Since the beginning of the gaming culture coming into existence, there has been a long line of characters that have become recognizable and cherished by all. Impressionable boys and girls were sucked into the wonderful pixels of the 80s and 90s gaming boom, grew up to appreciate the rise of 3D gaming, and eventually matured to welcome the dawn of games that offer more photorealistic visuals. And through it all, those same gamers have been introduced to some of the greatest heroines (and in some cases, anti-heroines) in gaming. We took the time to look at all those memorable women to put together this list of the 30 best female video game characters of all time.
The 30 Best Female Video Game Characters
1. Ms. Pac-Man
The twinkle in Pac-Man's eye is due to the lovely lady we're showcasing first. Ms. Pac-Man's male counterpart got a hugely positive reception when he debuted, of course. But a faster version of the arcade game's formula and a much more appealing character design garnered Ms. Pac-Man a pretty sizable fanbase of her own. This 80s gaming icon is still beloved as she was back in the day during the arcade golden era.
2. Samus Aran
The final image of a woman emerging out of Metroid's iconic power suit definitely blew everyone's minds during the NES' heyday. And that's because there weren't a whole lot of female protagonists leading the way in games during the 80s. That monumental moment pushed Samus Aran up to Nintendo's hall of greatness when we consider its most famous faces. Samus is a badass bounty hunter that doesn't let any alien creature big or small impede her progress, which is why fans recognize her as one of the best female video game characters ever.
3. Princess Peach
'Super Mario Bros.'
At first, Princess Peach played the part of a damsel in distress during the earliest platformers that focused on Mario saving the day from Bowser. But as the years progressed, Peach came into her own as a confident ruler over her loyal subjects in the Mushroom Kingdom and someone willing to bring the pain to Bowser's Koopa contingent. Peach's starring role in the underrated DS release Super Princess Peach and the vicious nature she puts on display in the Super Smash Bros. games are why we consider Peach gaming royalty.
'Street Fighter II: The World Warrior'
The first female fighting game character everyone grew to idolize is the woman who's mastered the martial art of the "Hundred Lightning Kicks." Miss Chun-Li made her grand debut in Street Fighter II as its only female tournament entrant and gained a ton of notoriety thanks to her ability to duke it out with a roster full of powerful male combatants. Since making a splash in Capcom's biggest IP, Chun-Li has become a crossover star that's appeared in several fighting and non-fighting games. Plus she just so happens to look good in everything she wears as evidenced by all the alternate costumes she sports in numerous Street Fighter games.
5. Sonya Blade
Like Miss Li, Sonya Blade stood out from the male-dominated crowd in the first Mortal Kombat. And somehow someway, she withstood tons of punishment and fought her heart out in one of the bloodiest and goriest fighting games of the 90s. Blade's character evolution has been exciting to follow - her military roots have come front and center and she's tapped into her Judo mastery to remain a formidable member of the revered MK mythology. Extra kudos go out to Blade for leaving our jaws on the floor the first time we laid eyes on her "To The Choppa" Fatality from Mortal Kombat 11!
6. Lara Croft
The frontwoman for the Tomb Raider series will always get the nod for being one of the best female video game characters in gaming history. During the 90s, Lara Croft broke ground while adorning the covers of non-gaming magazines worldwide. The world never knew they wanted a female take on Indiana Jones until Ms. Croft hit the scene. Croft and her double pistols are classic gaming material, plus her rebooted rendition modernized her as the ultimate survivor that can withstand anything and everything.
7. Tifa Lockhart
'Final Fantasy VII'
Final Fantasy VII features two of the most heralded ladies in JRPG history. The first one we want to give flowers to is Tifa Lockhart, who's a commendable bartender, looks fantastic in a dress, is super dependable, and can beat you bloody with ease. Throughout the entirety of Squaresoft's iconic Final Fantasy series entry, fans came to love Tifa and praise her affinity for battle - whenever she goes into "Limit Break" mode to pull off a "Beat Rush" or a "Dolphin Blow," everyone that's watching those flashy moves unfold is further convinced of her greatness.
8. Aerith Gainsborough
'Final Fantasy VII'
You just had to be there, people! When Sephiroth did the unthinkable and stuck his Masamune blade right through this precious flower merchant, everyone came unglued. And that's because Final Fantasy VII fans came to appreciate Aerith's soft-spoken and playful tendencies. Some people love Tifa more while other people have tons more fondness for Aerith. For the latter group, we totally understand why you love her so strongly - Aerith is a kind soul that we hope doesn't get done dirty in the remake trilogy of Final Fantasy VII.
'Street Fighter Alpha 2'
2D fighting games go extremely hard in their appreciation for Shotokan martial arts practitioners. Ryu set the standard, Ken injected a nice dosage of cool into the character archetype, and a whole bunch of other copycats emerged soon after. When Sakura made her debut, gamers were introduced to a female take on "Shoto's" that's now recognized as one of the greatest Street Fighter characters of all time. Sakura's fun-loving nature, her childlike innocence, and her neverending road to matching her idol Ryu's power define her finest characteristics.
