10 Great Games for Female Gamers

10 Great Games for Female Gamers

It’s never easy to whip up a list of video game recommendations for women and girls. That’s because identifying games as titles of interest “for men” or “for women” does more harm than good. Male gamers are often stereotyped as lovers of war games featuring rattling machine guns, whereas women are expected to to stick to puzzle games. Girls are offered games about babies and horses.

And yet, there’s nothing wrong with men liking first-person shooters, women enjoying casual games, or girls wanting to care for virtual pets. It’s just beneficial to let every gamer of every gender know that the variety of genres available stretches to the horizon and beyond. So if you have a female or female-identifying friend who is interested in gaming but has never gotten into it or is stuck in a genre rut, these unique games break cemented stereotypes about gaming being a violent, male-oriented pastime.

Super Mario Kart (Various Nintendo Consoles): The Mario Kart series is pretty easy to get into. In fact, other than Tetris, it’s hard to think of a more widely-recognized “casual” series. The question is, which version of Mario Kart is ideal for females–if any? Well, honestly, there is no ideal version. Some fans of the series have commented that the Wii installment is ideal for beginners and holds the most mass appeal because of the inclusion of the Wii Wheel accessory and the ability to race your Miis. Others will argue that the Nintendo DS and/or GameCube installments are the most well-balanced in the series. And then there’s just the nostalgic appeal of the original SNES game. Long story short: It’s really hard to go wrong with Mario Kart.

Katamari Damacy (PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PSP): The fun-loving Katamari Damacy series will change anyone’s perspective on–well, everything. The series’ gameplay involves rolling a tiny ball across the world picking up random 3D objects (including household foodstuffs, furniture and more) until it becomes an enormous ball of stuff, but that’s only half the story. The series’ presentation, music, graphics and writing are so bizarre, so fun to experience that any non-gamer who picks any of the games up will become a fan instantly.

LittleBigPlanet (PlayStation 3): Candy-colored platform-hopping outings starring roly-poly rag doll heroes, the LittleBigPlanet games are a huge draw for people who love to create given the ability to build your own stages, worlds and challenges, not to mention people who just love to play through fun game levels. Plus, they offer endless replay value with the ability to download others’ creations.

Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes (Nintendo DS, XBox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network): This little gem from Ubisoft is a Nintendo DS puzzle game that also includes a nice chunk of strategy and fantasy role-playing. An updated HD version was recently released for XBLA and PSN. It’s cute, it’s funny, and it’s maddeningly addictive, offering surprising depth, yet play that’s easy to pick up and get absorbed in for hours on end.

Portal 2 (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Mac): Valve has produced another physics-based puzzle gaming triumph, as if there was ever any doubt. Portal 2 plays much like the original Portal, inasmuch as the player must use a gun capable of generation portable wormholes to rip holes in walls (for science) and teleport objects and individuals to seemingly inaccessible distant locales. It’s a simple mechanic, but unspeakably fun to play with.

The Sims 3 (PC, Mac): The Sims 3, a virtual dollhouse wherein you control little computer people’s lives that also happens to be one of the best-selling PC games of all time, has been cited often as a game that carries special appeal to a female audience. It’s an extremely easy game to play, but simultaneously compelling: Regardless of your gender, it’s hard not to get attached to the little dudes and dudettes whose lives you control like an all-seeing God. That’s why you need to do the right thing and teach your Sims that it’s appropriate to leave their babies on the floor or on the stovetop.

Elite Beat Agents (Nintendo DS): Elite Beat Agents is a light-hearted music and rhythm game that has its roots in a Japanese series called Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan, and scores points for its approachability and genial nature, making it a solid choice for the gaming neophyte. Nintendo did a particularly thorough job with the title’s localization and published a game that never really took off, but is still well-regarded for its colorful graphics and sense of humor.

Nintendogs + Cats (Nintendo 3DS): The Nintendogs series of virtual pet simulators are relaxing, fun, and too adorable for words. Offhand, it’s easy to say that Nintendogs + Cats is ideal for a female audience because it encourages the player to love and nurture her pet, but frankly, games featuring puppies and kittens are for everyone. Everyone except heartless monsters.

The Phoenix Wright Series (Nintendo DS, Wii): Who knew that law and order could be so compelling, or so funny? The Phoenix Wright games, storytelling oriented adventures set in a fictional courtroom and justice system, are easy to play through and fun to read, thanks to a bizarre cast of characters that still manages to tug on your heartstrings at the right moments. Oh, but don’t use the games to prepare for a law career. That won’t end well.

