Oh, we’ve got some amazing women here, too! Ranging from Yoko Taro (somehow) writing one of the best characters in video games to an all-time great from what many consider the best Final Fantasy game, there’s something here for everyone.
Celes (Final Fantasy VI)
by Audra Bowling
Celes Chere is an incredibly memorable character. Seemingly an “ice cold” general of the Gestahlian Empire, she reveals she is anything but when she follows her conscience and refuses to take part in a plan that would kill multitudes of people. She joins the resistance, constantly having to prove to her new allies that she isn’t a spy, even endangering herself to help them despite their doubts. Though her developing romance with Locke is important to her story, it doesn’t solely define her either. An optional scene that occurs when you take Celes along to confront Emperor Gestahl and Kefka had me cheering her response when she’s given a chance to reaffirm her loyalties. I love that she is the one who begins the search for Final Fantasy VI’s party in the World of Ruin. Celes is a strong-willed, capable character who is so much more than what people initially assume.
Chris (Suikoden III)
by Gio Castillo
Women are often written as physically, mentally, and emotionally weaker than men. Chris Lightfellow, the powerhouse super-soldier serving the oppressive Zexen Confederacy, shatters that stereotype. As the leader of an elite knight cadre, she follows assignments to their bitter ends, gritting her teeth all the while. Her personality is stoic but quietly assured. She’s also the (reluctant) national hero, acting as military figurehead and citizen role model. Stripping every gender reference away, Chris reads like your standard male paragon. Is her name just a coincidence? I wonder.
Yet Chris isn’t just gender-swapped Captain America. Without getting deep, her arc revolves around questioning one’s station in life and seeking closure. In true Suikoden fashion, she’s not squeaky clean, and she doesn’t always do what’s right, but that only serves to humanize her. Women in fiction tend to be underdogs, and the opposite is rarely done well. Almost 20 years on, Chris is still among the most complex female protagonists out there.
Ciri (The Witcher Series)
by Tarah Bleier
With so many powerful and bad-ass women in The Witcher series, Ciri is in a class all her own. She may be a princess and holder of other lofty titles, but she is also a fierce fighter; this is no damsel in distress. Ciri is not afraid to get her hands dirty and proves this throughout both the books and the video games. She makes her first appearance as a playable character in The Witcher 3:Wild Hunt. Utilizing abilities such as Blink Energy, Charge, and the power of a magic amulet given to her by Triss, she fights off the monsters hunting her. Sure, there are many other powerful females in other various RPGs, but Ciri is genuinely unique. Geralt may be the face of the series, but we can’t let the men have all the fun now, can we?
by Pete Leavitt
The SNKWiki entry for Faselei‘s Dorothy is a doozy, claiming she’s “infatuated” by the player character and “jealous” of any other woman around. I must have played a different Faselei featuring another Dorothy because that is not this character.
Dorothy is the true protagonist of the aforementioned mecha-themed, tactical Neo Geo Pocket Color hidden gem. Despite the player embodying Sho, Dorothy steals the show with her competence, toughness, and compassion. She is the heart and soul of the cast, and although she’s romantically involved with Sho, their relationship is refreshingly functional and drama free, even if Sho is clueless. She isn’t afraid to show how much she cares, but she requires no external validation. Every one of her colleagues recognizes her as a skilled, aggressive Toy Soldier pilot and a natural leader.
Edea (Final Fantasy VIII)
by Sam-James Gordon
When Final Fantasy VIII was released back in 1999, it brought many “firsts” for the series — it was the first 3D entry to use the same character models both in and out of battle, the first Final Fantasy game to use a vocalised song on its OST, and the first game in the series to have a female main antagonist. Enter Edea Kramer, whose involvement in Final Fantasy VIII’s narrative spans the game’s past, present and future.
Edea’s visual design is a stunning combination of elegance, power, and authority. Her earlier life was much more humble, however, having raised most of your party members in an orphanage. Her story arc influences most of the major plot points of the game, and makes her an unforgettable character for all the right reasons.
Elma (Xenoblade Chronicles X)
by Tyler Trosper
Arguably the main character of Xenoblade Chronicles X, Elma is a leader of the Reclaimers Division of BLADE, an organization formed to help humanity thrive on their new home planet after Earth’s destruction. She is a strong character bent on saving humanity no matter the cost, but she is not without regrets. Elma takes the player character, a complete amnesiac on an alien world, under her wing. She is respected by many members of BLADE. Even when she isn’t telling the full truth, you believe Elma is doing what she does for the sake of everyone.
Don’t have a Wii U to experience the awesomeness that is Elma? Worry not: she is a bonus character in Xenoblade Chronicles 2’s DLC pass!
