It’s the same every year—E3, Gamescon, and other trade shows and conventions get us all riled up for the new games that will come out in the next 18 months or so. It’s tough waiting so long for a game you know you’ll love and it’s even tougher when you’re pretty particular about the types of games you play. For instance, those of us who crave games with female protagonists.
The last couple of years have been pretty good for female protagonists in games, though we still have a long way to go. There are obviously a lot more games that feature male protagonists than female, and an even smaller percentage of games that feature WOC female leads or female protagonists that aren’t overly sexualized or simple.
But don’t get depressed just yet—this coming year has quite a few games that feature some incredible female protagonists. Here are 10 you should keep an eye on.
Assassins Creed Syndicate
For years, female gamers and feminists have been racking Ubisoft over hot coals for their distinct lack of playable female assassins in the franchise. To be fair, the studio has put out two female assassin-focused games—Assassin’s Creed Liberation for the PS Vita and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China—but fans of the series wanted to see a kick-ass lady in a premier console title, not just supplemental games.
Assassin’s Creed Syndicate appears to have answered some prayers with the inclusion of Evie Frye. Of course, Evie isn’t perfect—she’s a pretty typically beautiful, slim, white woman—but Ubisoft’s insistence that players will have to use her in 25 percent of story missions and can use her freely during open-world exploration is a good step forward. And Evie is a meticulous, logical, and accomplished assassin in her own right. Plus, that sword-cane will make you think twice about passing her up for her brother.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
I actually just finished playing the rebooted Tomb Raider a few months ago and I must admit—I’ve never been sadder that I don’t have an Xbox One. The second game in the new Tomb Raider series, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is an Xbox exclusive (it will be available for PS4 and PC eventually) and will once again follow Lara Croft as she tries to uncover the secret to immortality. Like ya do, apparently.
The game will pit Lara against a variety of human and animal enemies, her environment, the weather, and probably a few supernatural forces. The brutality of the game is also here to stay—I had to watch Lara be impaled by a rusty pole at least a few times in its predecessor—which is great, since too few games treat adventuring women as people who can be injured and bloodied. Lara is every bit as intelligent, resourceful and brave as she was in the reboot and her fit and healthy figure is a huge step up from how she used to look.
Mass Effect: Andromeda
I couldn’t, in good conscious, leave the next title in the Mass Effect series off this list. It won’t be out until December 2016 (whhhhhhy?), so we have plenty of time to get excited for more space exploration. As with most BioWare RPGs, players are given a choice between genders, but since I almost always play as a woman—ME4 makes the cut. One of my favorite things about the Mass Effect games in particular is the fact that your character is a woman is never really an issue for people. Hell, they’re more wary of you because you’re human. It allows us to truly feel like the N7 bad-ass we’re supposed to be.
Andromeda is said to have a totally new story, leaving the adventures of Shepard behind as we explore a new galaxy with a new set of companions to love. And, again, because BioWare is awesome, the game will allow for same-sex relationships between the protagonist and companions. So while this title doesn’t exclusively feature a female protagonist, I’m betting most of us will go that route anyway.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Here are a few things I enjoy: female protagonists, archery, robots, and dinosaurs. And all of these things just happen to be in Horizon Zero Dawn. The PS4 exclusive game’s announcement was one of E3’s highlights and I’m beyond excited to see it on my screen when it’s released sometime in 2016. This action RPG features Aloy, a huntress who takes down robotic dinosaurs with a bow and arrow. Yeah, you read that right.
The story also seems interesting as it’s gives us a glimpse of a devolution of humanity, where society has reverted back to tribal societies and relying on each other and the land for survival. Yet, somehow there are robotic dinosaurs and advanced technologies to contend with. Are you excited yet? ‘Cause you should be.
Full disclosure: players are actually given a choice at the beginning of Dishonored 2 to play as Corvo Attana, the hero from the first game, or as Empress Emily Kaldwin. But yeah… we’re all playing as Emily, right? In the sequel to the steam punk sleeper hit, the Empress is usurped by some supernatural force and becomes an outlaw on the run to an actually much lovelier place that Dunwall.
