In the last part, I discussed my favorite examples of female videogame characters. For this part, I’ll talk about some favorite characters who just happen to be female. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize the lines between the two are kinda blurry. Does separating them imply that the characters on this list are not good examples? Or that I don’t like the characters on the previous list as characters? That’s not necessarily the case, and it wasn’t the intention. Both sets of characters have resonated with me, but in different ways.
It was a little tougher to narrow this list down. I could have picked several characters I’ve enjoyed over the years, but I didn’t always have a lot to say about them beyond “this character was cool” or “this character was in a fun game.” So, I’ve tried to highlight the characters that were the most meaningful to me, and that I would have something substantial to say about. Although, perhaps I’ll expand this list in the future.
Once again, I’ve set the criteria that the character must be playable in the series she originated from.
Samus Aran (Metroid)
Samus is the one character that I’m putting on both lists. She was definitely a great example of a female videogame character at one time, but I’ve always loved her in general just because she’s cool. I mean, check out her Power Suit!
But I think one of her main appeals is that she’s a very mysterious character. Aside from usually being concealed by said Power Suit, she has a mysterious background, and being a bounty hunter (of sorts), she’s often doing her own thing. We don’t always get to see the full person.
And to me, that’s kind of the “reward” that modern Metroid games have used to replace the fan service from the earlier games. Rather than getting a look at Samus in her undergarments (which not even Other M does), it’s more about showing the person in the Power Suit. While her Zero Suit still doesn’t leave much to the imagination, it seems more important to me that it emphasizes her face. Metroid Prime 3, for example, shows her Zero Suit right away, but doesn’t fully show her face until you get the best ending, using it as the main “reward.”
Meanwhile, games like Fusion and, in particular, Other M, go the distance of actually putting us in Samus’s head, letting us hear her thoughts. While it’s a controversial aspect of those games, it’s part of the reward of revealing more parts of this mysterious character, and for me, it’s more substantial than brief titillation. (It’s also one of the reasons I don’t accept the idea of Samus as a silent protagonist.)
I guess you might even say I like Samus as a character because there’s actually a character there to like.
Chun-Li (Street Fighter)
The more I think about it, Chun-Li could have also been on my previous list of great examples. She’s a strong, smart character, and while her outfit can sometimes be a tad revealing, you have to admit there is far worse in the world of fighting games.
While maybe she wasn’t technically the first female in a fighting game, she was certainly the first playable one. Being one of the original eight World Warriors in Street Fighter II, her design was as strong and memorable as any of the other combatants. As the lone woman, she could perhaps be pegged as a token female character, but she managed to go beyond that, being someone you can really care about. She also paved the way for many, many other female fighters.
For me, one of the main appeals of Chun-Li is the same as it is for so many of my other favorite characters: she’s dynamic and evolving, being re-imagined over the course of the series. In Street Fighter II, she fought to avenge her father’s death, while in other games, she’s an Interpol agent or fighting to rescue kidnapped children. Her outfit also changed, from the traditional qipao dress to her Alpha outfit. She’s definitely not a one-note character, like, for example, Ryu, and it’s kept her interesting after all these years.
I’ll admit, I don’t always play as Chun-Li, but she is usually one of the better characters in the series, and certainly one of the most iconic.
Athena Asamiya (King of Fighters)
Technically, I’ve already covered Athena as part of the Psycho Soldier Team, but I actually do like her quite a bit on her own terms, as well. Yes, she can be seen as an amalgamation of typical Japanese “moe” stereotypes – school girl, pop idol, magical girl – but it’s kinda funny that they’re all just thrown into one character.
I suppose Athena is an example of my tendency to gravitate towards “cute” characters. While she isn’t really outright “goofy” like her Psycho Solder teammates Kensou and Chin, she’s still very lighthearted. That, along with her upbeat attitude, makes her fun and enjoyable.
And yes, she changes her outfit quite often, rarely appearing in the same costume in more than one game. So that makes her yet another character that stays fresh due to constantly being redesigned. (This really is a trend with me, isn’t it? Even Samus has been through more than a few changes over the years.)
Lyn (Fire Emblem)
Unlike other choices on this list who made multiple appearance in long-running series’, Lyn is a little more aloof. Her first appearance was in the Game Boy Advance game simply titled Fire Emblem (or Fire Emblem: Rekka no Ken in Japan), and only returned after that as a DLC character in Fire Emblem: Awakening and as an assist trophy in the Super Smash Bros series.
Still, Lyn (aka Lyndis) sticks out in my mind as one of my favorite characters from that series, and largely for the same reason as Eliwood from the same game. The way the characters in that particular installment occasionally speak directly to you, the player, made me feel like I was forming an emotional connection with them. I particularly remember the heartfelt goodbye Lyn bids to you after the end of the tutorial campaign, and I felt as if I was actually parting ways with a good friend.
It also helps that Lyn is just a good character with an appealing personality, as is the case with many of the characters in the Fire Emblem series.
Yunica Tovah (Ys Origin)
I’m throwing Yunica in here mainly because Ys Origin is a game I’ve really gotten into this year, and she’s my favorite character to play as in the game, so she stands out in my mind right now.
Yunica is certainly another “cute” character, but it’s interesting that of the two initially selectable characters in the game, the other being a boy named Hugo, Yunica is the melee fighter while Hugo is the mage. This is an interesting reversal of the usual trend of the male character being the fighter while the female is the magic user. In fact, Yunica makes the point several times in the game that she can’t use magic, and that’s why she focused on being physically strong (even though she doesn’t look that muscular).
She also treads a thin line of being naïve, but not stupid. She’s smart enough to know when she’s gotten in over her head, but brave enough to take charge of the situation as she figures things out. Seeing her character grow this way over the course of the game is one of the things that makes her so appealing.
It’s unfortunate that this game will likely be Yunica’s only appearance in the Ys series. (Although she apparently did appear as an assist character in a Japan-only spin-off fighting game called Ys vs. Sora no Kiseki: Alternative Saga.) She’s certainly a character I would love to see again in another adventure.