Since early video games were primarily aimed at a male demographic, female characters were seldom given heroic roles. Rather, female characters were typically portrayed as damsels in distress who needed to be rescued. The ladies listed on this list managed to break free from this damsel stereotype and proved that gamers would accept female characters in more meaningful roles. While some of the women on this list are known for their beauty, more weight was given to qualities like internal strength and intelligence.
Don't let the lipstick and hooker boots fool you, Ms. Pac-Man is a classy lady who is more than capable of handling any obstacle that is thrown her way. While somewhat derivative, her game is superior to her hubby's in every way and proved that gaming heroines could have a role in the gaming world. Ms. Pac-Man was the first female to truly break free from the typical "damsel in distress" role and – to this day – she remains the single most recognizable female video game character of all time. An argument can also be made that Ms. Pac-Man should be viewed as a poster child for women's lib. The manner in which she was able to successfully balance her career and family life even after the birth of Jr. Pac-Man is commendable. Other girls will come and go, but Ms. Pac-Man will forever be the first-lady of gaming.
Beyond Good & Evil
One of the most positive female role models in the video game world, Jade is a strong, independent, and self-reliant woman. It's refreshing to see a female character that relies on their intelligence instead of their appearance. Jade even has the good sense to wear pants and combat boots! Not only can Jade take care of herself, but she looks after her friends and takes care of orphaned children as well. Jade has a lot of responsibilities, but will happily accept any challenge in front of her. She has all sorts of weapons and gadgets at her disposal, but as an investigative journalist in search of the truth, her most important weapon is her camera which she uses to battle propaganda and reveal the truth behind powerful governing bodies. She's not a conventional hero by any means, but that's what makes her so compelling.
The Walking Dead Series
The Walking Dead began as a comic book, but Clementine was introduced in Telltale's episodic video game series. An eight-year-old girl with no real world experience is an unlikely heroine if ever there was one, but she's wise beyond her years and the perfect lens to view a zombie apocalypse through. She was specifically designed to act as a moral compass for the group, and the authenticity of her character makes her a strong influence on the player's decisions. Clem is unusually polite and well-mannered for a girl her age, but she becomes decidedly less idealistic and hopeful as the series progresses due to a number of tragic events. Clem could have very easily have been depicted as a typical damsel in distress, but she acted as the emotional center of Season One and was given an even brighter spotlight in the next season.
Mario has had to rescue her so many times that I've lost count, but Peach has also taken on heroic roles on several occasions. Her first breakthrough as a heroine was in the North American release of Super Mario Bros. 2, where her unique hovering abilities helped her stand out from the other selectable characters. Since then, Peach has raced in every Super Mario Kart game, battled in the Super Smash Bros. series, competed in countless Mario-themed sporting events, fought alongside Mario in Super Mario RPG. In 2006, after taking on supporting roles for nearly two decades, Peach was finally given the spotlight in the aptly-titled Super Princess Peach. In this game, the iconic princess successfully uses her ever-changing emotions as a weapon against her foes. Now that's what I call girl power!
Gravity Rush Series
Kat is a lost girl who embarks on a journey to regain her memories after waking up in a floating city. With the help of a mysterious cat named Dusty, she learns how to shift gravity in different directions. This allows her to walk on walls, lift objects with her mind, and take to the skies like a superhero. She flies around with the intensity of a Super Saiyan and dazzles her enemies with spectacular air kicks, but she also shows great emotional strength in the face of adversity. Kat fully embraces the heroine role and welcomes the attention that her powers bring. Whether she's trekking through impoverished mining camps or exploring opulent cities in the clouds, she's sensitive to the feelings of others. She hasn't been around for as long as some of the other ladies on this list, but you'd have to look pretty hard to find a heroine who is more likable and upbeat.
Final Fantasy VI
Born into the Empire and genetically infused with magicite, Celes became a powerful general. Upon realizing the Empire was responsible for great evils, she defected and was subsequently imprisoned for treason. Although Celes is a powerful warrior, she is also extremely vulnerable. After the world is left in ruin, she contemplates suicide before her faith is restored and she becomes motivated to find her friends. Her emotional dependency appeared to be her biggest weakness, but in the end it ended up saving her life by giving her a sense of purpose. Final Fantasy VI had the greatest ensemble of characters ever, but Celes stands out as the most memorable. From her touching relationship with Locke to the brilliant opera scene, Celes played a huge role in many of the game's most unforgettable moments.
Bayonetta is a member of an ancient witch clan with abilities that extend beyond the reach of mere mortals. She can transform into animals, use her hair to attack enemies, or call forth behemoth beasts to help her in battle. She arms herself with a variety of weapons and is flexible enough to effortlessly fire bullets from a pair of guns strapped to her ankles. She also knows how to use her sex appeal to her advantage. Even though she has starred in two of the greatest action games ever made, some people are unable to look past a few gratuitous ass shots to see how strong her character really is. Bayonetta is hyper-sexualized, but just because she has long legs and sexy librarian glasses doesn't mean she's one-dimensional. She is a compassionate, protective, and empowered woman who doesn't let anyone call the shots for her.
Street Fighter Series
As the only female among the original Street Fighter II cast, Chun Li stood out from the very beginning. Known for her powerful thighs and lightning-fast kicks, she became an instant favorite and paved the way for more female fighters in subsequent games. Chun Li is a very serious girl investigating the death of her father, but she also has a playful side to her persona which she demonstrates when she's victorious in battle. With the exceptions of Ken and Ryu, Chun Li is perhaps the most illustrious character from the Street Fighter universe. In fact, she is so popular that Hollywood made a film that focused entirely on her storyline. Female characters have taken on an increasingly large role in fighting games in recent years, but Chun Li remains the only one that can use her legs to turn herself into a human helicopter.
Tomb Raider Series
With her big boobs, big guns, and big adventures, the busty lead of the Tomb Raider franchise seemed to have everything the gaming demographic was looking for. Lara's popularity extended beyond the gaming world, and she appeared in music videos with U2, modeled Gucci fashions, and was portrayed by Angelina Jolie in two Hollywood movies. Lara became a sex symbol of sorts for gamers, but don't let the fact that she looks good in short-shorts fool you: She is one of the toughest characters ever devised. Whether she's exploring snow-covered mountains or dropping giant dinosaurs with a handgun, there is no challenge she can't meet. More recent Tomb Raider games have elected to put a greater emphasis on her unbreakable will and determination rather than focusing exclusively on her appearance.
Samus is a legendary bounty hunter who takes on legions of space pirates and nearly eradicates every parasitic Metroid in the universe. Even more impressive is the fact that she often works alone and accomplishes most of this single-handedly. Equipped with a cybernetic power suit, Samus has all sorts of unique skills – including her infamous morph ball technique. Of course, she can also fire away at enemies with a built-in arm cannon if she feels up to it. Although she occasionally wears revealing outfits, Samus is not merely eye candy and no one even knew she was a girl until it was revealed at the end of the first Metroid. Samus has sex appeal in spades, but the fact that she looks good in a form-fitting body suit is insignificant for a woman who is directly responsible for the destruction of an entire planet.