The 19 Most Badass Female Video Game Characters

Whether you’re talking games on Playstation, Xbox or Wii, it’s easy to come up with male characters when asked to think of badasses in video games, like Master Chief (Halo), Nathan Drake (Uncharted), Duke Nukem, and Niko Bellic (Grand Theft Auto IV). It’s much tougher to come up with a list of badass female video game characters because women, who are typically not thought of as gamers, are not the target audience for video game developers even though they make up 48% of the 190 million gamers in the U.S. alone.

Statistically, only 16% of playable video game characters are female. Out of that 16%, we pulled out the best and the baddest and ranked their badassery. Who made the cut? Let’s get started.

Badass Points Scoring System

Our Badass Points Scoring System is based on the definition of the word “badass.”

noun
 a tough, uncompromising, or intimidating person
 “one of them is a real badass; the other’s pretty friendly”

adjective
 tough, uncompromising, or intimidating
 “a badass demeanor”

Each character’s canonical storyline was examined for events that match this definition, and each event was given one point to add up a total “Badass Score” for each character. This system assumes each character has agency in her universe and relies on events that the character actively participates in and reacts to. Examples of events that matched our criteria are Leliana’s choice to either kill or spare Marjolaine, Clementine killing Winston to escape the bandits and Lara fending off wolves to retrieve Roth’s supplies.

Badass Score: 78
Role: Intergalactic Bounty Hunter
Most Badass Moment: Destroying Planet Phaaze and all the Phazon in the galaxy
Games Sold: 17.74 million (as of Sep. 2012)
First Appearance: Aug. 6, 1986

Tough, intimidating and unfazed by the numerous challenges she takes on, Samus is the top badass around these parts, a distinction achieved with the advantages of starring in the “Metroid” series and having 11 games to her name. Rarely does Samus need saving, and her actions and heroism have directly and positively impacted the universe.

Source: “Metroid” series

Badass Score: 66
Role: Kid
Most Badass Moment: Killing Lee, her father figure, before he could die and be reanimated as a walker
Games Sold: 21 million
Date of Release: April 24, 2012

Clementine’s score is second only to Samus’, and for good reason. The child protagonist of “The Walking Dead” game series makes a ton of tough choices, none of them without consequences, and has to survive in one of the most horrific apocalypse scenarios ever imagined. Clem’s choices may depend on the player, but her determination to survive is absolute.

Source: Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” series

(figures do not include the newest game, “Rise of the Tomb Raider”)

Badass Score: 46
Role: Archaeologist
Most Badass Moment: Destroying an ancient Japanese priestess, saving her best friend and ending a several-thousand-year-old curse on the island of Yamatai
Games Sold: 50 million (does not include “Rise of the Tomb Raider” figures)
Date of Release: Oct. 25, 1996

Extremely educated, rebellious and flawed, Lara Croft weighs in with a Badass Score of 46. Through two series reboots, Lara has acquired countless priceless artifacts, unleashed a few apocalypses and driven off scumbags and vicious wildlife with her signature pistols, all while finding her niche in the video game world as one of the most beloved female main characters of a series.

Source: “Tomb Raider” series

Badass Score: 39
Role: Rebellion Leader
Most Badass Moment: Volunteering to be Purged to save her sister, Serah
Games Sold: 9.7 million
Date of Release: Nov. 19, 2009

Few characters have as dramatic an arc as Lightning, but that’s what you get when you come from a “Final Fantasy” game. From youthful Guardian Corps soldier to actual goddess, Lightning is driven by her love for her sister and desire to protect human life. Contrary to her cold demeanor, Lightning is one of the most compassionate characters, valuing the souls of strangers over the machinations of her aloof, divine masters.

Source: “Final Fantasy XIII,” “Final Fantasy XIII-2” and “Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII”

Badass Points: 27
Role: Secret Agent
Most Badass Moment: Defeating the Skedar high priest of the Battle Shrine
Games Sold: 4 million
Date of Release: May 22, 2000

Trained by her bounty hunter father and recruited by the Carrington Institute, Joanna Dark saves Earth by defeating a powerful alien menace, the Skedar. Her infiltration and combat skills are exceptional, and she rules her life with secrecy and explosive anger.

