Cool Women in Fighting Games who aren’t Sexualized!

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.

Non-Human

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.

Justice

justiceGame: 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

Amaterasu

amaterasuGame: 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.

Panda

panda

Game: Tekken

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

Minimally-Sexualized

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.

Leo

leoGame: Tekken

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.

Naoto

naotoGame: 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.

King

kingGame: 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.

Makoto

makotoGame: 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.

Hilde

hildeGame: 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.

Peacock

peacockGame: Skullgirls

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

painwheelGame: Skullgirls

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.

Tsubaki

tsubakiGame: Blazblue

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

otaneGame: 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.

Baiken

baikenGame: 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.

Vanessa Lewis

vanessalewisGame: 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.

14 thoughts on “Cool Women in Fighting Games who aren’t Sexualized!

  1. Came over from the tumblr to see if I could add anything, let’s see…

    Back when Jun Kazama was a regular in Tekken she never struck me as very sexualized – just a competent fighter in relatively reasonable outfits. Of course her possible alter-ego Unknown in the tag games is a naked ghost thing, but let’s leave that as separate. (Several other Tekken ladies aren’t especially *bad*, but they do mostly wear outfits that would fall in the sexy / schoolgirl / loli bins.)

    Hmm, looks like you already got the only plausible character from Soul Calibur…

    Of course if we go cartoony there’s Smash Bros with Nana of the Ice Climbers, and arguably Peach and Zelda. Maybe Jigglypuff? ;)

  2. I think it’s funny that you are surprised by how many females are NOT sexualized ^^

    I personally think non-human don’t count. But that’s a matter of opinion ;)

    I like seeing good looking and sexy women and a lot the female fighting game characters have impressive bodies – I guess I’m simply your average male in that respect, nothing special.. However, overall I generally prefer the non-sexualized strong women (RL and video games).

    The reason for that is fairly simple – A good-looking woman has it generally easier to get into a strong position, regardless of context. I don’t think I have to elaborate on that any further. On the opposite spectrum, women that do not look as good (or simply don’t care to show/rely on it) need to have oher/especially strong traits to get into a strong position. In short: It is almost guaranteed that they actually ARE fit for their position they are in.
    Now, that’s kind of a moot point for video games since they don’t really work like that. But my idea simply transfers over, even though that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    Please note, I do NOT intend to downplay any females power or achievements with that, just because she happened to look good.

    – Yagamoth

  3. @David

    That’s…. hilarious.

    @Kirin

    Jun is kinda a cool example, but sadly I Can’t say as much about her I don’t think. She almost has the Hilde thing going where she is clearly attractive and is clearly feminine, but is also a no-nonsense badass when need be. Jiggly-Puff could make a funny example in the non humans.

    @Yagamoth

    Hahah, people paint a pretty grim picture of things, can you blame me for being pleasantly surprised. Anyways, non humans are in their own category for just that reason. Also I get what you mean with the attractiveness cooments. It’s like a privileged thing. You can’t know for sure what a privilege person and a non privleged person went through to get where they are, but you can at least be sure of some of the advantages the non-privileged person didn’t benefit from.

  4. Interesting post; this topic came up in a place I hang out in online recently, and there’s some examples here that I missed.

    Glad to see the mention of Baiken; she was an example that came to mind for me that I decided against mentioning. Tough scarred chick who smokes before fights is already miles away from the typical “sexy” FG chick.

    A few that you missed:
    Nu/Lambda from BlazBlue in the “Justice” category. Also, Rachel. Noel and Tao are both in a strange area in this regard; Tao has panty-shots, despite not being human. Noel avoids most of the normal fan service, but has the zettai ryouiki and backless dress thing… I guess it’s more tastefully done at least.

    Also, alternate palettes sometimes change things, such as Millia or Parasoul putting on pants in some of their color schemes. It’s sorta odd from a character design perspective, though; it could almost be taken as an admission of guilt, like the designer is saying “yeah, we know this’ll turn a lot of you off, so here’s a version with the character’s design butchered to appease you.”

  5. @Obscura

    YEah, to be clear, I’m writing about a very particular thing here. There is a big different in sexualization vs objectification and even then, there is more to positive female characters than a lack of sexualization. A character can be neither, both or one or the other, even if the tendency is for sexuality to be objectifying. Like Tao is an easy example to say that she is sexualized, but due to her quirky nature as this monster-cat-girl-thing, she’s not really objectified.

    I could write a whole separate list of characters I think qualify as being awesome and positive and are still sexualized and even cases of characters in general where their sexualization is a positive (Bayonetta). The only reason I wrote about such a narrow spectrum of characters is that these would be viewed as the most rare and also the easiest to agree on (agreeing on whether or not Bayonetta is a progressive character is NOT a given). I don’t think this devalues sexualized characters. I was talking to someone abut Elena for example. Elena is pretty damn close to naked, yet is surprisingly not as sexualized as one would think and is far from objectified. She is graceful and playful and not at not at all sexually charged despite being gorgeous. Even characters like Noel are wonderfully designed even if it’s partially for the “male gaze” (I kinda hate that term, but I am at a loss to express a good alternative right now). They’re balanced and cool looking while not going overboard. Oh, well, despite Noel’s new redesign. God I hate that.

