In honor of Women’s History Month, I put together a list of my favorite female characters in video games: five villains and five heroines.
Now, please keep in mind, this is my personal list of favorites. I apologize in advance if your fave didn’t make the cut or didn’t rank as high as another character. These are just the characters that I happen to love best, and there were plenty more that I wanted to include but ended up cutting to keep to the “Top Ten” limit. So, here we go…
Top 5 Villains
5. Lady Dimitrescu (Resident Evil: Village)
Why, you ask, is Lady Dimitrescu is at the bottom of this list? Well, because I haven’t actually played Village and only became acquainted with this character through watching my friend stream the game. That- and the abundance of memes. But would any female villain list be complete without her?
Lady Dimitrescu is one of the four lords in the village, working under the mysterious Mother Miranda. She crosses paths with the game’s protagonist, Ethan Winters, after his infant daughter is kidnapped.
As it so happens, Lady Dimitrescu has daughters too, all of whom set out to trap Ethan in their castle and end up getting destroyed by him, one by one. These daughters add an unexpected emotional layer to her character. When she first realizes that they lost their respective boss fights with Ethan, she flies into a rage, determined to avenge them.
But it’s her design that makes her stand out above the rest. She’s a ten foot vampire who dresses and talks like the former high society woman that she is. That alone makes her a fun character. And I’m a sucker (pun not intended, honest) for anything that references Bram Stoker’s classic horror novel, Dracula. All in all, Lady Dimitrescu is easily more memorable than the Big Bad.
4. GLADOS (Portal)
GLADOS is so much fun as the evil A.I. that guides Chell through a series of increasingly dangerous tests, all with the same monotone voice. She stands out not just as a video game villain, but as an A.I. villain. When you look at similar characters like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, A.U.T.O. from WALL.E, or the Master Control Program from Tron, they all come off as unsettling because of how cool and calculating they are. GLADOS is no different, except that her dialogue is full of dark humor.
But is GLADOS really a villain? After all, she just wants to direct you though some mostly harmless experiments that may or may not result in your death. She even gives you a faithful Companion Cube and promises you a delicious slice of cake when you finish. And we all know the cake is never a lie. Besides, it’s all for science.
If you love GLADOS too, treat yourself to this utterly amazing rendition of her song, “Still Alive,” by The 8-Bit Big Band: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=22vbhTi1ieI.
3. Gruntilda (Banjo-Kazooie)
Gruntilda has a simple motivation. She’s a witch who hates being ugly and wants to change her appearance by stealing the beauty of Banjo’s sister, Tootie. So, she kidnaps Tootie and throws up all kinds of obstacles to stop Banjo and Kazooie from rescuing her. And every time you decide to quit the game for the day and shut off your Nintendo 64, you are treated to a cutscene where she succeeds in her goal and turns Tootie into a monster. That was always a little unsettling for me as a kid; I’d never had a game punish me for stopping before.
To be honest, I don’t have a lot to say about Gruntilda as a character; just that she’s a fun villain from a fun game. The theme to her lair, composed by Grant Kirkhope, manages to sound evil and whimsical at the same time. And that kind of tone fits perfectly with Gruntilda.
2. Larxene (Kingdom Hearts)
Larxene, my beloved. One of my favorite Organization XIII members. If you can get me to laugh while viciously mocking one of my OTPs, you know you’re doing something right.
Larxene works for Organization XIII, a group of people who have lost their hearts and want to get them back by any means necessary. However, she and her friend, Marluxia, have other plans. In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, they conspire to take apart Sora’s memories and manipulate him into helping them to take over the Organization themselves. It’s never made clear why they want to do this, but their plot and the effect that it has on the protagonists is diabolical and they come dangerously close to succeeding.
Beyond that, Larxene has an independent personality. She’s cruel to everyone she meets (save Marluxia), but is shown to have little interest in the Organization’s plans. As soon as she gets reinstated into Organization 2.0 during Kingdom Hearts III, she’s back to asking Marluxia, “You up for another coup?” And like GLADOS and Gruntilda, she’s wickedly funny. (I’m starting to detect a trend in this list…) The mobile game, Union X, provides some insight into her backstory, so we know now that she wasn’t always like this. But regardless of how she got to that point, she’s a great villain and I hope her story continues.
1. Dahlia Hawthorne (Ace Attorney)
Nowadays, it’s common for the tutorial case in an Ace Attorney game to have deeper ties to the story than it appears. Dahlia Hawthorne was the culprit who kicked off this trend in Trials and Tribulations, and boy, did she ever kick things off.
We are introduced to Dahlia as the beloved girlfriend of Phoenix Wright during his college years. He’s been accused of murdering a fellow student. His future mentor, Mia Fey, has stepped up to serve as his defense attorney. It’s a blast getting to play as Mia, but Dahlia makes the case just as memorable. It quickly becomes apparent that her feelings for Phoenix are an act and she has a sinister reason for dating him. But even after Dahlia’s crimes are exposed, she’s not done trying to destroy Mia and Phoenix. I won’t spoil her further involvement in the story, except that she does bear some importance to the final case and it’s unsettling in the best way.
Like some of the best Ace Attorney villains, Dahlia is formidable because she knows exactly how to exploit everyone in the courtroom to sympathize with her. She wastes no time flattering the judge and the prosecutor and knows when to break down in tears over Mia being “sooooo mean” to her.
She also has one of the best themes in the series, “Distant Traces of Beauty.” It’s haunting and beautiful, and comes off as deceptively innocent as the character it embodies. Here’s a recent fan remix that I especially enjoy: