Remember Me's female protagonist Nilin.

Gender Representation in Video Games

There's been a lot of debate lately about equal representation of women in video games, especially about the gender disparity between male and female playable characters, so I thought I'd sit down and work out some statistics to see exactly how many games give players the option of playing a female character. Note that this project has nothing to do with how those female characters are portrayed, but whether or not there are any playable female protagonists at all regardless of how they're portrayed.

This is a pet project I work on in my spare time, so the sample size is likely to remain small for the foreseeable future. It takes a surprising amount of research to nail down the facts about many titles; many games, for example, have female options in multiplayer but not in the main campaign but still get heavily touted for 'including women'. The inclusion of female options in multiplayer is good, but doesn't carry the same weight as a narrative focused on a female protagonist would. If nothing else, this list should serve as a good guide to finding games that let you play as a character of your preferred gender.

Read the notes for additional clarification about the selection process.

Warning: This table may contain minor spoilers, such as revealing the identity of 'surprise' playable characters.

Notes About the Table

  1. Gender
    Symbol Explanation
    m Male only protagonist. The entire game is played from the perspective of a male character.
    f Female only protagonist. The entire game is played from the perspective of a female character.
    m/f Games receive this symbol if they contain both male and female playable characters. This generally takes one of the following forms:
    1. A playable character is assigned or selected at the beginning of each mission or chapter. At least one of these assignments or selections results in the player taking control of a female character, or having the ability to take control of a female character. (Alternating)
    2. The player is given control of an ensemble of characters, at least some of which are or can be female, whether they are assigned to the player on a per mission basis or selected by the player from a pool of available characters. (Ensemble)
    3. In games where co-op or PVP fighting is the primary game mode, at least one of the available characters is female.
    Games will not receive this symbol in the following instances:
    1. Female 'skins' are available in a secondary multiplayer game mode but not within the main game itself. They will receive this symbol if multiplayer is the primary game mode (eg. MMOs, MOBAs, etc.).
    2. Female characters have to be 'unlocked' by beating the game or completing certain objectives and are only available on subsequent playthroughs. By the time the character is playable, the player has already beaten the game.
    b Gender is determined by the player at the beginning of the game and never changes (ie. true gender parity). This feature is commonly found in MMOs and RPGs.
    na The player's avatar is ungendered (eg. car, plant, alien, etc.) or the player interacts from 'outside' the game world as an omniscient entity (eg. most RTS games or CCGs (collectible card games)).
  2. The Character Assignment column represents the relationship between the player and her or his avatar. There are two basic vectors: 1. Whether or not the character is premade (assigned) to the player; selected from a list of premade characters (selected); or created from scratch by the player (customizable), and 2. Whether the player uses a single (solo) character; a succession of characters (alternating); or a party (ensemble) of characters. Hollywood-inspired narrative dramas typically assign a single premade character to the player (eg. Tomb Raider, Bioshock), or occasionally, a succession of characters (eg. Call of Duty). The first would be listed as 'assigned solo', the latter as 'assigned alternating'. In some games, players may be allowed to form parties by selecting from a pool of premade characters (selected ensemble), to create a single character from scratch (customizable solo), or even create an entire party of characters (customizable ensemble). The categories blur a little depending on the degree of customization available and the amount of control a player has over secondary characters in a party. Strategy games are often played from an omniscient perspective; in these cases, I've opted to use the term 'undefined'.
  3. For the most part, I haven't counted female avatar options in secondary multiplayer game modes toward representation if the primary game mode is based around a solo narrative. That should not be taken to imply that I consider the addition of these options unimportant; they are, but they clearly aren't as representative as a game narrative built around a female protagonist. Co-op games, or games where multiplayer is the primary game mode, have been given due representation.
  4. To make the list manageable, it is currently biased toward influential/popular PC and console games, those games which are most often associated with the 'hard core gamer' market. I've included a few of the more popular handheld portable, tablet, smartphone, and social networking games, those games which have had an undeniable impact on the public perception of video games in recent years, but for the most part my representation of these platforms is pretty spotty. Hopefully I'll be able to expand the scope of this project in future updates. DLC that introduces new protagonists and narrative arcs has been included; DLC which merely adds to an existing protagonist's narrative has been excluded.
  5. The genres are quite loosely defined. I only included them to give an approximation of the type of gameplay involved. I'm not going to quibble, for example, over whether or not a certain game is an action RPG or a 'true' RPG or worry about the fact that something I've listed as a FPS is actually a tactical shooter. That's not the point of the table.
  6. I haven't played the vast majority of these games and have relied on Wikipedia, Let's Plays, fan wikis, and game forums for the majority of my information. Please submit corrections via the comments; if you can provide a source for the information, all the better.

