Since historically, gaming has always been considered a very male-orientated pursuit by people making games, characters were invariably designed with the male audience firmly in mind, with the needs and wants of women being either ignored or included as an afterthought (despite making up half the population of gamers). Though games have indeed been getting more progressive in recent years, there is still quite a long way to go until both sexes are being catered to equally. That being said, even though women are woefully under-represented in games today doesn't mean that developers are totally unaware that women gamers exist. Here are 8 characters that were made with XX-chromosome-havers in mind.
Until he became a cyborg ninja badass in Metal Gear Solid 4: Another Totally Normal Kojima Subtitle, Raiden was easily one of the least likeable characters in the entire Metal Gear series (we should mention that we're including Volgin, the lightning powered rapist, in that description). Because - seriously - who wanted to play as Raiden when Solid Snake was right there?
Well, according to this interview with Hideo Kojima, Raiden's design was specifically aimed directly at teenage girls, not the dudes Kojima typically aimed his testosterone-based blast of nonsense at. When Kojima and his staff interviewed a bunch of girls about whether or not they'd ever buy a Metal Gear game, he was rather hurt when the overwhelming response was "no, I hate games about stupid old men!". Rather than saying, "screw them, they aren't my primary audience" Kojima instead created Raiden (the polar opposite of a stupid old man) and made him the main character of Metal Gear Solid II: Gun-Sons of Patriotic Liberty. Kneejerk reactions are the best way to solve your problems.
As one of the Nintendo's flagship characters, Link has through a lot of redesigns over the last few years, however, one of the more drastic was his change in Ocarina of Time, in which he went from a goofy looking dumbass with a big nose to a handsome, button-nosed badass with eyes that could pierce granite-covered diamond.
According to this interview with Yoshiaki Koizumi, that change was entirely inspired by a single comment made by his wife, who asked why all Nintendo characters had funny noses upon seeing Link for the first time. When Koizumi was put in charge of Link's character design for Ocarina of Time a short while later, he intentionally made Link "a little more handsome" than he was before to please her.
Pac-Man may not have been in a game recently, but it's impossible to deny the impact he made on the world - there's a reason people are excited to see ol' Pizza-face make his way into the Smash Bros. world, after all. Bounding into arcades at a time when every other game involved inflicting harm of some kind on people, Pac-Man was a welcome change from the endless stream of death and alien slaughter.
As it turns out that was on purpose. Pac-Man wasn't just an 80's puzzle game, it was a game that was designed with the express intention of luring couples into arcades. In order to make Pac-Man as appealing as possible to the ladies, his creator, Toru Iwatani made him as small and cute as possible then didn't give him a gun, because women apparently hate guns (although as someone who has spent plenty of time at Wal-Marts over the years, I can confirm that gun ownership knows no gender preference). We'd argue, but the game was pretty popular so, like Pac-Man, we don't really have a leg to stand on.
(...except in Smash Bros. and a few of his later games, where he has legs)
Because a game about a yellow circle stuffing his face full of dots would have been, to use the technical term "boring as shit", Iwatani also created 4 colorful ghosts to chase Pac-Man while he did his thing. And wouldn't you believe it, all four ghosts were also created to appeal to women, because Iwatani was apparently all about pleasing the ladies in the 80's (via pixelated monsters, that is).
We're just going to quote the man himself for this part because we don't know how to word it without it sounding massively offensive:
"The enemies are four little ghost-shaped monsters, each of them a different colour - blue, yellow, pink and red. I used four different colors mostly to please the women who play - I thought they would like the pretty colors."
You heard it here first, everyone - the key to a woman's heart is multi-colored ghosts (according to wildly out-of-touch specific videogame developers, at least).
Bayonetta is a game that revolves around the concept of kicking demons in the dick while the eponymous main character gets progressively more naked.
With that description in mind, you wouldn't expect Bayonetta to have been designed with the fairer sex in mind. However, she totally was, as described here, Hideki Kamiya categorically asked his staff to design Bayonetta with realistic, attainable features to make her stand out from all of the other characters out there with "big boobs that show a lot of cleavage" - because she's better than that. He also fought tooth and nail to make sure that Bayonetta wore glasses, to differentiate her from other female characters as well as give her a "sense of mystery and intelligence".
Then again, we should also point out that there was a guy out there who spent like 3 weeks modelling Bayonetta's ass. Can't win em all we guess.
When it comes to female characters capable of standing alongside their male counterparts, Jill Valentine is up there with the best of them. Not only is she up to the task of shoving a knife into a zombie brain stem, but she also has access to a number of abilities entirely unique to her, making her better than her male co-stars in a lot of situations.
However, as the design notes for Resident Evil 3 discuss, while the development team were re-designing Jill for the third game, rather than focusing on how her skills and abilities set her apart and made her an awesome character in her own right. They instead focussed on making here "beautiful for everybody" so that she'd appeal, physically, to both sexes. Which is slightly less inspiring, but still a step (albeit a very, very small one) in the right direction.
Because you can make Commander Shepard look however the hell you want, their appearance is largely based on how much you want to see a mockery of the human form punch out a space-reporter. When the third game in the Mass Effect series rolled around, Bioware finally accepted that a considerable chunk of their playerbase wanted to play as a woman and decided to give the affectionately named "FemShep" a face they could use to advertise the game.
When Bioware organized a poll to see what face fans wanted to give FemShep, the far-and-away winner was a generic blonde character with a hairstyle that isn't even an in-game option, much to the chagrin of many bloggers and fans who felt that the poll was little more than a beauty pageant. In response to the minor controversy the decision wrought, Bioware changed tact and organized a new poll and - in a move that surprised nobody - the real face of FemShep was revealed to be that of an angry looking red head who looks like she wanted to channel her inner Will Smith and split a bunch of alien wigs.
It should also be noted that the FemShep voice performance blows ManShep out of the water. GAUNTLET THROWN.
Professor Layton has helped sell more Nintendo handhelds than most non-Pokemon-based tophat-wearing detectives, and he's solved more mysteries than Scooby Doo on Ritalin. During the development process for the game, the creators realized that a large part of the DS fanbase was female (see also: every single videogame fanbase), so to cater to these potential fans, a lot of the game's design and advertising were inspired directly by the layout of women's magazines. Furthermore, engaging these prospective fans was practically the entire reason the game ended up featuring voice acting in the first place. In other words, Professor Layton may not have ever had a voice if it wasn't for the fairer sex.