Top 5 Indie Games with Female Protagonists
Samus and Lara Croft aren’t the only female protagonists in video games anymore. AAA studios are slowly introducing more female leads in their games as evidenced in E3 2016. And it’s no wonder. Despite what certain elements of the internet would have you believe, female gamers make up a sizeable portion of the market. Around 41 percent of women in the United States play video games.
Despite the wide market of female gamers, large studios have been slow to introduce new female leads due to their natural risk aversion. They see the market as male-driven, with women gaming in hiding or having to protect themselves with a VPN service such as BufferedVPN to avoid creeps online. Some studios prefer to ignore that. With millions of dollars on the line and investors demanding a good return on their investment, it’s not surprising most AAA studios churn out the same male-led military shooters year after year. They’re only recently stepping outside of their comfort zone and introducing more diversity.
Of course, that’s not the case for the entire industry. Indie game studios have long pushed the envelope in terms of themes, gameplay and diversity. If you’re looking for some amazing games with female leads, check out the ones below.
Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale
Don’t be fooled by the charming artwork; Recettear isn’t your typical RPG. You play as Recette, a young girl who runs an item shop after her father skipped town because of a huge loan. Stuck with the bill, you and your fairy companion Tear have to gather resources and mark the items accordingly to make the most profit. In essence, you need to manipulate the market by taking advantage of items that crash in value and then gradually increase the prices as much as possible. You’re not some sweet, innocent child. You’ve got bills to pay, and the only way to pay them is by swindling the townsfolk. It’s a fun take on the RPG genre full of interesting dialogue and memorable characters.
As you might guess from the name, Aquaria is set in an underwater world. This action adventure game takes you through dark caves to beautiful sunlit oases with the main character Naija. As she explores the world around her, she’ll uncover treasures, explore new areas, battle monsters and eventually piece together the truth about her family and Aquaria. The soothing soundtrack perfectly complements the beautiful artwork. The developers did a great job incorporating a range of colors and utilizing light and dark to make each zone look different. This Metroidvania-style game offers a huge, open underwater world full of surprises that make you want to explore every corner.
Perhaps the biggest sleeper hit of this list, Her Story broke the mold not only with its protagonist but with its mechanics and visuals. Instead of 3D renders, the game uses actual video recordings of the actress. Players must sift through all of the videos to uncover the murder mystery based on key words the main character says. While there’s only a couple of hours of gameplay here, the atmosphere and wonderful acting by Viva Seifert help make this one of the best pieces of interactive fiction available. It’s so good that it won Editor’s Choice from PC Gamer as well as Destructoid. It also won the Grand Prize for Best Independent Game at the 2016 Independent Games Festival.
Hailed as one of the most visually remarkable puzzle games available, Monument Valley features a silent female protagonist—Princess Ida—who is on a journey of penance. Through various cut scenes, you slowly uncover what happened to the world and the princess’ involvement in the events that unfolded. You slowly restore the beautiful world and uncover Ida’s true form by completely puzzles. The gameplay is fairly simple. Players must navigate through mazes of optical illusions to reach the exit. The fun happens when you find yourself defying gravity and walking upside down. While the puzzles themselves are never too difficult and the game is relatively short, it’s worth a play through simply for the gorgeous artwork.
This puzzle platformer follows Nuna and Fox on their quest to find the source of the eternal blizzard and stop it before it destroys the world as they know it. Set in a snowy landscape, the designers worked in collaboration with the Inupiat—Alaska natives—to create a wonderfully rich story. In addition to a single-player mode, you can also play with a friend in co-op mode and explore the frozen tundra together. Each character has a unique skill. Nuna can move heavy items, climb ladders and throw her bola. Fox can squeeze through small areas and jump. As you progress through the game, you also unlock videos from members of the Alaska Native community explaining their culture, values and the world you explore.
You can download most of these games either on Steam, Google Play or iTunes. If you don’t want to pay full price (albeit these games aren’t too expensive), you can always wait around for a sale or look through various Bundle options. Just be sure that when you use caution when looking on these sites as not all of them are reputable.
Don’t see your favorite female-led game on the list? Any thoughts on those above? Let us know in the comments below.