There are a lot of male protagonists in video games. Like a lot. When a woman does somehow make it onto the main cast, she's often reduced to a passive, supporting role, maybe even as a girl-next-door love interest to remind our grisly hypermasculine protagonists to keep fighting. And when the writers decide that the "leading lady" has had enough time in the spotlight (usually about 20 minutes, depending on how fast you play through the tutorial), they have her dragged off to fill the damsel chair and await sweet, loving rescue at the callused hands of her rugged savior.
What a load of crap.
As game developers slowly join the rest of us in the 21st century, female characters are starting to take life by the controller in the active, well-developed roles they deserve. Good steps have already been taken, but we can move past baby steps. What could be better than one heroine? Try three.
Here are a handful of female-driven trios that deserve their own game.
For a long time, Princess Peach was the lone lady in the Mario franchise, just chillin' in her posh pink palace, baking cakes, and waiting to be captured again. In 1989 Princess Daisy relieved Peach of damsel duty, eventually joining Mario's inexplicable recreational league by 1991's NES Open Tournament Golf.
Rosalina finally rounded out the trio in 2007's Super Mario Galaxy, for which her character gained immense popularity, quickly ushering her into the recurring roster used for spin-off titles.
Peach and Rosalina have already landed long-overdue playable roles on Super Mario 3D World and are shredding on the new Smash Bros. Obviously they're both capable of taking care of themselves, so take the damsel in distress trope out behind the barn and put it down permanently.
Despite rocking a gown and a flowery name, Daisy also isn't one to wilt from a challenge. So why hasn't she been featured in the main series since Super Mario Land? Forget plumbers and Toads, the next Mario platformer should run exclusively on princess power, maybe throwing the oft-neglected Birdo and Toadette into the mix as additional playable characters. Peach deserves to take a legitimate shot at Bowser anyway for all those years of abuse.
If we really want to be radical, we could put the gals in sensible pants (not a skintight jumpsuit) and send them off on a bonafide 3D adventure, rotating the three in and out of the playable slot and featuring unique abilities to each princess, in the same vein as Super Mario 64 DS.
Gotham's most morally ambiguous villainesses now switch sides almost constantly, but this wasn't always the case. Catwoman made her debut as "the Cat" in the very first issue of Batman back in 1940. Since then, she's walked a very thin tightrope, balancing her dependence on high-stakes thievery with an infatuation and eventual relationship with Batman.
After gaining an immunity to natural toxins from a poisonous affair with a professor, Lillian Isley began weaponizing her sexuality in defense of plantlife as dangerous ecoterrorist Poison Ivy. Her loyalty lies with her agenda, which sometimes lands her on the right side of the law within groups like the Birds of Prey or the Suicide Squad. Additionally, Ivy often takes time off defending Mother Nature to advocate for Harley Quinn, long-time girlfriend of the manipulative and abusive Joker.
Quinn is notable among well-established Batman characters for being introduced in the Animated Universe, and her popularity soon rocketed her onto the comics. While being ruthless in her own right, Quinn is usually portrayed sympathetically as a victim of the Joker's violence and occasionally veers into anti-hero territory.
This trio was already brought together in-universe with the wildly successful spin-off graphic novel series Gotham City Sirens. Now that Rocksteady's Arkham series has reached its explosive end, the franchise can ditch those "Become the Batman" chains and explore new characters in a separate continuity.
A Sirens game would, of course, be an open-world experience of Gotham City. Near the beginning, you'd play each villainess through separate crime sprees that would eventually bring them all together. After a tenuous alliance is formed, the Sirens would try to coexist, weathering conflicting agendas, mistrust, and lingering ties to Batman and the Joker. The narrative would culminate in a climactic encounter of all five characters, ultimately dissolving the trio. The foundation has already been laid by the Sirens comic. A video game could expand their stories, while making the intertwining narrative more cohesive as a standalone title.
Sugar, spice, and everything nice pack a wallop. Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup originally flew out of the lab and into our hearts during their series debut back in 1998. In the show, the Powerpuff Girls live with their creator/father, Professor Utonium, in the fictional city of Townsville, which they protect in service to the bumbling mayor. Threatening the fair city is a diabolical collection of villains including the superpowered Rowdyruff Boys, the demonic Him, and the girls' arch nemesis, Mojo Jojo.
