Had a fun conversation on twitter involving the sexualization of women in fighting games and was rather surprised how many examples of non-sexualized women people coud come up with. It’s not a lot, but it’s still a list and it’s fun to talk about.
Also, this isn’t to say that I think non sexualized female characters are the best female characters. You’ve seen my shitty art, you know how I roll. I love me some boobs and some pretty women and all that. But I also like seeing variety. So the point of this post is to highlight some variety that some people might not know exists so we can appreciate it and maybe learn a little by their strengths and failures.
This in no way is a list to show there isn’t a problem (the difficulty of assembling this list would say otherwise). This is just to highlight some cool examples.
The list is also not complete. I tried to stick to answers that would be largely uncontroversial, but if you have any suggestions, feel free to leave them. I might try and update the list, but try and make sure it’s a good example. I’m not going to put Ivy down in the bottom category because she’s ‘sexually empowered’ or something. That’s a different conversation for a different time.
The easiest way to have a non-sexualized woman in a game is to have her be non-human. This might seem like cheating, but almost invariably, when a character is non-human, it’s usually male (I’ve heard League of Legend players bitch about this quite a bit). So while these example are arguably easy ways out, their rarity tells a different story.
Game: Guilty Gear
Justice is the final boss of the original Guilty Gear and a secret character throughout the life of the whole series. While Justice is humanoid, most tend to think of her as a big gundam dude with hair. The woman inside Justice is probably quite attractive if the implications of Overture’s plot are to be believed, but the Justice we see as players is a powerful, dreadful Gear with a TERRIFYING codpiece. It’s also quite possible that, while Justice was once human, that her human body was destroyed when she was converted into a gear. Being a powerful woman who commanded an army of Gears against all of humanity, Justice deserves some respect
Game: Okami and Marvel vs Capcom 3r
Amaterasu is not only a wolf, she’s also the Goddess of the Sun. Hard to get very sexual there. People also tend to know Ammie is a woman, which gives her some points over the other two characters on this part of the list.
The tekken Panda is a girl. WHO KNEW?! Not much else to say on this one as Panda doesn’t really do or say anything
These are characters who are very minimally sexualized. Almost all female characters get sexualized in some way, if only in passing. The exceptions in these character’s portrayal are often kind of interesting.
I’m not up on my Tekken so forgive me in advance. Leo is one of the cooler of a particular trope of non-seuxalized female characters. Leo is androgynous. Leo is androgynous as fuck, with no one knowing what she was for quite some time. Her style is a type of Kung fu that is both powerful and graceful and while rugged and masculine in appearance, as a guy she would definitely be seen as a pretty boy. She seems tough as nails and the only bit of sexualization she gets is swimsuit DLC in Tekken Tag Tournament 2, which puts the whole issue to rest.
Game: Persona 4, Persona 4 Arena
Naoto is an awesome and troubling character. Also androgynous, Naoto and her Persona 4 story spawned a bunch of controversy as to whether or not she should be considered transgendered and whether or not Atlas dropped the ball in making her trans issues be a ‘thing’ she lets go of. Personally, I’d say she’s not trans, but that Atlas dropped the ball (The character is what they say she is, for better or for worse), so I’m including her. There is some pretty good reasons to consider he male still (She refers to her self with male pronouns in the japanese version even after confronting her shadow), but that’s a discussion other people can have.
Still, taken as a female, Naoto is very much not sexualized. She is in Persona 4 to some extent — jokes made about the size of her wrapped up breasts and the school girl outfit during christmas… but not at all in P4A (it’d be easy to assume she was a guy if you were playing without prior knowledge), and in both cases is always treated as skilled and intelligent. While Naoto is problematic, she is still awesome and very interesting to talk about. Out of any character on this list, she probably has the most words written about her. If you’re curious, look it up. I can’t do her story justice.
Game: The Art of Fighting, The King of Fighters
The original androgynous fighting game character. King could only be identified as female by defeating her with a special attack in the Art of Fighting which would blow off her top and she her to be wearing a bra. A bit crude by current standards, it was an interesting detail at the time.