Source: “Perfect Dark” series

Badass Score: 27
Role: Test Subject
Most Badass Moment: Answering her assessment test in binary to spite the researchers
Games Sold: 7.41 million
Date of Release: Oct. 9, 2007

Chell’s life sucks. She’s constantly being told what to do by a murderous robot, put into life-threatening situations and having her weight insulted. But does any of this stop her from thrashing GlaDOS and Wheatley and escaping the test facility once and for all? Nope.

Source: “Portal” series

Badass Score: 23
Role: Savior of the Universe
Most Badass Moment: Imprisoning the Chaos Vortex in the Balance Talisman
Games Sold: More than 300,000 (actual figures unknown)
Date of Release: May 22, 2000

While a more obscure character than most on this list, April is no less powerful. Her journey begins as a destitute art student who stumbles across a plot to reunite the worlds of Stark and Arcadia, discovering along the way that she’s actually the daughter of an ancient dragon god. Complaining all the way, April goes on to save the universe from the Chaos, setting off events that reshape the fabric of reality.

Source: “The Longest Journey” and “Dreamfall: The Longest Journey”

Badass Score: 23
Role: Umbran Witch
Most Badass Moment: Destroying the ancient being Jubileus after reuniting with her previously antagonistic childhood friend Jeanne
Games Sold: 2.7 million
Date of Release: Oct. 29, 2009

Bayonetta is flashy, witty and a bit of an exhibitionist (she knows someone’s taking pictures and wants them to get her good side). Those traits make her an independent, magical powerhouse who never gives up and shows compassion, even when it’s inconvenient for her.

Source: “Bayonetta” series

Badass Score: 20
Role: Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance Operative
Most Badass Moment: Accurately landing a headshot on a Majini from more than 200 yards away in a moving helicopter
Games Sold: 62 million
Date of Release: March 22, 1996

Jill has been through an awful lot in her “Resident Evil” series arc, from Wesker’s betrayal in the mansion, the destruction of Raccoon City, her and Chris’ takedown of Umbrella and Wesker’s experimentation, resulting in her becoming his puppet. Resilient, resourceful and compassionate, Jill scores well, being mostly set back by Wesker’s puppeteering of her in “Resident Evil 5.”

Source: “Resident Evil” series

Badass Score: 19
Role: Survivor
Most Badass Moment: Saving Joel after he is stabbed in the stomach
Games Sold: 8 million
Date of Release: June 14, 2013

All Ellie has ever known is the quarantine, and her life being shunted from home to home made her tough. The only known survivor of a bite from an infected, Ellie plays the catalyst for “The Last of Us’” story, starting as merely an escorted character and developing into a helpful, playable main character.

Source: “The Last of Us”

Badass Score: 13
Role: Runner
Most Badass Moment: Destroying the city’s surveillance system
Games Sold: 2.5 million
Date of Release: Nov. 11, 2008

Caught up in events way above her pay grade, Faith manages to come out mostly on top by the end of “Mirror’s Edge,” successfully rescuing her sister and uncovering a conspiracy within the dystopian city she resides in. Faith relies on unarmed combat and evasive parkour skills, making her gameplay unique amongst this group of women.

Source: “Mirror’s Edge”

Badass Score: 12
Role: Resistance Member
Most Badass Moment: Taking out the Civil Protection units and saving Gordon Freeman’s life
Games Sold: 16 million
Date of Release: Nov. 16, 2004

Alyx immediately shows her strength and ability when she’s introduced, saving player-character Gordon’s bacon the moment she arrives. The Combine’s hostile takeover doesn’t discourage Alyx from fighting her way through City 17 to get to her father. We can only hope “Half-Life 3” gives us more of the same wit and strength Alyx has demonstrated.

Source: “Half-Life 2,” “Half-Life 2: Episode One” and “Half-Life 2: Episode Two”

Badass Score: 12
Role: Spymaster
Most Badass Moment: Sacrificing herself in the alternate future to allow the Inquisitor and Dorian to return to the present and stop Alexius
Games Sold: At least 6 million (actual figure unknown)
Date of Release: Nov. 3, 2009

From Lay Sister to Spymaster, Leliana has proven to be one of “Dragon Age’s” toughest and most complex characters, solidifying herself as one of the series’ biggest badasses. Her life as a Bard, devotion to the Chantry, and resolve to save Thedas, whether it likes it or not, puts her on this list of gaming’s most badass female characters.