Data

Gender Representation by Game
Game Year Gender Character Assignment Genre Notes
Angry Birds 2009 na undefined Puzzle
Assassin's Creed 2007 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Assassin's Creed 2 2009 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Assassin's Creed 2: Brotherhood 2010 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Assassin's Creed 2: Revelations 2011 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Assassin's Creed 3 2012 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Assassin's Creed 3: Liberation 2012 f assigned solo 3rdP Action Aveline de Grandpré
Assassin's Creed 4: Black Flag 2013 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Bejeweled 2001 na undefined Puzzle
Beyond Castle Wolfenstein 1984 m assigned solo top-down action
Beyond Good and Evil 2003 f assigned solo 3rdP Action Jade
Beyond Two Souls 2013 m/f assigned alternating Adventure Jodie Holmes, Aiden
BioShock 2007 m assigned solo FPS
BioShock 2 2010 m assigned solo FPS
BioShock Infinite 2013 m assigned solo FPS
Call of Duty 2003 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty: Finest Hour 2004 m/f assigned alternating FPS Tanya Pavelovna1
Call of Duty 2 2005 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty 2: Big Red One 2005 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty 3 2006 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare 2007 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty: World at War 2008 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty: World at War -- Final Fronts 2008 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 2009 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2010 m/f assigned alternating FPS Sarah Michelle Gellar, Samantha Maxis1
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 2011 m assigned alternating FPS
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 2012 m/f assigned alternating FPS Chloe 'Karma' Lynch, Abigail 'Misty' Briarton1
Call of Duty: Ghosts 2013 m assigned alternating FPS Female soldiers in multiplayer
Candy Crush Saga 2012 na undefined Puzzle
Castle Wolfenstein 1981 m assigned solo top-down action
Child of Light 2014 m/f selected ensemble RPG Aurora is the main protagonist
Clash of Clans 2012 na undefined RTS MMO
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive 2012 m assigned solo FPS multiplayer Newest of four iterations
Crysis 2007 m assigned solo FPS
Crysis: Warhead 2008 m assigned solo FPS
Crysis 2 2011 m assigned solo FPS
Crysis 3 2013 m assigned solo FPS
Dark Souls 2011 b customizable solo RPG
Dark Souls II 2014 b customizable solo RPG
Dead Island 2011 b selected solo RPG
Dead Island: Riptide 2013 b selected solo RPG
Dead Space 2008 m assigned solo Survival horror
Dead Space 2 2011 m assigned solo Survival horror
Dead Space 3 2013 m assigned solo Survival horror
Demon's Souls 2009 b customizable solo RPG
Deus Ex 2000 m assigned solo RPG
Deus Ex: Invisible War 2003 b customizable solo RPG Alex D may be male or female
Deus Ex: Human Revolution 2011 m assigned solo RPG
Deus Ex: The Fall 2013 m assigned solo RPG
Devil May Cry 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Devil May Cry 2 2003 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP action Lucia second playable; Trish bonus level
Devil May Cry 3 2005 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Devil May Cry 4 2008 m assigned alternating 3rdP action
DmC: Devil May Cry 2013 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Diablo 1996 b selected solo RPG
Diablo II 2000 b selected solo RPG
Diablo III 2012 b customizable solo RPG
Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII 2006 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Doom 1993 m assigned solo FPS
Doom II: Hell on Earth 1994 m assigned solo FPS
Doom 64 1997 m assigned solo FPS
Doom 3 2004 m assigned solo FPS Incl. Resurrection of Evil
Dragon Age: Origins 2009 b customizable solo RPG
Dragon Age: Origins - Awakening 2010 b customizable solo RPG
Dragon Age II 2011 b assigned solo RPG Hawke may be male or female
Duke Nukem 1991 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Duke Nukem II 1993 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Duke Nukem 3D 1996 m assigned solo FPS
Duke Nukem: Time to Kill 1998 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Duke Nukem: Zero Hour 1999 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Duke Nukem: Land of the Babes 2000 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Duke Nukem: Manhattan Project 2002 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Duke Nukem Advance 2002 m assigned solo FPS
Duke Nukem Forever 2011 m assigned solo FPS
Duke Nukem: Critical Mass 2011 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Fable 2004 m customizable solo RPG
Fable II 2008 b customizable solo RPG Sparrow can be male or female
