A large number of video game heroes, just as the majority of heroes in various texts, are male and many fit an archetype at that. While few of the heroes (or heroines, in this case) are women, the trend has been rising significantly the past few decades, as there have been more titles with leading or prominent females in texts than previous years, not to mention the countless amount of supporting characters that are largely important to the overall plot and experience. Video game developers on the other hand, while also employing more male characters than female in leading roles, have always given females a lot of exposure as strong, empowering characters; Sega is one of these developers.

Now, when I say "empowering," I do not intend for that to be taken in context of "feminism" or anything of the sort: Sega simply is one of the many developers that have created strong, powerful, intelligent and unique characters, where this list will highlight ten of them. From their style to their smarts, to their fighting ability and sense of morals, these gals were penned very well by Sega, to stand out and be (hopefully!) memorable amongst the thousands of other video game protagonists and supporting characters. The characters span four of Sega's five consoles (not including the add-ons) which shows just how long Sega had been creating strong, female characters. Let's begin at 10!

We begin with a member of a tough trio rollerblading gang from the mean streets of Grind City, Cube. This tough, quick-witted and stylish chick was one of the main people involved in the story for Jet Set Radio for the Dreamcast and even ran her own gang in Jet Set Radio Future for the Xbox. Her trademark spray paint designs are rather different from the rest of the characters in the series as they have a fairly dark tone, including her large design which has a creepy-looking Grim Reaper in the middle of it.

Cube is an empowering character for her headstrongness and determined will to help the GG's defeat Goji Rokkaku and ensure that her friend Coin's disappearance was not in vain. She's a quick thinker, a fast skater and she possesses great leadership qualities. All the while she does this, she looks great with a style that few in video games have (and few can pull off in real life, without looking unappealing in my opinion) and she is just an all-round cool chick! Not bad for a simple rudie...

Stats, Stats and more Stats: Cube is a Taurus, having been born on May 18th. She also holds the third most amount of spray cans in the game, at 25.

Though another game involving gangs, Last Bronx is quite different than Jet Set Radio, being set in a different depiction of Tokyo, where gangs maintain a large presence and fight constantly. Yoko Kono is the leader of the G-Troops, a gang that hangs around the subways of Tokyo (called 'Lust Subway,' in the game). The G-Troops are former military-types (nothing is said of whether or not the members, including Yoko, were actually IN the military) who have adapted their tactics and know-how of combat to urban Tokyo. Yoko uses these skills to enter the gang fighting tournament set up by the Redrum organisation, where she tries to find the answers behind the disappearance of her brother and try to take control of the Tokyo gang underworld.

Yoko's physical strength is high for a female, while she is quick and a skilled fighter with the tonfa. She displays great leadership skills as she quickly assumes the role of gang leader when her brother Ken goes missing. Finally, her determination is seen in how she will stop at nothing to find her brother and end Redrum's existence in Tokyo. Her strength and looks also place her as a love interest to the Lesbian leader of the rival Dogma gang, Nagi Hojo. Yoko's character development is probably the greatest of all the Last Bronx characters, due to her ties with the plot of the game (not going to spoil it here), thus she stands out as a good representation of empowerment.

Jokes Aplenty: Last Bronx, like Namco's Soul series, employs joke weapons for each of the characters once they have been unlocked; Yoko's tonfas are replaced with Oil-Paper umbrellas, also known as Japanese umbrellas.

The first (and only, I think!) character on this list created by a woman, who is the primary protagonist in her game. Alis (spelled as Alisa in some parts) is a heroine who like Yoko, enters the plot to avenge/determine what happened to her brother, after she sees him die on the battlefield. She picks up her sword, dons her armour and joins the battle against King Lassic and his forces, eventually having to forget her revenge plans and attempt to save the Algo star system; not a simple task for a fifteen year old girl who has just witnessed the death of her brother.

Alis is a notable character in Sega history as being the first female to character that has a backstory, depth and was not simply thrown there as Papri from Girl's Garden was (though there is apparently a loose story to that game). Also as Yoko, Alis is noted as being a very headstrong and brave character, who is not afraid at taking on challenges, as well as determined, as she will go through great lengths to restore her brother's honour. She also has a bit of a motherly instinct, as she cares for characters at various points in the game. Sure she is from a different age than more modern characters in gaming; however Alis shows that regardless of how old you are and what era you're from, you can be as empowering as anyone from any age and any time.

