Even though video games are mostly a male-dominated media, there is still a lot of kickass women in some of the best video games out there. While we all love male heroes like Mario and Master Chief in our video games, this article will be celebrating the most awesome leading ladies in all of gaming. From Samus to Senua from Hellblade, we are going to list out some of our most cherished video games that star a female lead.
A good game is a good game, so the gender of the main character should never matter. But since there are still so relatively few games with female leads, we wanted to celebrate the best games that have them. Sometimes a female character would enhance the experience of the game; would Metroid be as iconic without the reveal of Samus being a girl? Some games are designed with a female lead in mind, meaning those games wouldn’t work without a female character as a lead.
Best Video Games With A Female Lead
For whatever reason why these games have a female protagonist, it doesn’t matter. The games we are about to list off are fantastic, and they just so happen to feature some of the best female characters in the industry.
The Last of Us
I was not originally going to include The Last of Us on this list. Ellie may be a fantastic character, and she is a protagonist in the game, but she is not the main protagonist of the game. Ellie was mostly a secondary protagonist in the game. The first Last of Us game was more of Joel’s story then Ellie’s, and most of the game was played through Joel’s point-of-view.
With that said, Ellie is the star of the Left Behind DLC and will be one of the main playable characters in The Last of Us II. That’s enough justification for adding the first game on the list.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn boasts a lot of technical achievements which includes breathtaking graphics and solid gameplay. However, arguably the game’s massive success could be contributed to the lead character. Aloy is a hunter who lives in the 31st Century, where robotic beasts are scattered throughout the lands. Aloy comes across as a fully realized character in the game. She is brave, likable, and her story in the game is captivating. Her voice actress Ashly Burch deserves a lot of credit in making Aloy feel like a real person. Horizon Zero Dawn is only two years old, but Aloy already feels like a gaming icon.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
You can pick which character you want to play as in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. You can choose between siblings Kassandra and Alexios. However, let’s face it, Kassandra was the cooler one. Even though the story in Odyssey isn’t different if you choose one sibling over the other, Kassandra just came across more interesting. Maybe it’s because the voice actress gave Kassandra so much personality, or perhaps it is because it’s refreshing to see a woman with so much confidence in an ancient Greece setting. Either way, Kassandra is an excellent character, and I would recommend picking her over Alexios.
Resident Evil 2
Despite what Capcom’s advertising would like you to believe, Resident Evil 2 is just as much Claire’s story as it is Leon’s. Here’s another thing, I understand that Leon is cool and starred in Resident 4, one of the greatest games ever, but I always liked Claire more. Claire Redfield never came off to me as stoic as the other Resident Evil characters; she expresses compassion and even sadness. I find it insulting that a majority of players choose Leon first over Claire, according to statistics from Capcom. Claire should have been more players’ first choice; she’s excellent.
The Walking Dead
The story of Telltale Games, the studio that created the Walking Dead games, is equal parts fascinating and tragic. However, Telltale’s closure in 2018 didn’t stop the last part of Walking Dead from being released. Fans all over needed to see Clementine’s story come to an end, and Skybound Entertainment was able to finish The Walking Dead: The Final Season.
The first Walking Dead game stared a man named Lee Everett, before its transition to Clementine in sequels. Clementine begins the series as a young kid, and the series ends with her as a young adult. We see her grow up in front of our very eyes, and we grow to love her. I think I speak to all fans, but I am happy we were able to witness Clementine’s story come to a natural conclusion.
We all know the story of Samus in the original Metroid, but it is crazy to think how truly revolutionary it was to have an action video game star a woman. In the 80s, it was almost always some male protagonist running around and gunning everything. Simply having Samus running and shooting wasn’t enough, the original Metroid went the extra-step by not drawing any attention to the fact that she’s a woman. She was just like any other action star, and that’s what made her impressive. I honestly want to believe that she did inspire little girls in the 80s to think they can be badasses too.
If I have to pick one Metroid game to be on this list, I choose the original Metroid Prime. I personally don’t like first-person shooters, yet somehow I was able to be the first Prime game, and I wanted more.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
The exploration of mental illness is something that video games rarely focus on, and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was brave enough to have mental illness be the forefront of its entire premise. Part hack-slash, part exploration, Hellblade is a game that centers on a Celtic warrior named Senua. Senua’s goal is to go to Helheim to save the soul of her passed away lover. She suffers from some psychosis, witnesses things that aren’t there and hearing voices. She believes her afflictions are a curse.
The game puts you in Senua’s shoes, helping players sympathize with her condition. She is a skilled warrior, yet it is her moments of vulnerability that makes her stand out. It’s rare to see games deal with such complex themes, yet Hellblade does it well.
Video games have been often criticized for its over-sexualized portrayal of women. While video games aren’t the only pop culture media guilty of this, it is still very much a significant issue that the video game industry is facing (along with other things).
However, despite that, the Bayonetta games partially succeed because of the sex appeal of the main character. Bayonetta is a gorgeous witch who hunts down angels and uses her hair to attack her enemies. The over-the-top fan service of Bayonetta is one of the things that make the game a joy to play. The games know how to have fun with their sex appeal, and Bayonetta is just too fun of a character to be offended by her constant objectification.
The platforming game Celeste is in many ways about being able to overcome your weaknesses and accomplish the impossible. The game stars a girl named Madeline, who wants to climb Celeste Mountain. She is often demoralized by an alternate version of herself called “Part of Me,” yet she continues to climb the mountain.
Madeline’s storyline is a metaphor for anxiety and self-doubt. She suffers from panic attacks, and “Part of Me” consistently verbally lowers her self-worth. Madeline’s eventual realization that she needs to work with her other self to climb the mountain is brilliant, and the game ends on a positive note. Celeste, if anything, shows gamers that anything is possible, and we all can overcome our self-doubt.
Labeling Lara Croft as the first woman in gaming may be a hyperbole considering there were plenty of female characters in video games before Tomb Raider, but she was the biggest. She had her own series of live-action movies, with the first two starring Angelina Jolie as Lara herself.
A significant factor of Lara’s popularity stems from her sex appeal, which is something that the 2013 reboot chose to tone down. By focusing less on Lara’s sex appeal, they made the characters seem less shallow. The reboot also made Lara more of a three-dimensional character; rather than being an overconfident adventurer, Lara in the reboot was still training. She had to learn to survive in the wild during the first game. It makes her more of an interesting character, which is why I think the 2013 Tomb Raider is the best game in the franchise.