A lot of us at RPGFan sometimes get fed up with how much male-centric narratives dominate the RPG landscape. All different types of people play RPGs, and we want the landscape to reflect that.
That isn’t to say, of course, that there haven’t been a ton of amazing women in RPGs over the years. At least 48 of them, in fact! Today, we’re here to present our picks for the most amazing women in RPGs. This list is of course in no ways exhaustive. In fact, there was so much enthusiasm for this feature that we had to cut back on a few! Nonetheless, we’re pleased with the variety and breadth of amazing female characters in the games we love.
Aerith (Final Fantasy VII)
by Daniel Hernandez
A lot can be said about Aerith in regards to her abilities and importance to the overall world of the beloved Final Fantasy VII, and again with Final Fantasy VII Remake. But I want to take this opportunity to tell you why I enjoy the character of Aerith so much. Plot aside, Aerith’s positive demeanor mixed with her determined attitude makes for some really amazing moments in both games. Her ability to evoke emotion and responses from those around her has always been one of my favorite parts of these truly iconic games.
Something I truly enjoyed in Remake was Aerith’s relationship with Tifa. For so many years, the two have been pitted against each other. It was great to see both of their personalities shine through their interactions and genuine concern for each other. Whether you know her as Aerith or Aeris, she truly is an amazing woman beloved by RPG fans all over the world!
Agrias (Final Fantasy Tactics)
by Kyle Seeley
Final Fantasy Tactics spends surprisingly little time fleshing out its unique party members, giving them brief development during their story arcs before relegating them to fancier generic units. Even with her limited narrative dialogue, Agrias Oaks stands out, exhibiting nothing but honor, courage, and loyalty to her allies. The name “Agrias” actually comes from a species of butterfly, and that speaks volumes about her character. In many cultures, butterflies symbolize rebirth, the soul, and the mind, while the Aztec civilization associated them with fire and warfare. Likewise, her surname of Oaks is indicative of her strength, endurance, honesty, and sense of justice, qualities classically associated with oak trees, but also quite fitting to describe her. The genuine goodness Agrias shows towards people is — like a butterfly — a rare and beautiful thing, especially against the backdrop of war’s atrocities.
Alena (Dragon Quest IV)
by Wes Iliff
Dragon Quest IV launched in 1990 on the NES, in an era where princesses were little more than objects to be saved, or if you were lucky, a healer for your party. Alena is decisively the antithesis to the norm. A pugilist with a penchant for pursuing arena glory, Alena’s no frail magician. In contrast to her witchy garb, Alena is a brash warrior with a habit of drop-kicking locked doors open and the ability to dish out the highest damage in the game. As she shirks off the royal life in favor of arena glory, she’s accompanied by two royal protectors who are no match for her physical prowess. Alena has become a fan favorite over the years, appearing in spinoffs like Dragon Quest Heroes and Fortune Street. Alena is the butt-kicking princess we all need and deserve.
Alex (The Vale: Shadow of the Crown)
by Audra Bowling
Players experience the events of The Vale: Shadow of the Crown wholly from a blind princess’ perspective. Alex is initially traveling to a remote part of the kingdom so that she doesn’t get in the way of her sighted brother’s ascension, but her retinue is attacked by a fierce band of nomadic warriors. Alex loses her beloved uncle in the fray and soon finds herself lost and alone in hostile territory. She determinedly moves on in an effort to reach her brother and warn him of the looming threat. Even when she gains companions, it is Alex who provides the protective might needed to keep going: her sensory strengths and connection to magic are vital boons. She doesn’t bend to the whims of supernatural entities manipulating events from the shadows, nor does she surrender to despair when things get tough. Alex is a resilient, strong-willed, and capable heroine very much in control of her own fate.
Alicia Melchiott and Brigitte “Rosie” Stark (Valkyria Chronicles)
by Abraham Kobylanski
Alicia was a baker. Rosie was a singer. When the peaceful mining country of Gallia is invaded by the East Europan Imperial Alliance in Valkyria Chronicles, these two pick up a rifle to defend their homeland.
Alicia’s spirit leads her to become the head scout for Welkin Gunther’s Squad 7. Often the voice of reason to Welkin’s creativity, it could be said she’s the entire reason the commander decided to join up.
Don’t let her civvy profession fool you. Rosie leads Squad 7’s shocktroopers, and she’s as tough as they come. Although her no-nonsense attitude makes her a hero on the battlefield, she also must overcome her own prejudices. Rosie’s still distrustful of the Darcsen people, who are oppressed by the Imperials. Learning from Isara, a Darcsen herself and Welkin’s adopted sister, Rosie accepts that Darcsens are people trying to survive, too.
In our world’s turbulent times, these stories are a reminder of brave women who choose to fight.
