Female characters in video games have come a long way over the past few years. When I was a kid, all we had to look up to was Chun-Li from Street Fighter and pointy-boobed Lara Croft from Tomb Raider. The industry may still have some way to go when it comes to representation but there are far more protagonists nowadays who are worthy of our admiration.
A big thank you to LightningEllen from Livid Lightning for including Later Levels in her Underrated Ladies! tag and giving me the opportunity to write about the following fabulous females. She’s pretty awesome herself so if you’re not already following this lady, do yourself a favour and make sure you check out her blog today. In honour of all the amazing women in video games and the blogging community, let’s take a look at some of the best female protagonists.
A heroine who is always overshadowed by the male characters in the story
Although FemShep has a huge following, she’s always overshadowed by male Commander Shepard. He’s the one pictured in screenshots used in articles devoted to Mass Effect; and she was a half-hearted addition to the first game in the series after BioWare only bothered to record a couple of romance scenes, change the pronouns used in conversations and tweak the armour designs. But somehow she works and she kicks butt. In not particularly trying to create a great female character, the developer lucked out and made one of the best.
A heroine who is always overshadowed by the other female characters in the story
My favourite character from Night in the Woods was Candy Borowski. I love the way the story hints at her being more than just a mum: she’s had a history (one I like to think was pretty wild) and she’s dealing with issues she’s trying to keep her daughter shielded from. Although female protagonists Mae and Bea Santello take up most of the screen-time and are the focus of the story, it’s Candy who brings both a sense of humour and the warmth of compassion to the title with her comments about eels and town gossip.
A character who had potential but was greatly underutilised in her story
Although The Secret of Monkey Island will always be one of my favourite games, I wouldn’t necessarily say Guybrush Threepwood was one of my favourite characters. He becomes more and more sarcastic and idiotic as the series progresses – and it’s poor Elaine Marley who has to put up with that crap. It was she who saved the day in the original title before Guybrush mucked it up and managed to defeat LeChuck through sheer luck – and I think that makes of worthy of being a playable protagonist in her own game.
A character who you want more backstory on
The first game in The Longest Journey series featured April Ryan as the primary character; then the next, Dreamfall: The Longest Journey, jumped forward ten-years in time to Zoë Castillo. April still made an appearance but she’d changed, the hesitant young girl replaced by a cynical woman hardened by the things she’d been through. Although Ragnar Tørnquist has said it’s very unlikely we’ll ever see a direct sequel to the first instalment, I’d love to find out more about what exactly happened to April in that missing decade.
A character with traits that are sadly overlooked by everyone
Everyone who’s ever played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time really dislikes Navi. I’ll admit she annoys me too with her constant ‘Hey, listen!’ but she has a lot of good traits that are continually overlooked. She’s loyal, staying by Link’s side throughout his quest to save Hyrule; she’s patient, teaching him the controls and providing clues to solve puzzles; and she has his back during battles, becoming his focusing target. So many great and caring aspects to her personality yet all we do is yell at the fairy to shut-up.
A morally-grey character
It’s difficult to share much about Theresa here as her Fable backstory is so detailed. But the most intriguing thing is the fact you’re never quite sure whether she’s on the side of good or evil: is she telling you all she knows, or has she seen the future and is now trying to guide you down a certain path? Zoë Wanamaker does such a great job at portraying the Seeress, with a perfect balance of mysticism and threat in her voice. Now whenever I see a television advert voiced by her I feel as if Theresa is trying to sell me something.
A character who should be more famous
She may be a kickass FBI Agent who’s searching for the evil Cain Killer, her brother’s murderer, and her ‘psion’ powers might give her an advantage by enabling her to see into the past. But Cognition’s Erica is by no means a superhero and her weaknesses are exactly the reason why I love her. Raleigh Holmes does an amazing job of portraying her as a real person who’s struggling with a stressful job, tragic past and powerful secret. It’s her wonderful voice-acting and some great writing which bring Agent Reed to life.
Thanks so much once again to LightningEllen for the tag and giving me the chance to talk about these wonderful ladies! I didn’t respond to all of the prompts as there were a couple I couldn’t quite decide on answers for, so head over to her post to see the whole set. Hopefully I’ve done enough today though to celebrate wonderful women in video games and she’ll approve!
Video game lover, Later Levels blogger and SpecialEffect volunteer. Big fan of wannabe pirates and fine leather jackets.