If you looked at the E3 2015 line-up with no knowledge of what came before, you wouldn't guess that the world was making sarcastic comments about how hard women are to animate less than a year ago. While it's still sadly common to see a press conference's worth of games headlined by a single gender, this E3 saw a slew of titles where women are taking center stage, either as integral and active participants or as protagonists in their own right. We may have expected Lara and a possible female addition to the Gears clan, but this year's showing blew right past that goal post and gave us a cheeky wave on the way out.
Gotta say, we like that style, and want to highlight those ladies that stand as the face of their games and the companies that created them. To that end, we've compiled a list of the most prominent female characters of E3 2015 for their adulation and your perusal. Who knows - maybe you'll find a leading lady whose story you'll want to follow.
It doesn't take long to figure out that "the old ones" Aloy speaks of in the opening moments of Horizon's reveal trailer refers to us, and we see soon thereafter how far mankind has fallen from grace: humans exist in tribes, vulnerable to mechanical beasts that roam the land. It's an imposing, intimidating future, and yet Aloy handles it like a pro as she hunts grass-grazing automatons and fends off a robot dinosaur. When the end of the world comes, Aloy is someone you want on your side.
Emily Kaldwin (Dishonored 2)
Once a precocious little girl whose drawings could get very dark if you weren't careful about raising her up right, Emily is all grown up in Dishonored 2 and taking down targets of her own with magical and tech-assisted abandon. She strikes an imposing figure while tearing through mechanized warriors and turning into a shadow creature, breaking down every defense thrown in front of her. Plus, she does it all with elegance and poise. Her parents would be so proud.
Robot trainer (Recore)
We know almost nothing about the girl from Microsoft's new IP, Recore. Not her name, where she comes from, or what she's doing out in a desert wasteland filled with aggressive constructs. Still, in the game's debut trailer, we see her tenacity and the loyalty she inspires in her robo-dog companion, and that's enough to make us want to learn more.
You (Fallout 4)
You've been able to play as a post-apocalyptic guy or gal ever since Fallout 2, but some persistent rumors indicated that might be not be the case in Fallout 4. Bethesda showed off Fallout 4's new-and-improved third-person perspective with a bog standard white dude protagonist, but only after casually brushing aside said concerns with a great "step aside, honey, I got this" moment in the bathroom mirror character editor. Turns out the dude's wife isn't just an NPC - she's another blank canvas for you to customize and play as.
Rae (Beyond Eyes)
Beyond Eyes' ten-year-old protagonist isn't like the other super-powered, butt-kicking, free-running characters on this list. She has no preternatural abilities, no apocalyptic future to prevent. Instead, she's young girl without sight, on a personal journey to find her lost cat, Nani. But even without the use of her eyes, Rae's other senses let the world blossom around her like a droplet of paint bleeding across paper fibers. She sees things through the lens of her own imagination, which amplifies the beauty of the mundane - and the fear of the unknown.
Faith Connors (Mirror's Edge Catalyst)
Faith Connors was a female protagonist before it was cool, man. Back in ye olden days of 2008 when the original Mirror's Edge was released, we followed her on a quest to clear her sister's name from a murder she didn't commit. It looks like Faith will have bigger prey to tackle in the Mirror's Edge Catalyst reboot, but her unparalleled skills in parkour and hand-to-hand combat mean we're not worried one bit about her ability to succeed. Faith inspires well, faith in us.
Evie Frye (Assassin's Creed: Syndicate)
We've known about Evie's existence in the upcoming Assassin's Creed: Syndicate for some time now, but it wasn't until the PlayStation press conference that we got a good, long look at this cold-hearted killer. Potentially more ruthless than her gang-leading brother, Evie gives any standing in the Assassin's way reason to be very, very afraid. As the second female assassin on our list, it makes us wonder who would win in a fight: Emily or Evie?
Lara Croft (Rise of the Tomb Raider)
To Lara Croft, surviving catastrophic adventures is like eating a bag of potato chips: she can't stop after she's started, even if the results are highly unpleasant. After nearly falling to her death from a mountain cliff, she frantically outruns a blizzard as it rips the ground out from under her feet, right before she's buried in several feet of snow. Even when she emerges less than gracefully, coughing powder out of her lungs and stuck in the cold without any supplies or shelter, she still looks like one hell of a survivor. Good thing, too - something tells us that this game won't be any kinder to her than the last one.
Kait (Gears 4)
It was hard to see much of anything in the Gears 4 trailer, since the developers took 'dark and gritty' to its literal conclusion, but we were able to pick out a new new Gears sneaking through the shadows. One of them is a woman named Kait (which we now know from the Gears Twitch stream), and from the clip we saw of her in combat, she seems every bit as snarky and capable as the Gears who've come before her.
Here's one we're not sure what to make of just yet. In an all-too-brief trailer for Xbox One game Ashen, we see a male decked out in adventurer's gear recruit a woman to help him explore a decrepit tomb. As the male character inspects some ancient treasure, he gets swarmed by monsters, and the female character gets separated. At the trailer's close, we see only the female character still alive, kneeling on a hilltop. We're not sure what it all means, but the twist of having the male adventurer seemingly die, then ending on a shot of the female character, is symbolic in its own way.
Fullbright is no stranger to female protagonists, focusing on the story of a girl named Sam as her sister Katie slowly uncovers its details in the stellar Gone Home. The studios' newest game, Tacoma, follows in that same vein, with a new, as-yet unnamed female protagonist who's tasked with exploring the remains of a space station to find out what happened there. She's a lot chattier that Katie, and has to be, because her only companion is a voice on her communicator giving her instructions from back at HQ. Other than that, she's on her own to discover the station's fate, and deal with that she might find (or, well, the other way around).
Much like Tacoma's astronaut, Delilah spends most of her time on one end of a walkie-talkie, only on the opposite one from the player. Delilah is a national park supervisor in Firewatch, and communicates regularly with her man on the ground, Henry (aka you), about the state of the forest and his watch. As one of two characters in the game (three if you count the wilderness itself), Delilah is an important part of Henry's adventure, and interacting with her is almost as important to the game as not falling off of a cliff or getting eaten by anything. Their relationship changes dramatically depending on how Henry responds to her, so it's worth your time to listen to what she has to say.
Six (Rainbow Six Siege)
Rainbow Six Siege might've had us grimacing uncomfortably at E3 2014 when its only female character was a glorified flag you can use as a human shield. It's doing a whole lot better this year though, in no small part due to the introduction of the Rainbow unit's leader, a stern and serious woman named Six. Played by the timeless (and apparently ageless) Angela Bassett, she will be the voice of authority during the team's missions, organizing them and making sure everything goes according to plan. We're not yet sure how much of a role she'll play in the missions themselves, but we're sure to see more of her before Siege lands in September.
The diver from Abzu might seem effectively genderless, given that she spends all of her time in a diving suit, and it has no effect on her ability to ride on the fin of a giant manta ray. But when it's normal to dub an agender character male by default, it's nice to see the script flipped. In Abzu, this unnamed female diver's only goal is to explore the ocean depths, make friends with fish, and discover secrets buried so deep that the surrounding fish have headlamps. Not deterred by the thought of vicious sharks or a nasty case of the bends, this diver will risk life and limb to discover what lies below, all to the sound of a whimsical score.