The Professor Layton Series (Nintendo DS): Professor Hershel Layton is impossible to hate: He’s dashing, he wears a top hat, an he defends his car when no-one else will. His puzzle game series, filled with logic and math brainteasers, is also presented charmingly with the help of fully-animated cutscenes that look like they’re from a Herge cartoon. Who says puzzle games have to be all about blocks and boxes?

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

13 Comments

  1. You’re kidding right? When i recommend a game to a woman, I recommend the same games I play. Because they’re good games. Instead I’m supposed to say ‘Gran Turismo 5 is good, but you’re a woman so I know you wouldn’t be good at driving’, or ‘COD is great, but is has guns so you may get scared’. I expected this list to be a list of great titles. Instead it’s a throwback to the 1950’s that tries to get away with it by having a couple of throwaway feminist sentences in the opening paragragh.

  2. Nadia Oxford

    Hey Derrick! Segregating the audience wasn’t my intention at all. These are, in my opinion, just ten games with universal appeal.

  3. “I expected this list to be a list of great titles.”

    Well… that’s what you got. Problem?

  4. Indeed. The only one on here I wouldn’t play is Elite Beat Agents, and that’s only due to my lack of rhythm than anything else about the game.

  5. I’m sad the writer of this piece did not include Borderlands, as it’s one of the few shooters that is easy to pick up, super fun, and has a girl character.

  6. Anthony Echevarria

    For anyone who want a serious, story based game in addition to those games (some of which I’ve played; I’m an eternal Mario Kart fan. ;D), with some melodrama, I recommend picking up the Legacy of Kain series. Those are all great games, but they seem to be on the lighter scale of things, with the exception of Phoenix Wright, which has great drama I assume, and Portal 2, which seems to have a dark humor about it, from what I hear. If you want a darker adventure, because you’re a more cynical person, or you’re just looking for something different, try LoK.

    Legacy of Kain is a great storytelling experience. The good thing about Raziel that anyone can root for, regardless of gender. By being basically a walking “skeleton” with some human-like features remaining, he wisely sidesteps the superficial issue of liking a character based only on their appearance, and forces you to like him based only on his personality. He’s not a buffed out soldier or a stereotypical sexy female, he’s a non-human “creature” who’s only trying to do the right thing. Unfortunately, those around Raziel are quite adept at manipulating him like a puppet in every situation imaginable, no matter how much “control” he thinks he has. While he does appear as a very appealing pretty boy type at the beginning of Soul Reaver, that appearance is quickly discarded in the narrative and is never seen again in the series. (A certain appearance in Soul Reaver 2 doesn’t count.) Kain is a bit more difficult to like, because he’s more ruthless and cruel, but I think Kain is an exercise in how to make a game character ruthless and cruel without him being an outright villain, in this case. Kain is not entirely “evil” here, for the most part, and he’s actually one of the wisest characters in the series, because he knows almost everything that is going on, whether the lead character agrees with his views or not.

    I’ve seen quite a lot of female fans of LoK, and there’s a good reason for that. The story is just that compelling, gripping, and exciting, regardless of who you are. There’s also an interesting dynamic between Raziel and Kain, one that isn’t fully explored in the series. No doubt that is part of the appeal, for women. ;D

    Women appreciate storytelling, from what I’ve seen, and Legacy of Kain certainly brings that in spades.

    There aren’t many female characters in LoK, but the major one we do have is a powerful one: Ariel, who is a manipulator and personality equal to the other ones in the games. She may not do much ‘against’ the other characters, the way Moebius and the Hylden Lord do, but her words show the uphill battle the characters are facing, in uncovering what is really going on behind the scenes. There’s also no exploitation of females in LoK, virtually; they came close in Blood Omen 2 with that new team, but thankfully that style didn’t last, and they soon got back to the good stuff. πŸ™‚ Aside from those two dark points in the series, though, there’s pretty much a level playing field for everyone in the series. Female sorceresses always accompany the Sarafan knights, and even in Blood Omen 2, with its sexist dress code and overtones sometimes, the Sarafan still have plenty of female warriors they seem to rely on, and there are female Thieves, Bandits, and other assorted characters, just like the male ones; there may not be any major female characters, besides Ariel, but women are certainly present in the game, in plenty of occurrences. It’s an older series, so you’ll have to hunt for the games in used game stores, or order them online, but it will be well worth the effort. πŸ™‚ The writer on this series was Amy Hennig, who’s currently working on ‘Uncharted 3′: she’s no joke, and it shows the level of talent that’s involved in this series.