King fights with the world’s most badass martial art, Muay Thai. She dresses in fancy suits and drinks wine and kicks ass. Like Naoto, she presents herself as a man to receive male privilege while at the same time becoming somewhat gender neutral. King gets more feminine in appearance as the series goes on, kinda unfortunately so by XIII. Still, her cold demeanor hasn’t changed at least.
Game: Street Fighter 3: Third Strike
While masculine and androgynous, Makoto doesn’t get included with the above 3 a she has always been presented as a female. Instead, Makoto just doesn’t care about her femininity. She is one of the hardest hitting street fighter characters and is terrifying. Makoto is a pretty great example of a non-sexualized female character as little is done wrong in her presentation. There are no missteps or mixed messages, just a really rough, tomboyish karate practitioner. At worst, when you dizzy her you can see her bra and SF4 gives her a schoolgirl uniform, but those are minor points in the scheme of things.
Game: Soul Calibur 4
Hilde get’s a lot of love as a cool, armored female. While some of her costumes are more feminine, her primary outfits are always pretty badass. I don’t know about Hilde as a character, but one of the cool things about her is, unlike the above examples, she doesn’t discard her femininity. It just doesn’t get in the way of being a pragmatic fighter.
It’s strange that two great examples come from a game with so many panty shots. I could write a whole lot about how Skullgirls’ honest voice and art direction is the right way to do ‘sexy’ and do it sincerely, but that’s gotta wait for another day. What’s cool is that there is actually some good cast variety. Peacock is pretty much straight up entirely unsexualized in any way. Not even in a ‘loli’ way or something. She is a foul mouthed cartoon throwback who is amazing. It’s so awesome that she’s found in such a strange place
Painwheel might be arguably a little sexualized with her leg revealing outfit, but I don’t think she was created with any sort of titalation in mind. Painwheel is terrifying and upsetting. She’s embodied medical horror and experimentation.
I stopped playing Blazblue long ago and I don’t even particularly like Tsubaki. In fact, I kinda hate her design. It seems so stupid and goofy and awkward. At the same time, that goofy, stupid awkwardness makes no attempts to be sexy or anything like that and it makes her stand out compared ot the rest of the Blazblue cast.
Oume & Otane Goketsuji
Game: Power Instinct
OLD WOMEN. How awesome is that. Power Instinct is a weeeeiiird game. In fact, Oume was even the game’s last boss.
Sexualized but Awesome Characters and Runner-ups!
Random examples I wanna talk about and a few runner up game series that do better than expected on average but I don’t feel like I would have much to say about.
Game: Guilty Gear
Baiken is a weird example. She can be drawn pretty sexy. She has cleavage all over the place. She doesn’t care about her appearance much, but she’s still a hot mess. Atop all this, she is scarred, missing an eye and an amputee. Arguing about whether or not Baiken is sexualized or not is one of the reasons I wanted to write on the topic to begin with.
I think Baiken is sexualized in an almost perfect way. It isn’t thrown in your face. They don’t go out of their way to make her pose in sexy ways or show off her huge boobs all the time and they’re also making a maimed person attractive and strong. Baiken isn’t cool despite her sexualization — it’s something that plays off her other traits in an awesome way.
Game: Virtua Fighter
Also not a big VF fan, but I do know Vanessa Lewis was one of the first ‘muscle girls’ and an MMA fighter. Vanessa is sexy and shows a lot of skin, but also in a way that shows off her powerful body. Vanessa is also tastefully animated and has some badass attacks.
Runner Up: Melty Blood
No, seriously, for a “loli fighter” based on some eroge games, the characters are surprisingly very much no sexualized. It’s actually quite surprising.
Runner Up: Immaterial and Missing Power
This might be a bit of a cheat, but IaMP is a Touhou fighting game and whether or not lolis in bloomers is sexualizaiton is a whole big question. Still, they seem to be drawn respectably in both the original Touhou games and IaMP. Worth throwing that out there.