Over the last while, the game industry has been under scrutiny for not having enough female characters and female protagonists in games. Today, I have a point to prove: that there are plenty of incredible female characters, more than I could probably list or bring justice to in a Top 10 list. So for this week’s Top 10, I will be counting down the Top 10 Female Protagonists in Video Games. There is really only one qualification for this list, and that is that you have to be able to play as them.

Warning: There will be spoilers for almost all entries on this list.

10. Aveline de Grandpré- Assassins Creed III: Liberation

Born into a wealthy lifestyle given to her by her merchant father and salve mother Jeanne, Aveline had always been at odds with cultural normalities. After her mother disappeared, she was driven to find her and get her back. Through her journey to find her mother, Aveline further realized the racial problems within New Orleans. Some people had great privilege over others, and the others were no more than slaves to the privileged. Realizing the injustice towards those of color, Aveline was dead set on ridding New Orleans of injustice, which brought her to the Brotherhood to bring justice to New Orleans and remove the Templars. She is driven to protect and fight for those she cares about, and isn’t interested in social normalities. Also extremely selfless and caring, but to the point where that trait has gotten her into more trouble than needed. Gifted in free running, combat, and acting as well as extremely charismatic while still being genuine gives Aveline an advantage over other assassins, as her acting skills and Nobel name allow her to dress up as a salve or high lady letting her sneak past guards or join groups to create diversions.

9. Faith Connors- Mirror’s Edge

The totalitarian government in the world of Mirror’s Edge made it nearly impossible for knowledge to get around without the government finding out about it. After Faith lost her mother, she joined the rebellion against this government. Faith supports what she believes in and will do whatever it takes to follow through with her beliefs. Her extreme athletic abilities have helped her become a runner, a person who carries sensitive information only made for a few eyes to see. Protective of her sister and others she cares about, and rebellious but still logical, Faith knows what she wants and isn’t afraid to get it done.

8. Aqua- Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep 

Loyal to the end, Aqua is one of the greatest friends you could ask for. In Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Aqua is a part of the Wayfinder trio with her best friends Terra and Ventus. After Aqua passes her Mark of Mastery exam and Terra fails, problems arise among the trio. As more events unfold and Terra begins to make questionable choices, Aqua is at a loss as to what she should do and believe in. She sticks to her kind instinct and sacrifices herself to protect her best friends and to try and stop Master Xehanort. Aqua’s kind and pure heart as Xehanort in Kingdom Hearts 3.

7. Bayonetta- Bayonetta Series 

Calm, collected, and wise cracking, Bayonetta is a sign of female empowerment. Bayonetta is more than comfortable in her own skin, and embraces her body, something that is completely avoided in most games. As a witch, she has extremely powerful magic that is able to take down many enemies at once. She is also intelligent, with a kind, mothering nature that she doesn’t like to admit. Overall, Bayonetta has a great, fully-realized personality that makes her games and character a complete joy to experience.

6. Lara Croft- Tomb Raider (2013)

Although the old Lara was great, she wasn’t without her problems. When the new Tomb Raider reboot came along, seeing what they did with Lara’s character was my most anticipated aspect of the game. The reboot did Lara’s character wonders. This time around, Lara became a true survivor. After her ship crashed, Lara had to survive and navigate her way around the unknowingly inhabited island while trying to find the rest of her group. As this is Lara’s first adventure and the player’s first time with the reboot Lara, you are able to see her character fully grow from a posh-London girl to a hardened survivor. Lara is very friendly but also serious, and this iteration of Lara is more insecure and timid about herself. Even when she realizes she can’t save her whole crew, she damn well tries to and perseveres to the end. Seeing Lara go from being utterly terrified the first time she kills to being a determined and calculated survivor is the greatest aspect of the Tomb Raider reboot.

5. FemShep – Mass Effect Trilogy

BioWare is able to create some of the best written characters in all of gaming, and the ability to choose / create all aspects of your character is one of my favourite things about BioWare games. In one of BioWare’s greatest pieces of work, the Mass Effect Trilogy, you play as Commander Shepard of the Alliance Navy, the first Human Spectre and Reaper destroyer. Like most BioWare games and Western RPG’s, you are able to choose your gender, thus giving you Female Commander Shepard, or more commonly known as FemShep. The greatest part about FemShep is that her character is hardly ever changed from her male counterpart. Most of the dialog is the same, with a few exceptions and extra dialog added such as being mistaken for a stripper at Omega. She is able to kick just as much alien ass, and with the addition of FemShep exclusive dialog and romance options, as well as Jennifer Hale’s incredible performance, I argue that FemShep is even better than her male variant.

