10 of the best games with attractive women in leading roles

A highlight for many people from the recent PlayStation Showcase event was the trailer for Project Eve, an upcoming Korean-developed action game that happens to star an attractive woman in a rather form-fitting outfit.

Unsurprisingly, the trailer attracted the usual attention from performatively woke white men on social media decrying the fact that once again there’s an Asian game with an attractive woman in a leading role. The ideal these days, it seems, is the supposedly more “realistic” figures we’ve seen in recent western games such as The Last of Us Part II.

And, to be fair, there’s nothing wrong with that type of character — gritty designs work well with a gritty setting and narrative, after all. But that doesn’t mean there’s no place for exaggerated, self-consciously sexy, attractive women in leading roles! Art style is generally more important than photorealism, after all.

So — you knew where this was going — here’s 10 of the best! As always, this isn’t a definitive list by any means; if you have any of your own favourites, please feel free to share them down in the comments. Or, of course, you can always celebrate your favourite lady-badass in a contribution for this week’s Rice Digital Friday Letters Page; just hit the “Write to Rice!” widget over on your right to join the fun there.

Without further ado then, let us celebrate the attractive women of gaming and the excellent games they have starred in to date!

Shantae

Attractive women in leading roles: Shantae

Shantae, I feel, is something of a benchmark for attractive women taking the leading role in games. She is indisputably sexy — both in terms of her simple appearance, and the dance moves she busts out over the course of her various games — plus she has an appealing personality to match.

Sassy, sarcastic and often a little silly, Shantae is always a delight to hang out with; in fact, for many players, getting the opportunity to spend some virtual time with her is as much of an appeal element for her games as the gameplay is. And given her gradual rise in popularity over her humble beginnings on the Game Boy Colour, I suspect we’ll be continuing to see her for quite a few years yet.

Project Zero/Fatal Frame

Attractive women in leading roles: Project Zero/Fatal Frame

The Project Zero series almost exclusively has attractive women in the leading role — deliberately so. Many of the games’ narratives explore aspects of femininity and vulnerability, and the deliberate use of somewhat delicate-looking protagonists is a part of how these titles make use of their aesthetics to reflect their themes. Make no mistake, these girls aren’t helpless at all — but they’re not superheroes, either.

Project Zero: Maiden of Black Water, formerly a Wii U exclusive but soon to get a rerelease on modern platforms at the time of writing, takes this to a whole new level. In fact, many of the game’s more “sexy” elements, such as the way in which the character models can get wet in rain and puddles of water, were deliberately pushed for by Akira Ohtani and Yuki Sakamoto from Nintendo rather than Koei Tecmo themselves.

“I think there are lots of people who aren’t so great with horror games and maintain a respectful distance,” Sakamoto said in an interview for the game’s official guidebook in Japan. “So I hoped that the emphasis on sexiness in this game will have acted as a gateway that makes people think ‘this is scary, but I want to give it a go’.”

Dungeon Travelers 2

Attractive women in leading roles: Dungeon Travelers 2

While one of the Vita’s best dungeon crawlers technically has a male protagonist, you very rarely see him. Instead, the emphasis is very much on the wide variety of delightful, wonderful, attractive women in the cast, who run the gamut from spunky childhood friend to fearsome warrior who is curious about privately expressing her feminine side.

One of the best things about Dungeon Travelers 2 is that every one of these characters is so much more than just a set of stats or an anime archetype. Every single one of them has a huge number of “sub events” to unlock based on how you treat them, how they perform in combat and the quests you take on. The game is as much about getting to know your squad of fighters as it is about clearing out dungeons!

Megadimension Neptunia VII

Attractive women in leading roles: Megadimension Neptunia VIIR

While it’s a few years old now, Megadimension Neptunia VII is still a favourite of Neptunia fans for good reason: it tells a fun story (well, three fun stories if we’re being truly accurate), it has some really solid gameplay, it pushes the series beyond what we’d seen in its previous installments — and, of course, it has a large and varied cast of attractive women in the leading roles.

In fact, Megadimension Neptunia VII’s cast is larger than most, since it not only incorporates the core lineup of the console-personifying goddesses and their little sisters, it also has a selection of new, highly memorable characters who represent companies such as Square Enix, Konami and Capcom. The satire is on point with this one — and its tale of generational changeover is once again relevant to today’s gaming!

