It was not until recently that female characters in video games resonated with me. As a child, most of the video game characters I remember and enjoyed were male (with the exception of Samus and Lara Croft). While the industry still has a way to go, I feel it has evolved to a point where we do have these very in depth, likeable and powerful female characters in our favourite video games. Strangely enough, about ninety percent of my favourite characters in the last decade are female. While it is easy to accept the notion that most games are misogynistic dudebro experiences where females are sexually objectified, I thought I would write this piece to make people aware that there are strong and likeable female characters in contemporary video games. I am going to list ten female characters that have left their mark on me in some form or another. Some are powerful, some are independent, some have deep emotions and some have strong values. So without further ado, here are my favourite female characters (and favourite overall characters) in the last five or so years.
Faith Connors is the protagonist of cult classic Mirror’s Edge, which is getting a highly anticipated sequel in June 2016. Faith plays the role of a Runner, a group of couriers with a penchant for parkour in a city governed by a totalitarian regime.
Faith is ambitious and focused on her cause. She is rebellious towards the government regime, having been oppressed by the powers that be from a young age (preach sister!). Mirror’s Edge puts you in a first-person perspective, which gives you the feeling of quite literally being in Faith’s shoes. Being able to run across rooftops, take out enemies with ease and leap across the skies brings that sense of fearlessness Faith displays as a character.
I am excited to explore her character in more depth when Catalyst releases in the next couple of months.
Ahh GLaDOS. Maniacal, powerful and sadistic, she is possibly the greatest video game villain in history. Ironically, these qualities also make her all the more charming. Portal fans will know her as an artificial intelligence that tries to kill your character over and over by sending them through various death trap obstacles, while simultaneously baiting them with cake and quoting some of the best written dialogue in video games.
In both the Portal games it is GLaDOS (not the protagonist) that drives the plot. While AIs are usually motivated by logic, it is not clear what GLaDOS’ motives actually are. Primarily though, it seems she wants your character dead. She is in a position of power and will overtly try to kill the protagonist, all the while trying to be secretive about it and bullying you along the way. GLaDOS is a god in Aperture Labs in every sense of the word. She can control everything. She could literally kill Chell at any given moment. But she doesn’t. Instead she wants to toy with her. GLaDOS reminds me so much of the Joker but a bit scarier, as AI doesn’t experience feelings.
The voice acting is incredible to the point that the perfectly delivered lines and tone of her voice makes her endless sarcasm and lightning wit seem to leap out of the screen. The infamous “Still Alive” song at the end of the first Portal sticks with me until this day. It’s absolutely genius.
As far as villains go, GLaDOS sets the benchmark incredibly high, and displays one of the deepest, funniest, most interesting and sadistic characters I can think of in video games. Portal 1 & 2 are a must play to hear her lines alone.
The Witcher 3 has a number of female characters that I enjoyed, but ultimately Ciri is the character that drives the plot and every other main character’s motives in 2015’s Game of the Year.
When it comes down to it, Ciri is the main character of the The Witcher 3 and is the main target for The Wild Hunt simply because of who she is. Without spoiling anything, Ciri has colossal powers that in my opinion would obliterate Geralt (a seasoned monster hunter and assassin of kings) in the blink of an eye. You will know what I mean when you control her in various sections of the game.
In all her power and importance to the plot and world, Ciri makes it clear that she does what she does to protect the ones she loves. This is important for someone with such immense strength as hers. She is also witty, rebellious and knows how to have a good time even amongst the despair and turmoil that permeates the world around her.
Depending on what ending you choose in the Witcher 3, Ciri displays qualities of power, humility and sacrifice. She is truly an independent and determined figure that makes her own decisions with the best intentions.
The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt is actually my favourite game of all time, and Ciri plays a big part in my love for this open world RPG.
This one was an obvious choice. It is clear the impact Ellie and The Last of Us in general has had on video games, as the game features one of the most finely crafted stories in recent memory. As one half of the duo at the centre of TLOU, Ellie comes off as a tough, outspoken teenager that does not take lip from anybody. On the other hand we have the decidedly gruff character Joel (who is controlled by the player), who is charged with escorting her across the United States. Together the two must struggle to survive against both morally bankrupt humans and the mindless infected.
It is an interesting dynamic between the two, as initially they are introduced as strangers. While we don’t know a whole lot about Ellie’s past (unless you’ve played the DLC, Left Behind), we know plenty about Joel’s. Joel’s tragic past is in fact an element that proves quite significant to the relationship as we find out later in the game.
As Joel, you mostly play the role of protector, but about three quarters through the game you take control of Ellie and the dynamic changes, as she becomes the one who must protect Joel. Ellie is powerful yet vulnerable as she fights against near insurmountable odds, defending herself and Joel against the denizens of an uncaring world that has descended into violent chaos. In the end we discover how much of a void Ellie fills for Joel as they go through hell and back to get to their end goal.
As you play through the game, Joel discovers a certain secret Ellie hides. This secret is pretty significant for the plot, and it is how Joel approaches this revelatory moment that demonstrates how important Ellie has become to him, to the world of The Last of Us, as well as to us, the players.
Ellie is a very relatable character in her personality, and inspiring in her actions. She is going to be remembered for years to come as one of the strongest female characters in video games.
I was split over which Mass Effect female character to choose for this article. Liara, Jack and Female Shepard are all deep and strong characters in their own right, however after some consideration I think it was Tali that resonated with me the most.
Tali is a Quarian and a member of Shepard’s squad in all three game of the Mass Effect trilogy. She is a mechanical genius and plays the role of an engineer in the games. However, while she was certainly a badass on the field, it was her strong values, her sense of heritage and culture, as well as her awkward personality that made me fall in love with her.
She is also quite mysterious. Quarians wear full exosuits to protect their weak immune systems. Everyone wants to know what’s behind the masks and I think that’s awesome for us as the viewers, as we would probably never find out what a Quarian actually looks like. She cares deeply for her displaced people and their values and is one of the few characters in the Mass Effect universe that really stands up to Shepard. You can’t dictate your beliefs onto her. This is especially clear in the Quarian-related mission in Mass Effect 3 where you have to make a difficult choice knowing that her choice is well and truly made.
Tali is also quite socially awkward. This might be because she is a “nerdy engineer,” or perhaps it’s related to a trait of the Quarian race, but nonetheless it’s adorable. Expressing her feelings is tough for her and it’s only when she gets drunk that her deeper unreserved persona shines. I love that, it’s very believable and relatable as a shy unromantic geek myself.
What made Tali so memorable to me though is the fact that I didn’t romance her. I specifically remember a point where my Shepard and Tali discussed their feelings for one another, but at that point I saw her as a close friend and wanted it to stay that way. I cherished the bond we shared and I did not want to risk destroying that for intimacy. Once that was made clear between the characters, I felt the loyalty and trust was even stronger. Such a strong interpersonal connection to a character is a very rare occurrence in a video game and one that I had never felt before, nor have I felt since. I’m going to miss Tali as I venture into the new world of Mass Effect: Andromeda. As strange as it may sound, I feel I have lost a dear friend.
So there you have it, the first five of my top ten favourite female characters over the last 5 or so years. Let me know if you agree with any of them and be sure to keep an eye out for Part 2 very soon.