As humanity walks the long path towards full gender equality, interactive entertainment is also being affected. More and more developers are finally ditching the infamous “damsel in distress” trope. Instead, female characters turn into charismatic leaders that can kick ass and take names as easily as any of their male counterparts.
To celebrate this step in the right direction, here at The Indie Toaster we decided to collect 12 indie games that feature at least a strong female protagonist. Enough with the chit-chat, let’s discover them together!
Editor’s Note: at the time of writing, all of the titles featured within this article are on sale on humblebundle.com.
The Indie Toaster might receive a commission from purchases made through our referral links, which will be used to offer our readership more pieces like this one.
Number #12 – Virginia
It is 1992 when a young American boy disappears under mysterious circumstances. In the shoes of FBI agent Anne Tarver, Virginia takes us on a journey to the eponymous US State. Players have to rely on their instincts and on those of Tarver’s partner, the seasoned investigator Maria Halperin, to solve the case and find the truth.
Published by the Italian team at 505 Games, this indie title features two female protagonists for a much welcome change of pace. The developers promise a memorable noir story, embellished by striking art and an original soundtrack recorded by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
Number #11 – Epistory
At some point, all creatives have to fend off the demon that is a writer’s block. But what if we were the muse – not the wordsmiths themselves – for once? This is the question Fishing Cactus wanted to answer when they first started working on Epistory, a word-based adventure where everything is controlled through typing.
As they explore the indie game’s stunningly beautiful world, players will solve puzzles, take on enemies, and challenge their friends armed with nothing but a keyboard. The title is localized in 7 languages, features adaptive difficulty, and doubles as a handy tool to improve your typing speed.
Number #10 – Skullgirls
Are you also tired of oversexualized products in which jiggling boobs seem more important than a unique personality? Then Lab Zero’s Skullgirls might just be the indie title you were looking for! This 2D fighting game features a whole cast of strong female characters, ready to beat the crap out of each other while their bodies remain completely covered – at least for the most part!
Proper use of clothing isn’t the only thing that makes number #10 a remarkable release, however. The developers also focused on engaging gameplay. That translates into an anti-infinite combo system that prevents button mashing and customizable attacks that add a further layer of strategy to each battle!
Number #9 – Fran Bow
It’s not uncommon for indie games to deal with sensitive topics. In fact, interactive entertainment has often proved an extremely effective tool to draw people’s attention; especially for issues that would otherwise be a taboo. Fran Bow follows the life of the titular character, a young girl whose parents were gruesomely dismembered in their home.
Upon seeing the bodies, Fran flees to the woods where she’s quickly overwhelmed by both fear and shock. She wakes up in an oppressive asylum and must come to terms with her past – as well as learning how to deal with mental illness – in order to find a way out and take back her own existence.
Number #8 – Crypt Of The Necrodancer
Moving to the beat of a groovy track is often seen as a girly thing; slicing limbs of off monsters isn’t. Yet Cadence cares little for your labels, so she manages to do both at the same time; sincerely looking amazing as she swirls through the levels in search of her missing father.
Crypt Of The Necrodancer sports one of the most inspiring female protagonists the industry has seen in the last 10 years. The game needs no introduction whatsoever – especially considering the cartload of accolades it won – and this list wouldn’t quite be the same without it. If you haven’t already, we recommend you play this indie title as soon as possible!
Number #7 – Mages Of Mystralia
Sometimes, mindless violence isn’t exactly the most effective way to smash through an opponent. For the perfect example of how smarts can outperform any muscle-laden brute with a sword, Borealys Games introduces us to Zia: a young girl whose ability to control magic immediately sets her apart.
Born out of Ed Greenwood’s pen, Mages of Mystralia is an intense coming-of-age adventure that follows its protagonist as she understand the value of uniqueness. This indie game offers a plethora of scenarios to explore, lets players craft their own spells, and meets all the requirements to gain a special spot in your heart as well as your library!
Number #6 – Full Metal Furies
We saw games with one or two female protagonists, but that’s nothing compared to what’s ahead of us. Meet Alex, Meg, Triss, and Erin: the four badass ladies of Cellar Door’s RPG Full Metal Furies. As the title hints, this squad of heavily armed girls apparently takes crap from nobody.
Indie game number #6 presents itself as a true-cooperative experience. 1 to 4 players will be able to join forces, on a quest to save the world from self-annihilation. The title’s unique combat system was designed to make all characters equally important, a choice which encourages teamwork both on the same couch and over the internet. Don’t worry, though: a single player mode is also available!
Number #5 – The Flame In The Flood
It has been true since the beginning of modern literature: no story needs a male protagonist to be both memorable and intriguing. And when the main character is also a resourceful survivalist, there comes The Flame In The Flood: a unique masterpiece that can touch and ultimately melt even the coldest of hearts.
As she explores the ruins of a post-societal America – with procedurally-generated locations crafted by a team of industry veterans – Scout will be forced to scrounge for whatever supplies she can find in order to survive. Floating down a river on a makeshift raft, we’ll learn the meaning of life and perhaps even re-evaluate our own existence!
Number #4 – Gone Home
Remember when you’d come back from school late in the evening, only to find that no-one else was home yet? And what if it were 1:15AM and you had spent the last whole year abroad? Would you panic? Call the police? Or perhaps you’d start looking around, hoping that a clue could tell you more about what happened?
This is the premise to Gone Home, an exploration sim where every detail matters. As you accompany Samantha, you’ll left no stone unturned in an effort to find your family or at least learn more about their fate. The Fullbright Company’s indie title personally struck a chord with me and made it to the list on the account of being a game I feel everyone should try at least once!
Number #3 – Her Story
A man, a woman; a mysterious murder. According to solo developer Sam Barlow, these are the three ingredients for a compelling indie game. Is she the brutal killer who ended her spouse’s life or has she been framed by someone who still lingers in the darkness? Only you will be able to find our the truth behind Her Story.
Step in front of an old computer and watch police footage of Hannah Smith’s interview. Keep an eye out for the tiniest of details, collect your findings, and discover an intricate plot that might run a lot deeper than what you originally expected!
Number #2 – Tacoma
When things go horribly wrong aboard a space-station in 2088, Amy Ferrier is dispatched to collect data and recover ODIN, the installation’s AI. Equipped with an integrated augmented reality system, the contractor will soon discover what really happened to the crew; a truth that could rattle her to the core.
The second entry by The Fullbright Company – who in the meantime decided a shorter version of their name would be catchier – this indie title enjoyed a great deal of positive coverage when it first hit the shelves. Tacoma remains a prime example of narrative-driven gameplay and an experience you should do your best to try.
Number #1 – Celeste
There’s a persisting belief among gamers that a title is only as good as its mechanics are complex. Celeste turns out to be proof of the contrary; showing us how compelling writing, smart level design, and a relatable character can keep us glued to the chair a lot longer than any fancy eye-candy or over-engineered gimmick.
Matt Makes Games’ indie title strikes the perfect balance between challenging and adorable. As we help Madeline climb her way to the top of Celeste Mountain, we’ll learn to love this girl who struggles against her inner demons. In the end, this female protagonist teaches us the value of persistence, a lesson many bigger projects were simply too busy to tackle!