Video games have been known for their largely male audience and oversexualization of female characters, which is what makes the representation of strong, empowered women in video games so important.
We often consider video games as a pastime as something only guys do — created by men, for men. One quick scroll through TikTok shows countless videos of young women complaining that their boyfriend is more faithful to his game than to them. And it’s no secret why video games haven’t amassed much of a female audience. Portrayals of women have often been either horribly oversexualized or nonexistent.
While that’s an unfortunate truth, that’s not all video games have to offer to women. In fact, some of the strongest, most compassionate, complex female characters I’ve connected the most with have been part of the world of video games. Here are just a few of the ladies I’ve loved the most:
Elena from Uncharted
While Uncharted focuses more closely on the adventures of Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter whose profession takes him all around the world, it’d be silly to say that’s all there is to the story. Accompanying Nathan on his endeavors is Elena, a tenacious, intelligent, fearless woman, who acts not only as his partner in crime but as his true equal. She’s known for her wise pieces of advice (which Nathan always takes seriously), strong moral compass, and ability to handle whatever is thrown at her.
Max from Life Is Strange
Not an action-packed game, Life Is Strange follows the story of Max, a young, shy, thoughtful, yet independent college student as she navigates young adulthood, old friendships, and her newfound time-traveling ability — all while attempting to solve the mystery of a girl from her college who went missing. Max’s quiet inner strength, deep commitment to her friends, and constant introspection made her a complicated and fascinating character to play — one that I unquestionably identified with.
Ellie from The Last of Us
Largely regarded as one of the greatest games ever, The Last of Us is set in a post-apocalyptic, pandemic-ridden world (too soon?) and tells the tale of Ellie, a tough yet tender, strong yet human, incredibly complex young teenager, who’s had no choice but to fend for herself for most of her life. From the moment we meet Ellie, it’s clear that she can not only look after herself but also offer protection to those who need it.
Wraith from Apex Legends
Although Apex Legends, a Hunger Games-like game, doesn’t really have a storyline, its creators managed to give their characters unique backstories and powers — my favorite being that of Wraith. Though small in stature, Wraith is able to outsmart and out-fight even the strongest of men, thanks to her ability to enter and exit different dimensions at will. She’s never one to back down from a fight, uses her small frame to her advantage during battle, and is just really cool to boot.
Heather from Silent Hill 3
I’ll sheepishly admit that horror is one of my favorite video game genres, especially those of the spiritual thriller subgenre. Though teenaged Heather is, at first glance, a bit hot-headed and rough around the edges, it becomes clear throughout the game just how layered and intelligent her character really is. When faced with tough decisions, Heather shows a proclivity to search for the right thing to do, she defends those she loves, and she has a compassionate heart hidden under all her tough outer layers.
Senua from Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Who doesn’t love a good, dark fantasy inspired by Norse mythology? Senua is a warrior whose abusive upbringing has left her suffering from psychosis and hallucinations, perpetually tormented by voices, and living a very lonely life. Basically, she’s got quite a bit going against her. But despite having every reason to fall victim to weakness, Senua is a force to be reckoned with — though self-taught, she’s an excellent fighter, possesses great endurance, and is admirably loyal.
Tifa Lockheart from Final Fantasy
Considered one of the classics of video games, it’s not surprising that Final Fantasy would have some excellent characters — one of them being the wonderfully optimistic, incredibly selfless, and even motherly Tifa Lockhart. Though disarmingly beautiful, feminine, and shy, Tifa isn’t someone you want to mess around with, and her combat skills would take anyone by surprise. Tifa is the perfect balance of being soft and feminine while still maintaining strength.
Finding wonderful representations of women in video games is becoming much more normal and possible. Although it’s a shame even more games don’t have such characters, it’s great to celebrate the ones that do.