We’ve encountered plenty of admirable female protagonists recently, which is refreshing considering a large amount of women as main characters has not alway been the case. In contrast, last year’s E3 promises many more to come with upcoming titles such as Horizon: Zero Dawn and Dishonored 2. In light of International Women’s Day, check out our top picks of this past year’s most memorable and prominent female characters.
Evie Frye (Assassin’s Creed Syndicate)
The Assassin’s Creed series has been exclusive to male leads, aside from Aveline from Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, which was considered a smaller scale title upon release. Last year’s Assassin’s Creed Syndicate introduced the first female lead of the main series, Evie Frye, who was playable alongside her gruff, comical brother Jacob. Evie, in personality, is more serious, perhaps even austere when compared to her brother. She’s intelligent, quick, and silent — a perfect contrast to her sibling that makes for an entertaining rapport between the two. She’s best with stealth missions, but this doesn’t mean she misses out on all of the action, either. In one of my favorite scenes, Evie battles against the villainous Lucy Thorne atop the St. Paul Cathedral in London. Let’s just say there’s lots of wreckage, broken windows, and fist-fighting.
Max Caulfield (Life is Strange)
Max Caulfield is a rarity, and not only because she’s a teenage female lead. Her personality is what’s most striking: she’s socially awkward, sincere, and mousey-voiced, which isn’t a set of traits we normally attribute to video game characters. Max quickly became a fan favorite, and alongside her best friend Chloe, she stole the show.
Oxenfree turned out to be one of this year’s early surprises. With its somber, ghostly tone, this thriller adventure game put an emphasis on quick, snappy dialogue that worked wonderfully with its young adult roster. Main lead Alex and her four eccentric friends take a trip to the isolated Edwards Island, only to discover ghostly happenings that are difficult to explain. Because Alex’s dialogue is chosen by the player, her personality can shift depending on your choices, but often her responses can be snarky or sarcastic which prove to be entertaining.
Undertale is full of spunk with its quirky characters that range from a melancholy ghost wearing a top hat to skeletal brothers whose names, Sans and Papyrus, are inspired from unlikeable fonts. One of the best Undertale characters, however, is Undyne: the badass, spear-holding, half-fish creature that works for the royal guard of King Asgore. She’s at times terrifying and merciless, but the boss battle against her is one of the best and has an incredible score.
Hannah (Her Story)
Piecing together the story through police interview footage is a set-up that could have been lackluster, but luckily Her Story’s fantastic acting and writing made it one of the most memorable games of last year. Viva Steifert’s engaging performance in Her Story as Hannah has granted her awards for its top-tier storytelling, and editor Kim Wallace gave the game a stellar review.
Ciri (The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt)
The Witcher is no stranger to bold, female characters, but Geralt of Rivia has always been the frontman of the series. Ciri’s introduction in The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt marks her as the first playable woman to enter the Witcher games, and her childlike charm and uplifting personality brings light to an otherwise somber storyline. Playing as Ciri is a delight, with her set of moves that flow well in combat, and she grows and matures as the game progresses. Some of the most memorable scenes are exchanges between Ciri and Geralt, such as a snowball fight, and these small encounters can end up making big changes in the story depending on your choices.
Fiona (Tales from the Borderlands)
Telltale’s Tales from the Borderlands keeps its roots deep in humor, and the mudslinging remarks between main characters Rhys and Fiona are some of the game’s best moments. Fiona, alongside her sister Sasha, are both comically sarcastic con-women who can talk themselves out of almost any sticky situation. As her father figure Felix points out, even if it comes down to pretending to be a tiny psycho, Fiona could “squat down and scream about poop trains” or loudly proclaim she owns a shiny meat bicycle. While we don’t see those exact examples played out in the game outside of dialogue mentions, Fiona holds her own well, especially during her moments learning the ways of the Vault Hunter alongside Athena.
Lara Croft (Rise of the Tomb Raider)
Often when you think of female leads, your thoughts go straight to Tomb Raider. Lara Croft’s one of the most memorable examples of women in games, with the franchise reaching as far back as 1996. The reboot’s beginning in 2013 delved more into Lara Croft as a person, though some of us would argue she’s not the most exciting character.
Sam (Until Dawn)
Supermassive’s Until Dawn is a homage to the slasher flicks of the ‘80s, which means its cast is filled with a lot of whiny, unlikeable teenagers (I can’t be the only one who was purposely trying to kill off Emily, right?). To add balance, Sam is arguably one of the more likeable characters, who remains down-to-earth and relatable throughout the scares and terrors. The scenes she stars in pump up the tension, such as a tense chase scene mid-way through the game.
Claire (Resident Evil: Revelations 2)
Claire returns in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 as a more seasoned and confident woman. Her resourcefulness never ceases and her priorities always include ensuring the safety of those she cares about. One of the best parts of the game is seeing her in the role of a mentor to rookie Moira.
Alisa Reinford (Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel)
Alisa may first come across as a spoiled rich girl, but progressively you discover more about her difficult childhood. Coming to terms with these past issues is part of what makes Alisa’s storyline all that more enjoyable. The depth of her character molds her into a more selfless and reasonable person as she prepares to be the leader her mother never could be.
Cassie Cage (Mortal Kombat X)
Mortal Kombat X saw a wide range of women in its roster, such as Sonya, Mileena, Tanya, and Kitana. Unlike some of these others, Cassie Cage is first introduced in Mortal Kombat X, and she comes in with a bang. Her fatalities include brutal gunshot wounds, savage takedowns with blunt objects, and she even takes the occasional selfie after a kill. She’s got wit and sass, never failing to impress.
Vella (Broken Age)
The coming-of-age story in Broken Age is about two protagonists from entirely different worlds. However, Vella has something in common with co-star Shay: she’s rebellious, and the expectations of others are wearing her thin. Coming from the baking-obsessed village of Sugar Bunting, she revolts against these expectations by taking on the tyrannous, monstrous Mog Chothra that terrorizes the town. She’s brave, at times fearless, and stubborn — a stack of traits that largely work in her favor as one of last year’s best female characters.