    Blood Omen may be a bit too bloodthirsty for the average female gamer who hasn’t had exposure to the series, but it did get the story of the series started, introduce many of the major characters (Kain, Moebius, Vorador, etc.), and has a different gameplay setup, so you should check it out. πŸ˜‰ It’s a curiosity, for sure: an action RPG in the primitive stages, but if you want to know the background story for the series, and where everyone came from, that’s a good place to look. πŸ™‚ Even if you don’t enjoy the tone of the game, you can still enjoy the rest of the series just fine, though, without it negatively affecting your view. πŸ™‚

    All right, that’s enough of me geekin’ out over LoK. πŸ˜‰ I’m sorry, I can’t help it; I love that series, and think it’s a good fit for anyone! Assuming they’re old enough. ;D If you ever want to introduce your girlfriend or loved one to more serious games and show her how great story based games can be, start with LoK. πŸ˜‰ But there are other games to cover.

    I’m tempted to add in Metal Gear Solid 3, because of the appearance of The Boss in that game. The Boss is one of the greatest female characters I have ever seen. πŸ˜‰ The sacrifices she makes in that game, and the toll it takes, are greater than any male hero’s that I’ve seen. :/ While she may not be a protagonist, The Boss is stronger than Snake, and anyone else in that game. πŸ˜› Even if some female gamers disagree with the style of gameplay in the game, The Boss is a character that has to be experienced by everyone. πŸ™‚ She’s just that important to gaming and the development of good female characters in the industry. Hell, I’d almost want to play through an entire game with her, instead of Naked Snake (I say almost, because I would have to see what kind of scenario the developers come up with for that; it would have to be set during WW2, and be more of a traditional action game)! And this is from a designer who is frequently criticized for concentrating more on the story in games, over gameplay. πŸ˜› Well, it looks like his hard work has paid off! πŸ˜€ Because The Boss is the strongest female character I’ve ever seen in a game, bar none! Nobody is equal to her, not even Samus!

    They had to have consulted with female employees and creative resources on this, about what kind of qualities they would like to see in a female character! Because there is no way the writers are going to write such a beautifully written, wonderfully executed character, feminine yet strong, without consulting with anyone else on this. It’s just not possible, unless Kojima and his co-writer really are that grand and magnificent at writing characters by themselves with no help, regardless of race, gender, orientation, etc. I don’t know who they talk to, but it bodes well for whatever’s going on over at Kojima Productions. ;D

    Silent Hill is also another series that seems to have a lot of female fans. SH2 is probably the best for new female gamers, as far as broad appeal and a range of things fans like. James’ story seems to have a lot of appeal to female fans, for obvious reasons: the story of a man seeking his wife in a deserted town after he’s become a widower, and received a mysterious letter from her beckoning him, is a romantic one and very tragic, and one everybody can get behind: you really root for James to find Mary in the town. πŸ™‚ The good thing about Silent Hill is that if you don’t like James’ story, there’s also Alessa’s story, or Heather’s story, or Henry’s story, etc. A lot of female fans seem to gravitate to Henry’s story, I notice. πŸ˜‰ There’s a story for everyone in the series, and you’re not limited to just one character’s view of things if you don’t like the initial story. πŸ˜‰ While you should probably play all four of the games, of the original series, and then play the new ones for good measure, you can play one or two of the games from the series, without blowing your budget, and still get a lot out of the series. πŸ˜‰ It’s not necessary to play every single one in the series to appreciate it. πŸ™‚

    The Mario series is also a great option for female gamers, having near universal appeal to audiences. That’s probably why you didn’t mention it. πŸ˜‰ It’s almost not necessary to build a case for it, because it’s so famous and well known among the masses. You mentioned Super Mario Kart, true, but the Mario games themselves as they started, platformers first and foremost, really are appealing to people of all ages. Especially the latest one, Super Mario Galaxy 2, with you being able to ride Yoshi in 3D! ;D Mario also has great variety, a lot more than most franchises. If you like platformers, Mario has a game for you. If you like sports games, Mario has a game for you. If you like racing games, Mario has a game for you (as you mentioned). If you like party games, Mario even has that for you! There is literally no limit as to what that fat Italian plumber can accomplish! ;D Being universally appealing, you don’t have to worry about whether a person will like Mario, or be offended by it in some way, etc. Everyone will like Mario, unless they’re a complete grump and have totally lost track with their childhood. >_> (And I’ve seen my share of them, men as well as women. But that’s another story.) Hell, my 57 year old mom plays Mario! πŸ˜€ So it definitely has long-lasting appeal.

    Of course, keep in mind that these are darker story based games, with the exception of Mario, obviously (which is just too big a name to ignore ;D). They may not be for new female gamers just starting out with games, and gamers of both genders are advised to tread lightly with LoK, if they’re expecting a typical video game story. The story in LoK is sophisticated and complex, and takes a lot of hours to fully take in.

