Step aside Lara Croft! Mind your bum, Bayonetta! Here’s a list of our five favourite female characters you’ll never find in a “Best Women in Games” list. So often, lists of this variety prioritise notoriety, relevance and icon status over good or subtle characterisation. We’ve tried to redress this imbalance with our list, so enjoy and offer your suggestions in the comments please!
5. Elma (Xenoblade Chronicles X, Wii U)
She’s worldly, tough, smart, and she has secrets – lots of secrets. In many ways, Elma is the protagonist of Xenoblade Chronicles X. She was a colonel back on Earth, but now serves BLADE without a title, a human military force colonizing the planet of Mira. She may be an odd choice, because she’s very…responsible – and this could be construed as being boring. She’s liked and respected by her comrades, she knows loads about combat and this alien environment, yadda, yadda, yadda… On the other hand, her seemingly endless knowledge and passion for her fellow BLADE members is also a little suspect. Frankly, Elma acts very strangely sometimes. What motivates this beautiful and dutiful woman? Spend 100+ hours playing to find out!
Memorable quote: “Everyone, wait. There’s one more thing I need to talk to you about.”
4. Laura (D, Saturn/PS1/3DO/PC)
Laura has to be on this list. She’s the first “videogame actress” – and she wins ALL the makeover TV awards! Making her first appearance in Kenji Eno’s D (Sega Saturn) as a body positive, curvy girl, she slimmed down for her role in Enemy Zero – but still remained an advocate for body diversity in videogames.
In all seriousness though, the concept of a videogame actress, like most of Eno’s ideas, is brilliant and terrible all at once. Laura was a muse for Eno – a generic, all American girl who is entirely silent – and served as a throughline in most of his games. It doesn’t make much sense, and leaves us with some interesting ethical questions (can you fire an actress that you entirely control?), but Laura is, in her own way, a pioneer. Fun facts: Laura ate her own mother in D. And for her to do this and still have the game be released – and only with a Teen rating! – Eno designed the psychedelic cutscenes on his own without telling his staff, and swapped the master disks before the manufacturing process to include this terrible, graphic twist. Laura would have been your average, perplexed heroine with daddy issues – until she upgraded to cannibal. Laura’s Theme, a track from Enemy Zero by the Oscar-award winning composer Michael Nyman, is also notable for being haunting and beautiful.
Memorable quote: “Nom nom nom…”
3. Impa (Zelda: Skyward Sword, Wii)
The word ‘laconic’ comes from the name of a tribe famous for their pithy, cutting comments: the Lacedaemonians, otherwise known as the Spartans. When informed that the arrows fired at them by the Persian invasion would “cover the sun”, the Spartans simply responded: “Then we will fight in the shade…”. Of course, I am all for revisionist history (were the Persians really THAT bad?), but I certainly believe in the enduring power of language to define a group.
Impa of Skyward Sword has more than a fair share of the Spartan about her. She’s a woman of few words – but when she does speak, it is sparing and harsh. She admonishes Link on various occasions, and she is stoic in battle. But she isn’t without sympathy – you get a sense of Zelda and her having a meaningful friendship whilst they are on their travels. Often, I wished I could play as Zelda or Impa to see their side of the story – but Link is such a drama queen, he’d probably have a (silent) fit. Anyway, I definitely get the sense that Impa was a favourite with the game’s writers and designers, and this also comes out in Hyrule Warriors (Wii U), where she is one of the more fun characters to play as. I also love how androgynous her character design is.
Memorable quote: “Do my words sting? Let them.”
2. Lisa Trevor (Resident Evil, Gamecube)
Lisa Trevor was fourteen years old when Umbrella Corp began experimenting on her body, infecting her with various versions of the Progenitor virus. Her mother was also experimented upon. She devises a plan to escape, but dies before she can reunite with her daughter. It’s one of the most affecting storylines in the Resident Evil series – made all the more sad by the fact that Lisa is…utterly terrifying. Umbrella Corp sent minders to pretend to be her parents – their end is quite literally on her face.
She is ghoulish, and invincible – her incredible strength and regenerative capabilities are what made her so precious to Umbrella. And those capabilities make wandering about her “home” in the Resident Evil remake very, very nerve-wracking. The fact that she shows degrees of sanity – a mind deranged through abuse, neglect and torture – through badly written diary entries and her living in a shack, makes her a fascinating and harrowing portrayal of female suffering.
Memorable Quote: “Mo… ther…“ (seconds before she throws herself into a bottomless pit after discovering her mother’s corpse)
1. Dr Naomi Kimishima (Trauma Team, Wii)
Dr Kimishima could well be the most complex and engaging female character ever to grace the videogame medium. Maybe it’s because I used to be a massive fan of CSI, but I found her detective storylines in Trauma Team to be so compelling I totally forgot how silly it was that she has the curse/blessing to hear the last words of the dead… on her mobile phone (lol). She’s the consummate professional, even though she is infected with an incurable disease. Yes, I know, it’s very melodramatic – but somehow it works. She rivals even CSI’s Sarah Sidle in her tough yet vulnerable character traits. The compassion she has for those who have died is key, made all the more poignant because she is close to death herself…
Her character also comes to life through Trauma Team’s excellent writing – the cases are never as simple as Colonel Mustard with the spanner in the library. Domestic abuse, mental illness and bomb threats occur on Dr Kimishima’s watch, and the game’s writing is more than up to the task of dealing with these sensitive themes.
Her relationship with Little Guy, her colleague at the FBI, is also adorable. It’s quirky, flirty and very relatable – workplace chitchat is a difficult art form to pull off, and it’s done here with aplomb. All credit to Kirsten Potter who voiced Kimishina. Finally, her relationship with Alyssa, a little girl whose lost her family, also exhibits her tendency to hide her emotions through professionalism – but the desire for justice and kindness shines through.
Memorable quote: “The dead shall speak…”