Games with Optional All-Female Rosters


#1

I’ve been thinking about an adaptation of the Bechdel Test for video games that highlights player agency: the parameter is that in any game where you can determine the makeup of a party/squad/team, are there enough women in the roster to allow for the choice of an all-female group?

For example, Chrono Trigger (Ayla/Lucca/Marle) or Pyre (Jodariel/Pamitha/Stowaway/Bertrude) would work, but not Final Fantasy X-2 where that’s the team’s default composition.

It’s not a catch-all system, obviously, but I have to admit it’s been interesting to see which games, franchises and developers hit that mark, and which don’t.

I’ve got a list set up that I add to whenever I find new examples; suggestions are, of course, most welcome.


#2

You already mentioned it on your list, but my DA:I preferred team is the all-lady revue. Cassandra as tank, Sera as rogue with Knight Enchanter Vivienne? Sorry, dragons, you’re all dead, especially when paired with my also Knight Enchanter Inquisitor…


#3

Does it need to be named characters with backstories? Otherwise any game where you can customize the characters in your roster would count, correct? ie; XCOM/XCOM 2. Otherwise I honestly can’t think of any outside your list. I’m sure they’re out there, but there aren’t a lot of games where you have a main female character anyways, let alone a full team of women.

I do support the effort though.


#4

Did you need to have Ramza in your party at all times in FFT? It’s been a long ass time since I last played it and don’t remember.


#5

Don’t know if it counts, but Shovel Knight gives the option of having all main characters and Order of No Quarter knights be women.


#6

Persona 3 Portable is the one that comes to mind for me. Fire Emblem certainly has enough female characters for this to work in some chapters, but Sacred Stones and Fates are the only entries where your mandatory Lord character can be female for the whole game.


#7

You can actually get several all-female rosters in Overwatch, some of whom are very viable! Say: Zarya, Orisa, Tracer, Pharah. Mercy, Ana.


#8

That’s something Dragon Age tends to do pretty well as a whole: an Origins party of Shale, Leliana and Wynne/Morrigan is pretty well-balanced, as is a DA2 party of Aveline, Isabela and Merrill. That’s pretty much how I played through the trilogy.


#9

I made a little corner section of the list for games with “randomized” characters a la XCOM - it’s kind of a grey area, I think, because the visual cues are there but they’re ultimately meant to be interchangeable ciphers rather than defined characters.


#10

I think for story missions he has to be in but side stuff he’s not required.


#11

I had to think about that one, actually! I think the problem lies with the expansions - if Shovel Knight were a completely standalone game, then Body Swap Mode would probably work (since it also changes the pronouns); but Plague Knight, Specter Knight and King Knight are canonically male, which complicates the issue. Open to other POVs on the issue, though!


#12

From what I recall, you can go all-female party in Tyranny and the Shadowrun games (though admittedly I have only played SR:HK so I don’t know about the others).

Pillars of Eternity unfortunately doesn’t make the cut, with the most being four out of six if you do not own any DLC. Although you can create your own original party-members if you want to so you can have a full lady-roster but that doesn’t really count in the grander scheme of things, but it could matter to you personally if you made elaborate backstories to your blank-slated party members, as I am wont to do. I think DLC might make it possible to have an all-female party but I haven’t played those so again, I am not entirely sure.

ETA: I made this post before looking at the spreadsheet, hah.


#13

I’m okay with counting DLC towards the sum total of characters, though I try to make sure they’re marked as such on the list.

I’d argue that Shadowrun doesn’t make the cut, though: both games give you a maximum of three women in a four-person squad, counting the PC. Like Pillars, you’re right that there’s the option of hiring stand-ins, but that runs into the same problem I have with games like XCOM or Legend of Grimrock where those stand-ins are designed to be interchangeable.


#14

hopefully this doesn’t come across as critical of the idea of a list of games that fit the parameter, but i’m really confused by the Bechdel test reference, since that is primarily about how female characters are written, whereas your criteria is just about whether there’s enough of them to fill a party, which is by all means an interesting way to look at games, but i’m not sure framing it in relation to the Bechdel test is necessary or useful.


#15

It’s admittedly something I’m still formulating, but here’s what I’ve got so far:

The underlying premise of Bechdel’s original criteria is that it’s possible to construct a narrative space (however temporary) in which, by virtue of women interacting with each other, men are not directly involved. Sure, you could run the original test on games anyway, but I’d like to take it a step further and root it more centrally in our ability as players to make choices: which games permit us to create exclusively-female spaces where a traditional Bechdel exchange could take place?

Tyranny’s an excellent example of this: if your party is comprised of three female companions and a female lead, the next banter between the characters automatically meets Bechdel’s requirements - but only if the player decided to deploy those women in the first place.


#16

I actually started noting weather this was possible myself at some point, not sure when though. Always keep an eye out.

I posit Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, the only Good Bioware game. 3 active part members at a time. Amy, Rouge, Cream and Shade all playable. I don’t remember party composition meaning much so I dunno weather any combos are viable or not.

The first Xenoblade you can do this with Sharla, Melia and Fiora, which is a pretty Glass Cannon lineup but it can work if you’re up for some fine-tuning. Xenoblade X has 4 active members at a time instead of 3, and 7 female party members, not including yourself (custom character), plenty to work with, they’re all brill.

Xenoblade 2 only has 5 playable party members and a 3 active member system, and 3 of 'em are dudes. Not much of a margin, but still. However, each party member is also attached to, basically, 3 other party members, who determine their weapons and abilities, and of the characters available for that role there are 19 women. So while you can’t have a FULL team of women, you can have a team of 11 women and one fluffball alien boy. I reckon that counts for something.


#17

I’m not overly familiar with Sonic Chronicles, but what I’ve found of it online suggests Sonic is a mandatory party member - is that true?

Xenoblade and Xenoblade X added to the list!


#18

Naw, he’s defo not manditory. I remember there’s a special move that requires all Team Dark (Shadow, Omega, Rouge) in the party to use. There’s a bunch of those if I remember.


#19

It’s been a long time since I’ve played them but I believe Mount and Blade lets you both pick to play as a female lord and has a number of female hero units and you never have to get the male hero units. It doesn’t let you make your entire army out women but you can have an all female band of hero units + PC.


#20

Pillars just makes the cut, with DLC. You could have a party of The Watcher, Grieving Mother, Pallegina, and Sagani, with The Devil of Caroc, and Maneha from White March.

Unfortunately I think that partys effectiveness really depends on what class the player happens to choose for The Watcher, because you’re lacking any good magic or healing abilities without Aloth or Durance (Paladin healing doesn’t cut it so much in that game) but also unless The Watcher is a Fighter or a Barbarian, you won’t have a super effective tank until pretty late in the game when you can start White March pt. II and pick up Maneha.

It kind of sucks that in the base game theres no way to have an all women party without resorting to hiring adventurers, which was a cool thing but ultimately it wasn’t worth giving up travelling with companions with set backstories.