Guest Starring...: Aside from her appearances in other games in the series (Alis makes a VERY brief cameo in a dream sequence in Phantasy Star II and in statue form in Phantasy Star IV), Alis played a very prominent role in Segagaga, where she guides Taro through the R&D floors and through the simulation parts of the game.

Heading to the future this time, we have Faye from Binary Domain next on the list. A strong, good-looking woman, Faye is the first character on the list that can be considered "pretty" (Alis is a young girl, more cute than pretty, Yoko is very much a tomboy and appears to place more emphasis on being prepared for battle as opposed to looking pretty and not everyone finds Cube's gothic look to be appealing). A member of the Chinese Liberation Army, she is sent to be a part of the 'Rust Crew' that is tasked to bring Yoji Amada to Geneva. Considered the calm, quiet member of the group, Faye fits in as well as everyone else in the game's colourful crew.

Faye's skills in the field are second to none and while her physical strength is not the same as a man's, her speed, decision-making and ability with a weapon are arguably as good or better than any man (Gargantuan Spoilers in the game explain why this is so). Faye also shows that a woman can kick ass and still look damn good at the same time, though her battle outfit is not truly as practical-looking as the rest of the crew (Rachael is also a woman and her battle outfit is identical to the one of her countryman Charlie), she is the consummate "Battle Girl," a worthy companion on the battlefield. Sega did a great job with Faye's character development, as her intelligence and philosophical way of thinking show that she is not a dumb woman; Faye is a strong character indeed.

What do Blaze the Cat, Oriana Lawson and Rayne all have in common?: Laura Bailey, that's what. The lovely American voice actress voices Faye brilliantly at times (during in-game commands) and shaky at others (cutscenes; where did that accent go?). Her real-life husband, Travis Willingham, voices the protagonist of Binary Domain, Dan Marshall. Go figure!

Final Fight had some superb characters (arguably Capcom's most colourful and deep at the time) and when Sega began development on Streets of Rage, it makes sense that they would have to do a bang-up job to match Capcom's output; with a trio such as the strong Adam Hunter, the balanced Axel Stone and the fast, tough woman Blaze Fielding, they did a great job matching Capcom's trio. Blaze was born in Britain and is a staunch supporter of her country of origin, as well as a lover of dance and judo. In the first two games, Blaze is more of a secondary character, where Axel was considered the protagonist, however this all changed in Bare Knuckle III/Streets of Rage 3, where Blaze has essentially taken over as the main protagonist in the series.

She takes over the central protagonist role by virtue of her resiliency and drive to take down Mr. X and the syndicate. She is also seemingly a supporter of women's equality and respect, as she has quotes in the third Streets of Rage game that show her displeasure with those who stare and gawk at her because she is female. Blaze is also a very proud person, not backing down and displaying her pride as she does not like to lose at anything. Like Faye, Blaze also doesn't need to dress ideally for any occasion; she's perfectly content kicking ass in just a mini-skirt! A tough and brash ex-cop, Blaze Fielding is an empowering character, one of Sega's classics.

Based on a true person: Blaze bears a fairly close resemblance to model Cindy Crawford, complete with brunette hair and the trademark beauty mark.

Ebony and Ivory never looked so mysterious and seductive until Azel appeared onscreen during the intro to Panzer Dragoon Saga. This beautiful and bizarre-looking creature is one of Sega's more intriguing characters, as Azel is actually an android created by the ancients (who are behind the plots of each game in the series in some way) and has a magical connection with the 'towers,' that are in each game as well; it is clear that Azel is a special creation and not your typical female videogame character.

Azel's appearance is quite unique; white and black body, with joints that have clearly been constructed (they appear to be made of wood, however what material they actually are, is not completely known); with a long headpiece that resembles hair. When she is found in the game, she is in a weird position, dormant, almost lifeless. It is perhaps ironic that she is in this state, as she has the potential to destroy and ruin the world. In terms of "power," Azel is the most powerful character on the list thus far.

