Sunday is International Women's Day 2020, and we're celebrating with shout outs to the most inspiring female characters from the world of gaming. Heroines who have saved the world, or battled monsters, or just straight up kicked ass. There are some answers you might expect, like the classic action archeologist, and some you won't.
This is the latest in a series of big questions we'll be interrogating our writers with, so share your answers and suggestions for topics with us on Twitter.
Lara Croft - Tomb Raider
It might be an obvious answer, but Lara Croft is the reason I'm in this job at all. Playing games as a kid, every single character I got to play as was a boy - I didn't even know Samus' true identity back then. Then one fateful day, my next-door neighbor got given a copy of the original Tomb Raider on PC. Every rainy day, we would huddle around his dad's PC, working our way through the game. Although even then I appreciated exactly why Lara was a woman - the triangular boobs and teenie tiny hotpants were quite the clue - it was the idea that she was doing everything I'd seen the male action heroes do. To me, that was unheard of. You could keep your Indiana Jones, your Nathan Drakes, your Solid Snakes, in my eyes Lara was queen. And still is, to be honest. Over the years, she's grown, developed, and discovered there are different ways to present yourself. Gosh, we all have, haven't we? But also, she gave me the courage to fight against the current, prove that a woman could do just as much as the boys do. Hey, probably more. Sam Loveridge
Cortana - Halo
I could name her as an inspiration solely because she rocks a "can I see the manager" haircut better than anybody ever could or should, but there's so much more to Cortana than that angled bob. We know she's brilliant, as her AI is cloned from Dr. Catherine Halsey's brain, and we know that she handpicked Master Chief, so she's got taste. And she's consistently saved his ass (and Earth's for that matter), sacrificing herself to save people who probably wouldn't think twice of her. She's fought rampancy, bad haircuts, deadly situations, and questionable costume choices - Cortana is a true inspiration for women and AI life forms everywhere. Alyssa Mercante
Kat - Gravity Rush
Kat starts Gravity Rush with no memory of who she is or where she came from, but within minutes of waking up, she decides that, on account of having gravity powers and all, she should become a hero. This intro sums up Kat's entire character: all she wants to do is help people. Throughout the series, she helps people who've scorned her, people who've lied to and used her, and people who don't know her name, simply because she could and because she felt it was right. She takes on odd jobs, fights for the disenfranchised, and battles giant space monsters with equal sincerity and without hesitation. And to top it all off - some very mild spoilers here - we later find out that the entire reason she wound up stranded in a foreign land is that she stood up for its residents despite not knowing a thing about them. It doesn't matter who or why; Kat is just a pure soul who wants to help. That's a hero if I've ever seen one. Austin Wood
Mercy - Overwatch
Say what you want about Clementine, Lara Croft, and Alyx Vance; the fact of the matter is that Mercy has saved my ass more times than every other video game character put together over the last four years. That's gotta count for something, even if - as a Blizzard creation - she's not exactly the most nuanced or interesting member of the Overwatch team. Even so, our Scandinavian scientist has proven to be so powerful on the battlefield, that Blizzard has had to nerf her on multiple occasions, much to the consternation of those who main her. Most heroes hog the spotlight and soak up its alluring warmth for all its worth, but Mercy deserves the credit for diligently supporting those glory hunters without ever asking for credit in return. And did you know her pistol does a surprising amount of damage? Alex Avard
Chloe Frazer – Uncharted
Imagine having to deal with Nathan Drake’s smarmy seat-of-your-pants confidence across countless continents and far, far too many tombs and temples. It’d probably have you teetering ol’ Nate over the nearest bottomless pit faster than you can say “Shambhala.”
The fact Chloe deals with all that while retaining her biting, sardonic wit and sharp sense of style is absolutely inspirational. The Lost Legacy, her breakout title, is just the icing on the cake – and shows that there’s plenty of room for female adventurers that aren’t called Lara Croft. Now, can we get a solo Chloe spin-off game? Pretty please, Naughty Dog? Bradley Russell
Lucina - Fire Emblem: Awakening
I'm sure there will be many fine choices of inspirational heroines on this list, but only one of them traveled through time to save the world while cosplaying as her great great great great grandpa. Lucina is the most well-rounded character in Fire Emblem: Awakening; we meet her first as a fierce duelist, then a mysterious savior, and finally as the daughter of our hero Chrom. At each step we grow to appreciate a different aspect of her character. Despite Lucina's apocalyptic origins, she remains a kind person, a faithful friend, and a stalwart ally to the cause. Plus, at least in terms of my personal story's canon, she's my daughter. Not many other games let you strengthen the bonds of a mother-daughter relationship by wrecking enemy troops out on the battlefield. Connor Sheridan
Commander Shepard - Mass Effect
Commander Shepard has to put up with a lot of crap. Hordes of enemies who want to see her dead. Shady space racists who strong-arm her into being their hit woman. A condescending bureaucracy that doesn't trust her with anything. An invasion by murderous death bots who want to destroy all life. Oh, and that time she full-on died before being brought back. To summarise? Her life is rough. However, she gets through it with courage and a badass attitude regardless of whether you chose the Paragon or Renegade path. She always comes through for the galaxy, even if it costs her everything. That makes her an inspiration. (Being voiced by the fantastic Jennifer Hale doesn't hurt, either). Benjamin Abbott
Ripley - Alien Isolation
If handling perpetual and petrifying fear for hours and hours, and trying to avoid the most efficient and terrifying killer in an abandoned spaceship isn't inspiring then I don't know what is. And somehow, Ripley from Alien Isolation does it resolutely, with sheer bloody-mindedness and enough focus to actually carry out a mission. To its completion. It takes a special kind of someone to succeed like that in the face of such adversity but to do it the way she did, avoiding the Xeno or keeping it at bay with a brick and a piece of string or whatever, is unbelievable. Can you imagine having to do that for a day at work? (She did an inspiring amount of hiding in cupboards in my playthrough too, thus her patience with being guided by a quivering idiot is also inspiring.)
Nonetheless, she succeeded where others wouldn't, and she is a great game character that epitomizes grit and determination, outwitting and outmaneuvering fear incarnate. Rob Dwiar
Chun Li - Street Fighter
I hate to be the guy giving yet another Street Fighter answer to a big question, but I’m going to be the guy giving another Street Fighter answer to a big question. Because of course, it’s Chun Li. At a time when even the strongest female characters prioritized purdiness over all other abilities - Blaze from Streets Of Rage, Tyris from Golden Axe, Amy Rose from Sonic The Hedgehog (stay with me) - Chunners was a true pioneer, all about kicking ass rather than displaying it. 29 years after her debut, she remains as iconic as Ryu or her arch-enemy M Bison and has had a cultural impact that only Lara Croft can match. Just don’t mention the Kristin Kreuk movie… Ben Wilson
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