(originally posted March 13th 2015)
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for the following games:
Ace Attorney: Justice for All
Kid Icarus: Uprising
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door
Professor Layton and the Azran Legacy
Super Mario Galaxy
Super Paper Mario
Tomb Raider (2013)
So, apparently, it was International Women’s Day last week, which finally prompted me into doing an article I’ve wanted to do for a while: a list of some of my favourite female videogame characters. So, join me in my celebration of some of the most awesome women to grace our consoles.
1. Kat (Gravity Rush)
Gravity Rush had a lot of problems concerning its story and characters, but if there’s one thing I’ll stand by, it’s that Kat was possibly one of the most likable protagonists I’ve seen.
Despite waking up with amnesia, with no knowledge as to who she is, where she is and how she’s able to manipulate gravity, she doesn’t hesitate to help the people of Hekseville. The moment she wakes up, a guy is begging her to save his son, which she does with almost no hesitation.
She goes on to routinely help almost everybody she meets. This is a young girl, lost and living in the sewers, who is going out of her way to make peoples’ lives easier. Even when she doesn’t seem to be any closer to figuring out who she is, she still manages to remain rather optimistic about her situation. It gets to the point where it seems that she no longer minds.
She loves the life she makes for herself and, no matter how humble she tries to be, she loves the name she’s made for herself as the Gravity Queen. I won’t lie, it warmed my heart whenever I saw her crack that doe-eyed smile. Her new life had its ups and downs and while we never found out her true identity, I was happy to see her happy in the end.
2. Franziska von Karma (Ace Attorney series)
As the daughter of Manfred von Karma, a prosecutor who took any means necessary to ensure his perfect win record, you’d expect Franziska to carry those same beliefs… and you’d be right. While not on the same level of ‘villainy,’ Franziska quickly established how skilled of a prosecutor she was, and she only got more dangerous when Phoenix beat her, marking her first ever loss in court.
By the end of her debut game, however, it became clear that she was a young woman trapped in her father’s shadow. It’s easy to forget but she was 19 when we first saw her, and had spent her whole life being taught to be perfect, forever unable to reach the standards her father set for her or defeat Edgeworth. She soon found herself questioning her own life, thinking it was meaningless until Edgeworth pulled her out of it, reminding her that, at the end of the day, she’s still a fantastic lawyer and, hopefully, she’ll understand what it really means to be one.
While she never lost her sharp tongue or her frightful temper, it’s apparent in the later games that her development stuck, now becoming a firm ally for both Edgeworth and Phoenix, despite her desire to defeat them both. But that never gets in the way of her job; she swears it will happen one day, but until then, solving the case comes first.
She’s also just an entertaining character; both in her mannerisms and dialogue (“Don’t be foolish you foolish fool wearing the foolishly foolish clothes”). It’s bizarrely enjoyable seeing her be so smug, but even more so when she’s flustered and outraged. Seeing her whip people never stops being funny. Seriosuly, Capcom, give her her own game. I can’t be the only one who wants to take a peek in that brain of hers.
3. Palutena (Kid Icarus: Uprising)
When I first saw Palutena in the story mode in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, I instantly knew what kind of character she’d be if she had a voice; the kind, calm, caring sort who is adored by her followers because of her nature. I’m also sure that Masahiro Sakurai can hear my thoughts since her character in KI: U is nothing like what I thought. And I love it.
Despite being in the position of goddess, Palutena is one the most child-like, goofy, playful and, at times, somewhat mean women I’ve ever seen. Her design suggests she’s a mature, well-adjusted and pure sort when in fact, she has a surprising sense of humour, constantly making jokes at poor Pit’s expense. They’re not even smart jokes; they are so dumb but she takes so much delight in it. She has this dorky charm to her.
She isn’t immature though. When it comes down to it, she does take matters seriously. Whenever Medusa or Hades is on screen, she tends to cut down on the jokes. When Pit is in danger, she expresses concern. Their relationship is one built on trust; Pit is loyal not because he’s a suck-up or because he’s whipped. He’s loyal because she’ll always have his back and vice versa. Palutena may be a goddess, but I like her because of how ironically human she is.
