Lara Croft is one of the most iconic videogame heroines there is, and her reboot hit shelves this past Tuesday. That got us thinking here at Pixelitis: videogame heroines are few and far between.
Think about it: Nintendo’s most popular characters, Mario and Link, are both male, the Xbox 360 is headlined by the masculine Master Chief and Marcus Fenix and Sony flaunts Nathan Drake and Kratos. Zelda, Cortana and Elena Fischer are all great characters in their own regard, but it’s obvious that these women are overshadowed by their male counterparts.
Between this fact and Lara Croft’s return to gaming, we thought it would be a perfect opportunity for highlighting our favorite videogame heroines, and what makes them so damn awesome – aside from their physical features, of course.
Commander Shepard (Mass Effect 1-3 )
The Mass Effect games can be played by either a male or female Commander Shepard. I have nothing against Mark Meer—the voice behind the male Shepard—but he sucks in light of Jennifer Hale’s amazing performance. However, voice acting isn’t the primary reason why I think FemShep is the better choice for savior of the universe.
No, FemShep is superior because we’ve seen the male take the world or universe into their hands too many times already. It’s getting old, and I’m of the opinion that the Mass Effect trilogy encompasses one of the most thrilling, theatrical and intense save-the-galaxy stories ever made. Commander Shepard stars in a story thick with themes of racism, synthetic life, genetic modification , homosexuality and many others—all human (in the case of Mass Effect organic and synthetic) rights related.
It only makes sense that a woman would be at the helm of all these difficult topics, because women’s issues are another facet of the human rights debate. Therefore, FemShep adds another layer of complexity to the Mass Effect franchise, and that’s why she’s my favorite videogame heroine. I couldn’t imagine playing Mass Effect any other way.
- Lowell Bell
Samus Aran (Metroid )
Samus Aran spends most of her onscreen time covered entirely in a powered armor suit and barely speaks a single line of dialogue. And yet, every time I control her, I feel a profound sense of a connection, and perhaps most importantly, respect.
Aside from being one of the most badass chicks in videogame history, I always appreciated how, barring her “Justin Bailey” and Zero Suit, she was never overly sexualized. She never even came close to reaching Dead or Alive absurdity.
She’s without a doubt an attractive female, but that’s not what necessarily draws me to the character. She’s notable for her exceptional strength, agility and bravery. There’s a sort of intimacy that the player has with Samus, which can especially be felt in the Prime games as you discover more about her from gameplay: scanning logbooks that deal with her history, hearing her yelps of pain, and seeing the reflection of her eyes in the Varia Suit’s visor.
Please keep in mind that I have yet to take Other M out of its packaging. I hear what they ended up doing to Samus’ personality in that one is abysmal, but even knowing this, I have more than nine other appearances of Samus Aran to fondly look back to.
- Patrick Kulikowski
The Boss (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater )
As a foreword, my selection for this week’s picks contains spoilers for Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. If you haven’t played it yet, simply don’t read any further.
The Boss spent her entire life making sacrifices. Her lover, her son and ultimately her life were given away for either one cause or another. She did everything in her power to ultimately bring peace to the world, yet only found neverending war.
Even when labeled as a traitor, and even when she knew that she had to die at the hand of her protege, Naked Snake, to avert a total nuclear war, she completed her job with honor, going as far as training Snake to make him strong enough to kill her.
The Boss encompassed everything that Naked Snake fought for, and is literally the reason behind most events in the Metal Gear series. Her will became the founding blocks for the creations of the Patriots and the Militaire Sans Frontiere.
With so many sacrifices in her life, “The Joy” was truly the strongest soldier in history. And never once is she portrayed sexually. In fact, she was much more of a motherly figure for Snake, while EVA became Metal Gear Solid 3’s sex appeal character.
- Allain Richard
Nanami (Suikoden II )
The things I look for in my heroines are remarkably similar to the things I look for in my heroes: innate charm, and purity. I don’t mean purity as innocence per se, but rather an honest and straightforward personality.
One character, Nanami from Suikoden II, stands out in my mind, mostly due to her relationship with the protagonist of the story. Instead of being the typical love interest, she’s actually the main character’s sister, which adds an entirely different dynamic to their interactions.
Thanks to their relationship, sexual tension is eliminated, allowing for the development of other aspects of their personalities. Throughout the course of the game, we see Nanami slowly become aware of the horrors of war and death. She maintains her chirpy and optimistic personality throughout, but she starts to become more and more concerned for her brother’s well being.
Regardless of her worries, Nanami always does whatever it takes to ensure her brother’s happiness. There’s even a point where you have the option of running away from the war with Nanami, prematurely ending the game; something I was not expecting, especially in an RPG.
As to why she’s my favorite, she’s a multifaceted character. The game doesn’t solely focus on her chirpy personality, or her preoccupation with war. It fluctuates between the two, adding a depth to her character that mimics the thought process of people having to deal with these kinds of difficult decisions. She isn’t over-sexualized either, relying on a tomboyish charm to win players over.
SPOILER: What makes me appreciate her the most is the fact that there’s a scene where if you don’t react fast enough, Nanami dies protecting you. No revives, no nothing. She’s dead, and once you lose her, you realize how important she was.