There’s no debating it, the games industry (or the media as a whole, if we’re being honest) doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to female representation. Characters are often designed as men by default just because and plenty of female characters are designed as flailing boob monsters whose goal in life is to titillate the male audience. Like I said; things aren’t great.
The tides are turning though, as those in charge of our games are finally wising up to the fact that half of their audience is female and that featuring playable female protagonists isn’t going to decimate their sales. The PS4 has been the host to a small but brilliant group of female-led games ever since it launched in 2013, so to highlight some of those, I’ve put together this list.
1. Tomb Raider Definitive Edition (Lara Croft)
Lara Croft is easily the most recognisable woman in all of gaming. She’s spanned multiple console generations and she’s even gotten her very own Hollywood movies and there are few people who don’t know of her ass-kicking, tomb raiding, somersaulting ways.
Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition, which was released in early 2014, was Lara’s first outing on PS4. Although it was just a prettier reskin of Tomb Raider (2013), on PS4 Lara came out swinging with new and improved lighting and hair-swishing graphics. Shipwrecked on the island of Yamatai, Lara has to crossbow, gun and wall-climb her way out of trouble as some nefarious bald fellow tries to sacrifice her bezzie mate Sam to a supernatural goddess. There’s a good mix of puzzle, stealth and combat action and a stellar story that details Lara’s relationship Sam with the rest of her crew members makes this as emotional as it is action-packed.
Unfortunately, it lacks a bit on the tomb-raiding side and the boss battles are a bit naff. That said, it’s the last time PS4 players will see of Lara for quite a while since Rise of the Tomb Raider (her next big budget adventure) is Xbox only for now.
2. Dragon Age: Inquisition (Female Inquisitor)
BioWare has been waving the diversity flag proudly for some time now and with Dragon Age: Inquisition that wasn’t going to stop. As was the case with the previous games, in Dragon Age: Inquisition you can mow down supernatural beasties and squishy mage types playing as either a male or female character.
There’s not a bog standard choice either as customisation options mean that your inquisitor can look however you like, with various skin tones, scars, tattoos and even colours of lippy all allowing you to go nuts. Furthermore, on your way to save the world from the giant glowing rift in the sky, your inquisitor can romance people of the opposite or same gender.
We very rarely get non-heterosexual women in games, let alone non-heterosexual women of colour so Dragon Age: Inquisition is a real rarity.
3. Transistor (Red)
One of PS4’s most popular indies, Transistor puts you in the shoes of a character named Red. Red happens to have a big-ass sword that narrates the game. (I know it’s odd, but just go with it).
Transistor‘s significant particularly down to the fact that it’s self-published by Supergiant Games (them lot who made Bastion) and because it packs in a handful of things that you love about gaming. For example, there’s a plot where you fight against The Man (in this case, that’s a group called the Camerata who want Red dead), there are lots of unlockables to keep you busy and to customise your combat. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Transistor is absolutely gorgeous.
As of January, 2015, Transistor had sold over 600,000 copies, which is a Very Big Deal, but then again it’s not hard to see why.
4. Velocity 2X (Kai Tana)
I’ll be honest here, I hadn’t heard of Velocity 2X until suddenly it was released as a PlayStation Plus freebie (for PS4 and PS Vita) and I played it for hours until suddenly it was 7am and I couldn’t feel my face any more! Facial numbness aside, Velocity 2X is a really good, addictive game.
Developed and published by FuturLab, Velocity 2X sees you play as Lt. Kai Tana (nice name, that) as she embarks on a mission to save the world and free everyone from the tyrannical reign of the Vokh. The Vokh are a nasty bunch who enslave other races to do their bidding and so Kai has to hop in her ship and shoot them to smithereens.
There’s plenty of puzzle action as Kai navigates routes in her ship with twin stick controls as you blast glass to pieces and try not to get lasered to death. There’s also platforming gameplay (that’s why the game is called 2X) that sees her running about defeating enemies within bases. It’s very clever, very fast and totally seamless which is exactly why I’ve let it rob me of so much sleep.
Also great about Velocity 2X are the lovely comic book cutscenes that fill in bits of the story. All round good fun.
5. Child of Light (Aurora)
Seeing as Ubisoft are know for releasing lots of sequels (sometimes very broken ones) and generally following the trend, it seemed a bit odd when they announced Child of Light. Instead of being some sort of “immersive” open world adventure with a “cinematic narrative” or whatever buzzphrase they’re flinging about these days, Child of Light is a delightful platformer about a little girl who tackles the forces of evil to save her kingdom from darkness.
This game is so adorable that its entire narrative is even told in rhyming couplets. Even the dialogue rhymes and yet somehow it doesn’t manage to grate on you. Not even once.
That’s a triumph in itself but Child of Light has also been heralded for the way that its female lead, Aurora, is totally combat ready and is as capable of beating up wicked beasts as any (male) knight or soldier. Along the way we even see her grow from a child into a young woman; it’s something really special.
6. inFamous First Light (Fetch)
The first inFamous game on current gen, inFamous: Second Son ditched Cole (who was too gruff and angry for my liking) and introduced Delsin, a native American protagonist with a penchant for graffiti and a new bag of superpowered tricks. Delsin’s mission? To defeat an organisation called the DUP who are trying to shutdown everyone with powers and put the city of Seattle into a police state.
The game also introduced us to Fetch, Delsin’s female couterpart, who we get to play as in the inFamous: First Light expansion. More angsty than Delsin but just as uncomfortable with her abilities as he, Fetch’s neon powers look absolutely jaw-dropping on PS4. There are more than enough reasons to use them too as she escapes from the DUP’s HQ and makes a break for it.
Also worth noting is that although we meet Fetch in the main, inFamous Second Son campaign, inFamous First Light was actually released as a standalone expansion so even if you don’t have Second Son, you still get to play as her.
7. Life Is Strange (Max)
While the full thing hasn’t been released yet, Life Is Strange is certainly a bold move from developer DONTNOD Entertainment (who also made Remember Me). Not only does their game star a female protagonist but it’s also being released episodically and it features a female focused story.
In Life Is Strange you play as Max, a girl who is able to rewind time as and when she pleases. Handy that as in the very first episode (this isn’t a spoiler – you see this happen in the trailer) she witnesses her childhood friend Chloe get shot, but Max is able to rewind time and save her life. There are some mundane events that Max can use her powers for (e.g stopping things from dropping off of shelves) and some mysterious goings on as her and Chloe seek to find Rachel, a girl who went missing under unusual circumstances.
It’s early days for this one yet but episode one reviewed rather positively. New episodes of Life Is Strange are released on PS4 every six weeks.
8. Never Alone (Nuna)
We don’t do ‘Game of the Year’ posts on this site on more (frankly because it doesn’t seem right to make a GotY list when we’ve not played a majority of the stuff released in that year) but if we did then Never Alone would certainly get my vote.
In Never Alone you play as an Iñupiaq girl named Nuna who is tasked with saving her village from a terrible blizzard as well as an evil force that wants to burn their homes down. Given that she’s about three feet tall, even I was surprised that Nuna (and her animal companion, Fox) were able to pull it off but in the end, as you’d expect, she saves the day.
As a traditional Iñupiaq tale, there’s an empowering message there and the story is just one of the things you learn from Never Alone, as there are many cultural insight videos that teach you about their way of life. All in all it’s a heartwarming tale that teaches you a thing or two about the world on the way.