It can be hard for women to break into the video games industry no matter what part of the business they’d like to be in. Yet, there are many women who have made an impact on the industry.
In honor of International Women’s Day today, here are 10 awesome games that women had a strong hand in creating.
Back in the day, Centipede was one of the most widely known games on the Atari. The game was designed by Dona Bailey and Ed Logg. To this day, Centipede is one of the most successful arcade games, where players fight off centipedes, spiders, scorpions and fleas after eliminating the centipede that crawls down the screen.
Game developers were rarely famous people in 1980, and women working in video games were even rarer. It’s amazing that four decades ago, women were already paving the way to normalize women in video game careers.
Kim Swift was the lead designer on Portal, which was picked up by Valve after they noticed a game she developed called Narbacular Drop, which also used portal-based mechanics. Gabe Newell was presented with Narbacular Drop and hired the entire team to develop Portal. Swift went on to also work on Left 4 Dead, Half-Life 2 and Star Wars Battlefront II.
Portal is often recommended as a great game for those new to video games. This fun puzzle-platform game is a series of levels in which test subjects must complete puzzles by shooting portals in walls to walk through them and complete objectives. There is a heavy story element to the game, and a lot of humor.
Portal is considered a classic among gamers. There have been many cries for a new Portal since the success of the first two, but there’s no indication Valve is planning to develop another game in the series.
Read more: Seven video games that need cross-play now
Credit: Naughty Dog
Uncharted series (2007)
Amy Hennig is no newcomer to the video game industry, and has a long list of accomplishments in the field. She started working in video games in the late 1980s, and her most notable works include Legacy of Kain, Jak and Daxter and the Uncharted series.
Hennig is the creator of the Uncharted series, which was developed by Naughty Dog. The series follows Nathan Drake, a treasure hunter who travels across the world to uncover various historical mysteries.
Because the Uncharted games have always been PlayStation console-exclusives, Uncharted has been pivotal to the success of the console.
Ever since its release, the game has been incredibly successful. The Uncharted series is one of the best-selling video game franchises of all time with over 40 million copies sold.
BioShock (2007) and BioShock 2 (2010)
Alyssa Finley worked on BioShock and Bioshock 2 as a project lead and executive producer. According to mobygames.com, she also worked on a ton of other games such as The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands and Minecraft: Story mode.
BioShock is a beloved series. When the original BioShock was first released, IGN called it an “essential gaming experience” and rated it a 9.7/10.
In a time when a lot of games were moving to online-only, or creating MMOs that required team play, BioShock was one of the few games that remained loyal to the ultimate gaming experience, which was a combination of great game mechanics and a compelling story. The game was praised for its ability to cater to gamers who wanted a single-player experience.
Every detail of BioShock was carefully thought about and planned in a way that surprised gamers, down to the mundane things in a room such as a guitar with strings that players could actually pluck.
First hired by Electronic Arts to work on games such as MySims and Boom Blox, Robin Hunicke moved on to thatgamecompany where she produced Journey.
Journey is an online cooperative game originally made for the PlayStation 3. The game was also ported into the PlayStation 4, PC and iOS. Throughout the game, other players may join each other on their journeys, but no form of communication can be used. Players are anonymous to each other until after the game’s credits roll.
Journey has won several “game of the year” awards and was critically acclaimed the year it came out. The game is available on Steam and the PS3, PS4 and PS5, although Sony warns that playing on PS5 may not have some features available on the other platforms.
Credit: Square Enix
Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2016)
Tomb Raider is known as one of the best female protagonist games on the market, so it’s no surprise that a woman was in charge of the writing. Rhianna Pratchett was the lead writer for Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, and she won a ton of awards for her abilities. She won Outstanding Achievement in Videogame Writing at the 68th Writers Guild of America Awards in 2016 and Outstanding Achievement in Character for Lara Croft at the 19th annual D.I.C.E. Awards that same year.
The 2013 Tomb Raider breathed new life into the old games from the late ‘90s. Tomb Raider did a wonderful job at flipping a game that concentrated more on Lara Croft’s sex appeal and turning her into someone whom young women could look up to.
Child of Light (2014)
Mélissa Cazzaro and Aurélie Débant
Lead designers Mélissa Cazzaro and Aurélie Débant created this popular RPG platform game that was met with critical acclaim. Most fans of the game are especially fond of its visuals, soundtrack and story.
Child of Light is a game based in the kingdom of Lemuria in the year 1895. A Princess named Aurora is born to a Duke and his wife. Aurora’s mom dies and her father remarries, and on Easter Eve, Aurora seemingly dies, which sends her father into a deep, dark despair and he becomes bedridden. The tale takes Aurora on a quest to free the Lady of the Forest, armed with a sword and the light of the land she wakes in.
This side-scroller game comes with some role-playing elements, such as leveling up as the character progresses. Enemy battles are reminiscent of the Final Fantasy series, in which the player can control up to two characters during battle and swap these two with waiting characters. Up to three enemies spawn for each battle.
Child of Light is often available on Xbox and PlayStation consoles for free if you are subscribed to their premium services. It is also available on the Nintendo Switch and Wii U, as well as PC.
Cities Skylines (2015)
Karoliina Korppoo served as one of the lead designers of the game along with Henri Haimakainen and Miska Fredman. She is the first female Finn to publish a role-playing game. Currently, Korppoo is leading her own company called 10th Muse, which published an app called Sana Stories, which celebrates equality and diversity through a series of interactive text-only stories.
Inspired by the popular classic game SimCity, Cities Skylines is a fun and addicting game where players are tasked with building a city. The game was a huge success, and has over 6 million copies sold worldwide.
Players are tasked with building a city, and as the city grows bigger, there are new buildings, zones, and policies added to the game to increase its complexity. Players must manage their taxes, cash reserve and the happiness of their citizens in order to keep the city thriving. Mismanagement of the smallest thing could send the city into collapse.
Cities Skylines is available on Steam, Xbox One, PS4 and the Nintendo Switch, and it has many expansions to increase the complexity and fun of the gameplay.
Niche – a genetics survival game (2016)
There are some cute, and so-ugly-they’re-cute creatures in Niche – a genetics survival game, designed by Philomena Schwab. Schwab also founded Playful Oasis, a collective of 25 international developers that promotes nature and biology-related games.
Niche is a game about evolving genetics, and making creatures evolve based on real genetics. The goal is to keep your species alive despite predators, climate change and sickness. In this turn-based game, players can shape their own creatures based on real genetics and are tasked with keeping their species alive. If a species goes extinct, the game is over and the player has lost.
There are over 100 genes in the pool to shape a species, five different biomes featuring different flora, prey and predators, and a live, dynamic world that is ever-changing. The game can be bought on Steam and the Nintendo Switch.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons (2020)
Aya Kyogoku was the first woman to ever direct a video game at Nintendo Entertainment Analysis & Development group with Animal Crossing: New Leaf. She served as the director of the game, and after noticing she was the only woman on the development team, she and New Leaf producer Katsuya Eguchi hired a team that was half female, and encouraged everyone to contribute ideas for the game, regardless of role.
When it came time to make Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Nintendo charged her with directing the series again, and boy did she come in clutch. Right as COVID-19 was ravaging the world, Nintendo bestowed upon the earth the ultimate distraction from reality in New Horizons.
Many memes were made about New Horizons’ ability to keep people happy in a world where a lot of terrible things were happening, and it is still one of the most popular Nintendo games to date.
Lead image credit: Square Enix