The Top 20 Baddest Ladies of Gaming

Maybe I’m a bit biased, but when it comes to entertainment, I’m a sucker for strong female characters. The Hunger Games, Kill Bill, Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer…it doesn’t take much, just a tough lady who can take care of herself. So, it’s not surprising that my favorite video game characters are usually women as well. In an industry flooded with macho, muscle-bound men toting guns and abilities, sometimes the ladies can prove that they’re able to hang with the best of them, doling out punishment as brutally as their male counterparts. Here’s a look at the top 20 toughest ladies in gaming:

#20: Lilith “The Siren” (Borderlands)

Altered with alien technology? Check. Able to turn invisible and lethal to enemies? Check. When it comes to special abilities, this gun-toting superwoman checks off al the requirements. Though maybe not as iconic as the others on this list, she’s a tough lady with a cocky attitude who gets the job done, no questions asked.

#19: Faith Connors (Mirror’s Edge)

With acrobatics that would make any ninja jealous, Faith runs, jumps, flips, dives, and rolls around her utopian city as she tries to clear her framed sister’s name, all while exposing the mysterious project Icarus. While she’s no stranger to using guns and beating up the bad guys, it’s her hardcore and innovative navigation of the city’s rooftops that secure her at #19.

#18: Elena Fisher (Uncharted Series)

Described by developers at Naughty Dog as the “female counterpart to Drake,” Elena is an ambitious journalist who ends up with the famous fortune hunter Nathan Drake while filming her own archaeology TV show. With a girl-next-door charm and a reckless edge for adventure, Elena’s been known to help Drake out of many a bind, all while fearlessly tracking down treasure and taking out pirates along the way.

#17: Mona Sax (Max Payne Series)

A no-nonsense contract killer, Mona Sax is a girl who knows her way around a firearm. At one point, Mona is tasked with killing crooked cop Max Payne, but ends up being the only woman to tame him after the two fall in love (awwwwww…).


#16: Madison Paige (Heavy Rain)

While she’s not a crazy, combat-driven bad ass, Madison is an investigative journalist willing to do whatever it takes to unearth information on the Origami Killer. She’s all brains and brawn, a flesh-and blood character who copes with her own demons while fearlessly searching for the truth. It’s this sort of gusto that secures Madison a place on this list.

#15: Ashley Williams (Mass Effect Trilogy)

Gunnery Chief Ashley Williams is both a member of the Normandy’s crew and a romance option for Shepard. She’s hot-headed, by the book, and always ready to throw down with the enemies that plague the galaxy, be they reapers or geth. But despite her tough, military brat exterior, Ashley also has a soft side, often speaking highly of her family and quoting Tennyson. At the end of the day, Ashley is one of the more sturdy, reliable squad members Shepard can count as he sets out to save the galaxy.

#14: Rayne (BloodRayne)

The child of a vampire father and human mother, Rayne finds herself on a mission of vengeance to avenge the deaths of her family at the hands of her own Dad. Toting some seriously dangerous blades, Rayne is an agile killer and Supernatural enemy no. 1, putting baddies away easily and without hesitation.

#13: Tifa Lockhart (Final Fantasy VII)

With a devastating array of fighting moves, this lady martial artist proves essential to helping longtime friend Cloud Strife take out Sephiroth in Final Fantasy VII. Hailed as one of the most memorable and empowering females in the Final Fantasy franchise, Tifa is not one to hold back in combat, making her a deadly character and true lady bad ass.

#12: Miranda Lawson (Mass Effect Trilogy)

Brilliant and deadly, this genetically-engineered woman was head of the Cerberus team who brought Commander Shepard back to life. While plagued by demons and struggling with her own identity, Miranda is more than adept at combat and becomes an integral part of the fight against the Reapers, making her one of the more powerful women in the Mass Effect Trilogy.

#11: Joanna Dark (Perfect Dark, Perfect Dark Zero)

With serious gunplay and a tough attitude, Joanna Dark was the star in the response to blockbuster shooter Golden Eye 007 from the N64 era. Later appearing in the sequel Perfect Dark Zero, Joanna fights through the pain of losing her father and proves to be a tough, no-nonsene woman who’s not afraid to bust a few caps for the sake of the mission.

