Today, as you may well be aware, is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to be thankful for all the outstanding women in your life. My wife, my mum, my sisters, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Leslie Knope, etc.
It’s also a day where an awful lot of angry men demand to know when International Men’s Day is, so before we go any further I’ll stop you there. It’s November 19. Happy? Great.
With that bit of business out the way, I thought today would be a great to look at some of the most iconic, influential, and outstanding female characters in the many worlds of video games.
I would like to point out before we begin that this list is in no particular order, if only because ranking women on a day designed to celebrate them (or any day really) seems massively counterproductive.
When you find Sadie Adler in the opening hours of Red Dead Redemption 2, she’s a victim of some pretty awful crimes. By the time the game end, Sadie Adler is a tough as nails bounty hunter, and one of the few people to have emerged from the collapse of the Van der Linde gang alive and well(ish).
It’s clear pretty early on that Sadie is not someone you want to cross, and she constantly proves herself an invaluable addition to the gang, even keeping everyone else safe while Arthur, Dutch, and the others take their accidental jaunt to the Caribbean.
Sonya Blade has the distinction of being the first female fighter in Mortal Kombat, and in fact the only female fighter in the original 1992 game. While it is a bit of a shame that she only made the roster as the result of a last minute decision that the game needed a “girl fighter”, she’s gone on to become a fully fleshed out character, and a staple of the iconic franchise.
Most recently, Blade is set to appear once again in Mortal Kombat 11, voiced by none other than UFC star Ronda Rousey.
Of all the women in the Resident Evil franchise, Claire Redfield gets shit done quite like no other.
Not only does she manage to survive the Raccoon City zombie outbreak, save a small girl, and take down a number of super powered mutants using nothing but her wits and a small arsenal, she then travels to Europe, infiltrates and undercover base, finds and rescues her brother, and survives yet another outbreak.
She later goes on to tackle bio terrorism on a global scale and becomes a leading figure of a human rights organisation. That doesn’t even really scratch the surface to be honest. Claire is bae, guys.
Aveline de Grandpre
Appearing in Assassin’s Creed Liberation, Aveline is the first playable female lead in Ubisoft’s juggernaut franchise, and she doesn’t disappoint.
Using a number of cunning disguises and deadly skill she manages to exploit the people of 18th century New Orleans and their expectations of her race and gender to wipe out her targets and fight oppression with ease.
Plus, she has some killer outfits. And really, what’s the point of tackling corruption and discrimination in the 18th century if you can’t look good doing it?
Samus Aran, star of the Metroid franchise, is cooler than Iron Man and I will fight anyone who disagrees with me. One of, if not the OG female protagonist in gaming, Samus is so cool that entire planets have a habit of blowing up after she’s done with them.
In almost every single game in the franchise, Samus arrives on a hostile planet completely alone, with no backup, and proceeds to murder everything that gets in her way until it’s mission accomplished.
I dunno what more I can say about her to be honest, she’s basically just a straight up badass. Team Samus forever.
Ellie could easily have been used as nothing more than a plot device for Joel in The Last Of Us. A companion character the hero of the piece needed to keep him motivated, and to act as a damsel in distress to save at multiple points.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the case. With Ellie, Naughty Dog created a tough as nails survivor who grew up knowing nothing of the world before the apocalypse and was willing to do what needed to be done to stay alive.
She more than proves herself as she keeps Joel alive through a harsh winter, and cuts through hordes of enemies on her own, while the Left Alive DLC does a great job of fleshing her character out even further. I can’t wait to see where she goes in Part II as she takes a well deserved place in the spotlight.
As one of the best selling and most critically acclaimed games of 2017, Aloy proved once and for all that having a female who isn’t called Lara Croft headline your AAA video game does not hurt sales if the character is properly fleshed out and the game stands on its own merits.
As I’m sure you’d agree, Aloy is indeed a fascinating character and Horizon Zero Dawn is an outstanding game. An outsider who constantly questions why the world is the way it is – much to the chagrin of her peers – Aloy is smart, capable, and has to skills to take down giant robot T-Rexes completely solo. That’s more than most of us can say.
Ciri (or to use her full name, Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon) is royalty with a serious complicated past. Then again, would she be a character in a series of fantasy novels and games if her backstory wasn’t needlessly convoluted?
All you really need to know is that Ciri is the real deal, and more than capable of giving Geralt of Rivia himself a run for his money. Given the inherent power she actually has, I’d say she’s probably one of the most powerful characters in the entire franchise, actually.
Trained for most of her life by Witchers, she managed to evade the monstrous Wild Hunt for a damn sight longer than anyone else would’ve been able to, and would much rather spend her life fighting monsters and saving people than take her place as Princess. I can respect thatt.
Senua of Senua’s Sacrifice is an incredibly important character. Developer Ninja Theory devised a traumatised Celtic warrior and set her on a quest to retrieve her love from the underworld.
While that entirely sounds like the stuff of fantasy, Senua is actually constantly battling her own mental illness. As the game progresses, she’s haunted by hallucinations and delusions, but keeps fighting even as her mind unravels.
Despite being a relatively new character, Senua is a deeply inspiring female character for the way she serves as a very real and fleshed out window into mental health.
Lara Croft has grown and evolved so much over the years, but there’s no escaping the fact that even in the beginning when she wasn’t the most fleshed out she could have been, she was still inspiring scores of women to pick up controllers and get into playing, talking about, and even developing video games. I can’t think of any better legacy than that, frankly.
Whether you prefer her early incarnation or the rebooted Lara (an undeniably more interesting character from a story perspective), her impact on the world of video games is incalculable. There was a time in the late 90’s early 00’s when Lara really was the face of gaming, more so than Mario, Crash, or Sonic.
Without Lara and her tomb raiding exploits, I can’t imagine we’d have the likes of Nathan Drake, Aloy, or (bizarrely) a ring road in Derby which was named after the hero.
I’ll let you decide with of those three things are most important.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.