With a reboot of the beloved series planned for 2016, now is the perfect time to plan a video game tie-in. Since the show boasted such a colorful cast of antagonists, we'd want to include as many of them as possible. An open-world format would let the player explore the most interesting nooks and crannies of Townsville, while utilizing supporting characters to develop an overarching plot centered on Mojo Jojo.
While the girls could be featured in solo missions utilizing their unique powers - Blossom's ice breath, Bubbles's supersonic voice, Buttercup's augmented brawn - the bulk of the game would be built on their teamwork. With one controllable character at a time and two party members, you could strategically launch combo moves that meld powers and shake up the gameplay.
Kairi, supposedly the leading lady of the Kingdom Hearts series, has been vying for an active role in the franchise since its beginning back in 2002. Whether or not Kingdom Hearts III will make good on its promise to make Kairi a legitimate heroine remains to be seen.
Her Nobody, Naminé, debuted in Chain of Memories as a "witch with power over Sora's memories and those around him." Initially under the thumb of the violent and unpredictable Organization XIII neophytes, Naminé decided to follow the equally abusive DiZ to right her wrongs.
Xion joined the series as a surprise fourteenth member in Organization XIII, where she forms a strong friendship with Roxas and Axel. By the end of the game, it's revealed that Xion is not a true Nobody, in the traditional sense, but [spoiler alert] a replica of Sora who resembles his strongest memories of Kairi.
Square Enix has confirmed that Kingdom Hearts III will be the end of the "Dark Seeker Saga," but not the franchise. Assuming Naminé and Xion reappear corporeally in KH3 (they will), I'd really love to unite the three faces of Kairi as individuals. And then send them off on their own adventure.
By that time, Kairi will be a force to be reckoned with, brawling with heavy-hitting keyblades that are equal parts flowery and devastating. She can take lead on this one. Naminé hasn't shown any fighting ability thus far and Xion's keyblade was never real to begin with, so their roles are a little trickier.
Though it would make sense for them both to be able to wield keyblades, the series is already crowded with supposedly special keybearers. Naminé and Xion should set off in new directions, maybe filling out the mage and defensive knight roles that have worked so well for Donald and Goofy. It honestly doesn't matter how they fight. Just let them do something.
Azula, Zuko's gifted and sadistic younger sister, was introduced as a new antagonist for Avatar: the Last Airbender's Book Two. Having essentially mastered firebending (including lightning generation) at the astonishing age of 14, Azula quickly gained her father's favor over Zuko. In pursuit of Aang and her brother, she recruited childhood friends Mai and Ty Lee to form an elite team capable of carrying out Fire Lord Ozai's commands across the Four Nations.
Though both were non-benders, Mai and Ty Lee easily hold their own against Team Avatar. Mai, a sarcastic and apathetic girl, utilizes throwing knives against her opponents, concealing her weapons within her sleeves and waiting for opportune times to strike. Ty Lee is a talented acrobat and trained in the art of chi-blocking, with which she can temporarily rob victims of their bending.
While it would admittedly be amazing to play Azula's team throughout the show - tracking the Avatar, taking over Ba Sing Se, fighting during the Day of Black Sun - it'd be far more interesting to follow the girls after the series finale. Avatar's story is extended through a series of comics, during which Mai splits from Zuko, Ty Lee adapts to her life as a Kyoshi Warrior, and Azula is recruited to help solve the mystery of her and Zuko's missing mother. Azula [spoiler alert] ultimately betrays Team Avatar (surprise!) and escapes.
Literally any excuse could bring them back together. Worldwide crisis? Disease? Treason? I don't care, as long as we can get a little closure. This wouldn't be like those dinky little PS2 games. We're talking a full-length AAA companion experience. Each member of "Ozai's Angels" uses a unique fighting style, on which the game should capitalize. Azula didn't exactly end on good terms with former friends Mai and Ty Lee, so they would have to actually need each other's skills to establish any kind of unity. Will it be the most stable trio? Nah. Would the game be amazing? Duh.
Are there any female trios that you think should star in a game but didn't make this list? Tell us your ideas in the comments below!