Fable III 2010 b customizable solo RPG Player can be male or female
Fable: The Journey 2012 m assigned solo 1stP action
Fahrenheit (aka Indigo Prophecy) 2005 m/f selected alternating Adventure Carla Valenti is 1 of 3 playable characters
Fallout 1997 b customizable solo + selected ensemble RPG
Fallout 2 1998 b customizable solo + selected ensemble RPG
Fallout Tactics 2001 b customizable ensemble Tactical RPG
Fallout: Brotherhood of Steel 2001 b selected solo Action RPG
Fallout 3 2008 b customizable solo RPG
Fallout: New Vegas 2010 b customizable solo RPG
Far Cry 2004 m assigned solo FPS
Far Cry 2 2008 m selected solo FPS
Far Cry 3 2012 m assigned solo FPS
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon 2013 m assigned solo FPS
FarmVille 2009 b customizable solo Simulation
Final Doom 1996 m assigned solo FPS
Final Fantasy 1987 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male and female classes
Final Fantasy II 1988 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Male and female characters
Final Fantasy III 1990 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Male and female characters
Final Fantasy IV 1991 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Male protagonist w/ male and female characters
Final Fantasy V 1992 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Male protagonist w/ male and female characters
Final Fantasy VI 1994 m/f selected ensemble RPG Terra Branford f prot. w/ m and f characters
Final Fantasy VII 1997 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male prot. w/ m and f characters
Final Fantasy VIII 1999 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male prot. w/ m and f characters
Final Fantasy IX 2000 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male prot. w/ m and f characters
Final Fantasy X 2001 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male prot. w/ m and f characters
Final Fantasy XI: Online 2002 b customizable solo MMORPG
Final Fantasy X-2 2003 f assigned ensemble RPG All 3 playable characters are female
Final Fantasy XII 2006 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Male and female characters
Final Fantasy XIII 2009 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Lightning f prot. w/ m and f characters
Final Fantasy XIII-2 2011 m/f assigned ensemble RPG Serah Farron
Final Fantasy XIII: Lightning Returns 2013 f assigned solo RPG Lightning
Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn 2013 b customizable solo MMORPG
Flow 2006 na undefined Adventure
Flower 2009 na undefined Adventure
Gears of War 2006 m assigned solo/coop 3rdP action
Gears of War 2 2008 m assigned solo/coop 3rdP action
Gears of War 3 2011 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP action Anya Stroud, Samantha Byrne, Queen Myrrah2
Gears of War 3: RAAM's Shadow 2011 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP action Alicia Valera2
Gears of War: Judgment 2013 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP action Sofia Hendrick2
God of War 2005 m assigned solo 3rdP action
God of War II 2007 m assigned solo 3rdP action
God of War: Betrayal 2007 m assigned solo 3rdP action
God of War: Chains of Olympus 2008 m assigned solo 3rdP action
God of War III 2010 m assigned solo 3rdP action
God of War: Ghost of Sparta 2010 m assigned solo 3rdP action
God of War: Ascension 2013 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Gone Home 2013 f assigned solo Adventure Kaitlin Greenbriar
Grand Theft Auto 1997 b selected solo Top-down action 4 male, 4 female options on PC
Grand Theft Auto: London, 1969/1961 1999 b selected solo Top-down action 4 male, 4 female options on PC
Grand Theft Auto 2 1999 m assigned solo Top-down action
Grand Theft Auto 3 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City 2002 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 2004 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories 2005 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories 2006 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto 4 2008 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto: The Lost and Damned 2009 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony 2009 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Grand Theft Auto 5 2013 m assigned alternating 3rdP action GTA5 Online has customizable female avatars
Guild Wars 2005 b customizable solo MMORPG
Guild Wars 2 2012 b customizable solo MMORPG
Half-Life 1998 m assigned solo FPS
Half-Life: Opposing Force 1999 m assigned solo FPS
Half-Life: Blue Shift 2001 m assigned solo FPS
Half-Life: Decay 2001 f assigned coop FPS Gina Cross, Colette Green
Half-Life 2 2004 m assigned solo FPS
Half-Life 2: Episode One 2006 m assigned solo FPS
Half-Life 2: Episode Two 2007 m assigned solo FPS
Halo 2001 m assigned solo FPS
Halo 2 2004 m assigned alternating FPS
Halo 3 2007 m assigned solo FPS
Halo Wars 2009 na undefined RTS