    The games listed above in the article are all light and fun games that aren’t particularly deep or challenging in terms of narrative, it seems, with the exception of Phoenix Wright, which I’m sure has some great drama in it. πŸ™‚ (A friend of mine has played Phoenix Wright, so I know it has a good story, even if I haven’t played it myself.) But if you’re looking for a story based alternative in addition to those games, Legacy of Kain, Metal Gear, and Silent Hill are certainly a way to go. Metal Gear’s military oriented surface may turn off some female gamers, but there’s a good story underneath. Silent Hill may look like the typical survival horror game, but it is very different from Resident Evil, and its action oriented premise. Just don’t expect to go into Silent Hill and not be disturbed.

    Ape Escape is another series that is enjoyable for everyone, among the lighthearted games. Catching those monkeys gives you plenty of action, and it’s a good time to be had all around! πŸ˜€ Those monkeys are cheeky, hilarious, and they parody everything, from Star Wars to Superman to Friday the 13th. XD I think both female and male gamers can equally enjoy Ape Escape, because it’s the type of game that easily appeals to all ages! It’s among the pinnacle of platforming games, if you ask me. ;D I was tempted to include Crash Bandicoot, because I think its wackiness can overcome even the most ardent skeptic. πŸ˜€ But I think the Crash series is on its way down, and has been for a long time; the newer ones with the new teams haven’t been as good, and the series ended with the original three in a way. You have to play the earliest ones, to really get the most out of it. :/ Playing CTR (Crash Team Racing) doesn’t hurt either.

    There’s also Persona, which is the best RPG series I’ve seen. πŸ˜‰ But I think RPGs in general have been accepted as something that female gamers can enjoy, without any argument on anyone’s part. πŸ˜‰ So there’s no need to build an argument for them. I’ve certainly seen more female fans for RPGs, than I have for any other genre of video games!

  7. Hello there all you VERY sexist people. I am a girl as is my cousin. We both about had a laughing fit when we read the list of games. My cousin is more of a hard core gamer than I am, but I still enjoy games with a couple beautiful explosions thrown in there. Just recently she bought Infamous 2 and it was AMAZING!!!… to say in the least. She beat in 5 days. None the less it was one of the best games ever. She has a routine of getting a game and beating it in a week at most. The other games wouldnt even last 20 min exactly. So you see my point. Though these games would be great for my girly oldest cousin, they are not 10 great games for female gamers. They are 10 great games for little girly gamers. Thank You. πŸ™‚

  8. These sound more like games my mom would play, not her daughter.

  9. This is silly. Just play games appealing to you with decent reviews/suggestions. All the games listed are really cutesy and insanely easy, but with no real depth or lasting love. Anthony has posted way better and more thoughtful suggestions, IMO: good story coupled with fun and interesting gameplay. The Legacy of Kain series is fantastic. The dialogue is practically Shakespearean. And it’s full of vampires (and if we’ve learned anything about those silly girls is that they love dem vampires, mirite?)

    I have a problem with Mass Effect not being on there. That game has amazing gameplay, brilliant and colorful characters, and you have the choice of playing a powerful male or female lead. I think it’s the best thing to happen to equal-gender gaming ever.

  10. I am utterly dissatisfied with this list. I am an intelligent woman in my 30’s and I enjoy giving a good video game a** kicking as any man. I know what games I like and I’ve beat them before my husband on numerous occasions.

    I came to this article looking for a list of games that do not subjugate women and are actually good, adult-oriented games. The games on this list, with the possible exception of Sims 3, are vanilla, family friendly games that I think of when I’m looking for a good kids game. If I wantEd that type of game I would still be playing Mario Bros and Donkey Kong Jr. on the original Nintendo.

    I came here looking for games that do not stereotype and subjugate women. I found a list that does exactly that. I get that the intention was to list games with mass appeal for both sexes but, by leaving obviously popular games that promote a healthy view of women, like Mass Effect, out of the list and listing family friendly only games, you are only perpetuating the problem.

  11. Nadia Oxford

    Hey Sally, here’s a revised list that might be more appropriate for you: http://gametheoryonline.com/2011/08/22/best-games-female-gamers-more/

  12. This is a form of sexism, no matter how you slice it. It should be titled “10 Games I enjoy and I am a women”. A woman you may be Nadia, but a gamer, you’re not.

  13. Nadia Oxford

    If you like, check out my follow-up: http://gametheoryonline.com/2011/08/22/best-games-female-gamers-more/ Thanks for the feedback!

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