I am a feminist gamer, but I don’t always like female protagonists. We hear time and time again about characters like Jade from Beyond Good and Evil, Faith from Mirror’s Edge, Chell from Portal or of course Samus from Metroid being the epitome of great feminist female characters, and yet I can’t always relate to these women.
Sometimes I haven’t played the games (Sorry Metroid fans) but others like Chell are as empty as her name. I like female protagonists that are great because they are women, not great characters who just happen to be women. That being said here are my favorite lady protagonists and why they make me proud to be a feminist.
Sundren – Age of Wonders III
In the first set of campaigns in Age of Wonder III you play as Sundren, daughter of the King of the Dark Elves and Queen of the High Elves, who has been told by her father to stay inside to keep out of harm’s way. Through her own spying, she learns of the war tearing the land apart and seeks to help her brother bring peace. However, while she was away ridding nearby lands of thieves, her brother is killed in a power struggle, and it is up to Sundren to seek revenge and take back the land which rightfully belongs to her parents.
Why she is a feminist hero: This story flips the “disposable women” trope on its head as Sundren is motivated by the death of her brother. While her father tries to protect her simply because of her gender, Sundren instead breaks free and takes back the land for herself and leads an empire. It doesn’t really get more kickass than that.
There are so many amazing female protagonists in Hyrule Warriors that I couldn’t pick just one. The Legend of Zelda series is known for its awesome female characters, but it took Hyrule Warriors to bring them all together in all their fully playable glory. I can’t think of a single other game with such a huge roster of fully fleshed out female characters with varied backgrounds and stories.
Why they are feminist heroes: Most of their motivations (beyond Cia’s) are completely personal and mostly noble not relying on other characters. Hyrule Warriors started out with 8 playable female characters (9 if you include the Great Fairy) each with their own varied looks, stories, fighting styles and weapon sets. And Agitha’s bug summons were just really cool.
Blaze Fielding – Streets of Rage
Oh how my sister and I fought as children to play as Blaze, the fast-throwing British judo expert in our favorite game Streets of Rage. Blaze began the series as the stereotypical fast but weak woman character but developed into an all rounder. One of only two characters to be playable in every Streets of Rage game, Blaze is an ex-cop turned private investigator who walks the streets fighting for justice – or to become queen of the Mafia, your choice.
Why she’s a feminist hero: Aside from being front and center in all 3 Streets of Rage games, she is also a fan favorite in terms of her quality throws and weapon appeal. In the original game two of the toughest bosses in the game gymnastic evils Mona and Lisa are widely believed to be clones of Blaze, cause she’s just that badass.
Aurora – Child of Light
When talking about feminist games and great feminist characters, it always confused me as to why many writers overlooked Aurora from Child of Light. A young girl trapped in a crazy fantasy world, Aurora must use her cunning, courage and strength to recover the land which is rightfully hers. While the strained rhyming dialogue is painful at times, through it you learn more about Aurora as a person. Her desire to help others, her refusal to be thought of as superior, and most of all her mature, trusting kindness. Aurora is a character which little girls everywhere would do well to look up to.
Why she’s a feminist hero: Child of Light does well to reverse both the “damsel in distress” and “women in refrigerators” tropes. Aurora fights to save her father before SPOILER his eventual death gives her the courage to defeat her stepmother. Fighting partners are split about 50/50 male and female, and all the antagonists are female in a game which has very little to do with men at all.
Bayonetta – Bayonetta 2
I understand that lollipop sucking, hair-wearing witch Bayonetta has come under a lot of scrutiny from feminists for being “too sexy”, but the development of her character (particularly in Bayonetta 2) makes her one of my favorite female protagonists of all time. Bayonetta is one of the best written female characters, being fierce, ambitious and a hero, while at the same time having completely unique feminine attributes.
Why she’s a feminist hero: Bayonetta is never controlled by the will of men, who are are mostly sidelines in her stories. Her femininity is what makes her a great female character. The moment when she believes Loki to be dead stands out to me as one of the greatest of the game and spoke volumes of her feminine maternal instincts. Better still, Platinum never turns these feminine instincts into a negative that hold her back. They make her a more relatable and realistic character.
Juliet Starling – Lollipop Chainsaw
Lollipop Chainsaw is my favorite game of all time, so it should come as no surprise that Juliet Starling tops my list of favorite (female) protagonists. This cheerleading, pole dancing, Japanese speaking, grade A getting, zombie hunting girl is one of the most fully rounded characters in video game history, even in such a short game. Tasked with saving the world from zombie invasion, Juliet starts off by saving her boyfriend’s life and carrying him around to assist her by taking over zombie bodies, acting like a piñata and even as ammo for her zombie canon. Juliet is the embodiment of the hyper-feminine stereotype and yet none of these attributes are shown as a negative. Her love of shopping helps her gather resources, her pole dancing and cheerleading develop her fighting skills and her emotions make her only more fierce and determined. Her feminine spirit is something almost all women can relate to.
Why she’s a feminist hero: Let’s talk tropes. Lollipop Chainsaw uses the “man in the refrigerator” twice as motivation for Juliet and the “disposable man” in the form of Nick. Juliet shows that being hyper-feminine does not have to be seen as a negative as all of her feminine attributes work not only to make her a realistic protagonist, but to aid her in her quest.
Do you agree with my list? What are your favorite female video game protagonists?