10 Female Video Game Characters Who Aren’t Objectified

"Leona, the Radiant Dawn - League of Legends" | Art by Abstractmusiq. Used with permission.
Sex sells, which is why video games have a history of objectifying female characters. Many games also feature women with little to no autonomy—think of the princesses Peach and Zelda, waiting in their respective castles for the heroes of plumbers and time to rescue them. They are often stereotypical in their roles—soft-spoken healers who care for the emotions of the party, only there as a side character or love interest. But female, playable characters with three-dimensional personalities and backstories, those who are not objectified for their body types, are gaining momentum in the video game industry. Here are some of our favourites:

1. Chell — Portal

Chell is a silent protagonist and, as a test subject, she is physically fit but her jumpsuit is not designed to look sexy. You learn about her, not through dialogue, but by your unrelenting attempts to escape and GLaDOS’s responses to your actions. In the Portal 2: Lab Rat comic, her file says: “Test subject is abnormally stubborn. She never gives up. Ever.” We love that her stubbornness is built in as a function of the game.

“The female protagonist of Portal remains fully clothed, from head to knee, throughout the entire game. Moreover, her gender is not used to sexualize the shooter, or market it to horny teenage boys, in any way. No, the hero of Portal just happens to be a normal-looking and normal-dressing woman, like 50% of the world’s population. Imagine that.”Charlie Barratt “The Top 7 Lazy Character Cliches” (GamesRadar)

2. Aloy — Horizon Zero Dawn

Aloy doesn’t deny her femininity to be strong. She isn’t crude, arrogant, or violent to overcome being a woman in a man’s world. She isn’t searching for a male figure to date or marry either, and isn’t consumed with the desire to have children, though she isn’t opposed to being in a relationship provided she still has the freedom to hunt and protect. In many games, female protagonists are either ultra bulky and strong, or super lithe and agile, but she’s somewhere in between, like a normal person.

“The thing that makes Aloy so interesting is that she’s not only discovering herself, she’s starting out from a much lower point than some other characters – from a place of exile, as an outcast from birth, and for reasons she’s never even been told. It’s not a story that gets told so well very often, and it makes you think about the real places in our world where a story like Aloy’s — being an outcast solely because of tradition, superstition, or caste — might not be fiction.”Jeramy Bergerson, Associate Producer, Arkane Studios (PlayStation Blog)

3. Leona — League of Legends

Though Riot is known for unnecessarily sexualizing their female champions, Leona is clad in armour from head to toe, appropriate for a warrior. She has an intense back story that does not revolve around a love interest, but focuses on her history as a warrior of Mount Targon and her decision to offer mercy to a boy instead of kill him like her people demanded.

“To live in the lands surrounding the towering peak of Mount Targon is to embrace a life of hardship. That many willingly do so is testament to the power of the human spirit to endure anything in search of meaning and higher purpose.”Leona: The Radiant Dawn

4. Maya Fey — Ace Attorney

As the first playable character other than Wright in the Ace Attorney series, Maya isn’t sexualized, stereotyped, or glorified, she just wants to eat burgers. She’s not even there just to be the love interest, though it is hinted that she may be, but this does not define her character. She may blush around or tease the main character, but ultimately she is seeking her own goal of being the leader of her people. She gives viewers an accurate depiction of what it’s like to be a female—sometimes wanting burgers over boyfriends and preferring leadership over standing to the side.

“Maya Fey is just her own wonderful person and incredibly human despite (or because of) it. She laughs and cries, she hides from responsibilities before (wo)manning up and accepting them, she has an eccentric and witty sense of humor, and she’s just really cute to boot. Her weaknesses double as her strengths because they only bolster her resolve every time. Lastly, and most importantly, she’s just a silly smile. If your sense of humor dies, you’re soon to follow, and Maya’s not going to die any time soon.” —AskAceAttorney

5. Titania — Fire Emblem

Titania eschews stereotypes because she is playable, is realistically dressed for combat, wields weapons traditionally associated with brutish, male fighters (axes and pole axes are her weapons of choice), and the game script never calls her abilities into question as a result of her gender. She is not just strong, but complex—stern, guarded, commanding, open-minded, considerate, wise, politically-savvy, mysterious, supportive, and motivated. She’s the type of character who folds laundry, goes shopping with Ike’s younger sister like a mom would, raids a bandit camp and rescues hostages, cries over the deaths of her comrades in private, and is among the first to voice her values when an ethical dilemma arises within the group.

