The Top 5 Girls of Gaming
Today I was browsing the internet, and I stumbled upon a rather insulting article that was run by Forbes, called Top 10 Games Starring Female Characters. I really considered not linking to it because the whole thing is such a joke, and I don't want them to receive traffic, but I want it to be clear that I'm not making things up. Their list included titles such as Petz: Horsez 2 and Hannah Montana: Spotlight World 2, indicating not only that the author has never played a video game in his or her life, but that he or she has a very low opinion of us gamers, male and female, in the first place. Honestly, I can respect games like Okami showing up on the list, but I can't help but feel, all things considered, that it occurred that way by accident.
I'm not a woman, and I'm not a feminist writer. However, I'll take this challenge, and respond. Here are five good female protagonists.
Jade (Beyond Good and Evil)
Let's get this out there: not enough people know who Jade is, because not enough people have played Beyond Good and Evil. It pains me to say this: but one of the greatest games of the last ten years was almost universally overlooked by everyone except those who live on the internet. Alas, it is now on the Xbox Live arcade, and is gloriously remastered in high definition! So if you missed your chance before, now is your chance to purchase it -- in fact, purchase it twice! Sorry I had to start off on that tangent, but as a gamer -- a real, hardcore gamer, who bleeds red potion -- whenever the topic of Beyond Good and Evil comes up, I feel the need to encourage its purchase, because I really want the sequel to come out. This being said, if you discount the gameplay, and the story, and the music, and the art style... one of the many reasons BG&E was so good, was its characters. Jade is an example of a character that has it all: intelligence, strength, stealth skills, and even problems paying the rent. For comparison, that puts her on the same level as people like Spider-Man, in terms of admirability and relatability (which Microsoft Word tells me is not a real word). Jade comes off as a real person -- which is amazing considering she fights aliens, was raised by a Pig, and buys parts for her hovercraft from a pair of Jamaican rhinoceroses.
Lightning (Final Fantasy XIII)
I'll be honest. I can't stand Final Fantasy XIII. I could write a four-hundred page thesis on why Lightning deserves a spot on this list, but not once would the phrase "because her game is good" be found within it. As a game, Final Fantasy XIII is absolutely attrocious, and, as has been aptly described by countless others, as linear as a piece of string. There was one thing the game did right though. The game gave me exactly one reason to keep coming back to pick up the controller. And I may have had to take the game in modest bite-sized chunks to keep myself from gagging, but I did it: I played the game. That reason, as the shrewdest amongst you have likely already guessed, was Lightning. Lightning is stoic, cold, and even mean. But she's also cool as hell. Every time Lightning made an angry face at someone like Snow, I couldn't help but think to myself "oh I'd listen to her, bro." In some ways, both aesthetically and personality-wise, she can be compared to Cloud Strife. She's just a lot more intimidating.
Zelda (The Legend of Zelda)
Gaming has come a long way since the 80s. Years ago, Princess Zelda would not have made a list like this. Of course, a list like this wouldn't exist in the first place, due to a lack of any deserving characters. Still, things could have stayed the same for the Princess of Hyrule: with her being complacent to fulfill the role of a damsel in distress, game after game, while Link comes to her rescue. Well as it turns out, Zelda is just not that type of Princess. The fact that she's the bearer of choice for the Triforce of Wisdom should be a hint that she has a few tricks up her sleaves. Since Ocarina of Time's release, Zelda really been up and about, going on almost as many adventures as Link. In the 1998 outing, she disguised herself as Sheik, and acted as a guide for Link. In the recently released Skyward Sword, she goes on a pilgrimage that results in her travelling thousands of years into the past. And in Wind Waker? She was a pirate. How's that for showing some independence? This is all, of course, in addition to the fact that she has become personally involved in Link's final encounter with Ganon in several of the games. Yeah, I think we can file this one next to Xena as "Warrior Princess." But hey: I'm guessing Xena can't play anywhere near as many musical instruments as this chick can.
Chun-Li (Street Fighter)
Aside from Ryu and Ken, Chun-Li is probably the most instantly recognizable Street Fighter character; and she's definitely the most recognizable female fighting game character ever. She's most known for her trademark blue outfit, comprised of a heavily modified qipao and spiked bracelets, as well as large, muscular thighs capable of turning cinder blocks into piles of dust. Somewhere along the line, the Street Fighter storyline became largely incomprehensible (and that point in time may very well have ocurred while we were still in the 90s.) People play Street Fighter for its gameplay, and because they like the characters; and Chun-Li's always going to be a fan favorite. Testament to her star power, is that she's still no easier to use in comparison to the other characters than she was in any of the three-hundred-seventy-eight releases of Street Fighter II; and yet she remains a favorite, the uncontested Queen of Fighting Games. Plus, she's cute (even with the anabolic thighs.)
Samus Aran (Metroid)
There's no logical choice for first place, if not Samus Aran. The intergalactic bounty hunter shocked the gaming world in the summer of 1986 when, after conquering Mother Brain, she proceeded to remove her helmet and armor revealing herself to be a woman. Of course this only happened for the players who were able to complete the game quickly enough; but the word spread. See, this surprised a lot of people, because there really weren't any notable female protagonists in video games at the time, and apparently the name "Samus" never struck anyone as being overtly feminine. Samus was the first one -- and she set the bar high from the start, and has only continued to nudge that bar higher and higher with each successive game in the Metroid franchise. Samus is a bonafide badass, and one of few female characters who could go toe-to-toe with the toughest of her male counterparts. It doesn't hurt that she has a few classic games like Super Metroid and Metroid Prime under her belt, either. Interestingly enough, she was the only character to appear on this list with a standard first and last name. If that isn't enough to earn her a spot at the top, I'm not sure what is.