4. Samus Aran- Metroid Series

Samus made a name for herself in the gaming world by being in a mysterious game filled with exploration, eeriness, and aliens. Most players assumed Samus was a male, but at the end of the game when she removed her armor many players were shocked and overjoyed to see a force such as Samus be a woman. Samus has extreme natural athletic abilities, thanks to being injected with Chozo DNA after being taken in by them at a young age. Throughout the Metroid games, Samus has always showed a protective mother-like nature to the baby Metroid. She is also extremely powerful thanks to the powersuit, and her athletic abilities can allow her to do things a regular human couldn’t. Samus also has a vendetta against the space pirates, especially the Space Dragon Ridley. Determined to get revenge on the Space Pirates, Samus does everything in her power to find them and stop them. Strong-willed and determined, Samus can take down anything in her path.

3. Elizabeth- BioShock Infinite

Elizabeth is the very definition of a femme fatale: smart, strong, and not afraid to look great while doing it. Seeing Elizabeth transform from a wide-eyed, wonder-struck, innocent girl to a hardened woman with a drive to protect and help those she loves and cares about is one of the greatest character transformations in recent gaming memory. After needing to murder Daisy and kill her father to break the circle, Elizabeth realizes the harsh realities of the world and that there isn’t always a Paris she can go to. When faced with the need to protect Sally, Elizabeth shows no remorse for others or weakness to Atlas, even when faced with the possibility of her own death.

2. Clementine – The Walking Dead Season 1 and 2

Who would have thought that an eight-year-old girl could be one of the most badass people in a zombie apocalypse? When you first meet Clementine in Season 1 episode 1, Clementine can’t really do much else other than be cute and help Lee with small tasks (but can you blame her? Come on she’s an eight-year-old girl). Over the course of Season 1, Clementine comes to grips with the reality of the world she’s in, and tries to make the best of it by keeping a happy face and loving personality all the time. But she also realizes that she can’t stay cute forever, and needs to learn to fight. With much hesitation, Lee teaches her how to shoot, and the basics of survival, such as keeping your hair short. After the emotional end to Season 1, Clem is alone in the world again. With only a gun and basic supplies, Clementine’s character begins to shine. She isn’t a push over anymore. She is a walker killing machine, with the charisma and drive to get what she wants and protect what she needs. Tough decisions cause her to lose those she loves, but every scar, both emotional and physical builds her character to one everyone aspires to be with, and sure as hell someone you don’t want to be against.

1. Ellie- The Last of Us

Ellie has been through hell and back. After losing her best friend and family, Ellie had lost hope and begun to think that she would be better off by herself. She is a capable fighter and isn’t afraid to fight or kill if she has to. Ellie is very bitter to people at first and not one to give out trust easily. After seeing past her defensive nature, Ellie is a scared girl who doesn’t want to be alone. Her protective nature, especially around Joel, shows just how capable and driven she is. When Joel was critically injured, Ellie did everything in her power to make sure he was safe and healthy. Even when she was captured trying to protect Joel, she didn’t stop what needed to be done—protecting the man who had helped her so much. The depth of her character is explored in many situations—from when she has to be brutal and kill David, to her youthful innocence with the giraffe, and her playful and kind nature with Sam, and little moments such as when she tells Joel jokes—allows you to see how she changes and reacts to different situations as the story goes on. Ellie is one of the most complex, dynamic, and best written characters in all of video games and shows what the medium as a whole can become in character-based story telling. This short section cannot do justice as to what an incredible character she is, and if you haven’t played The Last of Us, I urge you to do so as soon as possible.

I know many fan-favorites had to be cut for this list, but there are just so many to choose from, and limiting the list to just 10 wasn’t easy. All of these characters are incredibly written and portrayed, and putting to words how incredible these woman are can’t do them justice. Every game listed here deserves a play through to fully experience the characters and the incredible story within the games.

Who are your favorite female heroines in gaming? Sound off in the comments below! 

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