Something about the female form has always fascinated artists, but more than just their looks the characters I’ve chosen for this list have moving personalities with diverse and deep identities which are deep rooted in their rich oceans of personal experience.
This is a list of the all time best female characters in video game history. For the images, I used Cosplay rather than actual official images of the character from in-game. This was due to the character never getting their proper justice and their image being stuck back in time. For a better idea of who each character is and what they mean to my heart as a gamer, read the description under each image. I expect many people to say that I’ve left some out, but that’s probably because I have decided to forego the usual picks in favor of more meaningful choices.
These are well defined characters that have impact on the player rather than drawing from the player to define them. These women could stand alone for themselves without need for much speculation on their personality. That’s part of why these are the best of the best. Please feel free to comment your personal favorites and let me know who you think I missed though of course! I would love to see if there’s one I forgot and also cherish among your personal faves. Below each picture is a link to the Cosplay Artist, the name of the character, and a description about my personal thoughts on that character, what video games they are from, and a slice of history from their life for those who don’t know them.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: Weirdtakoyaki // Photographer: Jack Liu]
TERRA – Revolutionary, Spiritual, Hybrid Being
Terra Branford is part human being and part esper. In Final Fantasy VI, this means she is a part mystic being capable of magical powers beyond most human’s control. Her powers are used against her though will as she becomes a slave to the Empire run by Emperor Gestahl and Kefka. She was born of a loving couple from human and esper, but was stolen away at birth by the Empire amidst a war over power.
Mankind lost all technology and magic, but Terra’s struggle was only beginning. As the world was plunged into the abyss of starting from scratch again, eventually a new Industrial Age was born again under the very same Empire that was responsible for society’s collapse in the first place. Controlling forces took spirit beings and forcefully, brutally massacred them turning them into weaponized magic stones that gave the user any power possessed by those beings before they died – and in fact concentrated in an even more powerful form.
Terra reluctantly leads an entire army of heroes to the brink of the end of the world in an attempt to save it, but despite best efforts darkness falls upon mankind once again. After a major catastrophe, Terra must face a new world and fight for what is right once again. What I like most about Terra is that she is a very deep thinker.
One thing about this woman is that things don’t come easy for her. She often doubts herself and feels that she is not up to the task of leading The Returners against the Empire. She is horrified at the evil acts she has done when under the slave crown’s influence, burning men alive particularly. She struggles to come to grips with her newfound power as a Magic wielder and often feels weak and powerless against the immense odds she faces. As her transformation to Esper erratically rages on against her will, she begins to find strength in the friendships she holds and attempts to provide a greater hope for them all as she realizes they rely on her as a matriarch to their makeshift family of outcasts.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: Vicky Redfield]
CLAIRE Redfield – Deadly, Intelligent, Persistent
Claire Redfield can shoot the head off a zombie from across a crowded field without hitting a single bystander. She can also get to the bottom of any dark mystery she ends up a part of, albeit not without frustration and scraping the barrel for clues. Claire has always been a long time favorite for video game fans who have anything to do with the Resident Evil series. Her first appearance was in RE 2 and she’s basically the and I think we’re all going to be getting to see a lot more of her lately thanks to RE: Revelations 2 hitting and the REmakes (we are hoping for a part 2 and 3 to happen, so go out and support the Remastered version of part 1 for Capcom!) 🙂
Claire refers to her work as her “boyfriend” because that’s just the kind of up-beat, zombie murdering, politician exposing badass she really is. Her heart is a powerful beacon of positivity in a world full of blood, sin, and corruption. It’s dangerous enough dealing with zombies, but Claire comes face to face with the most highly kept secret mutations ever brought into vile existence by the Umbrella corporation and their fiendish partners.
G-Virus monsters in Resident Evil: Degeneration the Animated Film as well as Resident Evil 3 would have completely destroyed our best detective in the Resident Evil world if it wasn’t for her extreme ability to suppress her emotions and get the job done. Claire is who you want by your side (or controller) in a RE game and to tell the truth the RE games without her in it just aren’t the same!