'Mortal Kombat II'
Mortal Kombat's grand realm of Edenia is home to one of the savage female members of the gruesome fighter's massive roster. Kitana is pure royalty and always goes the extra mile when it comes to defending her people from the most dangerous beings in her midst. The way she brutalizes her rivals with steel fans and goes flying all over the screen with grace points to her most alluring attributes as a Mortal Kombat "kombatant" and seals her spot atop any list of the best female video game characters.
11. Aya Brea
When Mitochondria Eve burned an entire theatre full of people and proceeded to spread her disease among all living things, Aya Brea rose to the occasion to take her down for good. And thanks to her heroic efforts in the Parasite Eve games, Brea has carved out a special place in the heart of 90s babies that played the games that introduced clever JRPG/survival horror mashups. Brea is such a G for whipping out her pistol and blasting a mutated rat to smithereens while still wrapped up in a killer black dress.
‘Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers’
Chun-Li was the only lady fighter in Street Fighter for a while...then the devastating "Killer Bee" came onto the scene to make headlines. First off, Cammy's default costume leaves little to the imagination and caught a lot of folks off guard when they saw her for the very first time. But that's not the sole reason why she's celebrated as much as she is - her signature moveset, steadfast attitude, and transformation from a Shadoloo "Doll" into an upstanding citizen that fights for good are all reasons why Cammy is one of the female GOATs.
13. Mai Shiranui
'Fatal Fury 2'
In the wide and wonderful world of fighting games, SNK's contributions to the genre have given us so many extraordinary characters to prop up as the greatest of all time. The first one from that collection of stylish brawlers is the fire-assisted Japanese kunoichi named Mai Shiranui. Her flashy special moves and iconic costume have been featured in SNK and non-SNK games, plus she's inspired a whole line of cosplayers just like her fellow fighting game femme fatales. Mai's revealing attire may make gamers zoom in a little too hard for "research purposes." But we recognize Mai as one of the best female video game characters simply because she's a badass lady ninja.
'Art of Fighting'
We're sure most of you thought King was a dude when you came up against her in the original Art of Fighting. And we'd bet money that you were shocked when you KO'd her out of her clothes and came to the realization that she's a lady. As the Art of Fighting series marched on and The King of Fighters became an SNK fighting game staple, King's stature grew and grew. Today, fighting game fans can't help but list King among their favorite fighting game characters - the slick short haircut, an immense amount of "drip," and Muay Thai mastery are a winning formula for one of the most lethal martial artists fighting games has ever popularized.
15. Jill Valentine
Jill Valentine is such a decorated member of the S.T.A.R.S. Racoon City police special task force - she's survived the bioweapons epidemic that started during the Spencer Mansion incident, escaped her former home while defending herself against a relentless "Nemesis," and gave Albert Wesker a run for his money while partnered up with her Chris Redfield. And on top of all that, Jill has appeared in Capcom fighting games to whup ass and remind everyone she's a member of S.T.A.R.S. at every opportunity. Jill is a survivor that looks in the face of mutated zombie dogs, laughs, and then feeds them shotgun shells for good measure.
16. Claire Redfield
'Resident Evil 2'
Claire Redfield is the best sister in the whole wide world! After her brother Chris Redfield went missing, she stopped everything she was doing to take a trip to Racoon City and figure out his whereabouts. That bioweapon-filled tour of Middle America resulted in Resident Evil fans warming up to Claire due to her fearlessness in the face of disgusting monsters and her dedication to protecting her friends. Claire has grown up right in front of our very eyes and is now known as one of Resident Evil's most cherished protagonists.
17. Ada Wong
'Resident Evil 2'
Ada Wong had that young man Leon S. Kenndey so smitten the first time that they crossed paths. Her alluring good looks and aura of mystery are definitely why the rookie cop at the time lost a bit of his common sense when he ran into her. Ada is such an awesome agent of chaos - while she goes out of her way to save Leon's life when it counts, Ada still sticks to her mission even though it's in opposition to Leon's overarching tasks. And due to all that, we had to save a spot on this list for Resident Evil's double agent.
18. Alyx Vance
Gordon Freeman wouldn't have made it very far during the entirety of Half-Life 2 if this confident resistance fighter wasn't by his side. Thanks to the heroic actions of Alyx Vance, plenty of pressure was put on the alien overlords that took over the game's world. Alyx is such a commendable member of Half-Life 2 since she's not scared to oppose one of the most fearsome threats in all of gaming. When it comes to amazing gaming freedom fighters, this woman comes highly recommended.
19. Ivy Valentine
Yeah, we know - Ivy Valentine's costume leaves little to the imagination. But that's not why we chose to celebrate her on this list of the best female video game characters. Ivy is GOAT-tier material because her overall character design is so unique and eye-catching. When Soulcalibur first dropped, there weren't a whole lot of gaming ladies rocking short purple hair out there so Ivy immediately stood out for many. And her sword that can break apart and destroy folks in its chain whip form is one of the greatest weapons in all of gaming. "Time to destroy you, I suppose." TALK THAT ISH, IVY!
