One of the most ironic twists in video game history is that games with strong female characters are almost always marketed to male gamers, ages 18 to 40. The original Lara Croft is a prime example of what was required of a heroine to head a franchise: big breasts, tiny waist and very revealing clothing. The fact that developers were using cutting edge graphics and the best physics engines to perfectly balance boobs while the female characters ran or performed action sequences was not even questioned and rather applauded.
During the last decade, an attempt has been made to provide women in video games stories with depth and multi-dimensional character development. The focus is on creating strong female leaders with skill sets rivaling their traditional male counterparts; mean lean fighting machines with brains, brawn and beauty. Some of these new ladies have been voiced by top billed actresses like Ellen Page and Anna Torv, leading ladies in their own right who have been cast in non traditional roles. Even the sidekicks and supporting cast women have been given better roles that transcend the trollop or scantly clad voluptuous tramp. However, we still have a long way to go as gamers and developers in terms of making female characters more relatable and less cartoonish.
Because they stand on their own two feet and carry excellent franchises on their shoulders, these are the women heroes I enjoy playing with:
Red – Transistor
Red finds a powerful item a sword called the Transistor which turns out to house her lover’s spirit. Once she learns he was murdered by the Camerata, who also stole her voice, our red haired hero vows to execute her revenge. Without saying a word she captivates our hearts and the screen, moving through beautiful levels with exquisite musical backgrounds, kicking butt in her high heels and yellow ripped dress, with allure and haste. The way she handles the sword will make you want to learn two handed broadsword combat.
Nilin Cartier-Wells – Remember Me
Nilin wakes up and has lost her memory. After escaping her captors she learns she used to be a memory hunter, a person with a unique ability to access Sensen memories and modify them. In her dystopic reality, people have implants in their brains that can be accessed by Memorize, a corporation that stores and uploads memories and is used to controlling society by eliminating pain at a cost; a small subset of the population becomes addicted to memory uploads and turns into creatures called leapers, outcasts of society. Her melee fighting abilities rely on combo moves and are a delight to execute. With high heel boots and a combat skin designed to help her walk all over her enemies, her strong will and parkour skills will floor you. To top it off, she is of mixed race, half white and half black, with an English accent! Kicking ass and taking names was never so much fun!
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider, 2013
The franchise was re-launched in 2013 with a new version of Lara Croft, and places the young archaeologist in her first adventure; a quest to find a lost Japanese civilization based on her best friend’s historical heritage. Her ship gets caught in a storm and she lays strand on an island in the middle of the Pacific that appears inhabited. Will she find her friends? Will she uncover the mysteries of a lost civilization? It is up to you to help Lara become the ultimate Tomb Raider while completing the many puzzles and scavenges that will help her upgrade her skills and equipment. She is strong, she is fierce, and she learns to fend for herself during her shipwreck ordeal. For those who aren’t players or haven’t watched the movies, she is an Indiana Jones type of character, a strong female protagonist. I like this version best because she has an athletic figure and lost her expansive bosom. She’s more relatable and real now.
Nariko – Heavenly Sword
Born into a clan expecting a future male heir and savior, Nariko becomes an outcast after her mother, the Queen, dies during childbirth. Trained by mentors and others outside her world, she eventually rises and becomes the hero the Gods promised. As a launch title for the PlayStation 3, Nariko and her Heavenly Sword broke with many stereotypes and gave a strong female character a chance to become a legend among gamers. The game itself is beautiful and elegant, ushering a new era of graphics and content that is the standard for modern games. She may be scantly clad, and so is her best friend Kai, but in the end, her character and skill make up for it. All princesses should kick butt like she does; with style and a mythical sword!
Jodie Holmes – Beyond: Two Souls
A young girl is raised by parents who are in total fear of her imaginary friend. Who is she? Who is her paranormal friend? You will spend the entire game figuring out how to use Aidan and how to control your own fears and thoughts as you navigate childhood, the teenage angst years and her early adulthood. The game’s intention is to guide you through the back story of what could become a multi game franchise based on paranormal phenomena in a more sophisticated and serious tone. Think Ghostbusters but dramatic. Unlike adventure or first/third person shooters, the mechanics of the game require you to follow quick time events and make decisions that will change the ending. Be prepared to take Jodie on the adventure of a lifetime and to watch her blossom into a mature, willed, and powerful metahuman.
Samus Aran – Metroid
The beauty of Samus Aran is that millions of player used this avatar while getting through Metroid and they didn’t realize she was a woman! (You had to beat the game in 1.5 hrs to see her big reveal.) In later 3D iterations she was revealed to be tall, svelte and blonde, attributes rarely used in video games or society to depict a strong female lead. She stars in one of the first blockbuster video game hits for Nintendo and to this day she still sells a lot of games and memorabilia. With intelligence, good looks and an alien designed exo suit she has everything a woman in space needs to beat the Mother Brain. If you haven’t played the game, go download it. You won’t regret it.
Faith Connors – Mirror’s Edge
Faith’s sister is framed for a crime she didn’t commit and it is up to her to solve it and prove her innocence. Turns out that the reason her sister is involved is because Faith is a Runner, an underground courier that people use to bypass the government’s strict control. The game itself is very hard to master because it involves parkour moves and very creative hand to hand combat fighting. The goal of the player is to get through the game using as little violence as possible, which makes Faith a pseudo Big Boss with more or less the same type of options: stealth and speed. Check out this launch title game before its second installment comes out in 2016.
These are not your average ladies and in my experience they are true examples of what a woman in a very volatile and stressful situation can achieve when she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. They never come across as whiny or weak, and they manage to rise above the circumstances they were born into or live in to make their world a better place. Trust me when I say that changing the world one boss fight at a time with these ladies isn’t easy, especially when they mange to do it all in HEELS!!
Note: For more information Google their respective Wiki pages.