reading the comments wants to head over. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I never understood the idea that game protagonists and central characters should mainly be men. Some of my favorite game characters have been women: Samus, Kat from the Gravity Rush series, Aigis from Persona 3 (well, she’s an android, but a female-looking and identifying one, so she should count too, right?)

    I’m also reminded that I need to pick up Night in the Woods again. I can see the appeal of the characters; it just hasn’t grabbed me yet in the way I’d hoped it would based on what others have said.


    • I found Night in the Woods to be a bit of a strange one. I loved the characters, humour and artwork; and I really liked the portrayal of friendship and family. But the story itself didn’t grab me and I’m still not entirely sure about the ending, even four months on from playing it! Candy Borowski is awesome though, partly because she comes out with random comments that remind me of the sort of weird conversations I have with my own mum. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for responding to the tag! 😁 FemShep is definitely BestShep, haha.

    And I love complaining about Navi as much as the next gamer, but you raise some good points about her character. 🤔


  7. I feel like I may be the only person in the world who really liked Navi, I really found her to be a sweet companion to our favourite mute hero! Nice to see her finally get some recognition from someone!


    • She’s definitely a character who gets overlooked! All she’s trying to do is look out for Link and she deserves to be recognised for her caring nature – not just her catchphrase. 😉


  8. I always find the best list are ones that defy expectations as you have done here. Almost every time I’ve read a list of “Best Women in Gaming” it has always been one with the same characters. Also very brave to list Na’vi.


    • Although she can be kind of annoying, everything Navi does is with good intentions. Maybe we should all take the time to listen to her advice a little more often. 😉


  9. Pingback: Murray: The Character That Defines Kim from Later Levels | Normal Happenings

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