In case you’ve failed to look at a calendar during the past two weeks, it’s March, and that means it’s Women’s History Month. Though I’d like to think that we should simply celebrate humanity year-round, this provides some excuse to examine more closely the many contributions women have made to our collective history…of video games! Though depictions of women in some games are not without issue, great female characters have made (and continue to make) their marks in games past and present. Topping my list of favorite female characters is Samus Aran, the now-ubiquitous bounty hunter from the Metroid series. But I’ve not much more praise to foist upon her than has already been foisted. So here’s my list of seven notable females (from games I’ve played) that have held their own among the immense cast of video games characters.
The first time I saw the graceful martial artist Chun-Li was in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and we’ve been decent acquaintances ever since. Along with the imposing company of Ms. Pac-Man and Princess Peach, Chun-Li was among my earliest encounters with female characters in video games. Though I eventually found a preferred fighting stride with Zangief, also of the Street Fighter series, Chun-Li has remained a strong second in command. I really like her move set, which hasn’t varied too much over the years. Although her classic Spinning Bird Kick will always be a mystery to me.
I think of all the video game duos that exist in the world (not that I can think of a single other one right now…), the coupling of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird is probably my favorite. And of that couple, Kazooie wins hands…er, wings down. Rare’s most lovable of lovable games, Banjo-Kazooie, and its sequel Banjo-Tooie, made for some very memorable 3D puzzling and platforming, so much of which was made possible by Kazooie’s abilities. She was also quite the wiseacre to Banjo’s more subdued manner. Though she may have been quick to insult, her devotion to Banjo and their fight against evil was inspiring.
Something about Isabella from Dragon Age II reminded me of the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride. (Her quick wit and up-front manner, perhaps?) And that’s probably why I was immediately drawn to her as a cohort in DAII. Though my time with DAII wasn’t all that great, and I avoided most companion quests, hers I saw through to the end. Among all of DAII’s strong and capable women, Isabella just stood out a bit from the rest. Plus, she was a darn fine rogue to have along in battle!
In The Last Story, Syrenne (or Seiren, depending on the your version) fills the role as the feisty, playful, and tough-as-nails friend to head mercenary Zael. But lest her sometimes crude demeanor and drinking habits fool you, she’s a mean soldier who’s not afraid to take enemies head on in battle. In the game, Syrenne was far and way my favorite fighting companion, and she was fun to knock around with when there weren’t any battles to be had.
Sister Hannah a.k.a. Hammer
(Skip to 8:53 for Hammer’s first appearance.)
In Fable 2, the player as the “Hero” met and traveled with series of companions throughout the game. One of those companions, and the first one I met, was Sister Hannah, or “Hammer” as she preferred, the Hero of Strength. Though my time with her was short, I quite adored her story, which she told in short bursts while traveling. Despite being raised as a monk, she remained conflicted about their pacifist ways. Her dialogue was amusing at some points, heart-wrenching at others, and it made her feel very “real.” Playing out her full and somewhat tragic storyline was quite the experience, and one I’ll always remember from Fable 2.
When I first met the delicate-looking Shiki Misaki in The World Ends with You, I didn’t feel all that great about her tagging along with the moody main character Neku Sakuraba. Surely she was too young and too small for whatever awaited Neku in the Underground? Boy oh boy, was I a jerk to think that. Shiki turned out to be the best friend Neku could have asked for! Not only did she know about the Underground and how to battle, but her positivity and cheerfulness attracted the help of other friends, which Neku desperately needed. Unfortunately, Shiki only stays with Neku for a short time, too short if you ask me.
I’ll be honest. If Bayonetta was a real person, we’d likely not get along. She’s distant, arrogant, rude – none of which are qualities I look for in friends. (Though, what she doesn’t want everyone to know is that she’s also caring, devoted, and vulnerable.) That said, those are the exact traits one needs to save the universe from fates worse than death. In her self-titled games, Bayonetta walks an amazingly thin line between the worlds of Paradiso and Inferno, and no matter on which side she falls, she always comes out on top. Insanely confident though she may be, she always, without fail, gets the job done in the only way she knows how: taking the bull by its big, scary horns and putting it in its place.
Though my list stops here, it could, and should go on and on! Give us some of your favorite female game characters in the comments below.