4. Emmy Altava (Professor Layton series)
The prequel trilogy of Layton games may have been a tad weaker than the original but it certainly had its own positives; one of which being Layton’s sidekick Emmy, who can only be described as badass.
Since Layton is a gentleman, he’s not exactly the kind of guy who’d willingly get into fights with people. Emmy has no qualms though. For pretty much every action moment that happens, Emmy is usually in the middle of it, whether it be chasing guys on rooftops or roundhouse-kicking entire groups of burly men.
But while Emmy is a skilled fighter, she’s also possibly one of the nicest young ladies you’ll ever meet. Most of the time she’s sweet, kind, playful (regularly teasing Luke and acting like an older sister) and intelligent. Also look at her design; she’s just so unassuming and reserved… which is why it’s such a shame she betrays Layton and Luke at the end of Azran Legacy, revealing that she was an undercover agent working for the villainous organization Targent, purely out of a debt she owed to their leader, Bronev, the man who raised her as his own.
Despite this act, however, it’s apparent that at no point was she pretending to be someone else. She didn’t wear a mask or anything to disguise her true identity and even she hates herself for the things she did (including holding Luke hostage with a frigging shard of ice at his throat). Even though Layton forgave her, she still decided to leave until she felt she was worthy of being Layton’s assistant again. Since the series has ended, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see her return but she won’t be remembered as the double-agent that deceived us but as an awesome assistant who we shared fond memories with.
5. Midna (The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess)
Let’s make one thing clear: Midna was not a nice person at the start of Twilight Princess. When we first meet her, she’s this fiendish-looking imp creature with a slightly nasty grin and lacking in sympathy, only aiding Link so she can get revenge against Zant, the man who usurped her and took over the Twilight Realm. As far as she’s concerned, Hyrule be damned.
But once Zelda seemingly sacrifices herself to save a dying Midna, she finds herself shocked by such a selfless act to the point where she becomes determined to save both her world and Hyrule, partly to repay Link and Zelda and probably partly out of a change in heart.
From that point onwards, her harsh snarky attitude became a lot friendlier. Yeah, she was still kind of sassy but that’s just who she is. Her bond with Link strengthened as the game went on and that was reflected with how she spoke to him. They were very much best buds by the end (possibly more?).
But at no point did this change make her weaker or less threatening. Let’s not forget how easily she killed Zant with the power of the Fused Shadows (an act that does seem to shake her quite a bit). Her morality is firmly in the grey area, which is why it’s shocking to see her unable to attack Zelda when the latter is possessed by Ganondorf and seemingly dies in an attempt to save Link and Zelda.
It’s such a relief though for both Link and myself to see her not only safe and sound but returned to her original form after Ganondorf’s defeat. Even when she’s back to normal, her slight mocking attitude never goes away, like it’s her way of proving that it’s definitely still her.
Sadly, she chooses to keep Hyrule and the Twilight Realm separate, destroying the Mirror of Twilight – the link between the two worlds – pretty much ensuring that she and Link never see each other again. The fact that she destroyed it using her own tears makes it all the more heartbreaking.
It’s this combination of personality and emotional attachment that easily makes Midna my favourite sidekick character in the Zelda series and I know that many share the same opinion.
6. Chie Satonaka (Persona 4)
Asking die-hard Persona 4 fans who their favourite female character is can lead to endless, bloody wars filled with countless casualties. Personally, they’re all pretty damn good but, for the sake of this list, I’ve gone with the meat eating, kung-fu loving Chie.
Much like every other Persona character, what makes Chie so great is how many layers her character has. When we first meet her, she’s perfectly friendly but we quickly see how protective she gets over her best friend Yukiko and how everyone finds her ‘unladylike.’ But that doesn’t matter, right?
Well, when confronted with her own Shadow (a manifestation of an individual’s repressed feelings and thoughts), she’s forced to admit that part of her friendship with Yukiko is based on jealousy – she’s envious of how popular Yukiko is and takes some pleasure out of how much Yukiko relies on her. Of course, in typical Persona fashion, she accepts this and as a result, starts on her path into becoming a stronger person.
Your interactions with Chie just go on to highlight how good of a person she is, most notably how she wants to get stronger so she could protect people (she is quite willing to take on a group of bullies who are harassing kids).