Azel's unwavering loyalty shows a strong sense of character and honour (though that can be expected from a drone), traits that weak people do not generally exude. As well, Azel has the ability to control very powerful dragons, specifically, the Atolm Dragon, a formidable creature that was being transported by a ship of the Imperial Empire, which Azel uses to fight Edge. Her ability to command these powerful creatures, unleash chaos via the ancient towers and her strong character traits, show that Azel is a strong, potentially dangerous but beautiful character, arguably the best female character creation of the Saturn era.

Like mother, like daughter: Due to the events of Panzer Dragoon Saga, Azel creates another drone with her (and Edge's) genetic code. The result is Orta, the protagonist and titular character of the final game in the series, Panzer Dragoon Orta.

Known more for her attire and brilliant magic, one may not think of her when it comes to strong characters; however Tyris Flare is one tough cookie. Armed with nothing but a string (made out of chain mail, however) bikini combo and her short but effective long sword, Tyris Flare sets out with Ax Battler and Gilius Thunderhead to avenge her mother and father, killed by the antagonist of the series, Death Adder. Though she has the weakest and shortest weapon of the three characters, Tyris' fire magic is very impressive and each of the different animations for each magic is a sight to behold.

Whether facing the hardships of life in medieval times or simply battling it out against Death Adder's forces, Tyris never folds and will see her mission out until the end. In the second game, she takes her armour and sword into battle yet again, this time in order to defeat the dangerous evil clan, led by the Dark Guild. Though she makes no more appearances in the main series, she also appears in the spinoff title, Golden Axe: Beast Rider, as she fights once more to stop Death Adder.

Tyris is an empowering character due to her combat skills and utter fearlessness. She is great with a sword, runs very fast and kicks hard (her kick having the most range of all charge attacks in the first Golden Axe), skills necessary in defeating medieval armies. She also possesses great leadership qualities, being the only female in the protagonist trio, as well as sorcery skills that are top notch; many a battle has been saved by unleashing the power of the fire-breathing dragon. She takes her lumps, gets her fair share of scrapes and cuts and perseveres through it all. Strong as they come.

But I thought I was the favourite!: Tyris Flare is considered to be the chief protagonist in the series, with her own title and the canonical story of the first game ending via her sword. Yet, Ax Battler has received 2 spin-off titles starring himself (as well as being the lone hero in the Master System port of the first game), Gilius Thunderhead has made the most appearances in media of any Golden Axe character, guesting on over 7 different titles, in addition to the Golden Axe titles, all the while Tyris has Beast Rider to claim to her name...

There are actually a handful of characters from the Yakuza/Ryu Ga Gotoku series that could be on this list (see honourable mentions for another), however none of the gals in the series show as much cunning, wit and outright "badassery," that Yumi Sawamura exhibits. It is worth noting however, that Kiryu's main love interest of the series didn't start out as this strong, empowering woman that she ended up turning into; in fact, she was quite different in the beginning...

Yumi, like Kiryu and Nishkiyama, was raised at Sunflower Orphanage, under the eye of Shintaro Fuma/Kazama. She was treated very well by the boys and Fuma himself, even to the point of being "pampered," thus she lived her life in relative calmness and with little difficulty. When the boys left for the Fuma family in the Tojo Clan, Yumi went off to college and graduated with intention to meet back up with the guys in Tokyo, which she did and her old life seemed to return yet again, until that fateful day in 1995 when she was almost raped, Nishkiyama killed the offender and Kiryu took the fall for his friend, sending him to prison.

From there, Yumi loses her memory and becomes a shell of herself. After having a child and surviving an assassination attempt, her memory comes back and the new Yumi appears. She runs and operates a successful bar atop Millennium Tower, she cuts her hair and dyes it a greyish colour and she attracts a rather large following of customers and idolisers. Without spoiling the plot too much, let's just say that Yumi is a big part of the entire plot of the first Yakuza title, if not the most important part. Her cunning shows that she is always one step ahead of whomever is following her, he intelligence and business-savvy can be seen in how she runs her bar and when the final part of the final chapter in the game begins, you are shown just how much of a badass Yumi has become, seizing control of the situation and showing that she is in charge. Strong? You bet she's a strong woman.