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: Nemu013]
KITANA – Mysterious, Murderous
Kitana (MK series) One of the first female video game characters of the 16 bit era, Kitana is accompanied in the MK series by a long line of powerful and well storied women including Sindel, Mileena, Jade, and more. full name – video games shes in – history of her life – what i think about her : Kitana always had this aura about her like she was mysterious and deadly, a veteran of ninja assassin murdering, and yet a delicate rational human being still existed somewhere between the ruthless rage. You could tell beneath it all, Kitana was still aware of her spiritual side, that plus her prominence as a deadly killer in such an intense action game makes her one of the ultimate females in video game character history.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: DarkTifaStrife]
TIFA Lockhart – Pure, Strong
Tifa Lockhart first appeared in Final Fantasy VII but also stars in Advent Children, Dissidia, Itadaki Street, Kingdom Hearts II, and is available as DLC for LittleBigPlanet 2. Her life is almost as much of a blur as that of her childhood friend Cloud Strife’s. In her hometown Nibelheim, which was later burned to the ground, she suffered a lot of pain and suffering at the hands of Sephiroth and the ShinRa corporation. No matter what she went through though Tifa stayed the same person. Her strength allowed her to resist the hate within her and instead continue a path of righteousness while battling for the good of the planet with the insurgency group AVALANCHE.
Originally designed as a cheerful character, her depth and sorrow was emboldened as Tifa came closer to her goal of stopping the madness that had infected her life since the start. War and power struggles had ravaged everything she ever knew and taken many people away from her. She found a way to keep a smile on everyone’s face and though there was some resentment harbored inside for those who had done this to her, the spirit of her intentions never broke and neither did her focus.
[Cosplay Artist: Unknown (please help us give credit) // Discovered on GiantBomb]
CATE Archer – Clever, Adventurous
From No One Lives Forever 1 and 2, Cate Archer is one of my favorite playable characters in history. PC Gamers will remember that during the time of her fame the shooter genre was at its peak with excellent storytelling and gameplay fusing together for top quality experiences. Frustrated with being underappreciated Cate found excitement when she became wrapped up in the 60’s spy adventure of a lifetime.
Although Scottish in origin, her refined British-sounding accent made the wit of her dripping sarcasm melt in your ear lobe, but this woman was also very deadly. I can’t count how many clips of ammunition of exhausted as Cate Archer, but every so often I remember the days when PC games still ran on CD-ROM and NOLF 2 was in my stack of favorites. Cate Archer always treated danger as a drug that made her feel alive, and part of her greatest strength was her complete arrogance and confidence in herself which can easily be related to while gunning down terrorists by the dozen.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: Pamelacolnaghi]
CATHERINE – Tempting, Devious
Catherine from the video game by the same name is one succubus that was easy to fall in love with. Even though she is pure evil there’s something ethereal and affectionate about her that can’t be resisted. Maybe it’s the escapist nature of her companionship offer to brisk you away from your physical existence and cut through all the difficult parts of life to simply spend time with a delicious demon that absorbs you into her fiery, burning passion. She has brought many men down the path of self-destruction, and I can see why. It’s not because of her looks, or her cutesy voice, but instead the attitude she puts forth and the fun-loving nature she exhibits. It’s a shame that she’s just delivering a rouse for her own selfish plots. Beware if you cross paths with Catherine, it may be your undoing.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: Jessica Nigri // Photographer: Martin Wong]
RIKKU – Kind, Teacher, Savior
Final Fantasy X’s Rikku of the Al Bhed – She spoke a foreign language, she was nice to you, she came from the heart at all times, and had a clear purpose to her actions. Rikku was such a well defined character she belonged in a Hollywood film and she’s one of the characters who helped bring realism to the gaming world. What’s not to love? Rikku always has your back, she’s always a friend to the people around her. She stands up for peace, what’s right, and the survival of others. Often times I felt that the crew she ran with would have been better off if they’d listened to Rikku more often.