Emily will have her own unique set of abilities, along with a few standard ones, and her interpretation and perspective will be different than if you play as Corvo — so I suppose it’s not a bad idea to play through as each. The sequel takes place 15 years after the original, so Emily has had plenty of time to hone her skills.
This game is basically a STEM enthusiast’s dream. Another Xbox exclusive, the story follows female robotics engineer Joule—who is apparently one of the last living humans on the planet. Joule is accompanied by a gang of robot companions as she traverses the desert wasteland looking for answers. Your companions are actually all unique in their abilities and it’s up to Joule to make sure their power cells (which are actually their souls) always have a body.
Not much else is known about the title since it was only announced at this year’s E3 other than that the protagonist and her companions would be fighting other robots. The game is slated for a June 2106 release, so hopefully more information will trickle out after the New Year.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
I haven’t played the original Mirror’s Edge, but its upcoming prequel/reboot could turn me into a fan. First, it has a WOC lead, y’all. Do you realize how important that is in a world populated primarily by white males? In Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, players navigate the protagonist, Faith Connors, through the futuristic city of Glass. Unlike its predecessor, Cataylst will focus more on open-world exploration through first-person parkour instead of the typical, one-track story missions. The story will be important, but it seems like it will be more central to the origin story of Faith as she fights against the corrupt corporations that control her city.
The most interesting thing in the game is that there aren’t any guns. Like, seriously, you can’t even pick up a gun. It’s sort of a unique approach to a game that does have a fair bit of fighting and enemies. Players will have to rely on Faith’s physicality and movement in order to defeat all the corporate guards she’ll encounter.
Like Mass Effect, I wanted to include Fallout 4 on this list because the game gives you a choice between genders. And since the latest Fallout is supposed to have an incredibly detailed character creator sequence, we’re guaranteed to get a character that can be uniquely ours. I’ve always thought post-apocalyptic games gave us a lot of feminist narratives—when the priority is survival, gender stops being a determining factor and instead a character’s actual skills are the issue.
Bethesda has been almost maddeningly tight lipped about the game in general, but we do know that it will start pre-Wasteland and that our character will have survived in Vault 111. We also know that our beloved Dog will return and that we’ll not only be able to customize weapons and armor, but entire settlements. Unfortunately, it is disappointing that even though we are able to choose the character’s gender, none of the promotional material features a female protagonist.
Among all of these AAA titles comes a so-called Independent AAA. Basically, Hellblade is an extremely creative, player-focused game that will still match the production quality of other big budget games—not to mention it has a female warrior protagonist. Ninja Theory, the same company that gave us Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry, has been developing the game since 2014.
The story is actually based on a Celtic myth and players become Senua, a barbarian-like warrior who has embarked on a journey through the underworld. The first trailer shows that the game will utilize a few horror elements (watching your own hand rot away is pretty freaky), so this might not be for the faint of heart—like me. As for the main character, the developers have been quoted as saying that they tried to give her “a challenging female form: not sexy, not skimpy, not young, not skinny, yet stunning, compelling, and believable.” What a novel concept—a female character that is both nuanced and attractive!
The Walking Dead: Michonne
The Walking Dead: Season Two game from Telltale Games already boasts a WOC female protaganists, and Telltale is prepping to add another bad-ass lady to its roster. The Walking Dead: Michonne, which will be a mini series instead of a full game, will follow everyone’s favorite katana-wielding, zombie-killing comic book heroine. The game is said to take place between issues #126 and #139 of the comic books and is available on pretty much every platform on the market, including PC, next gen, last gen, and even mobile.
While it’s a stand-alone game, players will need to purchase or already own at least episode one of The Walking Dead: Season Two in order to play Michonne. But, of course, that way you get to play not one, but two games with female main characters.