Halo 3: ODST 2009 m assigned solo FPS Veronica Dare is unlockable
Halo: Reach 2010 b assigned solo FPS Noble Six may be male or female
Halo 4 2012 m assigned solo FPS
Halo: Spartan Assault 2013 b selected solo Top-down action Sarah Palmer
Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft 2014 na undefined CCG
Heavy Rain 2010 m/f assigned alternating Adventure Male and female characters
Ico 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Infamous 2009 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Infamous 2 2011 m assigned solo 3rdP action Nix is briefly playable in one mission branch
Infamous: Second Son 2014 m assigned solo 3rdP action Fetch will be playable in upcoming DLC
Journey 2012 na undefined Adventure All characters are genderless
Kinect Adventures! 2010 b customizable solo Sports Uses Xbox360 avatars
Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light 2010 m/f assigned solo/coop Top-down action Totec is available in coop
Last of Us 2013 m/f assigned alternating Survival horror Ellie
Last of Us: Left Behind 2014 m/f assigned solo Survival horror Ellie
League of Legends 2009 b selected solo MOBA
Left 4 Dead 2008 b selected solo FPS multiplayer 1 of 4 characters is female
Left 4 Dead 2 2009 b selected solo FPS multiplayer 1 of 4 characters is female
Legend of Zelda 1986 m assigned solo Top-down action
Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past 1991 m assigned solo Top-down action
Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening 1993 m assigned solo Top-down action
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 1998 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask 2000 m assigned alternating 3rdP action Kafei (male) is briefly playable
Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Four Swords 2002 m assigned multiplayer 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker 2002 m/f assigned ensemble 3rdP action Medli
Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures 2004 m assigned multiplayer 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap 2004 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess 2006 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass 2007 m assigned ensemble 3rdP action
Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks 2009 m/f assigned ensemble 3rdP action Zelda is a playable character
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword 2011 m assigned ensemble 3rdP action Groose (male) is a playable character
Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds 2013 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Link's Crossbow Training 2007 m assigned solo Shooter
Mafia Wars 2008 b customizable solo Simulation
Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga 2003 m assigned ensemble RPG
Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time 2005 m assigned ensemble RPG
Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story 2009 m assigned ensemble RPG
Mario & Luigi: Dream Team 2013 m assigned ensemble RPG Starlow plays a supporting role
Mario Bros. 1983 m assigned solo Platformer
Mario Kart 64 1996 b selected solo Racing Princess Peach is playable
Mario Kart: Super Circuit 2001 b selected solo Racing Princess Peach is playable
Mario Kart: Double Dash!! 2003 b selected solo Racing Male and female characters
Mario Kart DS 2005 b selected solo Racing Male and female characters
Mario Kart Wii 2008 b selected solo Racing Male and female characters
Mario Kart 7 2011 b selected solo Racing Princess Peach available at start
Mario Kart 8 2014 b selected solo Racing Male and female characters
Mario Party 1998 b selected solo Party Princess Peach is playable
Mario Party 2 1999 b selected solo Party Princess Peach is playable
Mario Party 3 2000 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party 4 2002 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party 5 2003 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party 6 2004 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party Advance 2005 b selected solo Party Princess Peach is available
Mario Party 7 2005 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party 8 2007 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party DS 2007 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party 9 2012 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mario Party: Island Tour 2013 b selected solo Party Male and female characters
Mass Effect 2007 b customizable solo RPG Commander Shepard may be male or female
Mass Effect 2 2010 b customizable solo RPG
Mass Effect 3 2012 b customizable solo RPG
Max Payne 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne 2003 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP action Mona Sax is playable for a few levels
Max Payne 3 2012 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Medal of Honor 1999 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: Underground 2000 f assigned solo FPS Manon Batiste
