Best female video game characters

Videogames used to be the home of the overly muscled, hyper-macho hero. Nowadays, girls have someone to look up to in games as well. Read below for six of our favourite female characters.

Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn

Although video games have come a long way to achieving true gender equality, Horizon Zero Dawn‘s Aloy is the very definition of fair treatment of a female character. She’s unsexualised, and free to be herself, as part of a tribe that worships a matriarchy. This allows Aloy’s character to develop without the ongoing cliche of her being a female in a man’s world. Aloy’s outfits are practical, she’s straight-talking, intelligent and a more than capable warrior. Even though she lives in a futuristic world with robot dinosaurs, Aloy feels utterly believable. I believe that Aloy’s creation for Horizon Zero Dawn is a landmark moment for gender equality in video games.

Ellie – The Last of US

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Ellie in The Last of Us Part II. (Credit: Naughty Dog)

Ellie in The Last of Us is the quintessential survivor. She’s tough, independent and complex. The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where the majority of people have succumbed to a zombie-like infection to which Ellie is immune. Ellie was born after the outbreak, which gives her a unique perspective on life. At only 15, she’s perhaps a bit naive to begin. Soon however, she has no other choice than to become a hardened survivor: doing whatever it takes to survive. Ellie was only a playable character for segments of the game, but will be the lead protagonist of The Last of Us: Part II, which is still in development.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

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Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (Credit: Square Enix)

Lara Croft is perhaps the most famous female video game character of all time. The treasure hunting heroine has  featured in several games spanning from her first appearance in 1996, and has had two movie adaptations, where she has been played by Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander. Her appearance is well known, with her sporting a ponytail, tank top and dual pistols. Her original appearance has since faced criticism for being sexualised, but in 2013, Square Enix Studios rebooted the franchise with a more grounded and realistic Lara Croft that has achieved much critical acclaim.

Chloe Frazer – Uncharted

Another treasure hunter, but the similarities to Lara Croft end at their shared profession. Chloe Frazer is a unique character in that she works from her own moral compass and always puts her own interests first, but is still ultimately good. She plays off the personality of the Uncharted series’ protagonist, Nathan Drake, in that she is almost his darker counterpart. The player is never sure of her intentions or loyalties, but in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, we see her more heroic side come through. She is incredibly enjoyable to watch interact with the series’ characters, as well as in her own spin-off title, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. 

Senua – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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Senua in Senua’s Sacrifice. (Credit: Ninja Theory)

Senua, the protagonist of the dark fantasy story, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice suffers from psychosis. The developers made a special point to include the characters mental illness in order to raise awareness of the condition. Hellblade follows the journey of Pict warrior, Senua, on a dangerous journey to claim her dead lover’s soul back from the goddess Hela.  It is strongly implied that the story is taking place inside Senua’s head, and the developers worked with neuroscientists and people suffering from psychosis to achieve an accurate representation of the condition. Senua is strong not just because she battles physical enemies, but also the demons in her own head.

Ciri – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, or Ciri, is one of the main characters in a series rife with powerful women. Ciri is the adopted daughter of the game’s protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, who has been missing for several years, but has now returned with the evil Wild Hunt in pursuit, who plan on using her for her magic blood. Once Geralt has collected all of the clues to where Ciri has been, the player gets to reenact past events as they happened by playing as Ciri. A trained monster hunter herself, Ciri is an expert with a sword as well as possessing magic abilities. Even though she has had a tragic upbringing, Ciri remains strong and strives for the greater good.

Freya – God of War

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Freya in God of War. (Credit: SIE Santa Monica Studio)

Freya in God of War is an especially interesting character. She is the God of War universe’s version of the Norse Goddess Freya, the wife of Odin. In God of War, she is now divorced from Odin and is living in the woods of Midgard, looking after the living beings of her woods. She comes to the aid of the protagonist, Kratos, several times over the course of the story. Freya’s son, Baldur (brother of Thor), acts as an antagonist to Kratos, and wants to kill Freya in revenge for her making him invulnerable – as it came at the cost of him being unable to feel anything. (Spoilers) Kratos kills Baldur to save Freya, but Freya hates Kratos for killing her son, giving an unforgettable warning:

“I will rain down every agony, every violation imaginable, upon you… I will parade your cold body from every realm, and feed your soul to the vilest filth in Hel, that is my promise!”

