Last time I started the ball rolling on my top ten female characters in gaming (you can read Part One here). This list’s purpose is not to bask in the sexual objectification that tends to be fairly pervasive in gaming culture, but rather to acknowledge and celebrate strong female characters that have resonated with me over the years. Without further ado, here are my top five:
Clementine has been one of the more popular female protagonists in the last few years and her character develops a significant amount between the first and second seasons of The Walking Dead. At the beginning of Season One she is found in her home by protagonist Lee, who takes her in after she doesn’t hear from her parents. Much like most children (she is eight when we meet her), she is oblivious to the terrible things happening in the outside world. Alone and terrified, Clementine nonetheless has a tough streak a mile wide. Lee takes on the role of teaching her how to survive and protect herself in a world flooded with flesh-eating zombies and selfish bandits as he knows he won’t always be around to protect her.
In Season Two she is only slightly older (eleven), but wiser and wearier from the grind of survival, and despite her youth adopts more of a leader role. She makes harsh decisions, distrusts the people around her and even kills zombies on the way to reach her end goal. There are times where she is left alone, times where she is being hunted and even times when she is surrounded, but Clementine is a survivor. How she responds to each dire situation would be incredibly difficult for an adult, let alone a young preteen girl. She is truly a tough character.
Like the other characters mentioned, Lucina is a strong-willed determined fighter. However, what makes this character so different is that she places more of an emphasis on family, loyalty and saving the world than the others.
Lucina is all about selflessness. She portrays this even further by disguising herself as the legendary Marth (from previous Fire Emblem games) to conceal her identity. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling what her character means to the game, but she travels back in time to stop a certain catastrophe from occurring and puts her family and friends before herself.
Some people may find her personality dull and boring. However I find that she displays a lot of honour, humility, bravery and sacrifice. One of my favourite Nintendo characters.
Red is an interesting character, principally because when you play Transistor she is voiceless. Prior to the start of the game she is established as a famous singer who is attacked at one of her performances by a robotic system known as the Process. She is teleported to safety, but becomes mute in the process. Red is aided by a magical sword called the Transistor that embodies the man who sacrificed himself to save her at the show. Throughout the game, The Transistor directs her to the objective while helping her fight the Process. He does the talking and Red does the listening. There is an intimate connection here throughout the whole plot.
Red is also not as silent as she seems. Her actions and motives speak more loudly than any other character in the whole game. The Transistor repeatedly encourages her to run away as far as she can but she doesn’t. The antagonists (knowing they have done wrong) expect her to rectify the mistakes they have made, but she doesn’t do any of this. She makes her own choices and takes responsibility for her own actions. Without spoiling the ending she also does something that the player does not expect (or necessarily want for that matter). She is an extremely powerful and deep character and one of the most cleverly designed protagonists I have seen in recent years. Super Giant has designed Red in a way that brings out the autonomy of a female character in the face of everyone telling her what to do, be it the Transistor, the antagonists or even the player. She is proof that one does need to yell to be heard.
I only discovered Gravity Rush this year when I bought the remaster for PS4. While the game itself was solid, its protagonist Kat is what stuck with me the most. She has a quirky personality with some incredible powers granted to her in mysterious fashion. Initially we meet Kat when she wakes up with amnesia in an unknown city, and it’s not long before she realises she is not like other people. Despite not knowing who she was or where she comes from, she has a significant role in events to come.
At the beginning of the game, Kat comes off as very naive and curious, kind of like Alice from Wonderland. However, she ends up evolving into an infamous hero who is guided by a strong moral compass and will go out of her way to save others. She starts to get referred to as the gravity queen. The word queen carries a sense of power to it that changes how you look at her character.
She has a pretty humorous and bubbly personality too, which is quite infectious for both the people around and her and the player. She is more than content to live in the sewers, participate in police-style investigations and make friends. She makes the most of her situation and the most out of life, while also making sacrifices and stepping up like she has nothing to lose. I am really keen to play the Gravity Rush sequel just to see more of Kat.
Bayonetta tops this list as my favourite character in recent years. Her look and personality are perfectly reflected in the gameplay that Platinum has expertly crafted in the two Bayonetta games. Bayonetta is a lollipop-sucking Umbra Witch whose clothes are oddly made of her own hair. She loses said clothes when she uses the hair to summon gigantic demons. She also kills angels. Right now this sounds like a feminist’s nightmare, but hear me out.
I do think Bayonetta is sexy. But I think it’s her power and her heart that makes her appealing to me. She deals with her adversaries and obstacles in such a confident manner. She does this with her cutting words, the authoritative and confident tone of her voice and her elegant moves during combat. Barely anything phases her. No matter who she is talking to, whether it’s a colossal demon boss, a pontificating cherubian angel statue, or the gate keeper of hell, she dominates the situation in conversation and in battle. She also shows compassion and has a matriarchal streak that is borne out by how she treats the two younger characters in both games. I think this latter aspect is missed by a few critics of her outwardly vivacious persona.
That isn’t to say she isn’t deliberately sexualised. Platinum’s lead Hideki Kamiya even said that her design philosophy was to be a sexy Dante. However, despite her physique and personality being ‘sexy’ she is never objectified. Like I said earlier, she brushes off just about everything and even shuts down any attempt to flirt or disempower her. She doesn’t even try to be seductive. She just is seductive. I think that’s an important distinction and why I am so mesmerised by her and not some other female protagonists who are in fact simply there to be objectified.
Bayonetta might be sexy, but she’s also strong and smart with a deeper character than what people give her credit for. She is therefore, my favourite protagonist in recent gaming history.
So there you have it, my top five favourite female characters over the last five or so years. Let me know if you agree with any of them or you feel I’ve left someone out.