These days, a woman can pretty much kick as much ass as a guy can. And if you don’t believe us, take a good look around. We now have a female Doctor Who thanks to Jodie Whitaker; Alicia Vikander will soon be delivering the goods as Lara Croft in the forthcoming Tomb Raider movie; and, let’s be honest, did you even watch GLOW on Netflix yet?
But these are just the latest examples of heroines that have dominated in their field. Over the past few years, we’ve seen some of the greatest female leads conquering video games, whether they were saving the galaxy, doing some treasure hunting, or simply trying to keep things from getting out of hand in a small town. They deserve a great deal of credit for the entertainment they’ve provided us – for both male and females alike.
So we’ve narrowed down some of the greatest video game heroines ever. We may not have gotten all your favorites (we can practically hear someone now yelling, “Where’s Cammy?”), but we assure you that we got a lot of the great ones.
Samus Aran (Metroid)
Let’s just get started with one of the biggest female heroines in history – Samus Aran. The fact she was a woman wasn’t revealed until the very end of the original Metroid, when she took off her helmet and shocked the gaming world. Since then, she’s been a dominant force in most of the sequels she’s been in, including Super Metroid, Metroid Prime Trilogy and even in a few Super Smash Bros. games. And she’ll be back with a vengeance soon enough, with Metroid: Samus Returns set to debut this September on Nintendo 3DS, and Metroid Prime 4 eventually making its way to Nintendo Switch. You just can’t keep a good woman down.
Faith (Mirror’s Edge)
Even though some people may complain that Mirror’s Edge Catalyst wasn’t quite everything it could’ve been, there’s no denying the power of delivery woman Faith. She’s an incredibly nimble heroine who has no trouble traversing across the city skyline, whether it’s running alongside the building or slowly making her way across a network of pipes. Not only that, but she’s more than capable of kicking ass, as she’s proven with a number of memorable takedowns in both the original Mirror’s Edge and its follow-up. And not once does she ask someone to do the work for her – she’s all about getting the job done on her own terms. And she kicks ass because of that.
Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)
Sure, Commander Shepard could be a dude if players wanted to take that route, but there’s something truly spectacular about the female version of Shepard in the Mass Effect saga. She just looks like she’s capable of so much more than her male counterpart, and Jennifer Hale puts a great deal of effort into bringing Femshep to life. Plus, she seems to get along better with a lot of her crew, and when it comes to facing off against adversaries, she isn’t afraid to show off her brutish side. It’s a shame she didn’t make a return in Andromeda when we really needed her, but we’ll always have the original trilogy to tide us over.
Aveline de Grandpre (Assassin’s Creed: Liberation)
Female assassins don’t nearly get the amount of time that the male counterparts do in the Assassin’s Creed series, so when one takes the starring role, you’re damn right we’re going to take notice. Aveline stepped up in Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for the PlayStation Vita (and later for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3), proving she could handle her assassination skills just as well as the boys – and in some cases, even better, thanks to her excellent disguise ability, as well as being able to get around pretty quickly when the situation calls for it. We’re not sure when she’ll be primed for a return, but hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later.
Chun-Li (Street Fighter)
Some may argue that the Street Fighter series has seen better female characters enter the picture over the years, and, yes, there’s an argument that could be made for Cammy and her sheer nimbleness. But we’ll always return to Chun-Li, mainly because she’s pretty much been in the mix since almost the very beginning. She got her start in the original Street Fighter II, and has been included in pretty much every game ever since, kicking butt with her spinning whirl kick and lightning leg attacks. And, man, can she throw a fireball. Sure, Ryu and Ken can, too, but Chun-Li does it with style and grace. Plus, we dare not deny her awesome victory pose. “Ya-ta!”
Jade (Beyond Good and Evil)
The debut of the new Beyond Good & Evil 2 trailer last month had us dizzied for a number of reasons – but one in particular that we can’t overlook is that Jade is coming back. While we didn’t get a complete look at her (just her eyes – but that’s all we needed), it was enough of an indication that she’ll be making a return, serving as a guardian for her friends and family, while dealing blows to the enemy the best way she knows how alongside her team. We’re not sure just how playable she’ll be in the sequel, but we definitely can’t wait to find out. More Jade, please.
Of course we’re not going to leave Bayonetta off this list. How could we? This heroine is unlike most of the others on this list, not only because of her impeccable style, but because of her incredible attack abilities. For crying out loud, her wardrobe is her main weapon, transforming into a large beastly creature (or other forms) that can pretty much each enemies whole. Plus, there’s something to be said about a girl in leather that can take out opponents with a pair of twin pistols and gun boots. Oh, and did we mention she’s got just the right level of sass? Because she truly does. We can’t wait for a new Bayonetta game to hit the streets.
Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
Back in the mid-90’s, we saw the rise of a new gaming heroine that stole our hearts almost immediately – Lara Croft. Despite the fact that the older model of Lara is a bit primitive by today’s standards, back in the original Tomb Raider, it was everything. She was confident, brazen and quite able of handling herself in the heat of combat. And even though some of her games disappointed in the early 2000’s, she came back with a vengeance in younger, more powerful form with the 2013 Tomb Raider and its follow-up, Rise of the Tomb Raider. And next year should be spectacular for her, between a rumored third Tomb Raider game and the big-screen effort featuring Alicia Vikander. Oh, Lara, how we adore you.