#10: The Boss (Metal Gear Solid Series)

The mentor to Naked Snake, The Boss is a military woman who found herself at the heart of crucial operations during World War II and The Cold War. Not only is The Boss an expert at CQC (close-quarters combat), she invented it, adding a thousand-point multiplier to her spot on the scale of badassery.

#9: Jill Valentine (Resident Evil)

The only thing cooler than a tough character destroying zombies? A tough female character destroying zombies.  For this, one has to look no further than Jill Valentine from the Resident Evil series. The special operations agent has been through it all, from the Raccoon City outbreak to the shutdown of Umbrella, only to name a few. She’s devoted her life to fighting bioterrorism and the hideous infected alongside longtime friend and partner Chris Redfield, and for that, she sits at number nine.

#8: Cortana (Halo Series)

While she’s another on the list who isn’t necessarily known to knock a few heads, Cortana is no less one of the strongest women in gaming. Her existence is central to Master Chief’s success, making her a standout character in one of the most widely recognized and beloved franchises in gaming history.

#7: Sarah Kerrigan (Star Craft)

With insane psionic powers and an infestation by the Zerg Swarm, Sarah Kerrigan, the “Queen of Blades,” is one of the most formidable villains in gaming. She’s the leader of the swarm, and a definite force to be reckoned with in the Star Craft galaxy.

#6: Alyx Vance (Half-Life 2)

The daughter of Dr. Eli Vance, Alyx is a fearless member of the resistance against the Combine. Sporting guns, an impressive knowledge of technology, and a tough, devil-may-care attitude, she’s easily one of the most compelling and important characters in Half Life 2.

#5: Kitana (Mortal Kombat Series)

With her kiss of death fatality, decapitating fans, and brutal fighting moves, Princess Kitana is one of the most deadly female fighters in the Mortal Kombat universe. She’s a beautiful woman, but the possibility of inflating you until you explode into a pile of meat makes this one kiss on the cheek you definitely don’t want any part of.

#4: Chun Li (Street Fighter)

Just another one of the boys, Chun Li was one of the first females to appear in a Street Fighter game. While she’s giggly and seemingly light-hearted, her kicks are devastating, and her ability to throw down and match the boys in strength and damage is an impressive feat. With a thumb-your-nose attitude at “no girls allowed,” Chun Li is undoubtedly a bad ass female character who inspired the development of others in fighting franchises since her first appearance.

#3: Sonya Blade (Mortal Kombat Series)

With fierce fighting moves and a serious attitude, Lieutenant Sonya Blade is one of the most iconic and widely-recognized characters in the Moral Kombat series. Designed to be a strong, no-nonsense character sporting a militaristic getup, Sonya is a force to be reckoned with in the game, and can be used to easily finish an opponent. She’s been around since the beginning, holding her own against the male characters, all while cultivating an empowering female persona in the early days of gaming.

#2: Lara Croft (Tomb Raider Series)

Before there was Nathan Drake, there was Lara Croft, the expert on ancient artifacts. Despite the outward appeal of her exaggerated female figure, Lara has brains and brawn to go with her looks. She’s also one of the most agile platforming characters, climbing, flipping, and jumping her way through ancient temples as she combats enemies with her own array of weapons and gadgets. Lara’s appearance in the late 90’s marked a revolutionary new take on the action game, departing from typical installments in the genre at that time. The game’s appeal became even more curious when it starred a cool, collected female protagonist rather than a hot headed soldier or special agent. It’s hard to argue that she has since become an icon in gaming, making her the second toughest lady of all time.

#1: Samus Aran (Metroid Series)

While I had some difficulty sorting out this list, it was clear to me at its inception that Samus Aran was the obvious choice for number one. She is the original bad ass female protagonist, donning the orange and red suit that has now made her a Nintendo icon while destroying all enemies in her path as she saves the galaxy. The early Metroid style of side-scrolling gameplay continues to influence game design today, and her big reveal to players as being a girl is often considered one of the most memorable reveals in video game history. For this, Samus Aran takes top honors as the toughest lady in gaming.