Nights of Azure

Attractive women in leading roles: Nights of Azure
Nights of Azure_20160415225254

Gust’s action RPG is noteworthy for not only having an attractive woman in the leading role, but for placing a same-sex relationship front and centre. A real highlight of Nights of Azure as a whole is the depiction of the developing relationship between the noble, part-demonic knight Arnice and her beloved Lilysse — and it’s the depiction of that relationship which will spur you on to see the game’s narrative through to its eventual dramatic conclusion.

Plus, y’know, it’s a cool game, too — and has one of the best Gothic rock soundtracks outside of a classic Castlevania game.

Nier: Automata

Attractive women in leading roles: Nier: Automata

Taro Yoko seemingly made Nier: Automata’s protagonist 2B an attractive woman (or, at least, an android who looks like an attractive woman) primarily because he likes looking at girls rather than for any particular reason. He encouraged fanart from the community — both safe for work and lewd — and has attained respect from a lot of people for his openness and honesty.

Thankfully, he backs all this up with masterful, intelligent writing that reflects on mature and interesting themes — things that really get you thinking. Nier: Automata proved once and for all — as if we didn’t know it already — that you absolutely can tell a dark, gritty and upsetting story while still having a spectacular butt on your leading lady.

MeiQ: Labyrinth of Death

Attractive women in leading roles: MeiQ

This underappreciated Vita exclusive from Compile Heart is a spiritual successor to the Metal Max series — which itself has made a bit of a comeback of late. It’s a dungeon crawler that stars a core cast of five attractive women — but interestingly, said ladies rarely participate in combat themselves.

Instead, much of the game’s mechanics-centric component revolves around creating and customising mechanical “Guardians” to fight on your behalf, while the girls primarily put in an appearance for story scenes in between dungeon delves.

The result is a game that has a strong sense of worldbuilding and context beyond just giving you a series of mazes to navigate your way through; each of the main cast embodies something different about the world as a whole, and between them you get a good understanding of the narrative context of the game as a whole. Dungeon crawlers aren’t often known for strong stories, but this — like Dungeon Travelers 2 — bucks that trend somewhat.

Death end re;Quest

Attractive women in leading roles: Death end re;Quest

This quasi-isekai adventure was developed as part of Compile Heart’s Galapagos project, where the company sought to create unabashedly Japanese games for a primarily Japanese audience, then localise them for those of us here in the west who appreciate such things.

Death end re;Quest concerns the story of an immersive VR MMO in which several attractive women — or, at least, that’s how they represent themselves in the game — have found themselves trapped. Unfolding as an interesting blend of “in-game” and “real world” events, Death end re;Quest is a notably darker sort of game than many of Compile Heart’s other titles — and it really works well.

Once again, we have a core cast who just happen to be attractive women, but also have plenty of their own interesting stories to tell. There’s plenty of past trauma, emotional difficulties and repressed memories to uncover over the course of the game as a whole — and by the end of it all you’ll be thoroughly attached to this engaging cast.

Atelier Firis

Attractive women in leading roles: Firis

Another Gust title, Atelier Firis: The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey was developed as part of an initiative that the developer referred to as its “Beautiful Girls Festival”, alongside the sequel to Nights of Azure and the original Blue Reflection. There’s a strong argument to be made that Gust has been living its own personal Beautiful Girls Festival ever since it started making games, but the company particularly wanted to highlight the occasion this time around.

Atelier Firis, like most Atelier games, is a game in which attractive women abound — though interestingly, protagonist Firis herself actually bucks a few of the typical trends and ends up being a very distinctive, memorable character as a result. Obviously designed to be less “sexy” and more a “wholesome” sort of attractiveness, Firis’ chubby face, wide eyes and enthusiastic body language make her a consistent joy to hang out with and guide on her adventures.

Root Film

Attractive women in leading roles: Riho

Kadokawa Games’ excellent mystery adventure Root Film zips back and forth between the perspectives of two main characters, one of whom is the thoroughly beautiful Riho.

To say too much about the connection between these two characters — which is not immediately made clear in the game, and deliberately so — would constitute a spoiler of considerable magnitude, so I’ll refrain from saying too much. But suffice to say that, as with all the other titles in this list, Riho is much more than just a pretty face — and absolutely someone you’d want on your side when investigating a murder mystery.


So there you go. A bunch of attractive women with brains and interesting stories to go along with their obvious aesthetic appeal. Don’t you think it’s about time we stopped immediately assuming that having attractive lead characters is somehow “sexist”, and instead started acknowledging that many of these female leads are exciting, dynamic and deeply, deeply memorable?

I do. So I’ve done my bit. Feel free to share some of your favourites down in the comments or in a contribution for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!

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Pete Davison
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