The era: 1980s
The games: Athena, Guardian Legend, Super Mario Bros., Final Fantasy, Castlevania III
The babes: Athena, Miria, Princess Toadstool, White Mage, Sypha Belnades
Stage in evolution: Vastly improved from the last batch. The fairer sex finally begins to resemble something other than grotesque, naked monsters and, even more startling, lands some seriously macho roles. Athena embarks on a sword-swinging murderquest and Miria, in quite a bold move, saves the galaxy by morphing into a living spaceship.
Still, these powerful examples can't deny the fact that most '80s females were there to be saved or won over. Toadstool (later Peach) allows herself to be kidnapped by an incompetent lizard-man, while the White Mage and Sypha desperately hide their gender so little gamer boys will still want to play as them. Guess that makes sense though, as the target gamer age in this time period, probably around 10 or so, had no desire to get close to a cootie-infested girl.
What these games taught us: Girls are 100% helpless and are abducted often. If they do break out and see the world, they either obscure their feminine attributes or are Transformers.