Post Apocalyptic Games With Strong Female Protagonists


  • Female protagonists in post-apocalyptic games wield finesse, resilience, and compassion amidst the world’s ruins.
  • Women have historically lacked strong, independent female representation in video games as the result of an unfortunate marketing ploy from the ’80s
  • Characters like Aloy, Clementine, Ellie, 2B, and Lightning display unwavering strength, resourcefulness, and leadership in their apocalyptic journeys.

An unfortunate assumption that many still hold today is that only tough, grimacing men carrying shotguns over their shoulders would survive the end times. However, despite a tendency to put on disarming personas, women the world over are continuously tested and toughened by impossible challenges on a moment-to-moment basis, most of which go unseen by their male contemporaries. Irradiated water supply? Catcalls on the daily commute. Snapping a broken leg back into place after surviving a collapsing bridge? Childbirth. Hunted by mutated super-wolves? High heels in the company dress code.


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Women would handle the end of the world like they do everything else: with finesse. While post-apocalyptic titles in gaming are a dime a dozen, there have only been a handful of high-profile games with female protagonists leading the charge, thanks in part to the legacy of a misplaced marketing ploy in the 80s that to this day continues to exclude half the world’s population. While there is still a long way to go in terms of representation in the medium, strong female protagonists are finally breaking in, even into games about the end of the world.

Aloy – Horizon: Forbidden West

Hunter Of Beasts And Machines With A Will Of Steel

Aloy fighting a Clawstrider in San Francisco in Forbidden West

Horizon Forbidden West

February 18, 2022

  • As an outcast, Aloy was raised away from the rest of the tribe, making her fiercely independent
  • Aloy must contend with both the wilderness and deadly machines

Aloy was raised in the beautiful but dangerous post-apocalyptic United States, in Mother’s Heart, or what was Colorado, about one thousand years into the future. Although the human survivors have become more attuned and respectful of nature, guided by the wisdom of the matriarchs, Aloy was cast out due to the mysterious circumstances of her birth. With the unique insights gained from her “focus” device and through a lonely upbringing, Aloy sees herself as an outsider and prefers the rugged wild to tender comforts. However, she rarely eschews compassion for those who deserve it.

Although she is not always the best diplomat, having developed outside society, Aloy proves herself to be a great hunter with a will strong enough to overcome any setback or obstacle, as she must contend not only with beasts but also wandering deadly machines. By the time of Horizon: Forbidden West, she is humanity’s best hope for survival against a mysterious plague and global biodegradation.

Clementine – The Walking Dead

The Tale Of A Lifetime Survivor

Clementine holding AJ;s hand as zombies surround them, her other hand holding a weapon.

The Walking Dead The Game

  • Clementine first appears as an eight-year-old but develops into a capable survivor throughout the series
  • She proves herself to be a competent leader and protector amid the darkest of situations

Fans of The Walking Dead got to see first-hand how Clementine grew from a helpless eight-year-old girl to a capable survivor, fierce guardian, and even-handed leader. Despite being shaped by an incredibly dark world filled with monsters, both living and dead, she develops a strong moral compass thanks to the kindness of those who helped her mature into an adult. Of course, she was oftentimes the only one with a level head in a room full of panicked, emotional adults.


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Clementine spends the first season under the care of Lee, a prisoner set free by the onset of a zombie apocalypse, a man who takes parental responsibility over her while they search for her parents across the country. By the end of the series, Clem has become a guardian herself, and even though she persists in an unforgiving world, she still finds a way to carry the light for the next generation.

Ellie – The Last Of Us Part 2

Riding A Bitter Spiral Of Violence And Vengence

Ellie in The Last of Us Part 2

  • Ellie is more than capable of taking care of herself, as she proved when she looked after Joel while he was on the mend
  • Generally, she has a good moral compass that is sometimes distorted by a burning desire for revenge

Raised in a world ruined by a fungal outbreak that turned humans into mutated monsters known to the remnants of humanity as “clickers,” Ellie knew little else about the world other than hardship and loss, brutality, and violence. Despite the spiraling chain of violence brought about by a world in pain, Ellie shows a relentless drive to survive, resourcefulness, and, in The Last Of Us Part 2, a relentless desire to mete out justice for those she lost, even if it means perpetuating that broken world of suffering.

In The Last Of Us, Ellie continues to mature beyond her years, and while Joel is injured, she is able to take care of them both with her scouting, hunting, and shooting skills. Although circumstances denied her the sacrifice, she was willing to give up her life in the hope of providing a cure for the plague. In the years that follow, Ellie finds herself navigating the nature-reclaimed former United States on a quest for vengeance, creating body after body in her pursuit. However, when the last players saw Ellie, it seemed that the burning hatred in her heart had started to cool.

2B – Nier: Automata

The Existential Warrior In A Machine’s World

Promo art featuring the main cast from NieR: Automata

NieR: Automata

March 7, 2017

Action RPG

  • Unlike her other android partner, 2B keeps her emotions in check while navigating the post-human landscape
  • As the existential-philosophy-inspired world implies, there is more than 2B than just her invincible fighting prowess

Whoever said that there would be no time for philosophizing after the end of humanity’s reign? Nier: Automata is chock-a-block full of fun existential references between the shooting, slicing, and exploding of enemies at the hands of 2B. As well as being a reference to the famous Shakespeare line, her name might give away the fact that she is technically an android, ostensibly of the “battle” variety. However, if she dresses like a woman, acts like a woman, and kicks machine butt like a woman, then she is, in fact, a woman.


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In an interesting subversion of the unfortunate “emotional woman” stereotype, 2B remains calm and keeps her feelings under wraps at all times while occasionally dropping a droll quip, while her male android partner, 9S, practically bursts with unchecked emotion (a dynamic that many women will recognize from their real-life experiences). Just as 2B’s eyes are hidden behind a blindfold, much more lurks behind her haute persona.

Lightning – Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13

The Battle-Hardened Harbinger Of A New Dawn

Lightning about to get into a fight

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13

  • Finding herself at the end of time, with all matter and souls being called to the next world, Lightning must face the dread of an impending apocalypse
  • Lightning is tasked with guiding souls to their new home; however, she insists on having a say on what that new world should look like

With all the matter and souls of the universe being recalled for a grand recreation in thirteen days, it’s fair to say that Lightning has to deal with perhaps the greatest “end of the world” scenario in the third part of the FF13 trilogy, Lightning Returns. While the remnants of sentient life gather in the islands of Nova Chrysalia, each dealing with the end times in their own “unique” ways, the islands are still hardly the best place to settle down, as dangerous monsters and worse still roam the broken landscape.

Thankfully, Lightning has amassed enough power to take on anything that comes at her, including the agents of creation themselves. As Lightning readies herself to become the new goddess of death, she shepherds the world’s lost souls to their new homes and even takes part in its shaping.


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