'Halo: Combat Evolved'
Whenever Master Chief needs some assistance on what he should do next, he always refers back to this trustworthy artificially intelligent ally. And that second-in-command heroine is none other than the quick-witted and sometimes sarcastic Cortana, who's someone fans have valued as one of Halo's best characters since her debut in Combat Evolved. The way she tends to throw in a funny quip or two here and there and still manages to keep Master Chief in the fight against insurmountable alien odds is why we love her so much.
21. Commander Shepard
Of course, you can choose to save the galaxy from the "Reapers" as the default version of male Commander Shepard. But there's something a bit cooler about the crimson-haired female take on Mass Effect's main character that appeals to us so much more. Any woman that's capable of gathering the best freedom fighters outside of Planet Earth and rising up to save humans and aliens alike deserves a mention from us as one of the very best characters in gaming.
'Telltale’s The Walking Dead’
At the start of Telltale's The Walking Dead, Clementine was nothing more than a perpetually frightened little girl trapped within a post-apocalyptic world taken over by the undead. But over the course of each season, fans watched her grow into a strong-willed survivor who mastered survival tactics and did whatever it took to protect the ones she loves. No matter the choices players made, Clementine still evolved into someone that gamers have treasured ever since she ran into Lee Everett. If a zombie outbreak ever breaks out, here's hoping we run into someone just like her.
2B is such a lethal force that can tear through a whole army of raging robots with relative ease. We will forever be in awe of her ability to wild massive katanas, axes, spears, and more while zipping around the battlefield during epic boss fights against massive bots. Her unwavering conviction towards her mission and battle-hardened skills showcase the best parts about her. Plus her design is super appealing - the whole blindfold deal and her battle maid get-up guarantee her a spot on a list of the best-dressed gaming characters and our list of the best female video game characters.
Bayonetta seems to have 0 fear, doesn't she? Even when she's confronted by towering demons and angelic threats that would have us shaken, she laughs in their face and proceeds to get into a dance number before she tears those enemies a new one. Bayonetta's overall design has evolved over the course of her action-packed series and the same can be said about her arsenal of devastating melee weaponry and flashy firearms. When it comes time to mention the strongest "Umbra Witch," Bayonetta is the first name that comes to mind.
25. Princess Zelda
'The Legend of Zelda'
Like her fellow Nintendo princess, Zelda was trapped in the role of the "royal ruler of a kingdom that needs saving" role at first. Thankfully, her role expanded and placed her in the position of a hero on par with her former savior Link. Zelda stepped up to defend the good people of Hyrule and clash with Ganondorf as one of the heroic "Sages" and "Champions," plus she even adopted an alter-ego as the mysterious Shiek and swashbuckling Tetra in order to go incognito to offer Link some much-needed assistance. What a selfless heroine Zelda truly is!
26. Elena Fisher
‘Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune’
Over the course of four mainline Uncharted games, Elena Fisher gained fame amongst gamers for being handy with a gun and willing to go the extra mile to get the biggest scoops of all as a globe-trotting journalist. Nathan Drake has a ton of allies he relies on to get him out of some sticky situations. Thanks to Elena's unwavering loyalty and ability to stay vigilant in the face of danger, she stands out as one of the shining beacons from Uncharted's collective of memorable protagonists.
'The Last of Us'
Ellie was born into a world that's none too kind to children. But with Joel by her side, she grew into a hardened survivor and expert scavenger that can brave the dangers that come her way from rival human factions and unyielding hordes of "Infected" monsters. Playing as Ellie in both The Last of Us games is always a rewarding experience - taking control of someone so adept at hunting down anyone and everyone that makes the mistake of crossing her is such a gratifying experience.
28. Yennefer of Vengerberg
'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt'
Geralt of Rivia is a pretty tough individual who doesn't really show a ton of emotion. But when it comes to his one true love, gamers always get a rare sight of him being quite smitten with one of the few people who can make him feel that way. The sorceress known as Yennefer of Vengerberg is beautiful, fiercely independent, highly intelligent, and a powerhouse that can evoke fear in anyone that witnesses her magical abilities come to the forefront. Her destructive powers are on full display during the "Battle of Sodden" and were convincing enough to earn her a spot on this list of the best female video game characters.
'The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt'
Young Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon has been through hell and back. And what's even crazier is that she's endured so many unfortunate circumstances at a very young age. Even with the world seemingly against her, Ciri has fought back and remained headstrong no matter the evils that come to endanger her. Ciri is quite adept at swinging a sword around, is always empathetic toward her friends, and makes her cheer for her thanks to her revenge-fueled ways.
'Horizon Zero Dawn'
Aloy has come up against enormous mechanical versions of animals that would have us quaking in our boots if we were forced to ever confront them. Every time we watch her lay down some traps and carefully shoot off the metal parts attached to extra persistent "Sawtooth," "Shell-Walkers," and "Snapmaws," we can't help but be in awe. Aloy is the ultimate apex predator and is always armed with a spicy retort whenever someone ever tries to be overly flirty with her.