Female Protagonists

After my recent post about Tomb Raider, my friend Arielle asked about what makes a female character strong.

I started writing a response and decided I needed to do some more critical thinking on the matter, and do some more thorough analysis of female characters in games. I asked Twitter to name some games with female protagonists, and the responses were great! I decided to compile all the answers into a big list. I also went through every game I’ve ever played and added a bunch of other titles.

Here’s the list!

If you’re looking for a game where the playable protagonist (at least one of them, if there are multiple) is a female, it’s a good place to start. I’m still filling in information as I go, like release date, genre, I might add the platforms the games are available on. If you notice any games I’ve missed, or disagree with any of my classifications, feel free to comment here, hit me up on Twitter, or add a comment to the spreadsheet.

I’ve excluded certain types of games from the spreadsheet:

  • Games where you can make your character either gender. So, while Commander Shepard is an amazing female protagonist, the Mass Effect series is not included because whether you play as male or female, the character and story stays the same.
  • Games where the character model is just a skin. Like Mario Kart (or sports games) – you can play as Princess Peach, but whether you’re female, male, koopa, or ghost, really has no impact.
  • I’ve only included games where a female is the main protagonist (or one of them). In FFVII for example, Tifa, Aeris, and Yuffie are playable characters, but it is Cloud’s story.

I’m hoping to go somewhere with all this information, besides just having a list for reference (though I think it’s a pretty cool reference to have available).

Based on the quick analysis I’ve done of the games on this list I have played, or at least am very familiar with, I generally don’t have a problem with the way female protagonists are portrayed when they are the true protagonist. They drive the story forward by making decisions and acting on them. They sorta have to – they’re the leading characters. One exception I’m finding to this so far is the games like Bloodrayne or Lollipop Chainsaw. I don’t assume to be able to read the developers minds, but to me it seems clear that the leading characters were not made female to give women players something to relate to, or attract them to the game. They were made this way so straight male players could see TITS! And ASS! as they killed things. I watched a 2-minute gameplay trailer of Lollipop Chainsaw and I don’t think 5 seconds went by without me being able to see right up Juliet’s cheerleader skirt.

Anyway, for now I’ll keep picking away at the spreadsheet to make it more complete. I hope it’s useful for you and helps you discover some awesome new games to play.

9 responses to “Female Protagonists

  1. You’ll find a lot of good examples of female heroines in Japanese games, though this is admittedly just becuase the games are appealing to nerdy guys who like to see cute girls doing cute things (prime examples being the Hyperdimension Neptunia and PS3 Atelier games.)

    Overall, though, I would say that story-focused games (RPGs and “cinematic” games like The Last Of Us) tend to handle female characters pretty well- the games that do it poorly are generally ones where the story is clearly just there to justify the gameplay.

    • I did notice that Japanese games tend to have more female heroines. A lot of the RPGs and Horror games I’ve played have had female leads.

      I’m finding that how women are portrayed is mostly problematic when they play supporting roles, women leads are handled well for the most part.

  2. I’m not into console gaming and haven’t really played a true video game since around college, but April Ryan from “The Longest Journey” was my absolute favorite female protagonist in a game. Then about 5 years ago, I finally played the sequel of “TLJ” with a different female lead named, Zoe, who was also superbly written. If you haven’t played them, I highly recommend the series. Ragnar Tornquist is releasing another gem this fall with “Dreamfall Chapters” and Zoe’s saga will continue there.
    Corinna recently posted..Real Wedding – Katrina & Adam’s Artsy Wedding

    • Seconding Longest Journey and Dreamfall as amazing games. Definitely still worth picking up today and playing through, great series.

    • Yes Ragnar Tornquist is, I believe, the major reason why The Secret World is just an amazing story experience. It’s clear that he has a history of diverse, well-written characters in his portfolio and I’m so glad he is still making games.
      Dahakha recently posted..What I Played: Steam Challenge – Bad Hotel

    • The Longest Journey is amazing. I loved April Ryan. I never played Dreamfall though. I picked it up for Xbox and absolutely hated the controls, so I never played through it. I should replay TLJ then get Dreamfall for PC.

  3. These are all from my Steam library (and not already on your list):
    The Broken Sword trilogy – although the final one has Nico (the protag in 1 & 2) sharing the spotlight with a male colleague.

    Chantelise – A Tale of Two Sisters. By the makers of Recettear.

    Dangerous High School Girls In Trouble!

    Edna & Harvey: Harvey’s New Eyes.

    Knytt Underground.

    Magical Diary. (Might be borderline?)

    TRAUMA.

    Wasteland Angel.

    Wow, a lot more than I was expecting!
    Dahakha recently posted..What I Played: Steam Challenge – Bad Hotel

    • Thanks! I’ve added these to the list. Dangerous High School Girls in Trouble looks amazing, I’d added it to my wishlist. Have you played it yet?

      • I played it for about an hour a couple of years ago, I don’t really remember much but it was quite different from anything else I’ve played! It’s very slow and I think I was after something more frenetic at the time so I didn’t come back to it…it’s still there installed, patiently waiting though!
        Dahakha recently posted..What I Played: Steam Challenge – Bad Hotel