The gaming industry is rife with poor examples of leadership. I can't even begin to count the amount of them which star a muscly white guy with a voice like gravel on sandpaper. But sometimes developers take what certain publishers would view as a "risk" and centre their game around a female lead that shatters the image of banality we're so accustomed to.
Seeing as we're on the cusp of the release date for [Mirror's Edge Catalyst](tag:3647161), which stars Faith who you can see above, we thought we'd celebrate some of the times when video games focused on a female protagonist, specifically those who lead what eventually became a fantastic game.
The Women Who Changed The Face Of Video Games
1. Lara Croft & Tomb Raider
Probably one of the most recognizable figures in the history of the medium, Lara Croft has been one of gaming's defining female characters for decades. As the star of over 10 games, Lara conquered the genre she inhabited, continuously redefined action-adventure games and has most certainly inspired characters like Nathan Drake. Her most recent adventure in Rise of the Tomb Raider proves that she can still kick ass after all of this time.
2. Samus Aran & Metroid
Samus Aran's origin story takes us all the way back to 1986 with a little game called Metroid. With the arrival of this momentous video game, Samus bucked gender stereotypes —of course the space-faring bounty hunter is a guy! — when character sprites were still made of a few dozen pixels. She's also one of the least sexualized female characters in the history of the medium (something which most female characters are stifled by) and is basically the original badass heroine of video games. Awesome.
3. Cassandra & Dragon Age: Inquisition
Probably a strange choice for some, I firmly believe that Cassandra is not only a powerful female character, but the true protagonist of the third Dragon Age game. She is the sword in the great hand of the Divine and a powerful warrior. The game sees her become one of the most influential individuals in Thedas and indeed we answer to her for much of Inquisition's opening. A truly deep and fascinatingly driven woman, I believe that Cassandra deserves recognition as a powerful female lead.
4. Bayonetta & (You Guessed It) Bayonetta
Bayonetta, also known as Cereza, was recently the star of what many considered to be one of the finest games of 2014: Bayonetta 2. Her highly feminine and sexualized image has been the source of both praise and criticism. However, we're still looking at one of the most important female characters in recent years, one who's been the face of some of the best action games you can get your hands on.
5. Alyx Vance & Half-Life 2
Still one of the best in the business, Alyx comes across as one of the most genuine and deeply layered characters in the history of the art form. For the voiceless Gordon Freeman, Alyx is the guide to the world of Valve's creation in the form of Half-Life 2 and its various episodes. You care deeply for her and her father by the end of the last episode released, hence why everyone is up in arms about the lack of Half-Life 3.
6. Chell & Portal
Chell is one of the most unusual figures in gaming culture. Though she does have a human form, it's possible that you could play Portal and Portal 2 without ever properly seeing her face. You may not even realize that you're playing as a woman! She remains voiceless throughout the two games, but her actions speak volumes. Portal 2 is one of the greatest games ever made and the power of Chell's character is amplified by her lack of speech. She doesn't need to convince us of her worth through words, she just kicks ass and defies a super computer. TWICE!
7. Resident Evil - Jill Valentine
Though her appearance in the first Resident Evil was brought to life with some truly appalling voice acting, Jill Valentine has since become one of the most iconic and revered female characters in gaming. Let's face it, almost all of the characters in the Resident Evil franchise are complete idiots, regardless of their gender. But she's evolved quite well as the series has progressed, however we still prefer her stilted ambling and awkward conversation skills in the original.
8. Clementine & Telltale's The Walking Dead
Telltale's The Walking Dead is brimming with excellent characters. But amongst all of them, Clementine still emerges as one of the more resonant and impactful creations in the series. Whether it's how she grows throughout the course of the first season or how she takes charge of her life in Season 2, Clementine is a powerful and genuine female character that tackles every stereotype that infects the gaming industry.
9. Ellie & The Last of Us
In a similar vein, Ellie demonstrates many of the characteristics that make Clementine a memorable and poignant character, though Ellie appears far more capable and badass. She's the antithesis of what the majority of games do with female characters: she requires no saving (in fact she saves Joel), she isn't sexualized in any way and she remains a deeply layered and complex individual. The Last of Us wouldn't have had the same impact without her.
10. Shepard & Mass Effect
Though you may have seen the generic male version of Shepard plastered all over Bioware's promotional materials for the Mass Effect trilogy, for many the image of Shepard is more closely represented by the one you see above. Shepard is undoubtedly one of the greatest characters in the history of the medium, regardless of the gender you go for. But there's something more impactful about what Jennifer Hale could do as the voice of female Shepard. That's just my opinion, do you agree?
11. Faith & Mirror's Edge
Faith has returned in Mirror's Edge and we welcome her badassery with open arms. But her name could also be seen as an allegory for the future of video games. We're tired of seeing the same kind of characters over and over again and that goes for both male and female protagonists. But we have faith that developers are listening to fans' concerns and improving their products by making them more inclusive and relatable for an ever growing and diversifying audience.