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Before Lara Croft, before Alyx Vance, before there was even an argument about women in games, Samus Aran was in deep space blasting aliens into bloody stumps. She’s the most feared and respected bounty hunter in the galaxy and remains one of Nintendo’s most popular and bankable stars.
Above: Though she shows a lot of skin
When Samus first appeared in the original Metroid, players assumed the person inside the yellow armor was a man, just like every other character on the platform. Eventually, word of mouth spread that a secret ending (and cheaty passwords) revealed Samus as woman, instantly propelling her to the top of a very short list. Even though she loses her clothes as a reward for excellent playing, her in-game persona is all business, suggesting a girl who works tirelessly but still knows how to kick back.
Above: Samus’s various end-of-game depictions, plus the blue Zero Suit
For a sense of scale, consider how long Samus has survived when compared to everyone else on this list. Five of the other girls are from the past eight years. Aya Brea goes as far back as 1998. Samus, on the other hand, has been at the forefront since 1986 – that’s 23 years of consistent ass kicking.
Most heroic moment: Every game ends with Samus saving the day, but our favorite single moment happens at the end of the criminally obscure Metroid II. After killing the Metroid queen, Samus closes in to finish off the final larva and rid the universe of Metroids altogether. For whatever reason, the sight of the baby blood sucker is too much, and Samus lets it live. Believing Samus to be its mother, the baby Metroid lovingly clings to Samus as she escapes the planet.
If you don’t know the ramifications of this act, we won’t spoil the surprise. Just know that it leads to the best moment of Super Metroid (and therefore one of the greatest gaming moments of all time), and affects the rest of the series from here on out.
We didn’t come to this conclusion lightly. Four other heroines embody the best of videogame girls, and if we had chosen three years ago to do Top 11s instead of Top 7s, they’d be here for sure.
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