Her mastery of technology is undeniable, and choosing to always use this power for good was an inspiring and impressive attitude to have even in the face of uncertainty. Probably one of her less noticeable features is that Rikku is an excellent judge of character. She knew to question the authority of the Maester Seymour Guado before anyone else, and she knew that Tidus although naive and foolish was a good person who could be trusted immediately upon sight. As time goes on she shares her insights openly and gives the knowledge of Al Bhed technology away to her allies as they earn from her one piece at a time. She’s saved the lives of her friends more than once and doesn’t keep track, it’s just what she does. Rikku is a hero and highly underrated female character in gaming.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: CyberLight Cosplay AKA Light]
LIGHTNING – Fiery, Exacting, Efficient, Relentless
At first I didn’t like her because of her cold off-putting attitude against everyone else, but over time the things she was afraid of started happening. Events beyond her control put those she love in direct dangers spawning evil that took 3 games to quell completely. Lightning is stable, consistently angry, and she is viscous. She doesn’t care anymore about the pretense of feelings and simple is after achieving the mission. In a lot of ways, this is the ultimate Final Fantasy warrior archetype we’ve seen before with characters such as Cloud or Cecil.
Lightning does things with a bit more grace and a bit more anger, adding even more edge to this strong list of leading ladies. No matter what, she never gave up. Her mindset was to see through any fairy tale versions of reality and get to the bottom of issues which she would then deal with swiftly. If only everyone else around her had listened to her concerns the first time around, things wouldn’t have gone the way they did for her sister. It’s almost a tragedy how misunderstood Lightning is, even I didn’t get her at first. Now it is clear to see Lightning is an absolutely intelligent and powerful woman who knows what she’s talking about and simply has no time for subtleties.
[Image Credit / Cosplay Artist: Heidi AKA Cosplay Kitten]
CELES Chere – Independent, Fearless, Conflicted
Wait a minute, I almost forgot Celes !!
Once a General of the most powerful army in the world, Celes is wrongly named as a spy and given a prompt fall from grace as the ease of her life in power is stripped by the Empire she spent her whole life serving. This gives enough motivation for her to join The Returners in their quest against the evil actions of the Empire, but it doesn’t cause her to abandon her own thoughts on self-preservation and self-realization. She isn’t shocked by her ability to use magic in the way Terra Branford was, and instead is very comfortable with her abilities as a Knight of mysterious power. After all, she was born powerful, not suddenly gaining her abilities overnight. She’s a high class warrior who struggles to find her place in the world after being ejected from the throne.
Her decision making process is all internal, she’s not easily won over by the logic of others but instead is very capable of examining a situation herself and making judgement calls on her own. I admire the way in which she faces life without shedding a tear very often or worrying much at all. Of course, she’s only human, and conflicted emotions are the plague of those who can see multiple points of view. There are times when she needs to walk away and get deep reflection.
Being somewhat old fashioned in her approach, Celes doesn’t always understand the delicate and careful plotting / planning of her rebel partners The Returners. Favoring a direct military path she finds herself most at home when flat out war is at hand. You can take the girl out of the Empire but you can’t take the Empire out of the girl I guess.
Celes is a fascinating Final Fantasy character. Even more so than Terra. But Terra is just so iconic. Esper hybrid, so badass and such a deep thinker that she’s also often lost off in her own little world. I can so relate to them both, well not to the flaking out part but I’m definitely an Esper Hybrid! Probably.
One more of Terra below for good measure:
[Image Credit: Final Fantasy VI Fan Art // By Unknown, Found HERE]
What does everyone else think about this?
There’s more amazing female characters in the world of video games, these are some of my own favorites and rather than picking up the obvious ones made famous by popularity, I decided to go with those who made an impact on me personally throughout my time in games. If you have personal picks that are from lesser known games that you guys think I may have missed out on, let me know, who do you think are the best female video game characters of all time?
Editor’s Note: This piece is an Opinion Article and may / may not represent the views of RGN Staff or Audience. Feel free to disagree and / or comment below.