Medal of Honor: Allied Assault 2002 m assigned solo FPS Female soldiers in multiplayer
Medal of Honor: Frontline 2002 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: Rising Sun 2003 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault 2004 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: European Assault 2005 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: Heroes 2006 m assigned alternating FPS
Medal of Honor: Vanguard 2007 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: Airborne 2007 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor: Heroes 2 2007 m assigned solo FPS
Medal of Honor (2010) 2010 m assigned alternating FPS
Medal of Honor: Warfighter 2012 m assigned alternating FPS
Metal Gear 1987 m assigned solo Top-down action
Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake 1990 m assigned solo Top-down action
Metal Gear Solid 1998 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty 2001 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater 2004 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots 2008 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker 2010 m/f selected alternating 3rdP action Some missions played as a female soldier
Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance 2013 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Metal Gear Solid 5: Ground Zeroes 2014 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Minecraft 2011 na undefined Sandbox All characters are genderless
Metroid 1986 f assigned solo 3rdP Action Samus Aran
Metroid II: Return of Samus 1991 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
(Metroid 3) Super Metroid 1994 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Metroid Fusion 2002 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Metroid Prime 2002 f assigned solo 3rd/1stP action
Metroid: Zero Mission 2004 f assigned solo 3rdP action
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes 2004 f assigned solo FPS
Metroid Prime Pinball 2005 na undefined Pinball
Metroid Prime Hunters 2006 f assigned solo FPS
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption 2007 f assigned solo FPS
Metroid: Other M 2010 f assigned solo 3rd/1stP action
Mirror's Edge 2008 f assigned solo 1stP action Faith
New Super Mario Bros. 2006 m selected solo Platformer
New Super Mario Bros. Wii 2009 m selected solo Platformer
New Super Mario Bros. 2 2012 m selected solo Platformer
New Super Mario Bros. U 2012 m selected solo Platformer
Omikron: The Nomad Soul 1999 m/f selected alternating 3rdP action Male and female characters
Paper Mario 2000 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male and female characters
Paper Mario: Thousand Year Door 2004 m/f selected ensemble RPG Male and female characters
Paper Mario: Sticker Star 2012 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Portal 2007 f assigned solo 1stP action Chell
Portal 2 2011 f assigned solo 1stP action
Remember Me 2013 f assigned solo 3rdP action Nilin
Resident Evil 1996 b selected solo Survival horror Jill Valentine
Resident Evil 2 1998 b selected solo Survival horror Claire Redfield
Resident Evil 3: Nemesis 1999 m/f assigned alternating Survival horror Carlos Oliviera replaces Jill for part of the game
Resident Evil Survivor 2000 m assigned solo Survival horror
Resident Evil Code: Veronica 2000 m/f assigned alternating Survival horror Code: Veronica X is an update to this game
Resident Evil Zero 2002 m/f assigned alternating Survival horror Rebecca Chambers
Resident Evil: Dead Aim 2003 m assigned solo Survival horror
Resident Evil: Outbreak 2003 b selected solo, multiplayer Survival horror Male and female characters
Resident Evil: Outbreak 2 2004 b selected solo, multiplayer Survival horror Male and female characters
Resident Evil 4 2005 m assigned solo Survival horror
Resident Evil: The Umbrella Chronicles 2007 m/f selected alternating Survival horror Male and female characters
Resident Evil 5 2009 m assigned solo, co-op Survival horror Sheva solo unlocked after beating the game
Resident Evil: The Darkside Chronicles 2009 m/f selected alternating Survival horror Male and female characters
Resident Evil: Revelations 2012 m/f assigned alternating Survival horror Male and female characters
Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City 2012 b selected ensemble 3rdP action Male and female characters
Resident Evil 6 2012 m/f selected alternating 3rdP action Ada Wong is the protagonist for 1/4 campaigns
Resistance: Fall of Man 2006 m assigned solo FPS
Resistance 2 2008 m assigned solo FPS Female skin addon for multiplayer
Resistance: Retribution 2009 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Resistance 3 2011 m assigned solo FPS Female skin addon for multiplayer
Resistance: Burning Skies 2012 m assigned solo FPS
Return to Castle Wolfenstein 2001 m assigned solo FPS
