March 8 marks International Women’s Day. While we hope you’re doing something for the real women in your life or looking at real women’s global history, we thought we’d also take a moment to look at some women from videogames that we think are notable.
Princess Zelda, The Legend of Zelda (1986-present)
Princess Zelda, unfortunately, tends to get written off by people who aren’t really paying attention to the series. There’s a tendency to write her off as a stereotype because Link has rescued her–but if you look closely at her roles through the games, Zelda and Link tend to have an equal partnership. She may not be adventuring in the same way as Link, but she must act autocratically by keeping politics stable and often must keep pulling strings behind the scenes and using her own divine powers to help save Hyrule.
Often, her abilities are necessary to complete the game and return things to normalcy once Ganon or other enemies have fallen. In Ocarina of Time, she also balances her normal roles and duties with posing as the mysterious Sheik, guiding Link throughout his quest in a much more involved way than she ever had prior. Her role has developed in prominence from there, culminating in her story in Breath of the Wild.
Kris, Pokémon Crystal (2000)
I was riding that Pokémon wave from the very beginning. I loved it all–but Pokémon Crystal marked the first time you could choose to play as a girl in the series (and, at the time, it wasn’t very common to have that choice in any videogame). Although I never minded playing as a male character and I still don’t, I was immediately excited by the prospect and got the game the day it came out. Kris was essentially a blank slate and I played the game exactly as I already had in Pokémon Silver, but it still felt special to be able to explore Johto and Kanto as a girl, represented in a series I loved and still love.
Lusamine, Pokémon Sun/Moon, Pokémon Ultra Sun/Ultra Moon (2016, 2017)
Hear me out on this one: Lusamine is unquestionably a villain in both Pokémon Sun and Moon and their sequels. She’s one of the most evil villains in the series, proving herself to be manipulative and abusive towards her children–nearly a sociopath. However, thanks to her behavior, she paved the way for one of the most, if not most, mature backstories in a Pokémon game. The story became uncomfortably real at times–but it also allowed her children, Lillie and Gladion, to grow beyond her. The sequel games humanized her in some ways without excusing her toxic behavior, giving players a complicated–and very real–character.
Mae, Night in the Woods (2017)
I’m not one for adventure/exploration games, I find them tedious with rarely a hook capable of keeping me around. But if ever there was an argument for trying the things you think you won’t like, then Night in the Woods is an example others like me should heed, and it is entirely thanks to Mae. A frustrated youth prone to depression, Mae isn’t a character to idolize, but rather one to sympathize with.
The small town setting provided a perfect backdrop for the college dropout, whose sense of directionless is something that will resound with most. The relationships she has, and those she wants to salvage, drive her personal development, and by the time I was done I genuinely felt proud of her.
Max, Life is Strange (2015)
Another youth struggling with the world around them, Max inherits a life-changing supernatural power at an age where social reputation in school halls should be the biggest struggle. This newfound responsibility Max places on herself to use the power for good serves to help positive developments in Max’s personality, in spite of the uncomfortable experiences and decisions made.
She grows confident in herself as the episodes progress, and a strong sense of purpose begins to show through her interactions and dialogue. Max begins her story in Life Is Strange as your typical introvert, quiet and hobby-focused, yet possesses a maturity beyond her years and a sense of conviction that inspires.
Ellie, The Last of Us (2013)
The 14-year-old girl who could be the key to curing the future in The Last of Us also happens to be one of the most badass people in her world. From desperation and teamwork to hope and death, Ellie has seen it all at such a young age to make her a brave, strong woman. I’m not even sure strong is the right word for Ellie after watching her journey unfold in her first appearance in the video game space. She is certainly more than that. A young teenager exposed to an unapologetic world that forces her to be brave, tough, and relentless to survive. Through her story of survival, Ellie shows us she’s not just a kid to be protected by Joel and outshines the role of Joel’s sidekick to be much more than that. Ultimately Ellie is forced into a life that demands strength from her as she stares down adversity and hardships at every turn, but Ellie never blinks.
In The Last of Us, survival is everything. Making tough choices and sacrifices is the difference between life and death. Ellie holds on to her humanity as much as she can for a normal life, however, she never falters when it comes to her own life and her loved ones. Ellie’s intense growth and resiliency, undoubtedly, make her one of the strongest women in video games.
Senua, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice (2017)
“The hardest battles are fought in the mind,” the theme of the third person action game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Senua is a girl who suffers from severe psychosis and battles mental illness. The only thing keeping her going is her love for her partner, Dillion and eventually the need to overcome her demons. Senua is constantly battling the voices in her head, her hallucinations and the feeling of being inadequate. Senua can’t hide from her issues, she can’t run away and she can’t escape. She pushes on and shuts out her inner demons, fighting back and never giving up. In Hellblade we watch Senua grow and find her strength to crush her mental illness. She stands up to and overcomes her issues to persevere in her quest.
Dealing with and defeating mental illness takes real strength and courage. Senua never lets her mental illnesses keep her down and out. Senua is a fighter.
Of course, these are just some of many impressive female characters in videogames–we just happened to pick a few of our favorites. Who are some female characters that you would put on your own lists?