Top 10 Videogame Heroines

Gamer culture often honors the strong, male heroes of the medium, but what about the best leading ladies, the best heroines? And by “best,” I don’t mean sexy, hot, or overly ridiculous. No, these heroines are true to the definition. These are characters who show strength, fear, and concern, instill hope, and embody all the things that a female lead should. You won’t find characters here with absurd bodily proportions (Lara Croft, Bayonetta, Tifa Lockheart) or annoyingly optimistic and/or flirtatious attitudes (Rikku, Vanille, Bayonetta again), and they also aren’t the ones who are constantly in need of rescue from their captors (Princess Peach, Princess Zelda).

So without further ado, here are ten of the best, most respectable videogame heroines.

10) Bonnie McFarlane

If it wasn't for her, Red Dead Redemption only would have lasted about an hour.

In the hard and troubling times of Red Dead Redemption‘s Old West, where women are mostly seen as housewives, whores, or second-class citizens, Bonnie McFarlane stands out. From the very beginning of the game, saving John Marston’s ignorant behind from certain death and making him well aware of that fact once he comes to, Bonnie shows that she’s a clever woman with a good head on her shoulders. A no-nonsense rancher, McFarlane is well aware that she’s going against the mold of her time period and quite proud of it. She’s also extremely caring and kind, doing whatever she can to help her father’s ranch and the village growing around it to survive, even if that means chasing down cattle to the edge of a cliff in a pouring thunderstorm. Most important of all, she is the first person who makes Marston truly believe he can put his past behind him and be at peace with himself.

9) Terra Branford

Kind and caring, but with the power to tear you apart in seconds.

Before Tifa, Rinoa, and Yuna, there was Terra. She is not just the original strong female lead for Final Fantasy, but also the first official main protagonist of one of the series. Terra discovers that she is a hybrid. She is half human, half god-like Esper. Upon discovering her true identity and level of importance to the world she begins to question and doubt herself. At the age of 18, this can be used to show how any young woman can feel when thrust into the unforgiving and unknowing world of adulthood. However, Terra eventually pulls through and develops a strong determination and desire to protect her world and those she has come to care about. She is a true example that you shouldn’t be ashamed of who you are, you should learn to take pride in it and let it be your strength.

8.) Zoey

Can you take down a tank while hanging from a fire escape? Didn't think so.

The nature of gameplay in Left 4 Dead doesn’t really allow for much characterization and development, but we don’t need much of it to show that Zoey is a strong and brave protagonist. Zoey is portrayed in the majority of the opening cutscene as a savior and defender. She risks her life countless times to save her companions via pipe-bomb, laying covering fire, and dangling on a collapsing fire escape to ward off a massive tank. She’s also not doing it with a sickening smirk or sexual panache. Genuine fear and terror strikes Zoey both in the scene and throughout the game. Her fear demonstrates the emotions anyone would feel if fleeing for dear life from hordes of undead. All the despair doesn’t ruin her sense of humor, though. Upon seeing graffiti saying, “God is dead,” Zoey jokingly responds, “Oh no! The zombies killed God!” She’s just an ordinary person trying to cope with an overwhelming situation as best she can.

7) Jill Valentine

Oversized, zombified mutants are just Tuesday for her.

While Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy battle over who is the superior male protagonist of the Resident Evil series, Jill Valentine has sole ownership of the honor for best female lead. You could argue that Claire Redfield should be in the hunt, but Jill has been prominent in more major Resident Evil titles. She’s a smart, resourceful woman who wants nothing more than to bring those who have caused so much destruction via bio-terrorism to justice, especially Albert Wesker. She is one of the biggest and most easily recognizable heroines in the history of games thanks to her strength, dedication, toughness, and ability to take on even the most insane genetically altered zombie monsters.

6) Chris Lightfellow

Complex, beautiful, and skilled with a sword.

The Suikoden series is known for its extensive number of female characters. Many of them can and do fall in the more unsavory categories of annoyance and eye candy, but many also portray the exact opposite. Chris Lightfellow, the only female main protagonist in the entire series, is the epitome of this. Growing up loving her country and only wishing to serve and protect it as a knight, she eventually discovers that her role isn’t as glorious as she imagined. Her forces are tricked into an ambush and manipulated into razing and slaughtering a defenseless village, all for the corrupt gains of her nation. Chris knows it is for the best of her country, but the price that had to be paid eats away at her. The feelings are made worse when in the confusion of the destruction, a child comes at her with a dagger, forcing Chris to slay him before realizing who the attacker was. This leads the young woman to leave her country and go on a quest of discovery for both herself and the truth. Through this, she becomes wiser and stronger with a far better understanding of the world. She becomes or aides (based on the player’s decision) the leader of an emerging movement that brings all this needless fighting to an end. The culmination of the story completes a transition that takes Chris from the brink of villainy into the light of a true heroine and makes her one of the most complex and interesting in history.

