Throughout the history of the gaming industry, women have been severely underrepresented. However, over the past few years, we have seen efforts to change this and some real badass female leads, so I decided to make a list of female protagonists that I think are the most influential.
9. Max Caulfield
Max Caulfield is a perfect definition of loyalty. She is the female protagonist in Life is Strange. Soon after saving her childhood friend, Chloe, Max realises that she possesses the power to rewind and stop time. Life is Strange takes us through several episodes where we see Max evolve from a photographer to a kickass heroine who’ll do anything for the people she cares about.
Life is Strange turned out to be a mega-hit and Max is loved by all fans and critics alike.
Kassandra is the female (and the better) lead in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. She is a Spartan mercenary and sister to Alexios (male lead) in the game.
Kassandra’s story is very well-developed, revolving around her origin, her family and why people are hunting her. Thanks to her training with the Spartans, Kassandra is incredibly skilled in combat and can fight multiple enemies at once. The voice acting and facial expressions for Kassandra are also very well done, which add a lot of depth to her character.
7. Jesse Faden
I was disappointed when I first saw Jesse because I confused her with Beth Wilder from Quantum Break since they were played by the same actor. I thought this was the same old bland Beth we saw in the previous game - well it wasn’t, in fact she was an extremely well-executed female lead.
Faden is the director of the FBC (Federal Bureau of Control) in Remedy Games’ Control. Throughout the game, we follow Jesse as she comes to terms with the many tragedies that took place in her past and overcomes her insecurities. Jesse teaches us how to accept our past, and we see her grow from just another badass female with abilities to a strong, reliable, and complete character towards the end.
Control became a sensation overnight, winning several awards. I think Jesse is a great role model for everyone struggling to overcome something from their past.
6. Jill Valentine
Jill is amongst the very first female protagonists I ever played as. She is a special operative and the co-founder of the BSAA (Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance) in the Resident Evil series. We first saw Jill in the late 90s and surprisingly, she wasn’t sexualised like most females were at that time. Ever since, she has become a core part of the franchise, appearing in most games, comics, and several movie adaptations.
What makes Jill so strong is her will to go above and beyond for her team and to protect other people. She always has her team’s back (except for the time she was under Wesker’s control), even if it means putting herself at risk. We’ve all seen Jill grow and evolve through the games and it has been truly inspirational.
5. Joanna Dark
Joanna ‘Jo’ Dark is a special operative employed by the Carrington Institute. She is a professional marksman and was given the title of ‘Perfect Dark’ after getting a perfect score in training. Perfect Dark is also the name of the series Joanna has a lead in, and the series is getting a reboot by Microsoft’s studio The Initiative.
There is a reason as to why Joanna ranks so high on my list. Joanna has time and time again been compared to James Bond, but Perfect Dark is in every way superior to GoldenEye 007. Joanna’s skills include being a master marksman, pilot, driver, she is great in hand-to-hand combat, and has an alien friend (not a skill, but still pretty cool).
Joanna has also starred in several comic books and novels, had a merch lineup, and her hype is still alive today.
Senua is probably the most special character on this list. She is the protagonist of Hellblade and suffers from psychosis. Senua is trying to retrieve her lover Dillion’s soul from the goddess Hela. Hellblade makes you, as a player, vulnerable. It is kind of a window to see the world from the perspective of someone suffering from a mental disorder. Despite her disability, Senua manages to fight her way through hordes of enemies, and this, amongst many other reasons, is why she is an extremely powerful lead.
Senua became a sensation overnight and Hellblade became a fan favourite title, winning several awards including a BAFTA. The sequel, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, is also one of my most anticipated titles!
Ellie is the youngest character on the list. She is the lead in the Last of Us series and despite being a child, Ellie is not reliant on anyone and can look after herself. She has a lot of strength, especially for someone who has been through such hard times and emotional trauma, making her character seem even more impressive.
Ellie is extremely capable for her age, and proves herself worthy throughout the series by doing whatever it takes to survive. The Last of Us series was very well received by critics and The Last of Us 2 broke many records including the most Game of the Year wins for a single title.
2. Faith Connors
Connors is the edgiest lead I've ever played as. After her mother’s demise, Connors left her father and was working under Mercury as a Runner delivering materials to various revolutionary groups under an oppressive government in the City of Glass.
Faith is somehow more powerful without a weapon and has some badass parkour skills too, and she is willing to put herself at risk to help the oppressed. She was very well received by the critics as she was non-sexualised and managed to please all audiences.
Faith has appeared in several comic books and is the lead protagonist in the Mirror’s Edge franchise - she is a truly memorable female lead.
1. Lara Croft
We all saw this coming - didn’t we? But there are many reasons why Lara ranks as number one for everyone.
Lara is inarguably the most influential female lead and is widely considered as the go-to female icon in gaming. She is an adventurer and the lead protagonist in the Tomb Raider series. Lara was initially introduced way back in the 90s and was one of the first-ever female leads that was shown capable of doing what a male could do and more.
Tomb Raider and Lara have gone through several iterations, with some of them just turning Lara into just another female sex-symbol with big honkers. However, the most recent Tomb Raider reboot has portrayed Lara as the strongest she has ever been throughout the series.
Lara has also appeared in several comic books, had her own action figure lineup, and is amongst the earliest videogame protagonists to get their own live-action movie series with two back to back films in 2001 and 2003 respectively. There was also another Tomb Raider movie that came out more recently in 2018.
Although not a protagonist, Cortana is one of the most noticeable women leads in the gaming world. Cortana has appeared in all of the mainline Halo games as the leading female role of the franchise.
I grew up around Halo, and I am a huge fanboy of the franchise. I love Master Chief but we all have seen Cortana save Chief countless times throughout the series. Using her wits and assisting Chief with all his decisions, Cortana has managed to save the world as well. Without Cortana, there’d be no Master Chief.
She has been a part of most Halo novels and will also be a part of the Halo TV series. Additionally, we’ve seen her in several other Microsoft projects like Microsoft’s personal assistant, which is also named Cortana.
Did you see your favourite heroine on my list? Who do you think is the most influential female lead? Let me know down below!