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Feminspire | April 18, 2014

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5 Badass Female Characters From Video Games

5 Badass Female Characters From Video Games

In the gaming industry, I only have to flick through magazines or view trailers to see over-sexualised, grossly exaggerated representations of women that make me roll my eyes and tut in a way that makes me believe momentarily I am an eighty-year-old woman with a lilac rinse. But, as someone who plays games, I know these trailers, these snippets of a game, are also not an accurate representation of the strong female characters that I know do exist in games. So, instead of focusing on the negative aspects of games, I’m instead using my weekly article as homage to some of my favorite female video game characters!

Please note: the below list is definitely not in any particular order or due to any type of favouritism. They are all my favourites. Also please bear in mind that I really, really try to avoid putting spoilers in articles, but in this case, demonstrating why they are amazing female characters may be difficult without allusions to spoilers.

Madison Paige (Heavy Rain)

One of four playable characters, Madison Paige is a twenty-something North American journalist. Completely ordinary. No magical powers or psychic abilities. She is just ordinary, mildly-androgynous (in my opinion, not typically or overtly feminine), and that is one of the reasons she stood out while compiling this list. She suffers from crippling night terrors, yet this is not ever a huge focal point within the main plot; she doesn’t need our sympathy because she is capable of helping herself. While playing as Madison, you can find out who the murderer is and apprehend him. Why do I think she is worthy of our attention? She is a survivor, she is resilient and she is smart. I loved playing as the motorbike riding, sexist-pig ignoring Madison because, in a game of mostly male characters, she stands out for all the right reasons; she doesn’t need those men helping her.

Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

Okay, there was no way this list would ever be completed without featuring everyone’s favourite aristocratic adventuring female. I know that she has received a substantial amount of negative backlash due to being sexualised in marketing, but as someone who has played every Tomb Raider game, I know this actually has very little to do with her character. She is the epitome of an independent woman; she is strong, smart, confident and, despite her marketing, isn’t a particularly sexual being. She’s an adventurer, the 90′s Indiana Jones for the Girl Power generation. I have no doubts her body and certain dangerous sexual allure doesn’t exactly turn away gamers with a look of repulsion in their eyes, but really, when I’m fighting dinosaurs in Peru, I’m really not paying attention to her looks. I’m not-so-secretly thinking “Yeah she’s such a badass!” and wishing I could go on adventures like she does. Damn you, Lara.

Elena Fisher (Uncharted)

Elena Fisher - Uncharted

So, apparently I’ve got a bit of an obsession with female journalist characters video games. Elena Fisher is the sidekick (don’t tell her that) or, more accurately, the female lead of the Uncharted videogame franchise. Much like Madison, she is completely ordinary. If anything, she is a slightly abrasive personality and doesn’t really care if she is liked or not. This, strangely, really made me like her. I think what is cool about Elena and why gamers should take note of her is that even though she is often out of her element, she rarely backs down from a challenge or let her fears get the better of her. She is definitely no damsel in distress. Sure, she has the looks of your stereotypical female heroine (blonde and attractive), but has scars and a temper, making her a very cool and interesting female character.

The Warden/Hawke/FemShep (Bioware)

Femshep - Bioware

Breaking the trend slightly by including a Bioware trio (from three separate games) just because I can’t choose which of these leading characters is my favourite. These characters are completely unique. Through the ability to customise your character from the ground up (think The Sims but with more violence), your female character can be any type of woman. I’m completely sold on being able to live vicariously through fantasy or sci-fi versions of myself. I’m sold on being able to play as females who are more than just strong; you can pretty much be any kind of woman you want. I enjoy being able to call the shots in a game where interactivity is the key; as a woman, you can save the galaxy from imminent doom, be as ruthless or as kind as you want, avoid romances (because they’re complicated), take the final blow and sacrifice yourself, or just run off into the sunset leaving chaos behind you. I know I’m really not doing a good job of selling these characters Bioware have created (I fully intend on expanding this in its own article as Bioware writes bloody good females), so just take my word for it and create your own fantasy female hero.