5) Lightning

First a total jerk, then an inspiration.

No single Final Fantasy heroine displays strength, bravery, and determination quite like Lightning. Though stubborn and foolhardy to the point of being a complete jerk early on, she eventually matures, opens up to others, and learns to forgive them for their mistakes. This even leads to Lightning owning up to her own mistakes and learning to live with them. During the entire course of the game’s narrative, Lightning displays the will and fortitude to stand up for what she believes and do what’s right, even if that means going against the will of gods and condemning herself to a future of aimless meandering as a soulless monster. Confident in her beliefs, Lightning makes for a great role model. Hopefully Square Enix won’t ruin her the way they did Yuna when Final Fantasy XIII-2 releases sometime next winter.

4) Elena Fisher

She's bleeding to death, but she still wants you to take out the bad guy and save the world.

Never in video games has a female lead so perfectly complimented her male counterpart than Elena Fisher has with Nathan Drake. Elena has the sass and spunk to keep up with Nate’s witty one-liners and sarcastic humor, but at the same time has the wherewithal to survive even the most harrowing of situations the two get into. On occasion it’s actually Elena who ends saving Drake. She also possesses a heart of gold and good moral standing. When everything seems to be falling apart in Shambhala and Chloe tells Nate to forget it all, Elena is there to reinforce what needs to be done. She urges Nate in the right direction and motivates him to keep pushing forward, even when she herself is on the brink of death. Her profession as a journalist also gives her a much more realistic, down-to-earth appeal over several of her competitors found in both other games and the Uncharted series itself.

3) Samus Aran

If it wasn't for Other M, Samus would be number one.

The one who started it all, Samus is the original videogame heroine. A powerful and extremely talented bounty hunter with a code of morality and justice, Samus paved the way for all other videogame leading ladies. She also did it while fighting in battle suits that could very well be used by a man, which commands respect. With the exception of the Zero Suit, Samus avoids the clich√© of having to be both a badass and sex magnet at the same time. Being a loner, she was also the first and still is one of the very few female protagonists who don’t need men by their sides. Though her reputation and personality in that regard have taken a bit of a hit thanks to Other M (Thus resulting in her spot here at number three and not one), what she has done for the industry cannot be forgotten. I’m sure that Samus will be able to rebound from her recent lapse whenever Nintendo decides to release the next installment in the Metroid series.

2) Alyx Vance

You're parents wouldn't hate her if I paid them to.

Half-Life 2 may have players behind the glasses of Gordon Freeman, but the game’s true face when it comes to identifying and getting to know the world and its characters is that of Alyx Vance. Players will get to know far more about Alyx than they will ever hope to learn about the silent Freeman. She’s intelligent, kind, cute, knows how to handle herself when the going gets tough, and possesses a striking sense of humor. Alyx is also extremely believable. Her simple jeans, sweatshirt, and jacket with a bandana holding back her hair shows that she doesn’t care if the people around her see her as sexy. All she cares about is seeing the revolution through and bringing liberation to those oppressed by the Combine. That practical outfit allows us to believe that she really wants to see that through, no matter how gritty or glamorous the process may (not) be.

1) Jade

Paving the way for realistic heroines everywhere.

When it comes to being a heroine in a video game without getting stylized as an absolute badass or overly sexualized object of desire, Jade from Beyond Good and Evil wrote the book. A photo journalist who is just looking out for the orphans she supervises, Jade is instantly humanized and relatable. She wears clothing that is perfectly reasonable for her lot in life and not intended to draw the attention away from her personality. She doesn’t talk or act like a sexualized character in the least. She is simply a woman with a full range of emotions who cares deeply for her family. Throughout the game she reacts the way any normal woman would to the extreme circumstances she’s gotten herself caught up in. It’s because of her realistic nature breaking the norms and stereotypes of women in games that several other heroines like the aforementioned Alyx Vance and Elena Fisher were able to come into being. She may not have been the first videogame heroine, but she was the first to be fully fleshed out as a believable human being.


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Author: Mike Murphy View all posts by
Mike has been playing games for over two decades. His earliest memories are of shooting ducks and stomping goombas on NES, and over the years, the hobby became one of his biggest passions. Mike has worked with GamerNode as a writer and editor since 2009, giving you news, reviews, previews, a voice on the VS Node Podcast, and much more.

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