2014 saw the release of some eagerly awaited titles, some of which lived up to the hype and others that disappointed (*cough*Assassin’s Creed: Unity *cough*). Games like Super Smash Bros., Dragon Age: Inquisition, Bayonetta 2, and more, showed us what next-gen consoles could achieve and got us itching to see what could be accomplished next. Unfortunately, many of 2014’s games also left us wondering where they put all the women – because they certainly weren’t on the list of playable female characters. 2015 is set to be even a bigger year than its predecessor, with long-anticipated titles like Legend of Zelda for Wii U and Evolve planned for release, but will it take any steps towards righting the gender disparity in the industry? Without further ad, here are 5 games (in no particular order) that not only look fantastic, but also hope to answer that question:
5. Rise of the Tomb Raider (Holiday 2015)
Tomb Raider, Square Enix’s 2013 reboot of the franchise, exceeded initial sales expectations and ended its first week on the shelves with the highest sales in the history of the series – proving that games with female protagonists definitely can sell. Its financial success was supplemented by its amazing gameplay and its fantastic storytelling (thanks to amazing games writer Rhianna Pratchett, who’s contributed to Heavenly Sword, Mirror’s Edge, and others) which redesigned the character of Lara Croft to take a more personal and vulnerable approach. It was a game that was fun to play
and told a great story, so there are high hopes for Rise of the Tomb Raider, though this time around it will be published by Microsoft, rather than Square Enix.
4. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (May 2015)
The Witcher series has long been known for its adult take on the fantasy genre – its stories are well-developed and intricate, filled with political intrigue, realistic violence, dark humor, and great voice acting. It’s a world that truly feels open and filled with possibility, and The Witcher 3 looks like it will continue that level of detail. The series, which follows Geralt, the titular ‘witcher,’ as he hunts monsters and makes moral decisions that affect gameplay, has also traditionally featured prominent female characters (including powerful sorceresses, mages, and leaders of peasant revolts). This time around, players will be able to take control of Ciri, “an exceptional swordfighter with mythical powers.” Any game that adds in a playable female character is one I’ll look into, and The Witcher 3 looks like a wickedly fun title in addition to its focus on gender.
3. Xenoblade Chronicles X (Spring 2015)
This open world role-playing game is another in a series of games with strong female characters – Xenoblade Chronicles (for the Wii) featured a main party of seven characters, three male and three female (and one adorably cute Nopon). It’s also a game that places a heavy emphasis on exploration, with beautiful graphics and imaginative world building that are, quite frankly, stunning, and show off just how much the Wii U can accomplish. The mix of “action, strategy, and narrative into a delicious, idiosyncratic concoction” creates a game that can interest a variety of people – and it’s introducing a customizable main character, with at least two female main party characters (at least, according to the gameplay trailer). I, for one, am looking forward to traversing alien worlds to my heart’s content, as a character I can identify with.
4. Splatoon (May 2015)
2015 is the year for interesting, team-based, online multiplayers, it seems. Splatoon is Nintendo’s take on the team shooter genre (though the game will feature a single player option), and, true to Nintendo form, it’s colorful, imaginative, and features adorable characters – SQUIDS! Yup, Splatoon’s main draw may very well be the awesomely designed squid squads (yes, I did just come up with that), known as Inklings, that can switch between invertebrate and humanoid forms and come with customizable hair, clothing, and weaponry. And yes, there are girl squids – girl squids that carry grenades and long-range missiles and wear converse as they battle for victory. How can you not be excited for that?
The game’s goal is to cover the map with your team’s color of ink, which can be shot out of a variety of cool guns and explosive devices, and which the squids can swim through at top speeds. The game looks well-honed and beautiful, thanks in part to the talents of the legendary Miyamoto, and it’s a welcome new take on a genre that’s been getting bogged down in its own toughness and grit.
5. Overwatch (Beta Out Now)
I’ve already discussed what makes this game so awesome, but I just want to reiterate that this is a MOBA with just as many women in it as there are men. And they’re not all dressed for bathing suit competitions. This team-based battle game centers around a league of heroes, known as (you guessed it) ‘Overwatch,’ that has passed into legend – but now must team up once more to battle against the forces of evil. It’s a straightforward story, but the characters seem unique and interesting (who doesn’t want to play as a super intelligent gorilla?) and the graphics are certainly bright and attention-grabbing, placing this game firmly in the realm of a Pixar-esque feel-good energy.
Most importantly, this is a game that focuses on diversity – a big step forward from Blizzard’s all-too-stereotypical male/female dynamics in titles like World of Warcraft and Diablo. Chris Metzen, Senior VP of Story and Franchise Development, explained that Overwatch is meant to be a step towards something different: “I think we’re clearly in an age where gaming is for everybody…We want everyone to come and play. Increasingly, people want to feel represented, from all walks of life, boys and girls, everybody. We feel indebted to do our best to honor that.” Wouldn’t it be great if every developer said something similar in 2015?
Do any of these games pique your interest? What are you most looking forward to in the coming year? Let us know in the comments!