I am doing a four part miniseries where I will be discussing my personal list of the top videogame characters of all time. Part 1, was about Synthetic characters, such as Robots/Machines/AI. This part 2 is all about the women in gaming. As a new father of a daughter, female representation in gaming has become even more important to me. Representation is of course always important. I hope my daughter can love video games someday as I do. This article was under construction when the news that Ubisoft allegedly mandated the minimization or elimination of female protagonists in some of their games. Rumors leaking out of Ubisoft stated that the higher ups at Ubisoft pressured the developers to minimize rolls of female characters. I wrote an article about this suspicion two years ago and it turns out I was right all along. I want my daughter to have amazing characters to look up to as I did. I want her to see heroes and strong powerful woman that look like her, and inspire her that girls can be nerdy and strong and bad ass too. This article is dedicated to her. These are 10 female characters who I thought were well written, well designed, and represent strong and an awesome presence in their respective games.
After this article will be Part 3, male video game characters; followed by part 4, villains. These characters will be decided by me, based on a variety of variables. For this list, to be inclusive and aware of modern opinions, to be clear this list is for female identifying characters. The character in the story (or their IRL creators) must identify as a women regardless of biology. For example, Cortana is included even though she is a machine, a hologram; but she (and her creators) view herself as a woman. One of my all time favorite characters, Liara Tsoni, is excluded because she a member of the alien race that is genderless (or mono-gendered) and she explains in the game she doesn't strictly view herself as a female, and I don't want to force that description.
10. Ellie - The Last of Us Series
The Last of Us 1 and 2 are absolutely phenomenal games, and I just recently finished both parts of my two part review for the game. Ellie was a daughter figure for Joel who players play as in the first one an she is meant to really grow on characters and that is successful. She takes front and center as the main protagonist in the sequel, and we see how much of a bad ass she is. Ellie is far from a perfect person, and she definitely has character flaws. She makes this list not necessarily for being a good role model or good person, but for being a strong memorable character. She is tough, I think she is probably one of the most resilient characters in gaming experiencing some incredibly graphic and brutal story elements.
9. Elizabeth - Bioshock Infinite
Elizabeth of Bioshock Infinite is deceptively probably the most powerful character on this list, and maybe even one of the most powerful of all the characters across this mini-series. This is because she can virtually control the multi-verse. She stars off seemingly in less control of her abilities, but as the course of the game she grows in power. She has the ability to manipulate time, space, and the multiverse. If she ever grows to 100% of her potential she could be one of the most powerful beings in all of fictions. It is one thing to be able to just travel in time, along a single timeline, but she can jump to different timelines, different realities. Imagine if you manipulate that power. The ability to jump to alternate realities that have items, situations, or people who you need for your adventure. In a multiverse where the possibilities are infinite, she could go anywhere, and do any thing. She would be unstoppable. Elizabeth could appear in other fictional universes, and team up with other characters. I won't spoil the ending to Bioshock Infinite because it is in my opinion the greatest video game ending of all time, but it only shows the possibilities of crossing multiverse universes and time itself.
8. Loba - Apex LEgends
(Honorable Mentions: Lifeline, Bangalore, Wattson, Wraith)
Apex Legends newest addition, Loba quickly became on of my favorite characters in the game. She has probably the coolest playset of any character with the ability to teleport, and see loot on the map. Her ultimate ability is awesome way to grab quality loot from a far. For a game where having better loot can be the difference between victory and defeat, Loba quickly became essential. I considered other honorable mentions such as Wraith, Lifeline, Bangalore, or Wattson, but in the end settled on Loba. I love her backstory. She is a notorious high end thief, and she has a long term revenger mission for the machine assassin Revenant who murdered her parents. Loba's voice actress Fryda Wolff also does a great job delivering iconic, memorable, and hilarious lines for Loba as she offers lines across the game.
(Loba Trailer - Apex Legends)
7. Miranda Lawson - Mass Effect 2
(Honorable Mentions: Tali, Ashley Williams, FemShep)
I know it should come as no surprise that another Mass Effect character makes this list in part 2. No list of mine is complete without one. If I convince just one person to experience that story then my job is well done.