It appears Freya will be an antagonist in the next God of War game, and if she lives up to a portion of what she promised, she will make an excellent villain.

From the big screen and the small screen, to your computer screen: Hollywood actors in video games

The Academy Award for best actor went to Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. You may also know him from the Amazon Prime original series Mr. Robot, or from the Night at the Museum films alongside Ben Stiller.

Gamers, however, will know him from his work on the 2015 horror video game Until Dawn.

Malek performed motion capture and voice acting to portray Josh, who invites his friends to spend the weekend at a ski lodge on the anniversary of his sisters’ disappearance, kick-starting a unique and interactive horror story.  He worked alongside fellow actor Hayden Panettiere who has starred in TV programmes Heroes and Nashville. 

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Rami Malek as Josh in Until Dawn. (Credit: Supermassive Games)

As video games become increasingly mainstream, more actors are taking on the challenge of acting in video games. Video game acting has evolved beyond voice acting, but is now a full performance. Here’s some of the most prolific actors who have acted in video games.

Sean Bean & Patrick Stewart

Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart both acted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This fantasy role playing game was the perfect setting for veteran English actors Bean and Stewart. Sean Bean played the illegitimate son of the emperor Uriel Septim (played by Stewart, who dies early on in the game), on a quest to claim the throne and defeat an evil cult. Having these actors involved is a testament to the calibre of acting skills that video games can attract.

Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland took on the established role of Solid Snake in the 5th instalment of the long-running Metal Gear Solid series. Sutherland has been in many films and television programmes, with arguably his most famous role portraying Jack Bauer in 24. His performance has special forces operative Snake was memorable. Even though almost every gamer has heard of Metal Gear Solid, Sutherland’s inclusion in the game widened the fan-base to people who had perhaps never heard of the franchise before.

Gary Oldman, Kit Harrington & Conor McGregor

The Call of Duty series has featured many famous actors over the course of the franchise. A fan favourite, Russian soldier Viktor Reznov, was played by Academy Award winner Gary Oldman (with the inclusion of Malek, that makes two Academy Award winners having appeared in video games). Oldman was excellent in his portrayal of the grizzled Russian sergeant in Call of Duty: World at War. Call of Duty’s characters can be quite two dimensional, but Oldman’s performance solidified the character in our memory. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare also features Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington and professional MMA fighter Conor McGregor as villains.

Kit Harrington

Kit Harrington in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Credit: Activision)

Mark Hamill

Most children of the nineties and earlier will remember Mark Hamill‘s portrayal of The Joker alongside Kevin Conroy’s Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. This portrayal of The Joker has stuck in many fans’ minds and is now the iconic voice of The Joker. He reprised that role in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels to critical acclaim. The work of Hamill and Conroy elevated these games from superhero beat-em-ups to fan-favourite Batman stories.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson appeared in Fallout 3 as your (the protagonist’s) father. He said that he was attracted to the role for the quality of the script and the considerable amount of dialogue. The studio that makes the Fallout games also created the Elder Scrolls series that has starred Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean. James’ (Neeson’s character) personality and stance was intended to resemble Neeson from the beginning, and the character model even bares slight resemblance.

Charles Dance 

Charles Dance always plays a good villain, and his appearance in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher III was no exception. Dance played Emperor Emhyr Var Emreis, the most powerful man in The Witcher’s universe. The character was not dissimilar from Dance’s role as Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Emhyr is cold, authoritative, multi-layered and a fascinating figure in the Witcher universe – but it’s Dance’s voice talents which brought to life such an excellent character.

