I find myself immeasurably drawn to strong female characters in video games. There's a lot to be said about them, beyond simply their looks, and I'd like to draw attention to just how well-rounded they are. Yes, there's a pun there, BUT FOCUS. Here come five of my favorite female characters with humble beginnings.
Taki (Soul series)
A Japanese orphan taken in and raised by the Fu-Ma Ninja clan, Taki is a skilled ninja, spy, blacksmith, and demon huntress with a soul fueled by honor. She also holds the prestige of being a member of the Soul series' debut cast – explaining why her absence from the Soulcalibur V roster caused such an upset.
Her fighting style revolves around speed and maneuverability, utilizing swift kicks and her trademark kodachi to whittle down her opponents, all the while gracefully dodging their attacks. She's prone to blowing unsuspecting players into smithereens and pile-driving the remains. When not locked into the best 3 out of 5, she's tracking down evil swords and telling people how ignorant they are, or doing some hardcore ninja parkour.
With such a large fanbase, Taki is undoubtedly an iconic character and a certified boss. She's also unnaturally well-endowed, which is, unfortunately, the biggest contributor to her fame.
Samus Aran (Metroid series)
Samus was orphaned at the age of three, when a Space Pirate raid led by Ridley left her as Earth colony K-2L's only survivor. Later adopted by the Chozo of planet Zebes, implanted with their DNA, and trained as a warrior, she ultimately grew up to be the Power Suit-wearing, laser blasting, bounty hunter that lights us up in Super Smash Bros.
The original Metroid left the player to believe that Samus was a man, unless the game was beat within a certain time frame. Passing that challenge revealed her to be a woman, which was some much welcome characterization, though it also allowed her entry into the pantheon of over-sexualized female figures.
Samus need not fear her womanhood though. Her slender figure measures up at 6 feet 3 inches tall and weighs 198 pounds, and her athleticism is far beyond that of a normal human. She'd crush you.
Lulu (Final Fantasy X)
Lulu lost her parents to Sin at the age of five. She later lost her lover to Sin as well. She eventually took on the task of being Yuna's guardian, despite not even wanting Yuna to become a summoner, and knowing that both their lives could be lost to Sin as well. If that's not loyalty, I don't know what is.
Beyond her strength as a character and her skill with magic, Lulu marked a massive departure from the traditional black mage garb seen in the Final Fantasy series. Her style marries pearls, fur, lace, and lots and LOTS of belts, while she manipulates sentient dolls to do her bidding... like a classy voodoo dominatrix.
Other notable features of Lulu's design are her crimson red irises, beauty mark, and upscale hairdo. Her cleavage is all out there too, but luckily it's not of the backbreaking variety that Taki is known for.
Hsien-Ko (Darkstalkers series)
This here's a 2-for-1 special, considering that the yellow paper ward on Hsien-Ko's hat is actually her twin sister, Mei-Ling. Their mother lost her life protecting her daughters from evil spirits, her soul being lost in darkness as a result. Wanting to save their mother's soul, the teenage girls cast a forbidden spell which turned Hsien-Ko into a jiang-shi (Chinese hopping vampire/zombie) and gave her tremendous power.
As for Mei-Ling, she takes the form of a paper ward to prevent Hsien-Ko from losing control of her new powers. This enables the sisters to fight as one being, as they combat the evil that took their mother from them. It's a pretty insane take on the power of the bond between twins.
It's worth noting that Hsien-Ko has giant claws chained to her body, and tons of other weapons hidden on her person at all times. She's basically a blue-skinned iron maiden.
Millia Rage (Guilty Gear series)
Orphaned at an unidentified age, Millia ends up forced into the Assassin's Guild and unwillingly becomes the host of the Forbidden Beast Angra. Though she tries to kill herself many times and falls into a toxic relationship with a fellow assassin, she decides to take her life back, even if it means living on the run.
Angra has bonded with Millia's hair and imbued it with immense strength, along with allowing it be shaped at will. As such, it has become a versatile weapon in the hands of the ex-assassin. It is also capable of giving off a gold glow, similarly to the magical locks of Tangled's Rapunzel. Then again, Millia isn't exactly healing people with hers.
Typically dubbed "cute," though recognized as powerful, Millia is by far the least sexualized of the characters on this list. And the last one had blue skin. Let that sink in for a moment.
So there you have it! Five orphans who grew into women that are just as tough as they are attractive. I'm not knocking the female figure – trust me. I'm just bringing attention to the fact that these games wouldn't be anything if their leading ladies were nothing more than nice to look at.
I hope to revisit the "Zero to Heroine" idea in the future. Until then, go respect your mother or something!
*And a big thanks to jkim910 for the image on the opening slide!