Sniper Wolf (Metal Gear Solid)

Sniper Wolf - Metal Gear Solid

All the characters I’ve mentioned thus far have been some form of hero, but for my final character shout-out, I’m going to play the villain/anti-hero card. Why, since the age of 13 or so, have I liked Sniper Wolf? She demonstrates some misandrist views throughout the game, taunting the male character who you control. She has made a positive impact on me, even though the game was possibly meant to make me dislike her. Also, she is a loner. I love seeing a female who actually sticks her fingers up at the socially constructed idea that women are meant to be fluttering social butterflies. She doesn’t need the company of anyone because she is the crazy wolf lady (a more badass version of the crazy cat lady – sorry you guys!) and as a crazy dog lady, I got behind her. More poignantly, you end up killing her, but also end up feeling a great deal of sympathy for her because she has had it really, really rough. She is an interesting character and, like the other females on the list, she is strong, smart and independent (just how I like to see women represented).

Although I hope my list proves that developers are more than capable of portraying strong women in videogames, thereby perhaps encouraging more women to play them, my one criticism would be the sheer absence of women of colour. I honestly struggled to find any examples within the games I have played (even though the Bioware games are customisable, the default models are Caucasian females). I find this disappointing, but I also hope that as more women make their voices heard on platforms such as Feminspire, this trend will shift.

Also, if you want to read a great example that men do occasionally acknowledge the bizarre gender imbalance within games, I’d recommend reading this article. (If you don’t want to read it, a dad hacked his Zelda game and changed it so Link was a female, because he wanted his daughter to have positive and strong female role models within the games she was playing… so cool).

I’d love to know if any of you have your own strong female list or if you pay attention to this kind of thing. Clearly I spend too many hours playing games, but that’s okay, because this year I’ve killed a few dragons and saved the galaxy as A FEMALE. Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Written by Becci Yare

  • http://twitter.com/krizzleface Krissy

    im not sure if i would have put Elena Fisher up (i am very invested in the Uncharted series so id like to think i know all the characters well) because, even though she has her moments of awesome, i would not consider her “badass” (i personally think Chloe Frazer is WAY more badass for all the qualities you listed for Elena, plus she takes no bullshit from anyone, not even the villains).

    i think Heather from Silent Hill 3 is a very notable female character. she is thrust into a hellish macabre world infested with your worst nightmares and manages to brave her way through it all by herself. she’s strong, self-reliant, and a perfect example of a you-against-the-world type character. she has to be one of my favorite female game characters out there.

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      I did like Chloe buuut idk, I just never invested in her as much. She was fantastic but her development as a character always seem fairly minimal imo. I’ve never played Silent Hill 3 tbh but would really love to (it’s on the forever growing list) but have read about Heather and did love what I read. Wasn’t she the protagonist of the latest film adaptation?

  • Kiana

    I don’t really play *real* video games, but I love the Nancy Drew computer games from Her Interactive. They’re so awesome. I began playing them when I was nine and, ten years later, they still stump me sometimes.

    • Emma

      I’ve never played Nancy Drew but I’ve heard it’s fun! And all video games are real ;)

      • Kiana

        They’re a lot of fun. I also love playing Age of Empires. They have a campaign that features Joan of Arc that I really like. It just sucks because she obviously dies in the end -.-

        • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

          I always play Age of Empires (and games like that) as the female leaders. I just can’t help myself wanting to take over the world as Cleopatra.

  • Emma

    I just did a project on video games for one of my women’s studies classes! We actually talked about Lara Croft within our group a lot, because I feel like she’s become iconic to the point of her actual abilities/gaming being lost under her pop culture relevance. To me, while she may be a badass woman, she’s known for and constantly discussed because of her looks and outfits, and how she’s marketed.

    Currently I’m absolutely hooked on Left 4 Dead 2 (and also original Left 4 Dead but melee weapons!!!!) and I love Zoey and Rochelle. Rochelle is a woman of colour and I love that with both characters, there’s no difference between them and the guys – neither gender has an advantage or disadvantage physically, and there’s absolutely no sexual references with anybody. I loooove it.

    Also I love this article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jonsan.johnson Jonsan van Johnson

      I’ve become more interested lately in games that have little or no difference in playstyle between male and female characters. Role playing games that allow you to create your own character are often good at this. Dark Souls, for example, had no difference in how the male and female character models played, except from the different stat point allocations of each class. On top of that, it avoided the “chainmail bikini/pointy boobs armour” ridiculousness you see in other games, and gave female characters sensible clothing options that would stand up to combat, If only more games did the same.

      • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

        Dark Souls made me weep omg. What a brutal game! Completely agree with your point; the game hated you regardless of sex, gender, appearance etc. Thanks for commenting!

