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Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: The best female video game characters
Elena Fisher – one of gaming’s great female characters

GameCentral readers discuss their favourite female characters, from Lara Croft to Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn.

The subject for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Mesomex, following International Women’s Day earlier in the month. We wanted to know which female character you think is the most interesting and what you think of the representation of women in video games in recent years.

You can probably guess what some of the nominations were, although opinions were divided on the qualities of Lara Croft as a character. Bayonetta, Jade from Beyond Good & Evil, and the women of Uncharted were all popular though, with most readers feeling things are more positive now than they used to be.

Heart of the matter

It’s Uncharted’s Elena Fisher for me. At first glance she’s just a stereotypical love interest – the plucky ‘girl next door’” journalist with a heart of gold. But thanks to Naughty Dog’s scripting and Emily Rose’s wonderful performance over the four games she’s proven herself to be so much more.

She’s always been portrayed as incredibly independent, with her own successful career (her journalism awards can be found around the homes she shares with Nate in Uncharted 4).

She believes in doing the right thing but is never sanctimonious about it, she’s sweet and funny but tough when needed (both Nate and Harry Flynn have been on the receiving end of her mean right hook!) and she’s fiercely loyal, even when she has doubts about what Nate’s trying to do or when their relationship is going through major problems, she’s always there for him.

I know it sounds rather sentimental but over the course of the four games I’ve grown incredibly fond of her. If Nathan Drake is the star of Uncharted then Elena Fisher (and the loving relationship she has with Nate) is its big, beautiful heart.
LastYearsModel

Obvious choice

My favourite female video game character is probably the most famous one, Lara Croft.

Lara is a fantastic invention, Indiana Jones reinvented as a young woman. It’s a brilliant idea for a game character and the long success of the Tomb Raider franchise is proof of this.

Much as I like the iconic version of buxom Miss Croft in her vest and shorts I think the intrepid adventurer’s most recent reinvention is almost as clever as her initial concept.

Visually Lara’s much more believable now and if anything she’s broadened her appeal. I don’t just fancy Lara these days, I root for her and respect her as a character, because the way she dresses and acts encourages respect.

The only negative aspect of new Lara is her rather gloomy personality. A sprinkling of jokes and wisecracks would be very welcome in the next game, other than that I think Lara Croft is the best female presence in gaming.
msv858 (Twitter)

The master of unlocking

My choice for favourite female video game character is going to be Jill Valentine from Resident Evil, one of my favourite game series, I’ve just dug out my PS1 copy so will play this through again, especially as it has differences to the GameCube version that I’ve played through much more.

I always preferred playing Resident Evil as Jill rather than Chris, she just comes across as a tough likeable character. Her voice acting in the game is flawless, OK so that’s not quite true but it wouldn’t be the same if it was changed in any way, it is actually part of the charm of Resident Evil.

I think the representation of women in video games has changed over the years, as they aren’t always portrayed as over-sexualised characters anymore. For example, the new Tomb Raider games’ redesign of Lara. We also have more relatable and realistic characters such as Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn.
R1CH5TER

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Quite contrary

Laura from Silent Hill 2. The game started off as being based around the male protagonist’s story and his wife Mary, but she completely stole the show with her vulnerability and ambiguity. I related, empathised and rooted for her in ways that I hadn’t with characters both male and female in generations before her, and I still don’t know think any other game has come close to her (and James too) as a believable character. Who can forget ‘I’m not your Mary’ at a time we were moving on from the mostly wooden, emotionless era of PS1/N64.

On the whole, Team Silent did a really admirable job with female characters in all of their Silent Hill games too. Real shame the franchise was taken from them and series never hit those heights again.

Other honourable survival horror female leads: Jill Valentine/Claire Redfield (Resident Evil), Regina (Dino Crisis), and Aya Brea from Parasite Eve.
carlacticos (PSN ID)

Best Shepard

I found this Hot Topic quite tough as there have been so many cool, strong, independent, and beautiful women in games. The Boss, Bayonetta, Elena Fisher, Jill Valentine, and Lara Croft to name a few, but my all-time favourite was my FemShep from the Mass Effect trilogy.

I remember spending hours if not days trying to get her to look right.
Smokin_Monkey (PSN ID)
PS: Special mention for Ciri from The Witcher 3.

Everyone’s a badass

I’m not so sure she’s so well remembered now but my favourite female character is still Alyx from Half-Life 2. She’s smart, sensibly dressed, not obsessed by the hero or any other character, and just comes across as a charming, normal person. She reacts to things the way a human being would (trying to avoid spoilers here, despite the game’s age) and is just a believable and likeable person.

The portrayal of women in video games has undoubtedly got better over the years, to the point where they basically have the same problem as male characters. There’s really only two settings for a video game hero: hyper sexualised/masculine and completely boring so as to not offend anyone.

There is a third side to the puzzle though and its games which insist on portraying every woman as a ‘badass’ instead of just, you know, an actual person. That’s a problem with men too, with the stupid gravelly-voiced cliché so many characters have as they try to out manly each other.

In that sense women might actually be slightly ahead as you do occasionally get characters like Alyx and the cast of Life Is Strange, and it’s hard to think of any male equivalents to them.
Ashton Marley

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Top three

I find that the best place to go for great female characters – who are, you know, actual characters – are role-playing games. Piper Wright was one of my favourites in Fallout 4, for example – alongside Nick Valentine, Hancock, and Codsworth. But she’s not my all-time favourite.

Because it would be cruel to choose between them, I won’t. Aika from Skies Of Arcadia and Etna from the Disgaea series – particularly the first two. Etna was so great in the sequel that she stole the game from the other characters. Her very… unkind laughter when Adell asks if she’s going to help out during the Colosseum chapter being a good indicator of what to expect.

As for her usefulness – well, she never actually stops being worth bringing into battle but her unique attacks are never among the best. Aika, though, is everything a hero’s best friend should be.

Aika’s special moves will spare you many headaches, as the game’s notorious reputation for incessant random battles now precedes it. But because of the girl’s quickness she often has her turn first. Maybe around 80% of the time? I don’t know for certain, I haven’t crunched the numbers. But two of her special moves will attack all enemies on screen, either taking them all out at once or enabling you to mop them up in much less time than usual.

True, other characters have similar moves that pack more punch. But you won’t be able to use those in your first turn for a very long time. Whereas Aika will be closing out random battles for you by no more than a third into the game. And she has a move which completely blocks enemy magic. You won’t be able to cast any healing magic, either – but the game is very generous with healing items so that is not a real downside. And some enemies can cast instant death spells. There is a very long section of the game where you fight lots of Gravers that use the scary-sounding Eternum spell on you. If it happens, that character is dead. But with Aika’s Delta Shield, you’ll never have to worry about it.

That she’s very funny as well is great – she has genuine romantic chemistry with Vyse, the game’s hero – but it doesn’t drown you in melodramatic soap opera like a Final Fantasy would. Her reaction to Admiral Vigoro’s flagship is well worth waiting for. Ultimately, Aika is just a nicer version of Etna. I also clearly have a thing for redheads.
DMR

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