Saints Row 2006 m customizable solo 3rdP Action
Saints Row 2 2008 b customizable solo 3rdP Action
Saints Row: The Third 2011 b customizable solo 3rdP Action
Saints Row IV 2013 b customizable solo 3rdP Action
Shadow of the Colossus 2005 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Silent Hill 1999 m assigned solo Survival horror
Silent Hill 2 2001 m assigned solo Survival horror Maria has a playable scenario in an expansion
Silent Hill 3 2003 f assigned solo Survival horror Heather Mason
Silent Hill 4 2004 m assigned solo Survival horror
Silent Hill: Origins 2007 m assigned solo Survival horror
Silent Hill: Homecoming 2008 m assigned solo Survival horror
Silent Hill: Shattered Memories 2009 m/f assigned alternating Survival horror Cheryl Mason
Silent Hill: Downpour 2012 m assigned solo Survival horror
Silent Hill: Book of Memories 2012 b customizable solo Top-down action
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs 2002 m assigned ensemble 3rdP action
SOCOM 2: U.S. Navy SEALs 2003 m assigned ensemble 3rdP action Feral, Quixada are unlockable
SOCOM 3: U.S. Navy SEALs 2005 m assigned ensemble 3rdP action Coldkill, Mironova unlockable
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Combined Assault 2006 m assigned ensemble 3rdP action
SOCOM: U.S. Navy SEALs Confrontation 2008 m customizable solo 3rdP action
SOCOM 4: U.S. Navy SEALs 2011 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP action Forty-Five
Spear of Destiny 1992 m assigned solo FPS
Super Mario Bros. 1985 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels 1986 m selected solo Platformer
Super Mario Bros. 2 1988 b selected solo Platformer Princess Peach (alt Princess Toadstool)
Super Mario Bros. 3 1988 m selected solo Platformer
Super Mario Land 1989 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario World 1990 m selected solo Platformer
Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins 1992 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario Kart 1992 b selected solo Racing Princess Peach is playable
Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island 1995 n/a assigned solo Platformer The gender of the playable Yoshis is ambiguous
Super Mario 64 1996 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario RPG 1996 m/f selected ensemble RPG Princess Peach is a member of the party
Super Mario Sunshine 2002 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario Galaxy 2007 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario Galaxy 2 2010 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario 3D Land 2011 m assigned solo Platformer
Super Mario 3D World 2013 b selected solo Platformer Princess Peach playable character
Super Paper Mario 2007 m/f selected ensemble RPG Princess Peach playable character
Super Princess Peach 2005 f assigned solo Platformer Princess Peach
Super Smash Bros. 1999 b customizable solo Fighting Samus Aran is a playable character
Super Smash Bros. Melee 2001 b customizable solo Fighting Male and female characters
Super Smash Bros. Brawl 2008 b customizable solo Fighting Male and female characters
Team Fortress 2 2007 m selected solo 3rdP multiplayer
Tetris 1984 na undefined Puzzle
The Elder Scrolls: Arena 1994 b customizable solo RPG
The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall 1996 b customizable solo RPG
An Elder Scrolls Legend: Battlespire 1997 b customizable solo RPG
The Elder Scrolls Adventures: Redguard 1997 m assigned solo RPG
The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind 2002 b customizable solo RPG
The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion 2006 b customizable solo RPG
The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim 2011 b customizable solo RPG
The Elder Scrolls Online 2014 b customizable solo MMORPG
The Walking Dead, Season 1 2012 m assigned solo Adventure 400 Days DLC has male and female characters
The Walking Dead, Season 2 2013 f assigned solo Adventure Clementine
The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct 2013 m assigned solo FPS
The Witcher 2007 m assigned solo RPG
The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings 2011 m assigned solo RPG
Thief: The Dark Project 1998 m assigned solo Stealth
Thief II: The Metal Age 2000 m assigned solo Stealth
Thief: Deadly Shadows 2004 m assigned solo Stealth
Thief 2014 m assigned solo Stealth
Titanfall 2014 b assigned solo and ensemble FPS MMO Pilots may be male or female
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2001 m/f selected ensemble FPS Player can take control of any operative
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Island Thunder 2003 m/f selected ensemble FPS Player can take control of any operative
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2 2004 m assigned ensemble FPS
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon 2: Summit Strike 2005 m assigned ensemble FPS