“Due to her combat prowess and leadership skill that outdoes the ordinary mercenary, [Titania] serves as deputy commander of the mercenaries… She has zero-tolerance for any injustice, and goes to great lengths to guide the group in the right direction… In fact, Titania became like a sister to everybody in the group who needed someone to talk to about their troubles. She does not talk too much about herself, but is not ashamed of bearing the title of ‘Paladin,’ as she had once served as a Crimean Royal Knight.” —Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance Memorial Book: Tellius Recollection (Vol. 1)

6. Commander Shepard — Mass Effect

By the very nature of the game, because the protagonist can be male or female, Commander Shepard is not defined by her sex. Funnily enough, it’s almost due to Bioware’s apathy that she became so iconic—they weren’t trying to create a strong female character and, barring some of her relationship options and dialogue, didn’t put much work into differentiating her from her male counterpart. The success of her character can largely be attributed to Jennifer Hale’s voice acting, which drives Shepard’s fears, passions, anger, and regrets in an unforgettable manner.

“She is a woman, and that plays obvious roles in her relationships and the occasional ill-advised alien quip, but it’s her other traits that take centre stage – her strength, her resolve, her commanding presence, and her status as Earth’s greatest champion.”Richard Cobbett, “Ms Effect: The Rise of FemShep (EuroGamer)

7. Jade — Beyond Good and Evil

Jade is tender-hearted and caring while being a dogged, capable risk-taker. She runs an orphanage and fights corruption as a photo-journalist. She’s an example of a realistic character—someone who helps people, interacts with her friends, and even struggles with finances. Her clothes are practical, ones that are believably worn by an active woman on a mission.

“She’s inquisitive, smart, brave and is even fully clothed, with nary a side-boob in sight.”Alyx Vance, “The Wednesday 10: Gaming Heroines” (IGN)

8. Senua — Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Though there are many physical elements to it, Senua’s journey is more about her mental state. She struggles with voices in her head that haunt her as she makes her way into Hell to save her lost lover’s soul. Senua’s character not only provides incredible depth, but allows players to consider what living with psychosis might feel like.

“She’s a massive leap forward in characterisation, executed very thoughtfully, very skilfully. I’ve definitely never played a character like her before – and I want more!” Gavin Price, Creative Lead, Playtonic (Playstation Blog)

9. Lightning — Final Fantasy XIII

Lightning knows how to look after herself. She does not show stereotypical feminine characteristics, willing to leave others behind and treating people with a quiet disdain at the beginning of the game. This sword-wielding heroine struggles with a fear of failure, but eventually learns to trust others and carries the fate of the world on her shoulders.

“In the past Final Fantasy titles, female characters in the leading role have traditionally been very feminine, kind of a girl-you-want-to-protect type of existence. For Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning is not only beautiful, but she’s very strong. She has this independence.”Director Motomu Toriyama (Gaming Target)

10. Gully — Battle Chasers: Nightwar

Gully shatters stereotypes by being the party’s tank—and she’s also a young girl looking for her father. She wears giant gauntlets that increase her power and is able to take beatings while still putting up a fight.

“It may be a little shallow since I worked on the game, but I think Gully, from Battle Chasers: Nightwar, is an awesome protagonist! It’s not every day you get to play a badass 12-year-old girl with super strength, who can hold her own against giant War Golems and hordes of the undead.”Steve Madureira, Lead Designer/Lead Animator, Airship Syndicate (Battle Chasers: Nightwar)

AoE Staff

AoE Staff

Staff Writers at Geekdom House
Several Area of Effect writers contributed to create this article. Either that, or it was Gaius Baltar in Rivendell with the Master Sword.
AoE Staff