Voice actors yet again: While Yumi's Japanese voice actress, Uesaka Miyako, is not particularly noteworthy outside of the television world (to date, her only video game credit is in Ryu Ga Gotoku), her English voice actress is none other than American actress, Eliza Dushku, star of such films as Bring it On and television shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She also voices Shaundi in Saints Row 2 and the protagonist, Rubi Malone, in Wet, both for 7th generation consoles.

Jeet Kune Do is a martial arts system created and developed by the legendary martial artist, Bruce Lee. While there have been many practitioners of it in video game history, few have been as good at it and pretty, as Sarah Bryant (it is worth noting that after Virtua Fighter 4, her fighting style is a mix of martial arts techniques). Sarah was one of the original characters in the Virtua Fighter series, appearing in the first game and has been a mainstay ever since. Her involvement in the first game was not major at the time (as the plot centered on Akira), though it would have greater implications past the first game.

Sarah's life is great, being the oldest daughter in the Bryant family, she and her brother Jacky, an Indycar driver, have no issues with anything. That is, until the 1990 Indy 500, where Jacky gets into an accident. Seemingly having been sabotaged, Sarah takes it upon herself to investigate the crash and hopefully find an answer. She doesn't solve the mystery however and she is kidnapped by an organisation known as Judgment 6. Brainwashed and sent into the World Fighting Tournament, Sarah is tasked with defeating (and killing) her brother in combat. After Jacky rescues her, she must piece back together her past memories and perfecting her skills in fighting allow her mind to open and connect the pieces.

Herein is what makes Sarah such a strong character; she is physically in great shape and a great fighter, one of the best in the world. Her lighting fast kicks and hard knees have claimed many a fighter in combat and her technique is super refined. Her determination can be seen in wanting to solve the mystery behind her brother's crash alone, as well her bravery in taking on Judgment 6 is admirable (though it can be argued that it is not really smart to take on organisations all on your own!). Sarah also is admirable in that she has superb looks, while maintaining her dignity in terms of knowing how to dress. She looks great, she has the heart of a lion and she's a superb fighter, though she may not be as skilled as the character at #1...

Can I borrow you for a minute?: Sarah has made a handful of appearances in other series, as she is one of the first (along with Akira and Pai) Virtua Fighter characters to cross over into the Dead or Alive universe, as well her outfit makes an appearance in the Hatsune Miku series, as an alternate outfit for Megurine Luka.

Sega, like most videogame companies, has created a vast and diverse amount of characters throughout the years, each with their strong points and their weak points. In fact, each character on this list is known for their strengths and their weaknesses: Alis is known for her honourable and caring nature, Faye for her tactics and feminine beauty. Yumi for her cunning as well as her remarkable courage and Sarah for her absolutely brilliant fighting skills. In 1999 though, Sega created a character that displayed each of these qualities and best yet, she is completely believable. The character is none other than Shenmue II's, Xiuying Hong, wise martial arts master and a simply gorgeous woman.

Xiuying is introduced to us only by her pseudonym, Lishao Tao, at the end of the first Shenmue title. When Ryo sets about his journey in Hong Kong, his eventual landing spot is the Man Mo Temple, where he eagerly wishes to meet Master Tao. Little does he know, the modest-looking woman who is praying at the altar, is actually Master Tao. Soon, after being sent on a quest by Master Tao's assistant, she reveals herself to Ryo as Xiuying and Ryo has a bit of difficulty getting to grips that the master is actually a woman. Little does he know, she will change his life (for the better!) forever.

It is clear from the outset that Xiuying is a serious woman who takes pride in her knowledge of the martial arts and her wisdom about life in general; from the initial quest she sends Ryo on, to the final Bajiquan move she teaches him, Xiuying lives her life always wanting to help others, not only by instruction and teaching, but also through self-thought and perseverance. She never gives up on Ryo, despite his stubbornness and even though he gets into sticky situations, Xiuying is always one step ahead and lends him a hand with her Bajiquan techniques, generally faster than you can say, "4 Wude." (literally speaking too)