    Either way maybe I’ll write more on more contentious characters in the future. Those characters are actually the ones most likely to be close to my heart, so I’ll probably have a lot more to say.

  6. “A character can be neither, both or one or the other”

    Can you name an example of a character that’s objectified but not sexualized? I can’t really think of any; the closest I can come is May, but even that relies on the player actually knowing the story details about her rather creepy relationship with Johnny.

    (Unrelated: I didn’t know about the Noel redesign until I read your reply, since I haven’t followed the game since CS2. Holy hell, that’s bad. What kind of military uniform is cut high enough to see the stomach? Why on earth did they emphasize her boobs after Tao made “cutting board” jokes in CT and CS? Ugh, that’s awful.)

  7. Well the easy example are men. Men are objectified often as symbols of strength or masculinity but are not necessarily sexualized. Celebrities and their bizarre interaction with society leads to their objectification (They’re not PEOPLE as much as they are these weird paragons of fame to many people). For women in games (and also sorta real life) the two tend to go hand in hand. If you want an example, Princess Peahc might work. I mean, she’s feminine and clearly meant to be attractive, so she’s arguably a little sexualized (though honestly, almost everything is to some degree), but she is extremely objectified. She is a thing for Mario to rescue and save. She isn’t even represented as necessarily even a love interest. Regardless of whether or not she is sexualized, she is objectified in a totally separate way. The two are obviously very related but it’s important ot maintain that they’re too different things. Objectification, like sexualization, isn’t necessarily bad either, but is of course problematic due to the consistency of how women are portrayed in media. Personally I think it’s a waste of energy to get grumpy about just sexualization and objectification. Like, it’s no individual character’s responsibility to be a strong female character or or represent any group or minority. But things like squandered opportunistic, unfortunate redesigns, accidently troublesome story implications and general accidental thoughtlessness is a lot more interesting. Kinda like… Ivy isn’t interesting to talk about or get mad about (in fact, she’s probably pretty defendable) but her evolution over games is a much richer area for criticism.

    As for new Noel (right on topic!), the impression I have is that her outfit has changed because she is no longer in the military? I’m not sure but that’d make the most sense. Of course it also DOESN’T make sense because Noel doesn’t seem like the type of character who would be like “OH OKAY NOW I CAN REALLY DRESS RIDICULOUS”, while I can at least believe it for Makoto. It bugs me a lot because she was quite tasteful and things matched her personality (Though I dunno maybe she’s gotten more… uh, aggressive in the new game?) and the change seems largely just to sorta sex her up more and it’s doubly unfortunate because the design doesn’t even look good.

  8. I think Noel’s new costume is still supposed to be a military uniform, though. If you look at the old one vs. the new one, they’ve still got most of the same design elements; the red tie on the white shirt, with a blue cape, the streamers (although they’re attached to her back rather than her arms now), and a skirt with leggings. The new one is just a lot less classy.

    I can kinda understand ArcSys wanting to re-do her sprites since they frequently look like she’s got stubby arms and legs (insert joke about BlazBlue normals here), and the one-piece dress probably doesn’t help matters in that regard, but this was not the way to do it; there’s no way in hell Ms. “I’m terribly shy and insecure” is about to wear a skirt so low around her hips that you can actually see where her legs join to her torso.

  9. I just read up to made sure (because yeah, you have a point about everything matching), and yes, she DID defect from NOL though ‘relucently’ so maybe she kept many of the elements out of fondness? Or more practically, ASW just didn’t want ot make her look like a totally different character and needed to anchor her down with a few common elements.

  10. I know a lot of people argue about Touhou being fetishy or moe pandering or whatever and I realize I’m kinda ignorant on this subject but to me it doesn’t seem inherently sexualized in itself. At least, not any more than schoolgirl outfits like Yukiko in Persona or MB characters or whatever. To me that seems to have at least as many underlying connotations while being innocent enough on its own but like I said I don’t really know.

    Tsubaki’s got a new alternate form or whatever you want to call it in the new BB as well, and while it’s not skimpy or anything like that the game is pretty prominent about showing off her chest.

    Also kind of a weird example as it’s a game where you never “directly” see your characters but I feel like Senko no Ronde, while it doesn’t have anybody quite on the level of this list (I’m glad I went back and checked before posting this because I completely forgot about Lili’s huge ass shot and only barely remembered this one), isn’t too bad of an example since some of the guys are pretty awesomely sexualized as well. Particularly Karel but I also remember the night when my friend and I couldn’t stop laughing at how great bondage Fabian is.

  11. I don’t think that you can trust that “she defected from the NOL” means “She’s not still wearing the uniform”, though. Jin defected at the end of CT/start of CS, and he still wears the uniform.

    @spineshark: The only thing different about Tsubaki in BBCP seems to be that her default color is black. Unless you’re referring to Izayoi?

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