However, there seems to be a small part of her that wishes she could be a bit more feminine; she takes particular offense at those who think she can’t cook (which she can’t) and she’s admittedly afraid of insects. In the epilogue scene in Persona 4: Golden, she even grows her hair out and if you choose to pursue a relationship with her, she makes attempts to be more of a girl. Honestly, I think what makes her attractive is how courageous she is and her enthusiasm for the things she loves…
And the fact she can punt enemies into the stratosphere.
Seriously, if that sight doesn’t make you fall in love with her, I don’t know what will.
7. Melia Antiqua (Xenoblade Chronicles)
Just gonna say this right now: Melia goes through so much shit. In fact, let’s count the number of shit she goes through:
Point 1: A good chunk of her race hates her purely because she’s half-Homs.
Point 2: There’s an entire conspiracy to get her killed because of her heritage; a conspiracy orchestrated by her own stepmother.
Point 3: Her father is killed trying to protect her.
Point 4: Half of her race, including her older half-brother, is turned into mindless Telethia which she is forced to slay.
And the cherry on top of that emotionally damaging cake is the fact that Shulk, the boy that she has strong feelings for, is not only oblivious to her feelings for the entire game but is also infatuated with his childhood friend who he thought had died. To say Melia has it rough is an understatement.
But despite all of this, while she is undoubtedly hurt by the loss of her own family and the unintentional rejection of someone she loves, Melia keeps moving forward. She grieves but she knows that her father and brother loved her dearly and while Shulk may not return her feelings, she knows that he cares for her too, as well as the rest of the group who she slowly but surely opened up to throughout the game.
One of my favourite moments with Melia is when the group is reunited with Fiora. I was so worried that Melia would just suddenly become anti-social, rarely speaking and being unnecessarily harsh to everyone, especially Fiora. But no, she expresses relief that she is alright (if only for Shulk’s sake), doesn’t let her own personal feelings jeopardise their journey and even becomes best friends with Fiora; the latter even confiding in Melia with some personal issues. I even theorise that Fiora knows that Melia loves Shulk and should anything happen to Fiora, she’d want Melia to be the one to take care of Shulk.
Even though Melia never loses the royal attitude or that silver-spoon accent, you can tell that the adventure and her interactions with the others have an effect on her. She became stronger than she already was and never stopped being reliable, was never afraid to get involved; sometimes I forgot she was royalty because of how everyone treated her like an equal and vice versa.
Melia was always a party member I enjoyed using in-game, because of both her playstyle and personality, and her character arc was another piece that made Xenoblade Chronicles my favourite game ever.
8. Rosalina (Super Mario Galaxy)
The Mario series very rarely introduces new characters that later become recurring, like Waluigi and Daisy who are guaranteed to appear in every spin-off title. Plus, these new characters tend to not leave all that great an impression. Yeah, they’ve got fans (and I love me some Waluigi Time) but I don’t think any of them have gained my interest as much as Rosalina.
Debuting in my favourite Mario game ever might have something to do with it but Rosalina almost immediately caught my eye. She was just so mysterious but her design explained so much. She looked human but she was almost ethereal. She was an elegant and regal sort, possibly privy to things far beyond our own comprehension, and arguably the most mature character we’ve seen in a Mario game. I read somewhere that described Peach and Daisy as girls but Rosalina was a woman, and I have to agree. Peach and Daisy are quite chirpy and energetic as opposed to Rosalina, who just has this commanding presence about her, and I’m not gonna lie – that makes her pretty attractive.
But the biggest surprise for me was her backstory. There were so many questions I had concerning who she was and where she came from but I didn’t expect to ever have those questions answered. Then I came across the library where Rosalina would read a storybook to the Lumas. At first, I thought it was just a cute little story about a little girl travelling through space to help a Luma find its mum, but as it went on, the truth slowly dawned on me. It was all about Rosalina! And it was super depressing. While it didn’t explain everything, gaining some insight into this originally mysterious and unknown individual made me see her in a new light and added a semblance of humanity to her. Plus, I was so shocked to find such a detailed and oddly mature story as a subplot in a main series Mario game. It made what was already a fantastic game into something even greater (in my eyes at least).