I considered many characters from Mass Effect list. Liara is a huge favorite of mine, but like I said her species avoids gender references. Tali and Ashley Williams were also top picks. Tali is everyone's favorite masked Quarian, who we never (really) see during the course of the games. I also considered FemShep, the possible hero of the game. However, I usually played with Male Shepard so in my head he was the Shepard I played the most in my "head canon." In the end, I had to go with Miranda Lawson. She is introduced to Shepard in Mass Effect 2 and quickly becomes a right hand woman for Shepard as a top lieutenant, possibly even a romance partner for Shepard. She is an incredibly strong character and soldier. She is genetically enhanced and as telekinetic abilities called "bionics." She is so powerful, her abilities almost rival Shepard his/herself, and could go toe-toe with almost anyone on this list in a fight. Her voice actress Yvonne Strahovski, also famous for her work in tv show Chuck, does an amazing job giving life to Miranda in the game, and she easily became one of my top 5 favorite Mass Effect characters.
6. Ciri - Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
(Honorable Mentions: Yennifer, Triss)
2020 despite being a lot of things, it did give me some extra time to play some of the top games on my backlog. One of the games I never was able to play was Witcher 3, and I am so happy I've been able to become a part of this universe thanks to Netflix, and playing through Witcher 3. I considered picking Yennifer or Triss for this, as both of Geralt's romance options, are truly amazing characters. However, Witcher 3 wouldn't be the game that it is without the narrative "goal" of the story, Ciri, finding her and keeping her safe from the stories antagonist. Ciri is essentially like Geralt's adoptive daughter and she is such a strong bad ass character. This story could easily have been about a damsel in distress considering it's the age old format of male protagonist searching for a female character for almost an entire game. This isn't the case, as Ciri is also notably one of the most powerful characters on here as well, up there with Elizabeth. She has the ability to teleport, create telekinetic "Storms" if you will when she screams, and similar powers of Elizabeth to visit other realms. It is less explained, so I'm not sure if she is on the power level as Elizabeth when it comes to traversing the multiverse, but she sure is close. One of the coolest scenes in the game when it comes to Ciri is a conversation she has with Geralt about her travels to other realms. In the clip below she describes a futuristic society that many fans feel perfectly describes Cyberpunk 2077, CDPR's much anticipated 2020 game. While this was only meant to be a fun Easter egg, with Cyberpunk's creators adamant they do not want a Ciri cameo in the game (God knows why that would be awesome.)
Ciri overall is just a super fun character, and in the rare moments you get to play as her in Witcher 3 she is a bad ass. I think if a Witcher 4 is ever made, it should center as Ciri as the hero.
5. Tifa Lockhart - Final Fantasy 7 Remake
(Honorable Mentions: Jessie, Aerith)
Final Fantasy 7 Remake is a phenomenal game. Having received a perfect 10/10 from Game Infinite it is in the running for GOTY 2020. Everything about this game is amazing, while not perfect, close to it. The combat, the visuals, the story, the setting, are all amazing. What takes it over the top are it's amazing cast of characters. Cloud sells us on the quiet brooding soldier type. Aerith is such a likable and innocent character. Even characters that got more spotlight thanks to the difference in pacing with the remake, characters like Jessie are great. However, Tifa one of Cloud's lieutenants, leader of the Avalanche group, Tifa Lockhart. She is a fierce warrior, has a lightning personality, and it is clear she like Cloud without the story devolving into a tropes. Another trope the game subverts is that even though both Aerith and Tifa like Cloud, Cloud is never forced into some awkward "choice" and despite being seen as competitors for his attention, they avoid the tropes of Tifa and Aerith being at odds. In fact they are both shown to be good friends. It is an example for us all that complex relationships don't have to result in adversarial interactions.
There is one moment during the game where players take control of Tifa for an extended period and she has a more platform traversal style to her mission, showcasing a nice change of pace from controlling power characters like Cloud. I am totally hoping for more of these gameplay variations and giving Tifa more spotlight and solo missions in Part 2.
