Female representation in gaming has come a long way since the early days of the medium. While we still have a long way yet to go, we at least live in an age where it is possible to play games where women are the respectable, strong leads, and not just eye-candy or rescue bait. So, cutting to the chase, who are the best female protagonists in gaming, and what sets them apart?

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

When we talk about Lara Croft it is very important to note that we’re talking about the reboot incarnation. The original Lara was far from a feminist icon, as she gained international attention as much through her assets as her games.

Modern Lara is much more realistically proportioned, and she relies on wits, strength, and willpower to succeed. Even better, the new Lara is flawed and not held up as a perfect model, as she makes mistakes and learns to overcome them, all while putting arrows through heads at 50 yards.

New Lara is also in, dare we say it, a series of games which are much more intuitive to play. The main series itself has moved away from the traditional archaic ‘tank’ controls, and spin-offs such as Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light open up fresh avenues of exploration for new players. Even some of the best online casino slot games lean on Tomb Raider as a theme, directly or indirectly, over both PC and mobile devices.

Chloe and Nadine – Uncharted

Starting as more questionable than protagonists, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross quickly found themselves as popular characters in the Nathan Drake-led Uncharted series. Getting their own spin-off as they work to retrieve the Tusk of Ganesh in The Lost Legacy, these ladies took no crap from anyone who stood in their way.

With Chloe as the brains and Nadine as the muscle, the two cut their way through hundreds of armed guards, with all the horrible moral implications which the Uncharted games never address. Ludonarrative dissonance or not, we really hope we see more from these two in the future. Maybe even bring Elena in on the action too.

Samus Aran – Metroid

We’re going to have to go the other way than Tomb Raider on this, and recommend our readers look to the original Samus and not what Metroid: Other M turned her into.

As an interstellar bounty hunter, Samus Aran is one of the most competent and deadly attack forces the universe has ever known. A formerly silent protagonist, Samus lets her guns do the talking, as well as her bombs, missiles, and lasers.

Taking out dozens of building-sized monsters in her journey, Samus is not a woman who you would want to mess with. The kicker? Not many people even knew Samus was a woman until the first game came to an end, and she removed her helmet.

More to Come?

With the recent success of games like Control and Horizon: Zero Dawn, we know that games with female protagonists can perform well even as newer IPs. Hopefully, this means that the coming next generation of games will be full of better representation for women, though only time will tell if this really becomes the case. At least the move towards many games with character creators is a good start, even if we find it difficult to resist the pull of simply making the ugliest character possible, regardless of sex.