- From the day when video games developed the graphic capabilities to simulate cleavage, women in games have been designed mostly from the blueprints of a horny 13-year-old boy's fantasy.
If a female character wasn't in need of rescue - yes, we're talking about you, Donkey Kong - she seemed designed specifically to reinforce negative body images.
But there have been a handful of female video game characters that Brandi Chastain would be proud of, with more seeming to appear in recent years. Below are our picks for the nine greatest video game heroines of all time.
Each was chosen by The Chronicle's video game critics, with the list arranged in descending order of awesomeness, and the name of the nominating critic in parenthesis. Only playable characters are included, and they were judged on toughness and coolness, with no swimsuit or evening gown competition. (This isn't the Maxim magazine list of the nine hottest chicks of gaming.)
We considered adding Ms. Pac Man or Thyra the Valkyrie from the arcade classic Gauntlet, but decided to focus on more modern games. Consider both of those older characters the recipients of a lifetime achievement award.
(Tomb Raider, first appearance 1996): We considered leaving Croft off the list altogether because of her stripper body, which is ridiculously unsuited for tomb raiding. But Croft seems marginally less whorish in more recent games, and she's always been pretty good with a firearm. (Peter Hartlaub)
(Mass Effect, 2007): You could tweak her personality and appearance (or go with a male version of the character), but Jane Shepard was anything but a blank slate. The many choices made throughout this game only served to uncover more of a forceful personality that was already there to begin with. (Erick Wong)
(Left 4 Dead, 2008): Not your typical horror movie gal - brunet, snarky and wielding dual pistols - she's more than capable of handling herself in a zombie party. Her best quote, upon seeing a wall filled with "God is dead" graffiti: "Oh no! The zombies killed God!" Extra: Zoey is voiced by Jen Taylor, who is also Cortana in the Halo series. (Christopher T. Fong)
(Odin Sphere, 2007): She defies an edict of her father, the king, to gain his acceptance - even though she knows doing so will force him to condemn her under the law. The Odin Sphere plotlines are entangled with the elegance of a good soap opera, and Gwendolyn's conflicting actions set a nuanced tone for the rest of the game. (E.W.)
(Street Fighter, 1991): Chun-Li was the Billie Jean King of video game characters. If you were a young girl when the Street Fighter II arcade game came out, it was refreshing to see a character that was more than a hot young body and could mix it up with the guys. She returns this week with the new release Street Fighter IV. (P.H.)
(Mirror's Edge, 2008): This is probably the closest we'll ever get to a video game version of "Run Lola Run," not only because of the constant sense of motion but also because of the driven protagonists at the center of both stories. Faith's knack for running into and away from her problems at the same time makes it easy to get pulled along, breathlessly waiting to see what solution she finds along the way. (E.W.)
(Resident Evil, 1998): We could have easily added Jill Valentine or Ada Wong to this list. The Resident Evil series, which introduces a zombie fighter named Sheva Alomar in the forthcoming Resident Evil 5, has always promoted strong female characters. Redfield, the least flashy of the group, gets the nod for saving her brother early in the series. (P.H.)
(Beyond Good & Evil, 2003): Armed with her reporter skills, a camera and quick moves with a dai jo stick, Jade investigates the corruption of the military force that was supposed to protect them from the marauding aliens, the DomZ. Tomboyish in nature, Jade was simply a regular gal caught in the middle of a conflict while running an orphanage for the injured children of Hillys. (C.F.)
(Metroid, 1986): Covered in an armor-like cybernetic power suit, Samus was impossible to identify as a girl until the end of the first game. That twist was arguably the most important statement of gender equality in video game history. Since then, Samus has become one of the biggest video game badasses of any gender. (P.H.)
Do you think we should have chosen Ada Wong over Claire Redfield? Think we should have moved Lara Croft up higher? Argue our choices in the comments section!