Clementine (The Walking Dead)
Being a video game heroine is tough work. But imagine being a kid and being asked to do what Clementine had to do in the Walking Dead games from Telltale over the past few years. It’s unimaginable. Yet, somehow, Clementine has always managed to keep a brave face, despite all the turmoil that she’s gone through. By the time A New Frontier came around, she grew into a much stronger person, getting involved with the story as players made rough decisions regarding her and fellow survivors. It probably won’t be too long before we see her back in action, which is fine by us. She’s grown up to become one of the best characters in the series, if not the best.
Nariko (Heavenly Sword)
Heavenly Sword didn’t get nearly the amount of credit it deserved when it debuted on the PlayStation 3 years ago. It featured kick-ass action, a great story, a wonderful villainous turn by Andy Serkis (from War For the Planet of the Apes), and, most importantly, it introduced Nariko, a woman thrown into epic battles all for the sake of keeping peace. What’s more, she kept a brave face, even as the sword she was wielding was slowly killing her – you try facing your fate like that and you see how well you turn out. Nariko made for a fine warrior, and it was great seeing her return in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, holding her own against the likes of Kratos and others. So…when will she return again?
Over the years, WayForward’s Shantae games have grown exponentially in popularity. The original Game Boy game now draws hundreds of dollars at auctions, and each successive sequel has become more popular than the last. Now, the developer is looking at its most popular effort, Half-Genie Hero, which features the heroine going against unstoppable odds to bring peace to the land, using transformative abilities to get the job done. Some may question her being drawn a little too sexy for her own good, but there’s no question that this genie has had no trouble making players’ wishes come true. She can’t come back soon enough. (Working on it, WayForward?)
Chell goes literally through Hell in the two Portal games, having to put up with the many requests of GLADoS as she goes through what seems like an endless run of trials. And that’s hard for anyone to really endure – especially when all you’ve got to complete the trials is an unreliable portal gun. But Chell manages to hold her own anyway, and watching her mature into a stronger character – especially around Portal 2 – is really something. Plus, there’s something about the friendship she attains with the Companion Cube that puts a tear in our eye – especially when she has to bid adieu to it.
Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)
Even though some may refer to her as the “Master of Unlocking” – and her idea of fashion sense in Resident Evil 3: Nemesis was probably less than desired – Jill Valentine has proven to be one of the best characters we’ve seen in the Resident Evil saga. She can hold her own just as well as the boys, taking out the undead with a shotgun and even facing off against bosses much larger than her with only a minimal amount of effort. She’s also a capable warrior in the Marvel vs. Capcom games, even when it comes to taking on something as vicious as the Nemesis. Hopefully she’ll make a comeback in the next Resident Evil adventure.
There are plenty of great Vault Hunters that you can choose from in the Borderlands saga – and you really can’t go wrong with your choice, they’re all great – but Lilith is really something, as she’s able to use phasewalking however she sees fit, putting enemies down as a result. On top of that, she’s got some great dialogue, and she can master a firearm very easily, which’ll come in handy when it comes to the larger foes that you’ll come across in the game. It’s also great that she got some love in Borderlands 2 as well, with a bit of closure to her storyline that makes fans appreciate her even more. So, can we count on her to return in Borderlands 3?
Elena Fisher (Uncharted)
At first, Fisher might seem like a pain in Nathan Drake’s backside, as the two are practically thrown together over the course of their adventures. But soon enough, the two start to get a vibe, and soon realize that one simply can’t work without the other. While Drake does a good amount of the dirty work, Fisher does her own part as well, and helps the team out in a number of ways while eventually becoming his love interest. And by Uncharted 4, you can see just how important she is to the story, especially when it comes to its conclusion. Plus, she can totally play Crash Bandicoot better than Drake.
Princess Zelda (The Legend of Zelda)
Some may argue that Princess Peach is Nintendo’s greatest royalty, mainly because she can hold her own, even when Mario seems to be attempting to rescue her. But there’s something about Zelda that’s purely remarkable. She never really seems like a damsel in distress, and her alter ego Sheik is simply amazing, capable of doing stuff that even Link isn’t ready to try yet. And she’s become a major player in the battle for Hyrule, especially when it comes to games like Super Smash Bros. and Hyrule Warriors. Maybe we could settle this quarrel between the two Princesses in an upcoming match, eh?
Ms. Pac-Man (Ms. Pac-Man)
While some may feel that Pac-Man is really the most popular game in the iconic arcade game’s history, there’s something that truly needs to be said about Ms. Pac-Man, which followed a couple of years later. With more advanced maze designs, more interesting ghost behavior (it’s like they know where to chase you), a better love story, and the ability to speed up play in some machines (we’re talking lightning fast), Ms. Pac-Man feels like the definitive game in the series. Not only that, but she’s starred in a number of adventures following that release – and she serves as a spokeswoman for breast cancer. You go, girl.
Max Caulfield (Life Is Strange)
While some may not exactly see Max as much of a hero – and the fact she probably won’t be featured in the Life Is Strange spin-off is questionable – she goes through quite a bit in the original game that makes us feel like she deserves an honorary mention. Blessed with the gift to rewind time in certain situations, things don’t get much easier for Max, as the player has to decide the best course of action in terms of what she does – and some of those choices simply won’t come easy. What’s more, Life Is Strange shows the true turmoil of teenage life, and even with the comfort of a friend – in this case, Chloe – it can be a lot to overcome. Kudos to Max for sticking the course, even if it’s not always to the better end.