You know, I realize there’s a problem with the way women are portrayed in games, and I even admit that at one point in my life I may have been part of the reason that it was so. But I am a little older these days and a whole lot wiser. I’m also at the point in my life where the days of easy women, fast cars, and a seemingly limitless amount of disposable income are but a far gone memory. With that being the case, my attentions – especially concerning female game characters – have changed dramatically. Back in the day I would rattle on and on about the chicks in the DoA games or how hot this character or that character was. But be that as it may, these days I have turned my focus to ladies of more refined stature and character. Ones that intrigue me rather than entice me. Ones that I would rather hear weave their stories like a fine tapestry. The times, they are a-changin’. Nowadays, I need a woman who is strong, motivated and capable, just in case I get my ass into trouble I can’t get out of.
Let’s kick this off with a bombshell. Ada Wong has undergone many transformations throughout her tenure with the Resident Evil franchise of games and films. She may have dabbled in being sullen and sultry and may have even jumped into full-tilt seductress at times, but at no point was she ever out of control. She is a lady of poise and intensity, one that could distract you with her feminine wiles while she is actually concocting a plan to murder you in very sinister ways. She always finds a way to ride that line between sensual and just plain sexy, but she never dips into all-out trashy territory. She knows how to keep it together and keep the men interested without giving anything away. All around stunner, this one.
The mentor of the original Snake is another one of my faves. She is portrayed as a strong, silent, and very powerful woman. Yes, she’s the woman that taught the man who would become Big Boss to be the badass that he is. So apparently it is true that behind every great man there is an equally powerful woman. Boss never backed down from what she believed in, even when it drove a wedge between her and Snake. Even when it separated her from her love for him. She stayed the course when no one else believed in what she was doing. Even to her dying breath, she never wanted any harm to befall Snake, but knew what she had to do for the greater good she sought to achieve. Beauty, power, determination, and resolve – what’s not to love?
The princess Zelda started her gaming career like a lot of other female characters. She was the stereotypical damsel in distress. But as the years wore on, I guess she got tired of following in the footsteps of other Nintendo ladies like Peach and decided to strike out on her own and actually help the man she loved get through his arduous labors. In Ocarina of Time , we saw her don the guise of a young man named Sheik. As Sheik, Zelda guided an otherwise aloof Link through his tasks and ultimately to the goal. Several games later, she again donned a new persona as the fun-loving pirate Tetra, once again guiding her beloved Link on his way to glory and fame. So not only is this lady willing to get her hands dirty and help her man out, she would even go so far as to dress like a man as she helps him out. What a gal!
Hildegard Von Krone
This powerful fighter is rather an anomaly in the Soul Caliber series. She is not only fully clothed in all her alternate costumes, but she is actually wearing functional armor in her original state. And even more incredibly than that, she doesn’t possess a seductive voice at all. She is brave, strong, and honorable – and one of the few female characters in any video game anywhere that has donned a full suit of armor and gotten busy thumping enemies without worrying about sex appeal (Sorry Samus, the zero suit knocked you out of this spot). But even in Hilde’s alternate costume, she is shown in an elegant dress and still fully clothed… and oddly, still kicks total butt in it. All she is interested in is defending the honor or her family’s name. And as far as I can tell, she is doing an incredible job at it. So I guess it goes to show you that you don’t have to let it all hang out to be incredibly alluring.
Catwoman has always oozed sex, but this overt personification of the empowered female spirit has never gone raunchy. Her costume has never been more than a tight body suit that covers everything nearly completely. Her voice, though sultry, is never one to speak in a dirty or raunchy manner. Her movements, though sensual, are never trashy or over-sexualized. She is the walking and talking embodiment of the female in all her facets. She covers all the bases from brilliant tactician to intense combatant. She floats just as easily from building to building as she does from emotion to emotion. She is an exercise in elegant chaos and plays it to the fullest extent she can. But no matter what, she is always in control. Her only real weakness is Batman… oh, and shiny jewels. So basically, she’s totally normal. She just has an odd profession and the uncanny ability to not die.
While playing the games as John Shepard can be fun, the real experience happens when you play as Jane Shepard. For starters, the voice acting is worlds better for her. But beyond that, playing through the most insane inter-planetary battle ever as a woman seems to add a bit more familiarity and realness. The over-the-top, save-the-world-or-die-trying plotlines take on a much more visceral feel when played through as a female. Maybe it’s the feeling of her being just a little maternal with her crew. Or maybe it’s just so refreshing to see an empowered woman being that awesome. Who knows? But what I do know is this. She is tough, resourceful, an eloquent speaker and just an all-around awesome character and I haven’t played a single game of Mass Effect as John Shepard since the first game on the Xbox 360. And I dare say that when Mass Effect 4 comes out, I will most likely continue the trend with whatever characters they choose to allow us to use this time.
This story is as old as time itself, the hero runs off to save his love who has been captured by an evil cult and… wait. Wrong game. Jennifer is the antithesis of the damsel in distress. In fact she probably grew up kicking that girl’s butt for being weak. She grew up in a string of foster homes and had to learn to get tough and be a fighter early on in her life. But just as she thought she was getting her life straight, the rug gets yanked out from under her. Her boyfriend gets kidnapped by an insane cult follower of Abbadon (the embodiment of chaos). So she heads out to save him, but she ends up saving the world in the process. One of the things I liked most about this lady is the fact that she is a well-rounded individual. She may be a little cynical and probably a little jaded at times, but she’s very real. And actually, the fact that she is so connected to reality in a surreal circumstance makes her a very likeable character.
This is hands-down one of my all-time favorite games. There are a lot of reasons for this but one of the biggest is the fact that I get to play as Jade. She is a multifaceted character with a big heart. Let’s start off with this: She takes a gig as a photo journalist to help pay the bills at the orphanage where she lives. Her mentor, Peyj, is struggling to keep the place open and Jade wants nothing more than to help Peyj and all the orphans under his care. But her concern changes the day the orphanage is attacked. Her role shifts from one of breadwinner to that or protector. She defends her orphan friends nearly at the cost of her own life. After this, she shows no fear in hunting down the truth behind what’s really going on in Hyllis. I love this story. I love this game. I love this girl.
Don’t worry Samus. I wouldn’t forget you. Even after that comment in the number seven spot. But seriously, how could anyone not include Samus on a classy ladies list? She is not only the epitome of class and respect – not having ever officially donned anything but her power suit and zero suits (unless you count the bikini in her initial reveal way back in the day). Samus is a consummate warrior. She possesses great prowess and resourcefulness in battle and always seems to keep her head not matter how hot the action gets. She is a master of her trade. She knows all the ins and outs of not only the equipment she uses but is well educated on her foes and despises going into battle without gathering proper intel on a target or objective. Samus is and will always be one of the greats.
This woman will remain my favorite classy lady of them all. But it’s not just because she is a fully-dressed and fully equipped combatant of incredible power that gets her to the top spot. It’s the fact that she is an educated and well-versed character, with more life experience than the protagonist of the game will probably ever have. She has known love and loss, happiness and sorrow, and most importantly, anger. Both the righteous and the vengeful kinds. She has funneled all of herself into her art and has become one of the most intense and formidable mages that I have ever had the privilege of having in any of my RPG parties. That, coupled with her timely and beyond-her-years advice, means she is and will always be my favorite classy lady in all of video game history.