Today marks International Women’s Day, where we all take a moment to appreciate the influence and contributions of women across the globe. As part of those celebrations, OnlySP is examining some of video gaming’s famous female characters and making note of how they have changed the industry.

Though female characters are still under-represented in gaming, the industry has still been some stand-out characters who have had a real impact on the audience and gaming as a whole.

Chun-Li, Street Fighter

Chun-Li made history when she appeared in Street Fighter II, generally acknowledged as the first female playable character in a fighting game. Fast and agile, with a move-set just as varied and devastating as her male counterparts, Chun-Li proved to a ‘90s audience that women in video games could be just as capable as the men.

In addition, Chun-Li proved to have an interesting backstory, working for Interpol to take down the criminal M. Bison, something which had a personal motive for her, as Bison was responsible for the death of her family.

Chun-Li’s appearance on the Street Fighter II roster set the stage for other fighting games to follow suit, resulting in the creation of other characters like Sonya Blade and Kitana in Mortal Kombat, Ivy in Soul Calibur, and many others.

Lara Croft, Tomb Raider

The early years of the PlayStation era had a regrettable dearth of notable female characters. As a result, Lara Croft in Tomb Raider was like a breath of fresh air. The story goes that the gender of the main character was changed relatively late in the development process, resulting in a powerful and capable character.

Modern interpretations of Lara have sometimes had missteps and missed what made the character so interesting to players. She’s a smart, capable, well-educated woman who gets her kicks venturing into ancient ruins looking for interesting artefacts.

By selling as well as it did, Tomb Raider was one of the first to prove that a female-led game could be a massive hit.

GLadOS, Portal

The player character of Portal does not really have that much to say, which leaves all the talking to be done by the malevolent AI. Her distinctive, sing-song voice and her superb dialogue, which veers wildly between hilarious and profoundly disturbing had an immediate impact on everyone who played.

Endless jokes about the cake being a lie aside, the quality of the writing for GLadOS and the depths of her personality combined with her cheerful application of deadly measures make her one of the most memorable video game villains ever created.

GLadOS became so iconic that a number of other video games featured her in cameos, such as Lego Dimensions, and the optional GLadOS announcer in DotA 2. In addition, the hit Hollywood film Pacific Rim uses GLadOS voice actor Ellen McLain for the voice of the on-board computers in the film.

Princess Zelda, The Legend of Zelda

Though her early depictions presented her as your standard ‘Damsel in Distress’, Zelda’s later appearances had her taking a considerably more active role. From Ocarina of Time onwards, Zelda would prove to have a taste for disguises, such as the ninja-like Sheik, or the mischievous pirate Tetra in The Wind Waker.

Besides assisting hero Link with a bow or sword, Zelda also displays psychic powers such as telepathy and precognition, and is often portrayed as a wise and capable ruler.

The Legend of Zelda timeline is convoluted, but few can deny that much of it turns on the choices and actions of Princess Zelda. In addition, the entire series is named after her, so one cannot deny how much of an impact she has had.

Samus Aran, Metroid

When Metroid was first released on the NES, most players were not even aware that Samus was female. After some time and some sequels, this became general knowledge, but by then the badass space bounty hunter in yellow power armour was firmly embedded in the cultural consciousness of gamers everywhere.

Samus has acquired a significant fanbase who write fan fiction about her adventures, play as her in Super Smash Bros., or even spend hours carefully crafting that iconic power armour from foam or fibreglass. This speaks to the popularity of the character but also to the connection that many fans feel with Samus Aran.

If you have any thoughts on other female videogame characters that have had a big impact, on your personally or on video gaming as a whole, be sure to leave a comment. Keep checking back with OnlySP on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube for more game news and opinions.

Rebecca Hills-Duty
Rebecca Hills-Duty lives in the UK and has worked as a video game and technology writer since early 2017, utilising her background in technology and computing. She has been a gamer and console collector since the days of the Commodore 64, and often acts as the resident expert in VR. She also hosts a weekly gaming related radio show on RadioSEGA.

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