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2005 m assigned ensemble FPS
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2 2007 m selected ensemble FPS Female option in multiplayer
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon (Wii) 2010 m assigned solo/co-op 3rdP action
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier 2012 m selected ensemble 3rdP action
Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Phantoms 2014 m customizable solo MMO
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 1998 m/f selected ensemble FPS Player can take control of any operative
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Rogue Spear 1999 m/f selected ensemble FPS Player can take control of any operative
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lone Wolf 2002 m assigned solo FPS
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six 3: Raven Shield3 2003 m/f selected ensemble FPS Player can take control of any operative
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Lockdown 2005 m assigned solo and ensemble FPS
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Critical Hour 2006 m assigned solo and ensemble FPS
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2006 m assigned solo and ensemble FPS Female option in multiplayer
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 2008 b assigned solo and ensemble FPS Bishop's gender is determined by the player
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell 2002 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Pandora Tomorrow 2004 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory 2005 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent 2006 m assigned solo 3rdP action Female spy included in multiplayer
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction 2010 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Blacklist 2013 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Tomb Raider 1996 f assigned solo 3rdP Action Lara Croft
Tomb Raider 2 1997 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider 3 1998 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation 1999 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider: Chronicles 2000 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness 2003 m/f assigned alternating 3rdP Action Kurtis Trent has 3 levels
Tomb Raider: Legend 2006 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider: Anniversary 2007 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider: Underworld 2008 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Tomb Raider (2013) 2013 f assigned solo 3rdP Action
Uncharted: Drake's Fortune 2007 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Uncharted 2: Among Thieves 2009 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception 2011 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Uncharted: Golden Abyss 2011 m assigned solo 3rdP Action
Warcraft: Orcs & Humans 1994 na undefined RTS
Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness 1995 na undefined RTS
Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos 2002 na undefined RTS
Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 1993 m selected solo Platformer
Watch Dogs 2014 m assigned solo 3rdP action
Wii Fit 2007 b customizable solo Fitness Expanded Wii Fit Plus released 2009
Wii Party 2010 b customizable solo, multiplayer Party Avatars are drawn from the player's Mii channel
Wii Party U 2013 b customizable solo, multiplayer Party Mii
Wii Play 2006 b customizable solo, multiplayer Party Mii
Wii Sports 2006 b customizable solo, multiplayer Sports Mii
Wii Sports Resort 2009 b customizable solo, multiplayer Sports Mii
Wolfenstein 3D 1992 m assigned solo FPS
Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory 2003 m assigned solo Multiplayer FPS
Wolfenstein 2009 m assigned solo FPS
Wolfenstein: The New Order 2014 m assigned solo FPS
Words with Friends 2009 na undefined Puzzle
World of Warcraft 2005 b customizable solo MMORPG
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link 1987 m assigned solo Action RPG
  1. The female characters in the CoD franchise all play minor roles or are relegated to expansions.
  2. Gears of War has an alternating roster of co-op characters that are assigned in a loose sequence in campaign mode. One of the side effects of the way characters are assigned is that you are almost always stuck playing a male character if you play the campaign as a solo player. Typically, in campaign mode, female characters are only available as a second, third, or fourth player in co-op play (and even then not always). The first slot is almost always reserved for a male lead. Female characters are available in multiplayer, however.
  3. The Xbox port of Rainbow Six 3 and its sequel Black Arrow do not allow you to assume control over other operatives and is therefore a male-only port.