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      Yeah the marketing of Lara is something that disappoints me and, to my recollection, disappointed her “creator”; when he signed away her rights, she became this oversexualised femme fatale character. Her character was distorted from who she initially was (if that makes sense?). I get what you mean about Lara being more known for looks rather than skills though, but I played Tomb Raider when I was about 11 and had no interest in bodies etc, and was like SHE IS SO COOL I WISH I COULD A SWAN DIVE AND FIGHT DINOSAURS.

  • http://www.facebook.com/alisse.desrosiers Alisse Marie

    My Sim is pretty badass.

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      I wish I owned the Sims sfm :’(

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      My laptop crashes on Youtube so the Sims would kill it.

  • Milo

    …No love for Samus Aran? :<

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      See above and pls don’t hate me it was a hard list because I love many :(

  • MKDAWUSS

    You forgot (one of) the original video game female badass(es): Samus Aran. Kicking ass and getting things done since the mid ’80s.

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      She was removed from the list simply because she is on EVERY LIST haha. I have no hate for her AT ALL but we don’t learn she’s female initially so I’m reluctant to add her to my list of (perhaps) obvious female characters who I love for non sexual reasons? <3

      • http://www.facebook.com/alisse.desrosiers Alisse Marie

        So is Lara Croft and Samus is better :( (((((

      • MKDAWUSS

        “but we don’t learn she’s female initially”
        Wouldn’t that be reason #1, seeing as that’s a testament to how she wasn’t sexualized (officially, anyway – when you start getting into fandom, every female must be depicted sexually)? Also, she was introduced in an era where most (if not all) video game females were depicted as weak damsels in distress who needed a man to save their day.

        On a side note, I’ll be interested in seeing that BioWare article.

        • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

          This article is talking about women who we know are women immediately. I love Samus a lot but she is on every list ever made about female characters (ever!!) and I just wanted to do something new.

  • http://www.facebook.com/marlenaraec Marlena Carcone

    Also Tetra from Wind Waker because um PERFECT LITTLE PIRATE KICKASS ANGEL

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      I LOVE HER OMGGG

  • http://www.facebook.com/jonsan.johnson Jonsan van Johnson

    If we were talking female characters from the Metal Gear Solid series, I’d have chosen The Boss/The Joy from MGS3 over Sniper Wolf. In a game packed with weird and wonderful bad guys, the toughest, hardest-ass person in the entire game was a middle-aged woman who spent the entire game beating on the player character mercilessly, disassembling your gun and breaking your bones like it wasn’t no thing.

    Not only did The Boss give voice to notions of self-sacrifice and duty that could easily be viewed and discussed in a feminist light, she was the strongest person, in terms of character as well as physicality, in the entire MGS universe. AND she gave birth during the invasion of Normandy in WWII.

  • Karmoon

    As a guy, I find it difficult to respect female characters who are marketed for…well, sex appeal. So, I automatically cannot respect Lara Silicon Croft. The initial character design was ugly and frankly insulting to both men and women. The dual-wielding Dessert Eagle magnum thing was also cringe worthy. I don’t like characters who go around in lingerie either. How can you be an action hero wearing something that gives you a permanent wedgie?!

    I thought Heather (Silent Hill 3), Samus Aran (Metroid series), Chun Li (Street Fighter) and many of the women from the Resident Evil series (Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield, Helen Harper) were all great characters. You kind of respect them for who they are as people (defined by their actions and character) rather than just because they have XX chromosomes. I like Lili from Tekken too, but only because it’s funny to beat up scary freaks as a petite French-speaking girl wearing a frilly dress XD

    I like characters who I find cool. Gender and race and stuff don’t really factor into what I find cool.

    • http://twitter.com/oh_Laika Bee

      Gender and race aren’t factors in what I find cool either; there are plenty of guy characters out there who I adore. I’m just celebrating strong women characters within games who aren’t famous for t&a. While (perhaps hypocritically of me now I’m writing this comment) Lara is on the list, as I mentioned before I friggin adored her growing up not because of her boobs but because she was athletic, smart and I was/am jealous of her assault course :)

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  • Meredith Foster

    I’m actually shocked you didn’t include either Chell or GLaDOS from the Portal series, especially considering that Chell defeated a psychotic AI all on her own in the first game without even saying a word.