Over the last few days, all the hype has been about the release of Horizon Forbidden West, a game that is getting high praise for its beautiful graphics and engaging story. The series is also one of the major gaming titles to be revolved around a strong female lead character making it one of the reasons it is so popular and unique (as well as the fact it has gigantic robot dinosaurs). Female gaming protagonists are always a topic of discussion, whether there are enough lead female characters in games or not (and we know there aren’t). But, there is no denying that the ones we have had over the years have been extremely memorable, so with that thought, here are the top 10 female gaming protagonists for your viewing pleasure.
*Warning, this article may contain spoilers for certain games.
This might be a controversial addition, as she isn’t a human, but surely that can’t be held against her. Ms. Pac-Man is one of the most well-known female characters of all time and one of the very first woman-like figures to grace our screens. First introduced in 1982, the Ms. Pac-Man game was the more successful follow up to her husband’s original game and has been heralded as one of the greatest video games of all time. We’re not actually sure if the two are married (she seems insistent on using the Ms title), but either way, Ms. Pac-Man was the first major lead female character in gaming, and her appearance paved the way for more women to make a name for themselves.
9. Aveline de Grandpré – Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation
The Assassins Creed series has had an up and down trajectory since the Ezio games. Still, this 2012 spin-off, which came out in tandem with Assassins Creed III, had one thing going for it: the inclusion of the first female protagonist of the series, Aveline de Grandpré. Not only is she the first lead female character in the series, but she was also a positive example of ethnic minority representation in video games. If the actual game was better received and wasn’t limited by its status as a spin-off, then Aveline would be much higher on this list. But let’s get one thing straight, Aveline is a complete badass with a superb moral compass and a spectacular execution of her goals. She is worthy of a place on this list of the best female gaming protagonists.
8. Faith Connors – Mirrors Edge
2008 was the year when Mirrors Edge first appeared on our screens, and with it, brought Faith Connors, a parkouring courier, with a gift for finding trouble. The character received a positive reception for her character design and her unmatched free-running skills. Although to some gamers, her lack of personality was criticized in both games, what you might think is an absence of character could also be seen as an interesting and mysterious trait that aids the science fiction setting. Whatever way you look at it, Faith is a unique female gaming protagonist, and it has led her to become one of the more memorable lead female characters of the last 20 years.
7. Samus Aran – Metroid
Now, if you thought Ms. Pac-Man was a legend of the lead female characters, then Samus Aran is the almighty herself. The original Metroid game was way back in 1983, but it has since released 11 sequels, with Samus Aran leading the line in most of them – she is a prolific bounty hunting machine. In terms of gender representation in video games, she has consistently been well-received in the world of female gaming protagonists. She is obviously one of the earliest to do so. Some may say the leading light for future female characters (sorry once again, Ms. Pac-Man). There has even been some talk about Metroid being made into a film, so we could see Samus Aran on the big screen where she belongs after all these years.
6. Ellie Williams – The Last of Us
Ahh, Ellie, one of the more recent female gaming protagonists to grace our T.V. screens. If you’ve played The Last of Us games, then you have basically watched Ellie grow from a naive and adventurous young girl to a strong and independent woman with a nasty temper. Her father figure, Joel, was an excellent foil for her in the first game, but Ellie had to accept an even larger and more dangerous lead role due to the man’s untimely death in the second game. Her reception has sometimes been mixed with fans (especially in this latest edition of the series), but there is one thing you can’t deny from Ellie, that she is a tough and fierce woman, with a bucket load of skills and a great determination.
5. Aloy – Horizon Series
It is still early days for Aloy’s journey in the gaming world, and because of that, she must enter this list somewhere in the middle. However, she has made quite the impact already, with Horizon Zero Dawn making a huge splash with gamers everywhere on its release just a few years ago. With that distinctive red hair and her exquisite skills with a bow and arrow – skills that would put Legolas to shame – and there is an argument to say that in a few years, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Aloy a lot higher on this list. As female gaming protagonists go, she is a generational one. In recent years she has moved female lead characters back into the spotlight, almost becoming somewhat of a role model for young girls everywhere, something there should be a lot more of.
4. Tifa Lockhart – Final Fantasy
Does Final Fantasy have the most loyal fanbase in all of gaming? There would definitely be a lot of angry fans out there if Tifa Lockhart wasn’t included in this list, that’s for sure. Often dubbed the pin-up girl of the “cyber generation,” Tifa Lockhart has also been compared to Lara Croft as an example of a strong, independent, and attractive female gaming protagonist. But don’t be fooled by thinking she is just something nice to look at because Lockhart has the strength to match those dazzling looks and has become one of the best and most memorable lead female characters in all of gaming.
3. Jill Valentine – Resident Evil series
Female gaming protagonists don’t get much more memorable than Jill Valentine, a certified badass and an expert zombie slayer. Beginning in 1996 with the original Resident Evil game, Valentine has gone on to appear in several of the sequels in one form or another, as well as making it onto the big screen in most of the movie adaptations. She is the poster girl for Resident Evil, and whatever title she has appeared in, she has always been met with universal acclaim. Valentine is also known as being less sexualized than most lead female characters; and cited as being an example of when female characters are as competent and skilled as their male counterparts. Her military background and career in the police department mean she is a match for anyone. If there is a zombie apocalypse on the horizon, Jill Valentine’s team is the one to be on.
2. Chun-Li – Street Fighter series
Talk about exciting and memorable female gaming protagonists, Chun-Li can hang with the best of them. One of the many stars of the Street Fighter series, Chun-Li has been a mainstay in that world since its inception, becoming one of the most popular figures in the franchise – if having your own film doesn’t mean you’re popular, then I don’t know what will. Having earned such positive critical and fan reception because of her tragic backstory, athleticism, and in-game playability, Chun-Li is considered a trailblazer for lead female characters. Being the first female playable character to appear in a fighting game is quite the title to have, but she takes that responsibility in her stride and will fight anyone who says different.
1. Lara Croft – Tomb Raider series
You literally cannot have a list such as this without Lara Croft being in it and near the top. Lara might just be the first name that comes to your mind when you think of female gaming protagonists. Your parents will know who Lara Croft is – that’s a measure of how famous this woman is. First appearing in 1996’s Tomb Raider, Lara has been involved in around 15 gaming titles and 3 movies and is just an absolute killer in everything she does. Lara Croft is considered the queen of female lead characters, holding six Guinness World Records, an almighty fan base (girls wanted to be her and boys wanted to be with her), and is the first female game character to be considered as a sex symbol. Her legend is undeniable, and it might be an obvious choice for the top spot, but could there really be anyone else apart from Lara Croft?