Results

Row Category Total Percent
1 Sample Size 400 100
2 Number of games tailored exclusively to a male protagonist 212 53.0
3 Number of games tailored exclusively to a female protagonist 34 8.5
4 Number of games with mixed male and female protagonists 50 12.5
5 Number of games where the gender is determined entirely by the player 87 21.8
6 Number of games with undefined protagonists 17 4.3
7 Number of games that allow you to play as a male (or undefined) character (row 2 + 4 + 5 + 6) 366 91.5
8 Number of games that allow you to play as a female (or undefined) character (row 3 + 4 + 5 + 6) 188 47.0
9 Number of games that allow you to play as a male from start to finish (row 2 + 5) 299 74.8
10 Number of games that allow you to play as a female from start to finish (row 3 + 5) 121 30.3
  1. Mixed 'm/f' games are included in the 'allowed to play as female' numbers.
  2. Games with 'na' gender (eg. Halo Wars) count toward both male and female representation.
  3. Games that require the player to 'beat' the game to unlock a female character (eg. Halo 3: ODST) do not count toward female representation.
Gender Representation by Year
Year Total M F M/F B NA Games with Female Protagonists
1981 1 1 - - - -
1982 0 - - - - -
1983 1 1 - - - -
1984 2 1 - - - 1
1985 1 1 - - - -
1986 3 2 1 - - - Metroid
1987 3 2 - 1 - -
1988 3 1 - 1 1 -
1989 1 1 - - - -
1990 3 2 - 1 - -
1991 4 2 1 1 - -
1992 5 3 - 1 1 -
1993 4 4 - - - -
1994 5 1 1 1 1 1
1995 2 - - - - 2
1996 9 3 1 1 4 - Tomb Raider
1997 7 2 1 1 3 -
1998 10 5 1 1 3 -
1999 13 5 1 4 3 -
2000 12 5 2 3 2 -
2001 19 11 1 2 4 1
2002 18 10 2 2 3 1
2003 18 6 3 5 4 - Beyond Good and Evil
2004 20 14 2 2 2 -
2005 22 14 1 1 5 1 Super Princess Peach
2006 21 14 2 1 3 1
2007 28 19 3 2 4 - Portal
2008 23 13 2 - 8 - Mirror's Edge
2009 26 12 - 4 6 4
2010 20 8 1 4 7 -
2011 26 14 1 4 6 1
2012 27 14 1 3 6 3
2013 30 15 5 3 7 - Beyond Two Souls, Remember Me, Gone Home
2014 13 6 1 1 4 1 Child of Light

Conclusions: Are women being adequately represented in video games?

According to these preliminary results based on a small sample size:

  1. Over 90% of all games have a playable male character.
  2. Just under 50% of all games have a playable female character, but often, this role is minor, or the number of female options is limited compared to the number of male options.
  3. There are over 6 times as many games tailored exclusively for a solo male protagonist as there are for a solo female protagonist.
  4. Games are almost 50% more likely to feature a mixed cast of male and female characters than a solo female protagonist.
  5. About 1 in 5 games allow the player to determine the gender of their character at the start of the game.
  6. About 30% of all games allow you to assume the role of a female protagonist and maintain that role from start to finish.

According to the Entertainment Software Association's stats for 2013, approximately 45% of all gamers are women and girls. Ideally, then, the relationship between games focused on female protagonists should be almost 1:1 (11:9) with games focused on male protagonists. The existing bias is 212:34, or approximately 6:1; ie. there are about 6 times as many games tailored exclusively toward men as there are toward women.

While this gender disparity is significant, if we include those games which allow you to select the gender of your character at the beginning of the game (like Mass Effect or Skyrim), the gap closes to 299:121, or approximately 2.5:1. In other words, male players are approximately two and a half times as likely to be able to play an entire game exclusively as a male protagonist as a female is as a female protagonist. This is still a large gap, but not as dizzying as the one between male and female-only franchises. The gap, of course, may continue to narrow (or grow) as the scope of this project widens.

I'm a big proponent of diversity in video games; frankly, I like being able to project myself into a wide array of characters. That said, I don't believe that developers should be taken to task if they don't include a female option in a game: developers should be allowed to tell the stories that they want to tell. If a popular franchise happens to revolve around the adventures of a male protagonist, so be it. Other people are free to develop their own stories around whatever kind of protagonist they prefer. With any luck, more of those protagonists will be strong, well-rounded women.

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Last updated June 30, 2014

© 2009-2014 Dave Finch

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