Favourite Female Video Game Protagonists (Part Two)
Welcome to part two! I strongly recommend looking at part one to see numbers one through five of this top ten list of my favourite female video game protagonists.
So let's plunge right in with...
6. 2B (Nier: Automata)
Rather wonderfully some new games with female progatonists have come out in recent years, so I don't have to rely on the same four games anymore. Yay!
Spoilers however will abound, so you have been warned!
So one of the newest ladies on the block is 2B, a battle android of the YoRhA organisation. Humanity has had to escape Earth and is now living on the moon, using a series of battle androids to fight the alien robots who have taken over the planet in the Machine War. The current iteration is the 14th War, and 2B is one of the lead assault models sent on various missions with her companion 9S, an android who takes the form of a teenage boy.
Now Nier: Automata's amazing story aside, 2B has more layers to her than first appears. Initially she comes off as the 'stoic soldier' type, disregarding 9S's shows of emotion and wanting to focus on her mission objectives. She dislikes 'small talk', makes no effort to appear approachable or friendly, even to her fellow unit 9S. It also seems this is the protocol of most androids, to not show emotion. But as you play further, you see there is a lot more to her.
2B actually has quite a fondness for 9S (in some in-game dialogue she slips and uses his nickname 'Nines', though quickly downplays this!) but this plays into her actual role, and it devastates her. For 2B is actually 2E, a model made to kill scanner models (such as 9S) when they get too close to discovering the truth that humanity is in fact extinct, and the Machine War is a farce propagated to allow the androids to still have purpose. Thus 2B is helpless to change her fated role, and harbours a lot of anger and sadness that she can't ever express. She also grows very protective of 9S, particularly when the machine lifeforms Adam and Eve attack him.
Of course most people will comment on 2B's outfit and point out that it is a bit absurd that a futuristic android super soldier should be wearing gothic lolita, but the obvious sex appeal this is meant to generate is quickly overshadowed by her character progression. The various reveals in the game are very eye-opening, and show there is more to 2B than first appearances would suggest.
7. Lightning Faron (Final Fantasy XIII)
Another controversial entry! Lightning remains my favourite video game character of all time, but not many people share that sentiment. The 'XIII' Final Fantasy games and their sequels and spin offs were overly ambitious and there's been some serious backlash against it. From the linear gameplay in the first game, to the un-asked for sequels that bloat the lore and star one of the most unpopular characters (Serah), the XIII games do have quite the reputation.
However, something not so often mentioned is Lightning herself, the so-called 'protagonist' of the game. While she features prominently on the cover art and most of the marketing, I have to say that I feel her potential was squandered, especially in the first game. Thankfully, the sequels (via a lot of convoluted plot) do give her the development she deserves, so I'll be focusing on that.
Like 2B, Lightning fits the 'stoic soldier' trope, but she has a much more fleshed out backstory as to why. After losing their parents at a young age, Lightning stepped up to be the guardian for her younger sister Serah, and as a result pushed her feelings aside to grow stronger for this. But this led to distance between her and Serah, a distance that led to the events of the first game. Here, their peaceful life in Bodham is rudely shattered when an ancient god-like entity called a Fal'Cie is found nearby. Serah also accidentally stumbles onto this being, and it brands her into a l'Cie. This is a fate worse than death, as if Serah completes the task the fal'Cie has set her, she'll turn to crystal, and if she fails, she'll become a Cieth, a lifeless golem of stone.
Due to the lack of closeness in their relationship, when Serah does get the courage to tell Lightning this, Lightning is dismissive, and thinks it's a ploy to get her to approve her marriage to Snow, a vigilante 'hero' also living in Bodham whom Lightning despises.
But when events in the early game show Lightning that her sister was telling the truth, and she watches Serah turn to crystal before her eyes as she herself is also branded, Lightning is completely blind sided. Caught in a mix of regret, anger and fear, she tries to create a purpose for herself. Now hunted by the military she was once a part of, she decides to fight back and attack their head base, the Sanctum, but in doing so she loses her way. So intent on this plan, she neglects another 'casualty' of the fal'Cie branding, a young boy named Hope, who latched onto her for protection. Lightning doesn't want him tagging along, and this eventually leads to an infuriated outburst, where she declares she can't babysit him.
This however leads to her confronting Odin, her Eidolon (who is sort of acting as a manifestation of her feelings). After she overpowers Odin and becomes his master, she relents on her prior words and promises to take care of Hope. Gradually she does mellow out through the game, even becoming friendlier with Snow as they fight to save her sister and the fate of their world.
Towards the end, though, she is mostly overshadowed by the side characters Fang and Vanille, and her role in the story diminishes significantly, but she does have quite a strong arc, even in just the first game.
In the sequel, Lightning is removed from history by the goddess Etro, who felt sorry that she and her friends were going to be turned to crystal. As a result of this, though, the timeline is warped, and Lightning becomes Etro's protector and asks for her sister Serah to help set the world right once more.
Unfortunately this backfires, Serah dies, and Lightning blames herself. Once more she retreats into herself, sealing herself in crystal for 500 years, until she is awoken by Bhunivelze, the god of the world, to guide souls to a new world as the old one is going to be destroyed.
Thus in the final game, Lightning Returns, Lightning is forced to confront herself again. Her isolation and severing of feelings has estranged her from her former friends, and she struggles to even find compassion and warmth for her sister. So, at the end of the game, Lightning finally realises that her philosophy on life is not a healthy one, and that it's no weakness to ask others for help.
