When it comes to main characters in video games—and even secondary characters to a large degree—most of them are dudes. A true festival of sausages. Just looking at the main characters of many of any given year’s biggest games, it’d be hard to tell them apart if you squinted just a bit.
But this year is different, especially after the huge number of female game protagonists showcased during June’s E3 video game conference. These are the women we can’t wait to play as in the next couple of years of gaming.
’Rise of the Tomb Raider’
2013’s reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise was a runaway success for developer Crystal Dynamics and publisher Square Enix and a reboot in the truest sense of the word. It took series protagonist Lara Croft back to square one and rethought every aspect of the game, including her as a character.
It looks like the sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, will explore the psychological trauma Lara experienced in that game. In between raiding tombs, at least. Lara may have started out as an objectified female Indiana Jones, but her modern reincarnation has all the parts necessary to be a satisfyingly complex character.
’Batman: Arkham Knight’
Batman: Arkham Knight is out, but one of the elements I’m looking most forward to is the Batgirl prequel story that will be released later. This will be Batgirl’s first appearance in the Arkham games and one of the first times she’s been playable in any Batman game, which is reason enough to be excited. Comic book writers haven’t always known what to do with her, often putting her in the position of a victim. The Batgirl outfit we’ve gotten to see so far suggests that she’s at least ready to fight, unlike Poison Ivy and Harley Quinn and their skimpy costumes.
Series director Sefton Hill has stated that Batgirl in this game is Barbara Gordon, most recently seen as Batman’s tech expert The Oracle, so this prequel takes place quite a while back. The Arkham games are their own side universe, so some fans believe the game may take elements of the well-loved comic “The Killing Joke” to use this as an opportunity to explain how she became Oracle. Breaking a character like that can be tough, and I’m hoping Rocksteady is up to the task.
’Assassin’s Creed Syndicate’
Assassin’s Creed has, throughout the years, toyed at putting someone other than a brown-haired white dude in the role of protagonist, and now it’s finally doing it in a main series game (as opposed to a handheld knock-off like the PS Vita game AC Liberation).
With Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, the London-based installment of the game set to release this fall, lots of changes have me hopeful, the female protagonist, Evie Frye, first and foremost among them. Granted she’s sharing the spotlight with a male counterpart, her brother Jacob, but Evie is described as being the brains behind the pair. It’s not exactly a unique way to describe a male and female character pairing in a game, but the knowledge that Evie is playable for significant portions of the game could be a good sign.
Also, her outfits are totally awesome.
‘Horizon: Zero Dawn’
Of the growing number of women starring in upcoming games, Aloy might be my favorite. She lives in the world of the fascinatingly made (albeit boringly named) Horizon: Zero Dawn. In this post-post-apocalyptic world—that’s two “posts”—humans have long since forgotten how the world ended and have formed tribes in order to survive.
We’ve only seen a short demo, but Aloy is a smart, skilled archer who can face off even against the largest beasts. The twist here is that the beasts of Horizon are machines that look something like a combination of the Geth from Mass Effect and whatever animal they represent. Geth deer, Geth chickens—Geth dinosaurs, obviously. With the respect she pays the beasts and, you know, the fact that her name sounds suspiciously like the word alloy, we’re willing to bet she has some connection to those creatures, and we can’t wait to see what it is.
’Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst’
Faith is back! The beloved Mirror’s Edge character returns in 2016’s Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and players are thrilled.
My strongest memory of the original Mirror’s Edge wasn’t the great parkour or troubled combat, but the first-person hug Faith shared with her sister. I started to get an idea of what all we might be able to do with first person games if we could put our guns and swords down to try something new. Now Faith is back and I can’t wait to see what DICE has added to the menu. We’re looking forward to improved combat, an open world, and all the fun that comes with those, but also an interesting character who can bring the fresh perspective she did in the original.
Dishonored was one of the highlights of the previous generation, thanks to its stellar world and art design and intriguing stealth assassin gameplay. But the main character, Corvo Attano, was pretty boring. He had a cool steampunk mask, but beyond that he was basically a blank slate. He was a guy who was dishonored. That’s it. Time for revenge! You get it.
But his co-protagonist in Dishonored 2, Emily Kaldwin, has a lot of interesting background to work with. Her mother was assassinated, her caretaker was framed, and she went through a lot in the first game. Now, based on the trailer, it looks like she’ll have plenty to do in the sequel. And this time, she has the powers and training to take care of business herself. The game will let you play as Corvo or Emily, but it’s Emily we’re really looking forward to seeing.
Senua could, if developer Ninja Theory pulls it off, be the most interesting character on this list. That’s a big “if,” though. Popular culture and especially video games have long had a tough time with mental instability. But Ninja Theory wants Senua to be different.
Yes, this character is fighting off mental illness with a big sword. But the developers are even consulting a neuroscience expert to try to present something plausible and compelling. The Hell Senua fights against is in her own head, shaped by the culture in which she lives. This is Ninja Theory’s first outing as an a self-publishing indie studio, and while we’ve enjoyed many of their other games, Hellblade could be their best yet.
Eric Frederiksen has been a gamer since someone made the mistake of letting him play their Nintendo many years ago, and it’s been downhill ever since. He takes a multifaceted approach to gaming news and reviews, mixing business analysis, cultural studies, tech and design. Eric has written for outlets like Playboy.com, TechnoBuffalo.com, TabTimes.com, and Kombo.com. In his free time, he perfects his napping technique and pursues the elusive perfect cheeseburger.
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