Updated for 2022
In celebration of International Women’s Day this year, we’re taking a look at some of the top games out there with female protagonists, with some exciting new additions for 2022!
Many people in the games industry having been working for years to make sure that female representation is not only in our studios, but also in the games being published. As a result of this we’ve been treated to some truly excellent titles starring heroines who will be sure to inspire and captivate a much more diverse gaming audience.
Here are some of the biggest titles of recent years with female characters at the helm!
Image source: Tomb Raiders
Starting off with an icon of the games world – no list of female game protagonists is complete without mentioning Lara Croft.
The original Tomb Raider games was probably the first time a lot of the current generation of games industry women saw a female character head up a game. Being able to fight and problem solve her way through the game like an absolute boss had young girls captivated. But from a female empowerment perspective, it perhaps didn’t start off on the best foot thanks to some very questionable proportions.
However, the 2013 reboot made by the talented team at Crystal Dynamics – gave a much stronger focus on Lara Croft as a person, and not just a generic eye-candied character to drive the game forward.
She's the same unflappable fighting machine that we all fell in love with, but now will bring the next generation of gamers into her world with a less male-focused look.
The Last of Us
Image Source: YouTube
Similarly, the mention of Ellie from The Last of Us II in this list pretty much goes without saying. This long-awaited sequel to the original The Last of Us game sees Ellie take centre stage, alongside Joel, as we follow her story in post-apocalyptic America.
They move to having two female playable characters of Ellie and Abby who are very different characters with conflicting interests which again helps to move away from the female character tropes that we have seen in the past.
It’s safe to say this sequel from Naughty Dog was received pretty well. Having been largely seen as the most highly anticipated game of the year across the board, it certainly didn’t disappoint! Winning over 260 Game of The Year awards and breaking a record in doing so, if there’s one game you’re considering getting your hands on in honour of International Women’s Day, The Last of Us II is a safe bet for an unforgettable gameplay experience and will hopefully pave the way for more games with incredible female characters for us to play!
It Takes Two
Image Source: Sirus Gaming
Widely seen as one of the most well received games of 2021, It Takes Two received great reviews from critics as well as Game of The Year at the Game of The Year Awards 2021 and the D.I.C.E Awards and has sold more than 5 million copies by February 2022.
As one of the few titles you can only experience by playing with another person, It Takes Two features May and Cody, a couple on the brink of divorce with their daughter attempting to bring them back together. May is the breadwinner of the relationship and it’s quite plain for the player to see that she wears the trousers rather than Cody – although this can be interpreted simply as her passion for others to achieve their potential. As the story rolls on through the chapters, we see how working together throughout the challenges brings May and Cody back together.
Life is Strange: True Colours
Image Source: YouTube
In the latest instalment of Life is Strange, we meet protagonist Alex Chen who holds the power of empathy, allowing her to both experience and manipulate the emotions of those around her. Alex is witty and sharp, as well as being sensitive to the needs of others, always putting them before her own emotions. Being a queer, Asian American woman, Alex brings some much-needed diversity and a general step forward for women in this popular franchise.
Ratchet and Clank: Rift Apart
Image Source: Ratchet and Clank Fandom
The long-awaited Rift Apart, a highly anticipated sequel to the well-loved Ratchet and Clank franchise, finally saw the introduction of the first playable female character – Rivet. Despite being an alternate reality version of Ratchet, Rivet has a distinctive personality and backstory of her own, making her more than just our male protagonist in a different skin!
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Image Source: PC Gamer
Previously known for the shooting franchise Killzone, Guerrilla Games announcing a vibrant and unique game like Horizon: Zero Dawn seemed to come straight out of left field.
The gameplay is extremely enjoyable but the real highlight here is the story and characters, with intrigue driving the plot forward, and some enjoyable writing from a bad-ass protagonist. You play as Alloy, who was cast out of her tribe as a girl and, after being attacked by a mysterious cult, has to journey through what’s left of the planet.
Image Source: Control Twitter
Control is arguably one of Remedy’s finest achievements – and as has taken home various awards and nominations for best action title, best story, best art direction (the list goes on) it’s clear to see it’s made quite the impact.
Control follows the story of Jesse Faden, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Control, and in case you're one of the few people who hasn't played it yet I'm not going to include any spoliers here about the game. But what I think is most important about Jesse is that she doesn't fall into the same personality cliques as many other female characters. She's not sassy, cheeky or sarcastic. She's a straight faced woman with a job to do and a cause that drives her, and that's how she stays throughout. The fact that she is still captivating is a real step for female characters, and the representation of women as the varied and complex characters that we are!
Uncharted: The Lost Legacy
Image Source: Wallpapersden
One of the most popular franchises of all time, Uncharted, focuses on Nathan Drake who along the way, meets a few different women all of whom were complex characters but that ended up being reduced to a helper or love interest in Nathan's story.
Luckily, Naughty Dog seemed to realise the potential in these women so for Lost Legacy Chloe Frazer was brought front and centre. This allowed us to see her full range - the trained and experienced treasure hunter without her being stuck in the 'love interest' box as she was before.
Another important aspect of Chloe is her Indian heritage that is tied into her story throughout - which makes her the one of the only non-white women that has headed up a AAA game in recent years and even then being half Indian and half Australian shows that there is a lot of work still to be done here.
Dishonored: Death of the Outsider
Image Source: Independent
Another NPC that was finally upgraded to a main character is Billie Lurk from the Dishonored franchise. Bethesda really hit it out of the park with Billie and this expansion. Not only is she a black woman with mixed heritage and so will be a place for many women to feel represented that weren't before. While her sexuality isn't something that is at the forefront of the game, it is mentioned throughout in audio and other areas that she is also bisexual. It's not shouted about but it's there and that it very important for making all female gamers feel seen in the games that they love.
So, there’s a round-up of our favourite games around at the moment with female protagonists, in celebration of women in games for International Women’s Day!
If you’re keen to stay on the girl power hype, have a read of our Women In Games 10 year challenge blog from IWD’s past, where we spoke with some powerful women in the games industry. Also, keep an eye out for our 2022 survey results coming soon where we will cover the industry’s current gender pay gap.