Speaking of her fighting, Xiuying is indeed the best fighter on this list. Throughout Ryo's travels, he faces off against in battle against a Mantis-style master, a Diving Swallow-style master, a Tai-Chi master, a Tiger Swallow-style master and a nearly 400 pound brute (not to mention all of the other minor guys he faces). Ryo defeats them all (save for Diving Swallow where he ties and Tai Chi where it's no contest) yet he is not even remotely close to laying a finger on Xiuying the two times he faces her in combat. She doesn't even need to block his attacks, as she can just anticipate the move well ahead of time and simply move away. As well, Ryo is confronted multiple times by at least half a dozen fighters in the game; as mentioned, if Ryo cannot get the job done Xiuying simply takes over and in seconds, nobody will be left standing. Her fighting prowess is simply astonishing.

Finally, Sega did a great job in creating Xiuying's look; while she wears simple, traditional Chinese dresses, as well as a plain burgundy outfit that she wears when not engaging others in combat, her striking face shines above any outfit and her golden(ish) eyes are at the same time gorgeous, as well they appear to hide memories that remind Xiuying of past hardships. Flashbacks that show her as a child reflect these eyes and one can also see that Sega did a very good job at transitioning Xiuying's looks from child to adult. All in all, Xiuying is a very good-looking woman.

The total package? I'd have to say so. Though this list is not about feminism as I stated above, Xiuying would absolutely be a great choice when discussing good feminist characters from the video game world: she's independent, she's super intelligent, a remarkable fighter, wise beyond her years, attractive to the 'nth degree and just downright elegant. There is only one word that can be used to describe all of the different qualities of Xiuying and even though I said it earlier, it rings even more true now; Xiuying is completely and utterly, badass.

Religion is a wonderful thing: Even though she was born and raised in Kowloon Walled City/Hong Kong, China, Xiuying is a Catholic, as can be seen in a cutscene on the third disc.

Honourable Mentions:

Kaoru Sayama (Yakuza/Ryu ga Gotoku 2&3, PS2/PS3): Probably one that many people would bring up as needing to be on the list, but she's merely a whiny, weak woman, who can't handle it when the truth is presented in front of her and turns into a blubbering mess when things are rough. It is interesting to note that Yumi begins the game as your typical woman, whom we do not know much about. As the game goes on, she turns into this brilliant character that we enjoy and are proud of. Kaoru on the other hand, starts off her game as this badass cop, with a tough façade and serious demeanor. By the end of the game, she's a wreck and can't keep her emotions in check for even a second, showing that her toughness is merely a front. The opposite direction the characters both take is interesting to observe.

Alys Brangwin (Phantasy Star IV, Gen): The popular character from the best game in the series just missed out due to diversity of games. Would be a good choice too, as she is the mentoring type to Chaz (the main character) as well as being a damn good hunter.

Sahra Burn (Golden Axe III, Gen): Just as tough and powerful as Tyris Flare, Tyris being the bigger name and deeper character in terms of development got the nod over Burn.

Milan Flare (Golden Axe: The Duel, Sat): Ditto here as what I wrote above.

Asha (Monster World 4. Gen): A brave young girl who wishes to free imprisoned spirits. A noble cause and good choice for the list, but Monster World, despite being a Sega property, is not a Sega developed/created franchise.

Thanks are in order, as usual, mainly to Motherkojiro for her help in brainstorming characters for the list, when I needed to add just a couple more. As well, thanks to that grossly uninformed and misguided woman who presented on "girls in gaming," in my communications feminist class a year and a half ago, whose notes from her lecture got me to think about and write this list. Again, despite the title, this list was not intended to be about feminism or good female role models; simply Sega gals who are awesome, deep characters with some great, positive aspects to them.

It is good to see that in the past ten years or so, there have been a lot more female characters in video games, especially ones that have been the leading protagonist in their respective game. While I am no feminist or anything of the sort, it is nice for me to see gender equality in games, especially since so many of my favourite titles have predominantly (or strictly) male characters. I am just glad that Sega has not been neglectful of women in games and that they have created some brilliant characters that stand the test of time. Comments? Questions or nitpicks? Bring your praise or hate over to the Top 10 board and we can hash it out, but not too harsh please! :)

List by Truck_1_0_1_ (04/09/2014)

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