Alis Landale (Phantasy Star)
by Neal Chandran
It’s impossible to talk about all the wonderful women in RPGs without mentioning the venerable Alis Landale from 1987’s Phantasy Star. When her older brother’s attempt at revolution against an interplanetary tyrant leads to his death, Alis valiantly takes up his sword and his cause. Against all odds, Alis and her three newfound friends triumph and save not one but three worlds in the Algol star system. One of the most poignant moments in the game occurs after Alis finds and rescues the vaunted warrior Odin. He feels like a failure for allowing a powerful foe to get the best of him, but Alis lifts him up and motivates him to keep fighting the good fight. That compassion and ability to draw people to her combined with her grit and temerity to make the impossible possible are why she’s been a legend and an inspiration across the multiple planets of the Algo star system for millennia.
by Caitlin Argyros
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Aloy of the Horizon series is how you do female protagonists right. She’s smart, she’s capable, she’s got a little snark to her, and she doesn’t take crap from anyone. She’s beautiful but in a believable way, and her outfits fit the world she lives in without sexualizing her. She makes friends and draws the attention of several would-be suitors, but she isn’t defined by the affections of others. In fact, she notably shuts down several propositions, largely because she’s focused on saving the world. But I think there’s also room for interpreting her as aspec, which is cool even if it’s not intentional. Simply put, Aloy is one of the best female protagonists in modern gaming, and I hope she serves as a positive influence for future leading ladies.
Aqua (Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep)
by Niki Fakhoori
In a series with a notably smaller cast of female characters compared to male characters—and even fewer female leads—Aqua is a Kingdom Hearts standout. Her downright motherly instinct to protect and believe in her friends conflicts with her dedication to fulfilling her duties as a newly appointed Keyblade Master. These numerous ideals she holds so strongly move her away from being a one-note character, and she sees further realization throughout Birth by Sleep as she works to overcome the rocky patches forming in her friend group. Aqua later ends up face to face with a darkness beyond compare, from which she emerges as one of Kingdom Hearts’ strongest characters: a princess who can rely on others when needed, and can protect them just as often, too.
Aveline Vallen (Dragon Age II)
by Nick Mangiaracina
Aveline Vallen is the first companion character you recruit in Dragon Age II. Hawke, leading their family out of Lothering, comes across Aveline protecting her husband, Ser Wesley, from a Darkspawn attack. Aveline finds out that Ser Wesley has the taint that turns you into Darkspawn, and she could be the one that delivers the killing blow.
I might love Aveline because she’d be a grizzled male war veteran in any other game. She has all of the same archetypes associated with the trope: She was named after Ser Aveline, the Knight of Orlais. Her father was exiled from the chevaliers and sold everything he had to get her into King Cailan’s service. The town guard greatly respects her, and she genuinely has everyone’s best interest in mind. Aveline Vallen is a compelling character that doesn’t just stand up to adversity but pushes it down and makes it fall in line.
Aya Brea (Parasite Eve I & II)
by Patrick Gann
The first Parasite Eve takes place over one week, from Christmas to New Year’s, in New York City. Protagonist Aya Brea undergoes a significant transformation during this time. At the start, she’s a rookie cop with the NYPD. By the end, she’s saving the city (and potentially, the world) from an internal threat — the very mitochondria found in most human and animal cells. Not only does Aya find herself at the heart of a sci-fi-esque crisis in this survival horror RPG, she also finds herself leveraging this mysteriously evolved mitochondria with her own willpower.
Aya is the kind of heroine who can and does simultaneously grapple with male-dominated authority (the NYPD), existential threats (Eve / Ultimate Being), and the potential threat lurking inside of her (Mitochondria). Fans have criticized designer Tetsuya Nomura and Square Enix for objectifying Aya’s design in The 3rd Birthday, and I’m fully on board with this criticism. However, who Aya is and what she represents in the earlier entries makes her a compelling, powerful, and multidimensional protagonist.
Beatrix (Final Fantasy IX)
by Michael Sollosi
In the early stages of Final Fantasy IX, Beatrix pursues Zidane and Dagger’s group with the relentlessness of a cinematic Terminator, as not one, not two, but FOUR challenging boss fights in the game’s first disc. The finest knight of Alexandria, Beatrix is duty-bound to serve Queen Brahne and she does so with utmost professionalism.
But Beatrix isn’t on this list because she’s a badass warrior woman (she is) or because she is troubled by Brahne’s cruelty (also true), but for her capacity to love (aww). Beatrix has a reputation for being a cold and merciless killer, but she demonstrates real warmheartedness when she shirks her duty to help rescue Dagger and eventually forms an adorable romantic connection with the clumsy Steiner. The steely Beatrix is exposed as a big softie by game’s end, and we’re here for it.
Buddy (LISA the Painful/LISA the Joyful)
by Nick Mangiaracina
While LISA: The Painful has you taking on the role of Brad trying save his adopted daughter Buddy, she isn’t interested in being saved. Being born into a world where women no longer exist and sheltered for her entire life, Buddy is interested in one thing: freedom. Freedom from her father, from every man who kidnaps or holds her as a hostage for the purpose of protecting her. The DLC, LISA the Joyful, puts you in the role of Buddy to finish the story and kill the men controlling the land.
While Buddy is by no means a perfect character, she struggles immensely with men constantly trying to “protect” her. Her father quite literally sacrifices life and limb to “protect” her, but Buddy is able to walk away. No matter who tries to hold her back, keep her hostage, or kidnap her under the guise of protection she always manages to get out. And in the end, is able to change the world.