Video games are commonly regarded as a male-dominated format, both in their target demographic and in their characters. But with each year this outlook is continually changing. According to Statistic, just last year over 45% of gamers were women. Yet despite this rise in women in gaming, the characters on-screen mostly cater to the male demographic. As of 2020, 18% of video game protagonists were female and 23% were male. This is quite the rise in diversity, considering just half a decade ago only 2% of video game protagonists were female. In celebration of the rise in women in gaming and Women’s History Month, here are a few of the most iconic female characters in gaming and how they all made gaming history.
Samus – Metroid series – Nintendo
In her debut game “Metroid” from 1986, Samus Aran being a girl was the big twist of the game. Her gender was revealed after you finish the game, where she takes off her helmet and reveals her long, blonde hair. This was revolutionary in gaming, making her one of the first playable female video game characters. Samus continues to be iconic to this very day, with her most recent gaming venture being last year’s “Metroid Dread.”
Lara Croft – Tomb Raider series – Square Enix
Just a decade after Samus Aran’s debut, Lara Croft came onto the scene in 1996’s “Tomb Raider”. Croft is a ’90s icon, whose popularity has lasted to this day. In an era where bit-games were the norm, 1996’s “Tomb Raider” changed the game with their innovative 3D graphics, making the “Tomb Raider” franchise one of the most important gaming franchises of all time. Her most recent adventure, “Shadow of the Tomb Raider,” is another award-winning success for Square Enix.
Lady Dimitrescu – Resident Evil Village – Capcom
Lady Dimitrescu has gained an impressive amount of popularity. In “Resident Evil Village” from 2021, Countess Alcina Dimitrescu has only about seventeen minutes of screen-time. Yet her look and demeanor propelled her to internet popularity. On TikTok, #ladydimitrescu has over a billion views. On Instagram, there are over 100 thousand posts about her. In less than a year, Lady Dimitrescu became a gaming icon that is now one of the main faces of the Resident Evil franchise.
Zelda – The Legend of Zelda series – Nintendo
When the first “Legend of Zelda” game debuted in 1986, audiences assumed that the protagonist was Zelda. But, in actuality, the protagonist was named Link, and Zelda was the princess he was saving. It took over two decades for Zelda to become a playable character in her own franchise, which was in 2009’s “The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks.” She has not been playable in her own franchise ever since. This is an example of negative female representation in gaming. It was one step forward when Zelda became the first woman to be the face of a gaming franchise since the ’80s, but it was two steps back when they made her mostly unplayable and gave a male protagonist the spotlight instead.
Ellie – The Last of Us 1 and 2 – Sony
Ellie is one of the most important and influential gaming protagonists of this generation because she is the first lesbian protagonist in a triple-A game. A triple-A game means the game has a high budget and is made by a high-profile company; it’s basically a gaming blockbuster. The success of The Last of Us series and Ellie’s character has changed gaming forever and should lead to more big-name gaming titles with LGBT+ protagonists in the future.