I’ve heard some refer to Rosalina as Nintendo’s equivalent of Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII given the recent amount of attention she’s been getting (Mario Kart, Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros.) and I can certainly agree with that, but there’s one major difference: Rosalina is an interesting and likable character and I have no issues seeing her as part of the main cast, because it means one of my favourite Mario characters still gets to hang around despite her own story having concluded a long time ago.
9. Princess Peach (Paper Mario series)
Admittedly, Peach is a bit of a blank slate. She gets kidnapped, cries for help, thanks you for saving her and gives Mario a quick peck on the nose… in the main series at least. Paper Peach, however, is a quite different incarnation, and easily the superior one.
Even though she gets kidnapped, she does not take it lightly. In the first two games, she regularly sneaks about gathering information that she can later pass on to Mario, thus helping him in his quest. It gets particularly impressive when you see the lengths she goes to in The Thousand Year Door, where she disguises herself and manages to get some info out of the rather threatening Grodus and even sneaks into his office after drinking an invisibility potion (which she has to do naked since the potion doesn’t affect her clothes… I am NOT making that up). Yeah, she needed the help of the supercomputer TEC but seeing her actually do all this whilst being held captive was pretty damn impressive. Even after she is possessed by the Shadow Queen, she uses what little power she has to help fight against it and, as a result, aids Mario in defeating her.
Her biggest accomplishments, though, arguably came from Super Paper Mario where, after being kidnapped, she later escapes, is found by Mario and joins him for the rest of the adventure, battling the many villainous forces they encounter. Her own efforts include taking on creepy nerd chameleon Francis and fighting the outright devilish Mimi singlehandedly when the latter pisses her off.
That’s another thing: Paper Peach has an actual personality. She still has the same pureness you’d expect; she’s sweet and kind, very much acting as the emotional centre of the cast, but she is not a pushover. Even when kidnapped, she doesn’t take shit from her captors, is intelligent (especially when it comes to manipulating Bowser) and, as I stated earlier, will gladly fight anyone who crosses her.
Whenever someone says that Peach is just some dopey airhead and a poor representation of women, I just want to show them the Paper Mario games and prove that Peach can be more than the blonde prize at the end of the game, and I wish Nintendo would make that personality more prevalent in other titles.
10. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
When I say Lara Croft, I don’t mean the original Lara that was pretty much the ultimate sex symbol of videogames. I mean the rebooted Lara from the 2013 Tomb Raider. Don’t get me wrong, the original Lara was great but, from a character standpoint, the new Lara is just so much better.
Why? Well, original Lara was a badass but she kind of knew that. And we knew that the moment we all started playing any of the old Tomb Raider games. It doesn’t matter which one you go with because her character is always firmly established as being this female Indiana Jones-type; super athletic, always good looking, coy and one to quip. She was an action hero through and through.
The new Lara, however, didn’t start of as a badass. She was just a young graduate that, via terrible circumstances, found herself trapped and helpless on a deserted island filled with wild animals and an insane cult that wind up killing a good portion of her friends. She goes through so much, physically and emotionally. With every bone broken and cut on her body, I winced every time; it got to the point where it was almost a running gag.
But despite all the falls, the trauma, the gunshot wounds and near death experiences, Lara kept pushing forward. Eventually, this rightfully scared woman began to get sick of all the shit she was dealing with. She found ways to deal with it; she overcame her desire to not kill and slaughtered every scumbag she came across.
The reason I love this Lara so much is because she isn’t introduced to us as this super-awesome woman who can perfectly evade traps and get in gunfights without breaking a sweat. She’s an ordinary person like you and me, forced to become a survivor (as the game loves to remind us) and take risks and make decisions she otherwise would never have been able to. Seeing her blaze through the enemy fortress, take on strange creatures twice her size and finish off the villain with her first use of her trademark twin pistols just made me punch the air. “Yeah, you go Lara!” I would mentally cry.
Tomb Raider wasn’t just a great game to play but it’s possibly one of my favourite character journeys. While it may have had some negative effects on Lara’s psyche, I enjoyed seeing her grow and change as a character and I hope the series continues to take this direction with her. Characters that are born to be badasses are fine and all but the best ones are those that we see become badass.