Erine (Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan)
by Audra Bowling
Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan‘s narrative is driven by powerful women, and Erine serves as its heart. Early on, Erine marries Enzo Kori-Odan, becoming the queen of Zama mere moments before a coup led by her own brother Ngarba overthrows her new husband. Erine chooses to aid her husband despite being given the chance to back out, and she journeys with Enzo on his quest to reclaim the kingdom. She is a supportive figure who never hesitates to voice her opinion and throw her powerful magic into the fray. One of the most memorable scenes in Aurion happens when Erine stands up to a female antagonist who ridicules and looks down on other women as weak: I cheered at Erine’s response that they can be anything but. Both Enzo and Erine have moments of understandable weakness, but they pull through and ultimately carry on thanks to each other’s continued support. Erine is a strong and resilient character.
Estelle Bright (The Legend of Heroes: Trails in the Sky)
by Michael Sollosi
Estelle is boisterous, earnest, and passionate to a fault. Her single-minded pursuit of becoming a Bracer (essentially a do-gooding mercenary in the Trails world) alongside her adoptive brother Joshua is the thrust for most of the first Trails in the Sky‘s story.
But the best aspects of Estelle are neither her stubbornness nor her sass (which are both good), but her growth and her journey. In Trails in the Sky and its sequel, Estelle matures from a headstrong teenager to a somewhat mellower young adult but never abandons her animated personality or sense of justice. By the end of Second Chapter, Estelle becomes a capable Bracer, earns the admiration of her peers and mentors, and acknowledges her feelings (avoiding spoilers here). She deserves a starring role in more than just two games of Falcom’s flagship series.
Frederica Aesfrost (Triangle Strategy)
by Niki Fakhoori
When I consume any form of non-romance genre media, I tend to have a similar response whenever a female character is introduced: “Please don’t exist just to be a male character’s love interest! Please have your own ambitions and struggles!” So naturally, Frederica Aesfrost of Triangle Strategy was one such character to cause me initial worry: she’s introduced as the protagonist’s betrothed, and in a purely political marriage, no less. But where there’s a will, there’s a way out of love-interest-only-itis, and Frederica turns out to be of particularly strong will. She gets ample opportunity to overcome her more personal struggles, and when the strongest convictions come to a head, Frederica’s is among them, refusing to shirk from the righteous cause of freeing the oppressed even though she knows it comes with great risks. Among a bright cast, Frederica is an especially glimmering star.
Julia (Growlanser and Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice)
by Audra Bowling
An accomplished commander of an elite, all-female unit of knights in Growlanser II: The Sense of Justice, Julia inspires many characters. When playing the PSP version of the first Growlanser with an English-translated script, I discovered why: Julia single-handedly obliterated the gender barrier that kept women from becoming Imperial Knights!
Originally introduced as a traveling swordsman named “Julian,” she was taught knightly conduct by her father despite it being a criminal offense for women, loving the sense of purpose it gave her. Julia was expected to become a proper lady after her father had a “legitimate heir.” As “Julian,” Julia’s sword skills allow “him” to join the knights’ highest order. It is impossible to romance Julia or have her become a party member should protagonist Carmaine reveal her secret before she’s comfortable doing so. Her story is about being true to yourself, inspiring males and females alike.
Kainé (NieR: Replicant)
by Zach Wilkerson
I’m sure most people, including me, love Kainé most for her profanity-laced threats that rise to a level of poetry not otherwise seen this side of Deadwood. And, to be sure, her use of language is a wonder to behold. But, especially when you take the adjustments made with the newly released NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… into account, I’d argue that Kainé is also the beating heart of the original NieR. Most of the additional scenes focus on her to some degree, and without giving too much away, let me just say there can be absolutely no doubt that she kicks ass with the newest version. Ultimately, it’s Kainé’s blend of a no-nonsense attitude, surprising warmth, and embracing the love we have for the people close to us, regardless of the mistakes we might make along the way, that make her Taro’s best character, and more than worthy of a place on this list.
Kamala Khan (Marvel’s Avengers)
by Audra Bowling
Kamala Khan is the heart and soul of Marvel’s Avengers, and her character evolution into the superhero Ms. Marvel is easily the game’s bright point. An idealistic youth who originally just wrote fan fiction about her favorite heroes, Kamala’s life gets turned upside down when she becomes one of the feared superpowered “Inhumans.” Yet Kamala doesn’t let this event break her or destroy her unshakable belief in the good people are capable of. She performs acts of resistance against the tyranny of AIM all on her own, bashing robots, encouraging others, and single-handedly bringing the defunct Avengers team back together again through her plucky determination. She’s a typical, wide-eyed fangirl in a lot of respects, but she has plenty of heart and inner resolve that I couldn’t help but cheer for. It’s a shame Marvel’s Avengers wasn’t just a flat-out Ms. Marvel game, as she takes center stage in any scene she’s in.