Valentine’s Day Massacre

In honor of Valentine’s Day (yes it’s super early but the newspaper I work for wanted the article by the 15th so nyah), my article today was going to focus on the romantic relationships of classic video game couples. Mario and Peach. Link and Zelda. You get the idea. But as my research spiraled out of control thanks to Google search, I realized something. These girls are kind of sad. At least in their original forays into the lexicon of classic gaming. Women who not only were incapable of defending themselves, but also suffered from some sort of amnesia that kept them from beefing up security to stave off these frequent kidnapping attempts. So instead of a happy frolic through fuzzy romance, this month I’m looking at ten female characters kick butt and kill mindless minions with the best of the boys. Warning, there may be things that one could consider spoilers below.

  1. Mrs. Pac-Man: Sure she started off as an unauthorized sequel to the drug like addiction that was Pac-Man. But she was also the first female character to achieve massive celebrity. Premiering in 1981, people around the world fed quarter upon quarter into the local arcade. The levels were addicting, and killing blue ghosts was just as fun as ever. But surprisingly people were also interested in her plot, thin as it may be. Only a few small scenes; from meeting Pac-Man to their eventual stork delivery but it was enough to catapult the game to legendary status and open the door for future female protagonists.
  2. Samus Aran: The original butt kicking girl. For anyone that came of age in the late eighties, the discovery that the power suit wearing, alien killing, acrobatic cyborg that saved the galaxy from certain doom was actually a hot chick in a bikini left you staring at your television in disbelief. How could this be? Even the manual referred to the main character as a “he”. Up is down, black is white. The world no longer made sense. In one moment, an entire generation of pre-teen boys was emasculated. They’d been tricked into playing a girl. Once the shock wore off though, Samus became beloved by all and a model for future female characters.
  3. Chun Li: No list of girls that rocked would be complete without Chun Li. Debuting in 1991 in Street Fighter II, it was the first time quarter-toting kids could play as a female in a one-on-one fighting game. With thunder thighs and an infuriating giggle when she beat you into the ground, Chun Li showed that a woman could look fantastic even while curb stomping your face. With the immense popularity that followed her premiere, scantily clad ladies soon found their way into all fighting games and today are a genre staple.
  4. Princess Peach: What? Didn’t I just completely ridicule her at the beginning of this article? Yes, yes I did. But even though Peach was mostly useless for the sake of the plot she has had two instances where the mold was broken and she indeed kicked butt. Her first attempt was in Super Mario Bros. 2, released in 1988. As a playable character with the ability to float, playing as the lightweight princess was considered the best way to play the game…even topping Mario. That certainly is an achievement on its own. Her ability to hover made precision kills of enemies and bosses almost laughably easy. Then, as recently as 2006, Peach finally got her own game on the Nintendo DS. In Super Princess Peach the tides are turned as she must rescue Mario from the clutches of Bowser. About time, I’d say.
  5. Zelda: Again yes, I did ridicule her for her inability to not get kidnapped but she gets kudos for eventually figuring it out. By 1998 and the release of Ocarina of Time, Zelda had learned to defend herself. Playing an important role as the ninja-tastic Sheik, she helped Link save the world in a more direct manner than usual. Having cut her teeth at being a fully functioning member of society, Zelda went on to become a sassy, back-talking pirate captain in Wind Waker. She’s also reprised her role as Sheik in the popular Super Smash Bros. series where she is considered to be one of the best characters in the one-on-one fighting game.
  6. Lara Croft: The first female protagonist of a new generation, Ms. Croft made her debut to the video game world in 1996. Tomb Raider was a sensation. And while several valid points were made about her being hyper-sexualized it did little to stop her momentum. If she wanted to wear hot pants while solving puzzles, escaping traps, pumping bad guys full of lead and participating in high speed chases, no one was going to stop her. Not to mention that accent. She’s James Bond and Indiana Jones rolled into one and given rockin’ curves.
  7. The Women of Resident Evil: I couldn’t pick just one. Jill Valentine, Claire Redfield and Ada Wong have all taken turns at killing zombies and taking names. In a genre usually known, at least in movie form, for victimizing women, Resident Evil gave them a gun. Or five. And a chip on their shoulder. Throughout the series, these ladies have shown that standing up against the legions of the undead is not just for the boys. And with the exception of a very slinky red dress, they’ve managed to stay fully clothed too. A miraculous event in cinema or gaming.
  8. American McGee’s Alice: Released in 2000, the world got to see a new side of Alice. Having been institutionalized after the Red Queen burned down her house and killed her family, Alice begins the game by attacking the orderlies that spent their free time tormenting her in her catatonic state. This certainly isn’t Disney. With sadistic and psychedelic undertones to the world she enters, Alice embarks on a bloody journey to free Wonderland from the despotic rule of the Red Queen. With a razor sharp blade and wit to match, she is one of the most deliciously dark female characters to grace the gaming industry.
  9. Alexandra Rovis: Chances are, you’ve never heard of her. Alexandra starred in the first M rated game released by Nintendo; Eternal Darkness for the Gamecube. Trapped in a possessed house and determined to save herself and solve her grandfather’s murder, she is faced with one of the most psychologically frightening games to date. Alexandra witnesses herself commit suicide, loses her sanity multiple times and still manages to get it together to learn a forgotten magic, how to wield a sword and destroy the evil necropolis beneath the family mansion.
  10. Chell: The main character of Valve’s Portal has it rough. She’s most likely a clone, designed to die. She’s trapped in a labyrinth with a crazy computer that alternately tries to kill her or offer her cake. But does she cry about it and wait for rescue? Nope. She uses her powers of analytical thinking and the space bending powers of the Portal gun to kill her computerized overseer and escape. Take that genetic engineering. Not only that, but she’s got some cool leg gear to boot.

So there you have it. Ten video game chicks that kick bad guy butt in their respective ways. But these are just my picks. Surely there are more. I can think of plenty off the top of my head that didn’t make the list. Feel free to prove me wrong in my choices or merely add your own opinion below. Don’t be shy!

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One Response

  1. I have a crush on Ms. Pacman.

    There, I said it.

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