While most Top 10s seek out the “best of”, this week we looked for “the greater than.” It’s difficult to say what makes one character more interesting than another; for this list, we considered several factors – including importance to the story/plot progression, active role, personal characteristics, and backstory. We’re not claiming any of these characters are better than the protagonist, just more interesting based on the above. So without further disclaimers, here’s our list of ladies who stand out next to the lead.
10. Tostada (Guacamelee!)
Guacamelee! is a platformer in which you play as Juan and attempt to restore balance and save El Presidente’s daughter, whom you’re in love with, from an evil skeleton named Carlos Calaca. Set in Mexico, Guacamelee! is ripe with vibrant colors, jokes, and Mexican folklore. Early in the game, Juan “fights” Carlos Calaca and is killed. While in the realm of the dead, Tostada appears. She is the Guardian of the Mask; this mask is what allowed Juan to transform into a powerful Luchador and travel between the land of the dead and the living. Without Tostada, Juan would be dead and the adventure would never happen. She is so powerful she grants him the power he has. On top of that, she’s far more interesting looking with her ninja-esque wrappings paired with a magenta skirt and luchador mask. And her teal skin emphasizes her otherworldly abilities. Combine that with a more amusing name, and I’ll take Tostada over Juan any day. Fortunately, with the character select option, you can.
9. Chloe Frazer (Uncharted Series)
The Uncharted series follows Nathan Drake as he hunts for treasure all around the world. Sometimes he’s joined by friends and other times with lovers. Currently, he’s enamored with Elena Fisher, archaeological journalist and sharp shooter. But another woman from his past has taken her place on our list. Chloe Frazer, treasure hunter extraordinaire, is the more interesting woman involved with Nathan. Why? Because she’s more than just a pretty thing for the protagonist to look at. Chloe has agency and accomplishments outside of Nathan Drake (though Elena also boasts a fair number of accomplishments, too.) Chloe isn’t put on a pedestal like most women NPCs in games, either. She’s complex, compelling, and dare I say, human. She’s not perfect, and her morality is flexible (she definitely looks out for number one), but that’s a common trait in humans. She isn’t there to praise Nathan or to fill a space, she’s there because she’s essential to plot points, and for her own interest. She’s engaging because she’s human.
8. Ellie Langford (Dead Space 2)
Focusing this to just her introduction and appearance in Dead Space 2. Ellie is a strong female character. Before Issac begins to cut through the necromorphs. She was becoming the sole survivor of her work group that had been one of the first to realize the infestation. This made her slightly distrusting when she encountered Issac, but you can’t blame her for that. She is strong, smart and willing to stand her ground. Even the loss of her eye barely fazed her. Her goal was to survive, but after learning to trust Issac, she also isn’t willing to leave him behind.
7. Cortana (Halo)
Halo has been a part of the Xbox family since the console was first welcomed into our homes. The helpful voice whispering into our helmets as we battled through aliens and more was none other than the AI Cortana. Most AI’s are interesting on their own since they’re basically virtual minds (though often calculating and cold), but Cortana is a little bit different. She’s more than just a helpful computer to guide us, she’s her very own character. Sassy and humorous, Cortana helps Master Chief and UNSC marines take on the Covenant. Without her, they’d still be lost on Halo. But much like all the other women on this list, Cortana is more than just a helpful sidekick. She is a character with her own motives. In fact, by the time of Halo 5: Guardians, Cortana becomes somewhat of a villain herself. She desires to preserve interstellar peace by subjugating all biological life (sounds a bit like a Reaper to me.) AI’s either get stuck in the support role or get cast as the crazy robot (looking at you GLaDOS), but Cortana not only became the love interest but the friend, the villain, and an irreplaceable component of the plot.
6. Evie Frye (Assassin’s Creed Syndicate)
Assassin’s Creed has never really been known to have bad-ass female characters, especially after their comment in 2014 stating that having female protagonists would be too difficult. They claimed it would be too much work, and sticking with a male protagonist was the most logical solution. So it came as a surprise that Assassin’s Creed Syndicate featured two protagonists. Sister and brother pair Evie and Jacob co-starred in the newest Ubisoft game set in Victorian London. Both characters are two different sides of an assassin; Jacob being the killer brute and Evie being the actual brains behind the assassinations. Though it seems Jacob is interested in building his gang and controlling London while Evie is much more concerned with the Templars and the piece of Eden. It’s true that the story does work well with two leads. I can’t help but ask why wasn’t it just written with a female lead in mind? Evie is more central to the continuing theme of Assassins vs. Templars while Jacob is there to fill the male protagonist role. It’s understandable that Ubisoft featured both male and female protagonists for this game, but there are plenty of male fans that would enjoy an Assassin’s game with a sole female lead (Aveline de Grandpré already started blazing that trail on PS Vita in 2012.) England would be in the hands of the the Templars if it wasn’t for the clever Evie Frye.