Five Awesome Female Video Game Protagonists

International Women’s Day is this week, a time to celebrate women and all the awesomeness we bring to the world! Last year, I wrote a series of blog posts about awesome female characters in fiction, most of which focused on Disney princesses and heroines. So this year, I figured it would be fun to continue that series into the theme of video games!

So to celebrate Women’s Day, here are five awesome female protagonists in video games! Enjoy!

1) Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn)

I would have wanted her to be curious. And willful—unstoppable, even. But with enough compassion to heal the world. Just a little bit. – Dr. Elisabet Sobeck

Shortly after its release in February 2017, Horizon Zero Dawn quickly became one of PlayStation’s best-selling games of all time. And with good reason: it’s amazing! This masterpiece by Guerrilla Games boasts everything from a compelling story to an engaging open world to awesome gameplay, but the greatest feature at the heart of the game is undoubtedly its player character, Aloy.

An outcast since birth in a post-post-apocalyptic world, Aloy has been determined to find out where she came from for as long as she can remember. The game introduces her character as a child, and by the time she becomes the young woman we were shown in the E3 trailers, we’re already fully on board with her quest for answers.

Aloy turns out to be an important piece to the puzzle of what happened to the world, so it’s no secret that her story eventually shifts from a personal journey to a quest to save humanity. Fortunately, the game’s excellent pacing keeps us thoroughly engaged with her character as we guide her toward the answers she so desperately wants. We come to love Aloy as much for her strength and determination as for her intelligence and compassion, until her triumphs are every bit as emotionally satisfying for us as they are for her.

Rarely has a game ever pulled me in as deeply as Horizon Zero Dawn has, and I know beyond a doubt that Aloy’s character is to thank for that. With such a strong spirit and a big heart to match, it’s no wonder she’s now one of my favorite video game characters of all time!

2) Ellie (The Last of Us)

Everyone I have cared for has either died or left me. Everyone… f***ing except for you! So don’t tell me that I would be safer with someone else, because the truth is I would just be more scared. – Ellie to Joel after he tries to leave her with Tommy

If you’ve played through the prologue of The Last of Us without crying, then congratulations: you officially have no soul.

Among the many factors that have earned this game over 200 Game of the Year awards, The Last of Us has been praised for its fantastic story, which follows the journey of middle-aged Joel and 14-year-old Ellie across a post-apocalyptic North America.

While the opening quest that reveals Joel’s backstory is tragic, most of the emotional weight of the game lies in his growing relationship with Ellie. What starts as an escort mission soon becomes a bereaved father coming to see this brave young girl as a daughter. Ellie, in turn, comes to see Joel as a father figure, and by the time they reach their destination at the end of the game, their bond has become unbreakable.

Though Joel is the main player character of the game, Ellie is an equally interesting character to whom we can’t help but become emotionally attached as we play through the story. Time and again, she proves herself courageous, clever, and resourceful. Her tenacity and attachment to Joel are most evident in the Winter act of the story, the only part of the game when we play as her and experience firsthand how mentally and emotionally strong she is as she struggles to save his life. She may be a teenager, but Ellie is nothing if not a true survivor!

3) Samus Aran (Metroid series)

But among the stars, there is one light that burns brighter than all others. The light of Samus Aran. Her battles extend beyond her life, and etch themselves into history. – Metroid Prime intro

You can’t write a list of noteworthy female video game characters without including Samus Aran! If you only know one thing about the Metroid series, it’s probably the reveal at the end of the original game that the super-powerful player character hidden in the power suit was a woman all along. Talk about a jaw-dropping moment!

Video games have come a long way since the androcentric ’80s when this twist was a big deal, but Samus is still revered as the first female protagonist in a mainstream video game, paving the way for the rest of the characters on this list and many more.

Throughout most of the Metroid series, this galactic bounty hunter is typically portrayed as powerful, brave, and tenacious, with a wide array of abilities and enough skill with them to defend the galaxy from the Space Pirates mostly by herself. Controversy and recent revelations about her character aside, there’s no doubt that Samus is one badass lady!

4) Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

A famous explorer once said that the extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are. I’d finally set out to make my mark, to find adventure. But instead, adventure found me. – Lara Croft, Tomb Raider (2013)

With a new Tomb Raider movie coming to theaters next week, it only makes sense to include this character on the list! Mention female video game characters and Lara Croft is one of the first names to come to mind. It’s no surprise, really; when you’ve been portrayed in a film by none other than Angelina Jolie, you know you’ve hit iconic status!

Admittedly, Croft has been a subject of controversy since the first Tomb Raider‘s release in 1996. She’s been described as a tabula rasa-type character in earlier games and even a negative role model for girls due to her widespread status as a sex symbol in the video game community. However, she does deserve some praise for being an archeologist/adventurer, a line of work that requires a great amount of independence, intelligence, courage, and resourcefulness, all of which she has in spades!

Sure, Lara Croft’s adventurous spirit may not be the reason young boys have hung posters of her in their bedrooms for years, but it is one reason she shouldn’t be written off as just another over-sexualized female video game character with zero personality (God knows there are too many of those as it is). Hopefully the upcoming Tomb Raider film will do this awesome character justice!

5) Red (Transistor)

Look, whatever you’re thinking, do me a favor: don’t let go. – The Transistor to Red

I’ll be honest: Transistor is one of the few video games that have ever made me cry. And not just a few tears, either; I’m talking waterfalls. Supergiant Games are masters of emotional storytelling.

Set in a futuristic city called Cloudbank, Transistor follows a singer named Red on her quest for revenge against the people who stole her voice and killed her lover. Armed with the Transistor—the giant sword-like weapon with which she was almost assassinated and which now contains the consciousness of her fallen lover (it makes sense in context)—Red fights her way through a robotic army known as the Process. As we guide this mute singer through the city, we uncover details about the world and her backstory in the files she collects in the Transistor. We also get to watch her kick some serious butt after setting up an attack sequence for her in the Turn() function. Awesome!

As the story unfolds, we learn that Red was a highly influential figure in Cloudbank, her music being powerful enough to stir controversy and even trigger altercations at her shows. In the present, she proves to be as strong-willed as her voice was intoxicating, ignoring the Transistor’s initial pleas for her to escape the city and fearlessly charging into battle against the Process to avenge him and uncover her attackers’ mysterious motives.

What’s especially interesting about Red is that, unlike the other characters on this list, she wasn’t trained in combat or raised in a hostile environment that left her hardened and cynical. She was a successful artist who had the two most important things in her life taken from her. The fact that she chooses to face her enemies, despite the odds being stacked against her, instead of hide in a corner and cry speaks volumes about her strength of character. You don’t have to be a soldier to know that love is worth fighting for!

What are your thoughts on these female video game protagonists? Any others you would add to this list?

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