So, although the two sequels basically rehash the same lessons Lightning learned in the first game, I did enjoy her full arc. She grows from isolated, aloof warrior to a more caring, open and kind woman who has finally learned not to fear how she feels. She's also shown to make mistakes- not believing her sister leads herself to becoming branded, her initial attempts to deal with this nearly kills Hope, and she indirectly encourages his revenge quest against Snow. Later, her judgement of choosing Serah to help her leads to Serah's death, and she is deeply affected by this.
Nonetheless Lightning presses on, accepts her errors after some reflection, and this makes her more fleshed out that some of the characters I've spoken about from earlier games.
Lightning also isn't tied down with a love interest- instead her development comes from her relationship with her sister, something practically unheard of in most media (until Frozen, I don't recall of any other mainstream story where the sisterly relationship was the focus). This is also unheard of in the Final Fantasy franchise, which makes it really stand out.
So while her games may be despised, and while I feel she was mishandled as a protagonist, Lightning will always hold a special place in my heart.
8. Jade (Beyond Good and Evil)
Another lesser-known game but now something of a cult classic. Jade is a investigative journalist, and she also helps care for orphaned children in her lighthouse home along with her uncle Pey'j. She is thrown into a dangerous investigation to uncover a conspiracy about the Alpha Section, the supposed security force that is protecting the populace against an unknown alien threat.
Jade is a very likeable protagonist. She's resourceful, selfless and smart, very curious and can defend herself when necessary. She is willing to take dangerous risks to uncover the truth, as well as saved her kidnapped friends. Once more she probably falls to the more serious side on the personality spectrum, though she does lighten up with her friends and with the orphaned children at home. She's also very caring- something that's yet to have come up with my previous characters.
Like most of the protagonists from older games on here, Jade doesn't get a full development arc, though much of this was perhaps left for a future sequel (which never saw the light of day, until very recently). Despite this, she is definitely memorable, and has become a beloved character in her own right.
9. Chloe Frazer (Uncharted: The Lost Legacy)
Okay this is technically cheating, as Chloe is a side character in the Uncharted series, but she is the protagonist of her own spin off game so it counts!
Now right off the bat, I will admit I am not a fan of the Uncharted series. I despise Nathan Drake as a character (his entire personality is a character type I just personally can't stand), the game play has poor parkour sections and I am personally not a fan of cover shooters in general (I don't like it in Lost Legacy either!).
However, what drew me into Lost Legacy was that the story centred around India and the god Ganesha, which instantly captured my attention as I'm Hindu and it's rare for media to look into this region. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that without Nathan in the picture, I was able to enjoy these characters and their story!
Chloe is certainly a breath of fresh air, and is no Lara re-skin. A thief, Chloe is underhand, sneaky and willing to use any means to get what she wants. She can also be quite reckless and spur of the moment. However, behind this ruthless and somewhat selfish persona lies someone who is also deeply caring and can show a softer side to those she trusts (granted that's not a lot of people!). She has a troubled relationship with her late father, who although she loved was often absent on expeditions, which put a strain on her and her mother.
Her story in Lost Legacy has her following her father's final trail, where he was trying to find the lost tusk of Ganesha, but he was unfortunately killed during this. All she has is a small statue of the elephant god which he gave to her as a keepsake. So unlike her previous exploits, she has a more personal stake in this one. And while her tricky and ambiguous nature does grant her the ire of her much more straight and to the point companion Nadine Ross, they work through their differences and end up fighting together against the antagonist.
Now I'm not too familiar with Chloe in the main Uncharted games (other than she was Nathan's former girlfriend), but I enjoyed her a lot in Lost Legacy. She's flawed and doesn't always have the best morals at heart, but in the end she does choose to do the right thing, particularly in this story given the close ties with her family. I also liked her friendship with Nadine- another thing a lot of media tend to shy from. Hence I am glad to add her to my roster of favourite females!
10. Aloy (Horizon Zero Dawn)
I bet you thought I was going to leave this one out! Aloy is the protagonist of Horizon Zero Dawn. Set many hundreds if not thousands of years into Earth's future, the world is a totally different place. Humans band in clans, and technology is an unusual mix of archaic traditions and lost technology.
Aloy is born into this world under mysterious circumstances, and as a result, she is made an 'outcast' by her clan leaders. Aloy is thus given to fellow outcast Rost to be raised. Wanting desperately to be accepted into the clan, Aloy trains for 'The Proving', a chance to be accepted into her clan for good.
And on her sixteenth birthday, her chance arrives. But despite winning the Proving and her place in the clan, they are attacked, with Aloy being the prime target. Also losing her foster parent Rost as a result, Aloy ventures out of her secluded homeland to find the truth about herself, and the lands beyond.
Aloy is a wonderful lead character, highly skilled with a bow and with an open curiosity that is quite the antithesis to her clan leaders. She is not afraid to learn about ancient technologies and widen her understanding, and she has a charming wry wit about her as well. She is also kind-hearted and willing to help those who need it, which makes her more endearing, as well as fearless in attacking her enemies. She's more cautious in her approach as well, not throwing herself in recklessly (which is a bit of a contrast to her early years when she was more headstrong). This results in a very level-headed, smart character, though she can lose her cool in emotionally heated situations.
Her main drawback however is that she lacks somewhat of a real character flaw. So while she develops in terms of her backstory and standing up for her convictions (such as rejecting an honoured title her clan gives her upon learning her significance in the world), there's not much else she overcomes to become more whole as a person. And while there are hints at close friendships becoming something more, it's not really explored much. Despite this however she definitely has made her mark, and it will be exciting to see where her story may continue should sequels come.
So those are my favourite female video game protagonists! While not all of them have the depth or development I'd like, they do form a good bunch. As you can see, newer games are pushing to be more narrative driven, and as a result the characters, including the female ones, are becoming more complex, nuanced and developed. I can only hope this trend continues, and we get treated to more great female characters in future!