The Top 7… Tasteful game heroines

Videogame girls treated with dignity and respect? What an idea

James Bond is a womanizing, murderous, borderline cartoonish yet beloved super spy. No reason then a woman couldn’t do the same and leap out of planes, fling cheesy one-liners and dress up like espionage is a right cheery fashion show. Cate Archer, from the sadly MIA No One Lives Forever series, fills those shoes quite nicely, mixing sex appeal with genuine ability like no other on this list.

Above: Cate was saving the day when Call of Duty was still stupid

The game’s a cheeky look at not just spy films but also action games as a whole, leading to piles of industry awards and generous sales to boot. Best of all, if you only look at the screens, with their powerful automatic weapons and bodies flying all around, you’d never know there was a ruthless and alluring woman pulling the trigger.

Most heroic moment: Cate travels the globe, constantly defending freedom and justice from HARM’s nefarious deeds. How noble then for her to save a lowly Ohio trailer park from a tornado-spawning ninja. Always looking out for the little guy, this one.

Valve took great care to make each of the game’s survivors look unique, yet indistinguishable from a common citizen. Zoey hits the mark perfectly, dressed as casually as someone you’d ignore on any city street, and with physical attributes to match. At a glance, there’s absolutely nothing remarkable about Zoey in any way, and that’s why she’s one of the most respected heroines in games today. Yes she dual-wields pistols with impressive accuracy, but swing the third-person camera around and most of the time you’ll see a genuine look of horror on her face, not a blank murderous stare.

Above: Zoey and the other survivors are scrappy, not superhuman

While playing and finishing the game, Zoey’s personality and backstory will shine through without direct exposition or teary-eyed reveals. The more you play, the more interchange you’ll hear between characters, and therefore the more you’ll learn about Zoey’s life before the infection. We almost included Portal’s Chell for the same reason, but at the end of the day, Zoey takes the (delicious and moist) cake.

Most heroic moment: As a multiplayer-focused title, there isn’t much room for overt story or personal heroism. Still, in the game’s brief opening movie, Zoey racks up more saves than her teammates. She’s the first to toss a pipe bomb, clearing the path for her friends. Then she rushes the hunter that’s pounced on Louis. Then she stays behind to keep the Hulk-like tank from catching up.

L4D2’s Rochelle has a lot to live up to.

No surprise here. Since her debut in Half-Life 2 five years ago, Alyx has become the go-to girl for female leads. She’s everything we’ve mentioned in other entries (resourceful, smart, attractive but not lude), and also has the distinction of being the most “human” of all. Her verbal and physical interactions with Gordon Freeman and the world around you are meant to feel as natural and organic as possible, leading developer Valve to consider her AI programming more like “personality code.”

Above: Alyx with her custom robo-pet, Dog

This design manifests itself through her hacking skills, intelligent targeting and surprisingly lifelike dialogue, but Valveinsistsit’s the lack of repetitive, canned actions that keeps Alyx’s presence cliché-free. Naturally, this has led to many gamers perceiving her as something more than a throwaway game character.

“She’s enough of a person that people have developed in their head her personality,” said programmer Robin Walker. “And now they’re trying to evaluate what we build against their opinion of who Alyx is.”

What videogame heroine could possibly stand up to such a universally accepted superstar?

Inevitable objectification: Nude patches. Couldn’t Rule 34 sit this one out?

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