While Princess Toadstool ruled the 80’s as one of the most well known female characters and Ms. Pac-Man was, well, a bow add-on to Pac Man, there weren’t many fictional women characters in games. Super Mario Bros. 2 allowed you to play as Toadstool and it gave players an idea what each character gameplay and movement are.
As time went on, a new system and company entered the market, which led to more games and themes. The Sony PlayStation and the history it made, allowed the modern gaming community to be born and also bring some back to it. Out of all of this, another well known and historic female came out. Lara Croft.
From Video Game covers to even a Playboy spread, Lara Croft gain attention for not only her game and big triangular knockers (and don’t act like it wasn’t an issue), but having the promotion that Eidos was giving her. When Tomb Raider came out, it sold millions. It had 2 movies. People were cosplaying her and still do to this day. Although her original game was a confusing mess, it was long and enjoyable to some merit. Even when the future games seem to be on the level of average and terrible Sonic games, Tomb Raider and Lara Croft had a roller coaster of adventures, sales, and popularity.
Looking now at Lara Croft and Princess Peach, other leading females, like Chun-Li, Sonya Blade, Joanne Dark, Zelda, Samus Aran, and others from the 80 to 00’s, there wasn’t much to choose from and saw how each of them stood out. It took a while because women characters in those days played small and stereotype rolls at times. There would only be that one female in the game and at times, designed to be sexy and not powerful or ruthless. Blaze from Street of Rage is pretty much the main female character in that series. No other female joined her and yet, as awesome she really is as a fighter, each game didn’t represent other females in that game in a diverse way.
In modern times though, all that has changed. It’s easy for the character Bayonetta because we as gamers understand who she is, what her role is, and how the perceived way many of us think we can look at her, don’t affect the way that she is a stupendous character. She is witty with power, confident because she overcomes the situation, and dedicated to doing what is right in a stylish, sophisticated, and humorous way. Funnily enough, it took the exclusive Bayonetta 2 on Wii U and Nintendo Switch for her to even get to that level of recognition. She did great with the first game but she wasn’t propelled or memorable until you see her kicking a jet plane thousands of feet in the air and play the demo or the full game.
I believe women characters in games don’t get the recognition because we always focus on the familiars. The one we know, we love and appreciate them, and can’t wait to interact with them and play their games. When Street Fighter 3: Third Strike came, I was drawn to Ibuki. She was powerful, easy to learn and control, and the way she animates blows my mind. Maki in Final Fight 2 is my go-to character. Her move set fits my gameplay style when it comes to beat em ups.
Even Shantae has gotten better with her games and Wayforward has done a fantastic job progressing and evolving her. Heck, even the Mega Man series got its first and only female robot master in Splash Women. No matter how you see that, its a big step that needs to happen more.
The beauty in having more women in games is that they inspire and tell stories to anyone. They can make themes really hit home and bring focus. Not saying that males and animals can’t do that but not many male characters are design to deal with issues that women are put through. Give a male character some anger and muscles, a gun with power, and slow down to time shots, and you pretty much get the idea of a male character in a teen or mature game.
Women, on the other hand, get stuck with barbie and cuteness. It’s more to that and the games that go beyond can inspire them to be leaders and strong. Lara Croft still has inspiration for that. Bayonetta has it too. Yes, even Princess Toadstool. When we recognize these characters and more of their games and arks, we’ll see more of the beautiful gems, story, design, and overall greatness they are.