Female characters in video games are a mixed bag. I think, as a whole, game developers are getting better at bringing us likable, reasonably proportioned women, but we still have a ways to go. It seems like every time I see an Alyx Vance or a Jill Valentine, there are a dozen virtual females who make me a little sad. Here are the five worst offenders, followed by five of my favorites.
Now, I'm sure you could look at a majority of the women from just about every fighting game ever created and you'd have a pretty substantial list of females with disproportionately large breasts, despite being in a fighting game where your goal is to kick the ever living hell out of the other player. And most of them are wearing very little clothing. But the SoulCalibur series stands apart for actually growing the bums and bosoms of its female cast to comedic extremes. When the industry is trying its hardest to get recognized and respected, it's disappointing to see games still stuck in the dark ages, trying to excite their non-existent 12-year-old audiences with scantily clad women. Come on people, grow up.
ICO was, and still is, a stunning game. It even laid the groundwork, in a sense, for the epic Shadows of the Colossus, which is easily one of the most unforgettable games I've ever experienced. Sadly, ICO is also the source of one of the worst realized video game females. Of course, she's a princess. All you have to do is scroll down to see what I'm referring to here, but being a helpless princess in need of saving is an easy way to make it on this list. Yorda had no real personality, was pretty much defenseless against anything that wanted to cause her harm, and worst of all, she couldn't even move without you guiding her along.
Don't get me wrong, I loved the high-action craziness of Bayonetta, but something I could never shake while I invested hours into making sure the demonic hordes feared my very name was how grotesquely sexist the entire game is. Bayonetta is an over-sexualized witch with tight clothing made from her hair that disappears when she uses special moves. On top of that, she enjoys sucking on lollipops while staring into the camera and has no real personality outside of the strange, sexy librarian persona her designers bestowed her with. In other words, this witch is much like the game she's found in: all style, little substance.
Nintendo isn't adept at bringing us well-designed female characters, but it's a little easier to overlook when their games are so much fun. Unfortunately, even an incredible series like The Legend of Zelda can't mask one of the most annoying characters I've ever had the displeasure of meeting in a video game, Navi. It didn't help that she was with you the entire time, jumping up and down and squeaking in that high-pitched voice. I appreciated the help, but I would've much rather gone at it alone if it meant not having to put up with her for hours on end.
"The princess is in another castle!" proclaims the text on the screen after you've pillaged yet another castle in search of Princess Peach, who's somehow managed to get kidnapped for what feels like the thousandth time. Not only does Ms. Peach embody the archetypal helpless woman who can only be saved from danger by the burly arms of a man, but she's also a horribly realized character with an annoying damsel-in-distress personality. Mario is a legendary series that's stood the test of time, but the fact that Peach is still the same blank slate of a character she was when we were first introduced to her is more than a little sad. A dishonorable mention goes out to Daisy for being almost as bad.