Source: “Dragon Age” series

Badass Score: 10
Role: Narcotics Investigator
Most Badass Moment: Returning from retirement to help take down S.I.N.
Games Sold: 36 million
Date of Release: Feb. 6, 1991

The first playable female character in a one-on-one fighting game, Chun-Li plays a pivotal role in the takedown of the Shadaloo crime syndicate, working closely with fellow female Street Fighter, Cammy White. While she doesn’t score as highly as her other badass peers, Chun-Li’s contribution to the “Street Fighter” story and fighting game history make her a strong, complex character who deserves a place on this list.

Source: “Street Fighter II: The World Warrior” series

Badass Score: 10
Role: Photojournalist
Most Badass Moment: Risking her soul to defeat the DomZ High Priest
Games Sold: 330,000
Date of Release: Nov. 11, 2003

A plucky, world-savvy do-gooder if there ever was one, Jade controls her destiny, wresting it from the DomZ’s control and using their power to destroy their agenda. She risked her soul to save her world, giving her the well-deserved title of badass.

Source: “Beyond Good and Evil”

Badass Score: 9
Role: Officer of the Outworld Investigation Agency
Most Badass Moment: Sacrificing her freedom to fight in the tournament and protect her squadmates
Games Sold: 26 million
Date of Release: Oct. 8, 1992

A soldier dragged into an other-worldly death tournament, Sonya takes her circumstances in stride, even begrudgingly teaming up with her nemesis, Kano, on occasion when the situation requires it. Sonya is willing to do what it takes to get the job done and save the world.

Source: “Mortal Kombat” series

Badass Score: 9
Role: Agent of the Brimstone Society
Most Badass Moment: Defeating the Nazi Mauler in single combat after blowing up the Nazi base
Games Sold: 1.16 million
Date of Release: Oct. 15, 2002

Rayne, dhampir of both video game and film infamy, runs the show in her world, killing Nazis and evil vampires alike while making the world much safer for us vulnerable humans. She overcomes her violent origins and finds her own identity outside of her father’s shadow, making her a serious badass despite her sexualized costuming.

Source: “BloodRayne” series

Badass Score: 8
Role: Delta Red Agent and Former Shadaloo Operative
Most Badass Moment: Breaking free from M. Bison’s mind control, rescuing the other “dolls,” and defeating M. Bison
Games Sold: 36 million
First Appearance: Sept. 10, 1993

Cammy’s score, while low, is indicative of her early history as merely a cloned pawn of M. Bison, without agency or freedom. Her defining moment is breaking free of his mind control and learning to be her own person, and that merits a place among the most badass of female video game characters.

Source: “Super Street Fighter II” series

Badass Score: 8
Role: Singer
Most Badass Moment: Defeating Royce Bracket and restoring Cloudbank after the Process’ destruction
Games Sold: 600,000
Date of Release: May 20, 2014

One of the newest characters in this group, debuting last year in Supergiant Games’ second RPG, “Transistor,” Red holds her own among these industry giants as a tragic yet resolute hero. Red’s commitment to the discovery and defeat of her world’s destroyers and vengeance for the murder of her beloved demonstrates a strong and graceful character unlike any we’ve seen before.

Source: “Transistor”

Conclusion:
 As you can see, you don’t have to be a well-trained assassin to be one of the most badass women on this list. We have to tip our hat at the creators of Metroid for developing a character who is ambiguous and powerful in the 1980s. The twist of realizing that you played a woman this whole game is amazing. There is no denying that the badass ladies in this list kick just as much ass as their male counterparts. So we’ll see you in another castle, Mario, because we don’t need your help saving the world.

What badass female video game character would you add to the list?

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Sources:
http://www.targetmarketingmag.com/article/a-growing-gold-mine-39127/3/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/obama-playing-like-a-girl_562f9f0de4b06317990f7bab?fb_comment_id=1028547113862570_1028621210521827
http://www.ign.com/videos/2015/11/03/ign-icons-lara-croft
http://gawker.com/what-is-gamergate-and-why-an-explainer-for-non-geeks-1642909080

Jes Richards contributed to this article.

Originally published at www.fatwallet.com on February 22, 2016.

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