Female protagonists in games were first implemented to try and get young girls into arcade gaming, as it was obvious that the majority in arcades were boys. The first game to include a female protagonist was Ms. Pac-Man, which successfully brought in a large female fanbase for the Pac-Man franchise and arcade gaming in general during the 1980s.
The major controversy with female protagonists is that they are being invented by male game developers most of the time, and are leading an impossible example for young girls, such as Lara Croft of Tomb Raider, one of the benchmark games for female protagonists.
Landmark Female Protagonists
- Lady Bug: Making her first appearance in October 1981, Lady Bug was the earliest known female protagonist in a video game.
- Ms. Pac-Man: Generally accepted as the first famous female protagonist in the video game industry, she first appeared in the arcade game of the same name in December 1981 as the titular character, launching her own sub-series of the Pac-Man franchise.
- Kangaroo: A mother kangaroo searching for her kidnapped baby, she was the first mother character, or parental character in general, in a video game.
- Papri: The protagonist of Girl's Garden, she is one of the first human female protagonists in a video game. While she has a boyfriend, she is the one who does all the action in the game.
- Ninja Princess: The first kunoichi (female ninja) and the first female protagonist in an action game, created by female game designer Rieko Kodama. However, the Master System port, The Ninja, replaced her with a male protagonist.
- Reika Kirishima: The protagonist of Time Gal, she was the first female protagonist in a story-driven game, though her character design was sexualized.
- Toby "Kissy" Masuyo: The protagonist of Baraduke, she was the first empowered, non-sexualized, female video game protagonist. Her gender was not revealed until the ending, a year before Metroid did the same.
- Lady Master of Kung Fu: One of the first strong human female protagonists in a video game, she beats up enemies using kung-fu martial arts in melee or hand-to-hand combat.
- Alis Landale: The protagonist of the original Phantasy Star, she was the first female protagonist in a console role-playing game. The game was created by female game designer Rieko Kodama.
- Lara Croft: The star of the Tomb Raider franchise, the character was popular enough to spawn a long series of games and two feature films. An often controversial figure due to her sensational sex appeal, she is often cited as an empowering figure for female gamers - compared to the likes of Wonder Woman.
Unsung Heroines: Three Pioneers of Gaming's Early Days