Mark Hamill

Mark Hamill in Squadron 42. (Credit: Cloud Imperium Games)

The entire cast of Squadron 42

The upcoming game Squadron 42, however, beats all the previous titles at having an all-star cast. Actors include Gillian Anderson, Andy Serkis, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Liam Cunningham. Not a lot of information has been released about this game yet, other than it’s a science-fiction action game centred around space travel. However, the chance to see these actors working together is a very exciting prospect.

Moving Zwiftly into the future

In the ever-changing world of technology which is increasingly relied on for convenience, things are taking a turn for the physical in eSports. Gone are the stereotypes of gamers being couch potatoes who lounge in their man caves, there’s a new breed of gamer and they are drastically different from the ones you might think you know.

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Credit Jade Du Preez.

But gaming has come a long way – the 70s was the golden age of the arcade game which actually forced gamers to leave their homes and game in public, the 80s saw tech like the ZX Spectrum and Commodore VIC-20, 8-bit computers that you could code your own games on (you plugged it into your TV!), then the 90s saw more handheld gaming with the Game Boy console finding a new niche in the market, then the turn of the century ushered in the most popular age of gaming and eSports captivated the world.

eSports is different from just gaming at home – you take part in a tournament that is often live streamed to people around the world, and not just anyone takes part, it’s normally always the upper echelon of players who battle against one another. It’s the cream of the crop and there’s normally a lot of money at play.

The prize pool for Dota 2’s The International 2018 tournament was over $25 million and people have been making a living out of eSports gaming for years now, and that looks like it’s going to stay as Fortnite creators Epic Games are looking to offer $100 million in prize money for tournaments during the 2018-2019. Dota put $38 million in for the previous season ($25 million of that going into the International 2018 tournament).

There is serious money backing eSports, with millions at stake, and that’s a drastic change from when Dennis Fong (also known as his gamer tag of Thresh), recognised as the first professional gamer, was playing Quake and Doom. Over his career, he made roughly $16,000 and famously won a Ferrari 328 that was owned by id Software CEO John D. Carmack. The players who finished 17th and 18th in the International 2018 tournament made $63,830.00 – that’s almost four times Fong’s entire career winnings.

But where are things changing? Yes, gaming has become a spectacle watching by many and held in huge arenas, but where does it go next? The answer could be helpful in cycling and running video game Zwift. It allows users to connect their turbo trainers (stationary bike technology that gathers data on performance) to their account and cycle indoors whilst playing the video game which simulates a world. You can connect with friends across the globe to cycle together and the video game aspect comes with power-ups (short performance enhancing the character on screen).

So, if eSports was like a game of chess, Zwift is like playing chess whilst on a bicycle peddling up a steep hill – not easy at all. The video game really comes into its own when Zwift introduced their eSports league – the KISS Super League – which enables four Pro Continental, nine UCI Continental teams and two Zwift community teams to race each other for 10 weeks on Wednesday nights.

 

A Zwift spokesperson told EN4News: “We are now in an exciting position because we are able to connect the Zwift community with the lofty heights of the professional peloton. KISS will be a demonstration sport, illustrating how we can do this – the KISS Super League will provide high octane action for spectators worldwide featuring some of the best riders in the world.

The KISS League, however, provides an accessible eSports league for the rest of the Zwift community to compete in. It’s important that we recognise both ends of the spectrum. This is just the beginning for Zwift – we have big ambitions and will be unveiling our big plans for 2020 in the very near future.”

Is this the future of eSports gaming? Gaming whilst physically racing on a bike is immersive and highly skilled, incredibly addictive to watch and possibly one of the coolest new steps for eSports. You might not physically be able to defend yourself from demons and the undead like Dennis Fong did in Doom, but you can conquer volcanos and Alpine-like mountains in Zwift. Ushering in a new age of fit gamers, Zwift’s contributions to eSports are ones to watch.

If you want to hear more about gaming from the EN4News team, check out Liam Mackay’s Review of Battlefield V!

 

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Infographic by Jade du Preez for EN4News

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