It’s no secret that, traditionally speaking, men have dominated the gaming world. In games of the past, women — even lead characters — have typically served as eye candy, scantily clad with big boobs and unrealistic proportions, often with poor character development.
Thankfully, things are changing, with more women in the industry and game developers having the shock realisation that women play games as well.
And so, I bring you a list of some of the best female characters in games.
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
Lara Croft is an ICON who first graced our screens in the 90s, but it’s her portrayal in the rebooted series that has me screaming from the rooftops (sorry neighbours). In Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we see Lara go from an ambitious but naive archeology graduate to a badass warrior. As the games progress, she becomes more brilliant and more deadly — but she never loses her heart. Whether it’s saving a village or saving the world, Lara is determined to do good in the world.
Her survival, combat and kindness make Lara a real stand out for me. Whether by bow or gun, she mows down her enemies — even those of the supernatural kind. In one game, she literally falls into a pit filled with blood and bodies — and keeps going! I feel like most of us would probably be broken wrecks crying on the floor after that. But not Lara. She certainly deserves her title as the “first lady of gaming”.
Ellie and Abbie (The Last of Us)
Ellie is one of the most badass women in modern gaming. We first see Ellie as a young survivor in The Last of Us, where she navigates a post-apocalyptic world plagued by zombie-like infected. Ellie is witty, loving and resourceful — and despite being just a kid, she manages to kick bad guy (and zombie) butt.
But everything gets taken to a whole new level in Last of Us Part 2, where we see Ellie, now a young adult, step out into the seeking revenge. It’s gritty, brutal and gut-wrenching — but no matter how hard it gets, Ellie perseveres. She annihilates countless infected and horrific creatures of all kinds that would give most of us nightmares. I also really like that this game isn’t afraid to explore the impacts of Ellie’s experiences, like when we see her start experiencing PTSD after her horrific experiences.
Also, I know this will be an unpopular opinion, but I’m the one writing this so… I like Abbie. Yes, I know a lot of fans hate her. But Abbie is also on her own mission for revenge, battling many of the same challenges as Ellie. Abbie forces us to consider different perspectives, and I grew to love her for her strength and determination. Just like Ellie.
Aloy (Horizon: Zero Dawn)
Aloy has a very special place in my heart. This brilliant game follows the story of an outcast born into a post-apocalyptic world where terrifying robotic beasts roam the land. As Aloy searches for the emotional answers to her past, she ends up uncovering an artificial intelligence with deadly intent, and must save not only her tribe, but the whole world.
Using her bows, traps and trusty spear, resourceful Aloy’s skills surpass even the greatest hunters in the land. But she doesn’t let it go to her head. Instead, she helps everyone from peasants to princes in her journey, taking down terrifying machines of mammoth proportions along the way. Also: can we just talk about how much upper body strength she must have?! She climbs up mountains and leaps between cliffs with her bare hands. My tummy gets nervous just thinking about it.
Jill Valentine and Clare Redfield (Resident Evil)
With the remake of the original 90s games, it’s easy to fall in love with these leading ladies all over again. Both women experience some pretty life-shattering, terrifying events — like say, having the deadly T-Virus unleashed, turning everyone in your city into flesh-eating zombies.
In Resident Evil 2, we play as Clare (and Leon S. Kennedy) as they escape from Racoon City. Clare, a college student, is searching for her brother Chris. She’s tough, brave and resourceful, even putting her life on the line to save other characters.
In Resident Evil 3, we play as Jill Valentine (and Carlos Olivera), as they search to find a vaccine for the virus and escape the city. Jill was trained in the army and is a former member of the Special Tactics and Rescue Service (S.T.A.R.S), an elite unit of the Racoon City Police Department. She’s vulnerable but quick-witted, strong, capable and devoted — and awesome at killing the undead. She even kicks ass when she faces scarier T-Virus mutations, like Nemesis. Jill is WAY braver than me — I jumped and screamed the first time I had to face Nemesis in a game!
Senua (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice)
This game follows the journey of Senua as she battles through otherworldly entities to rescue the soul of her dead lover from the goddess Hela. Senua’s rich backstory explores mental health, psychosis and PTSD — and this game has actually helped a lot of people struggling with their own mental health, which makes it even more awesome.
Senua believes she’s suffering from a curse that causes her to hear the voices of spirits (known as Furies) in her head. We see her mind play tricks on her as she journeys through myth and madness. But she always gets back up and uses her scars to spur her forward. And if that alone isn’t badass, I don’t know what is.
Clementine (The Walking Dead: A Telltale Game Series)
Clementine’s growth in season 1 and 2 of this game is pretty incredible. We first see Clementine as a scared little kid who’s hiding in a treehouse, hoping for rescue, as walkers ravage the world she once knew. Eventually (after some pretty gut-wrenching gameplay), young Clementine must face the world alone. As she gets older, Clementine has to make a lot of tough decisions and experience a lot of heartache.
Whether by bow, knife or gun, Clem becomes a walker-killing machine. She bravely overcomes danger, doing whatever it takes to stay alive. That is pretty darn badass, especially when you consider her age in the game!
I wish I could include allthe badass women in the gaming world — like Amanda Ripley from Alien: Isolation, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross from Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, Jesse Faden from Control, Evie Frye from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Bayonetta from Bayonetta and Ciri from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (who you briefly get to play as) — but we would be here for a loooooong time!
Zoe Simmons is an experienced journalist and long-time game enthusiast with a passion for making a difference through words. When not writing articles, you can find Zoe trying out new games, running her copywriting and editing business, and writing her book on her town’s survival in the Black Summer Bushfires. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for more!