Throughout the long and rich history of video games, there have been a number of layered and dynamic women to help further the narratives and experiences of our favorite games. Now, women with prolific roles in video games are a much more common occurrence than in days past, so much so that some of the most critically acclaimed series in recent years have been headlined by women.
The iconic legacies established by the likes of Chun-Li, Lara Croft, Princess Peach, Zelda, and Tifa Lockhart among others have established a firm foundation for the ladies to command an even greater spotlight in gaming—look no further than The Last of Us, Assassins Creed, and Mirror’s Edge, legendary franchises that have pushed the mold for equality in gaming with female leads.
The month of March is also dubbed Women’s History Month, an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. As we approach its final days, I’d like to take the time to highlight my favorite women in video games, with a focus largely on the fighting game genre.
Yes, this is an article influenced by Women’s History Month, but it’s also influenced by my random realization that I tend to have great success with female characters in fighting games. For the most part, women in gaming are not portrayed as powerhouses or characters that dominate with their strength. This is largely compensated with their agility, elusiveness, and nimbleness, which make for dynamic fighters with quick maneuvers and graceful-but-impactful techniques—my type of fighters. Here are six of my favorites.
Aqua (Kingdom Hearts)
One of my undisputed favorite women in all of gaming, and only partially because she’s a part of my favorite video game series of all time. What she lacks in power she more than makes up for in just about every other category that matters in combat. She’s wildly elusive, and her magic-oriented fighting style wonderfully enhances her attack and defense.
Playing with Aqua was nothing but a great experience! Her ability to evade attacks and invaluable ability to string together multiple defensive spells in rapid succession are my favorite aspects about Aqua. She even made the toughest bosses in Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep THAT much easier.
Cassie Cage (Mortal Kombat)
Cassie Cage, the daughter of a highly-disciplined military mother and a hotshot movie star dad, is a mirror reflection of both of her esteemed parents. She inherited the charisma and cocky wit of her father and the stern, tough-as-nails attitude of her mother. Cage’s Special Forces training and superhuman abilities make for a fun combination of skills, and she pulls them off with flair. I’m also a fan of her use of pistols as an effective long-range option.
Samus Aran (Metroid; Super Smash Bros.)
Samus shocked the world at the end of the original Metroid title in ’87 when she removed her helmet to reveal her gender, one of the all-time great twists in gaming. My introduction and interest in the character comes from Super Smash Bros. Melee/Ultimate, however. Samus is my most used character in the Smash series specifically because of her long-range arsenal. Her close-range game isn’t one of her strengths, though it’s not necessarily a weakness, as it’s reliable enough to compete and create space for medium- to long-range attacks.
Her charge shot is so fun to use, especially within a full game, because you can unleash it from a distance while other players are occupied with each other, significantly increasing the odds that you’ll hit someone and blow them clean off of the map in the process. It can be somewhat of a cheese move in that setting because the blast is easier to get off, it only takes a couple seconds to fully charge, and it’s extremely powerful.
Asuka Kazama (Tekken)
Asuka is a strong proponent of justice, but also enjoys confrontation and the thrill of victory. Her thrill’s something we share: I’ve racked up plenty of victories with her myself. She is widely known as a defensive character but is proficient in offense as well. She has the best reversal game in the Tekken series and has a larger active window for reversals than other characters who require much better timing—all of this combined with her agility and technique make her one of my favorite characters in Tekken.
Noel Vermillion (BlazBlue)
BlazBlue is one of the lesser-known series of fighting games, but it has this chick named Noel Vermillion who has one of the coolest fighting styles in the genre. Noel is a professional gunslinger who fights with a pair of large-barrel handguns that don’t actually fire bullets but rather inflict damage by creating distortions in dimensional space. This ability makes for some really cool-looking combos. Combine this with her EXTREME agility, speed, technique, and flexibility, as well as her ability to fight with style and her elite body control, and she’s honestly kinda cracked.
Chun-Li (Street Fighter)
Chun-Li is a trailblazer for female characters in fighting games and gaming in general. She is a mainstay in Capcom’s Street Fighter video game series and one of its most popular figures. The Chinese warrioress fights with a supreme command of the martial arts discipline as an agility-oriented character. Her lethal combination of athleticism and speed makes her just the type of shifty character I love to play with.
While there are fewer female combatants in gaming compared to their male counterparts, there are still many cool and intriguing ones, such as my personal favorites showcased here. Women have made their marks on the video game world and are well-represented by some of the most iconic characters in gaming across all genres.
It just so happens to be the case that some of them can break our bones in ten places before we hit the ground.