(Tifa and Sephiroth Trailer)
4. Cortana - Halo 4
The OG herself, is miss Cortana of the Halo series. Cortana is so at the center of gamer culture she was large enough to become the inspiration for real life virtual assistant Microsoft’s Cortana. Some of my earliest gaming memories are of the early Halo games on the original xbox. Halo is one of my oldest and longest gaming favorites. I can still remember the very first time seeing Cortana’s blurry purplish holographic figure talking to Master Chief. Way back in 2001, the concept of a talking computer was way more novel and alien. Cortana was helping Master Chief save the galaxy long before Siri was helping you find the nearest starbucks. Cortana kept getting more and more impressive of a character with holographic self getting more and more visually improved. It wasn’t until Halo 4 that she got her first mega upgrade. Halo 4 gave us the photorealistic Cortana, giving her details that made her so real. One of my biggest con regrets was missing out on seeing Cortana in real life. I almost got to meet Jen Taylor in real life at Halo Outpost, but I was too late. I missed her by maybe an hour. Perhaps if this pandemic ever ends, I might have another shot at some convention sometime. At least we can hope for more Cortana in Xbox’s upcoming Halo Infinite!
3. Evie Frye - Assassin's Creed Syndicate
I have been a fan of Assassin's Creed for a very long time, and despite my opinion that Origins is the best game technically, it is not my favorite. My favorite Assassin's Creed game is Syndicate. I love the setting of Industrial London so much, I think the characters are awesome, and just think it is one of the coolest settings for the Assassins. The outfits, weapons, and everything is just awesome. Not only is Syndicate my favorite of the games, Evie is definitely one of my favorite Assassin's. She is an incredible character for so many reasons. First off she has some of the most fun fighting mechanics in all the games. She uses a cane to dance around her enemies in one of the most cinematic battles. Syndicate had beautiful combat, it benefited from newer technology than older games before Assassin's Creed went with more real time fast paced combat. In Syndicate, it is a cinematic dance that looks so awesome. Not only is it fun to play as Evie, but from a story point it was just cool to see such. different character in the AC universe. She was the first mainline female Assassin we saw, and she is night and day different than any of the other Assassins.
2. D.Va - Overwatch
(Honorable Mentions: Tracer, Ashe, Symmetra)
I have put thousands of hours into Overwatch, and thanks to my huge commitment I have spent a lot of time as each of the over two dozen heroes in Overwatch. I absolutely love the universe of the game, and the characters in Overwatch are all very high on my lists. If I wasn't trying to limit my list to one-two per universe, several Overwatch characters could have appeared here, but I had to pick my favorite. It wasn't even close too. It's not the game's poster hero, Tracer, or the badass Ashe. It is none other than D.Va. She is incredibly fun to play as. She has the most fun ultimate; she literally drops a nuke. Her mech based combat is just so fun to play as and has been since day one. D.Va also has such a fun voice actor and personality that makes her stand out from the pack. She is easily my favorite character in the game, even though I always felt Lucio was my gameplay main. When it was announced that D.Va was getting her own animated short, I couldn't have been more excited and it is still in my opinion the best one Blizzard came up with.
1. Lara Croft - Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider is a game franchise that has stood the test of time, and has a massive cult following. Lara Croft is a name like no other representative of women in gaming. Lara Croft is the go to argument to debunk whenever anyone tries to say having a female protagonist can't be mainstream or profitable. The third entry in the reboot Tomb Raider franchise is in the top ten games of the biggest, most profitible, and most expensive games of all time. Lara Croft is the queen of gaming, as no other woman in games has more popularity, brand recognition, and stopping power. I've played through the entire reboot franchise, and have been slowly working my way back playing previous older games. Lara represents all the qualities we all as gamers like in a protagonist regardless of gender. She is resilient, badass, heroic, and much more. Her most recent representation played by Camillia Luddington is my favorite, but regardless of who plays Lara Croft she is always a bad ass hero that gamers can look up to.
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