10 video games you didn’t know were made by women
Although video game development is still often seen as a male-dominated field, women have been a big part of gaming history since the beginning. Many women are directly responsible for creating some of the most popular titles of the past and present.
Since March is Women’s History Month, it’s the perfect time to shine a light on many of these amazing and creative people. These examples and many more prove that women have always been an important part of the face of the game.
Centipede – Dona Bailey
Released in the golden age of arcade games, Centipede is a 1981 fixed shooter co-created by Dona Bailey, who was the only woman in Atari’s coin-op division. Controlling a small magical gnome, the player shoots a centipede moving through a field of mushrooms. The game’s pastel color palette (created by accident) and simple yet difficult to master gameplay led to Centipede becoming one of the most popular arcade games and one of the first to have a large female player base.
Besides Bailey, there were plenty of women leading the way in the early decades of video games. This includes Mabel Addis who helped design and write the first narrative game in 1964 called Sumerian game, Danielle Bunten Berry who created MULE what was one of the first multiplayer games, and Carol Shaw who created river raid and was one of the first full-time video game designers.
Unboxing – Wren Brier
After working in the video game industry for nearly a decade, Wren Brier recently co-created the award-winning 2021 indie title Unpacking, which is a puzzle game about moving to a new place and unpacking. Each time the main character moves to a new house, the player must find a way to fit all the previously packed items into the cute little rooms with a nice pixel-art aesthetic.
Apart from being one of the best customizable houses in video games, the game is also amazing for being able to tell the story of the main character through the different elements. Prior to creating this title, Brier also worked on fruit ninja and Jetpack ride.
Celestial – Maddy Thorson
Developed as a full version of the original 2016 PICO-8 game jam title of the same name, Celestial is an award-winning 2018 platform game created by Maddy Thorson, who also created the multiplayer action game in 2013 Fall of the tower. Celestial follows a young trans woman named Madeline who wants to reach the top of the titular Mount Celestial, but she will have to overcome her inner demons as she scales the dangerous terrain.
With a beautiful pixel art style, an amazing soundtrack, smooth controls, well-designed levels, an interesting cast of characters, and a heartwarming emotional story, it’s no surprise that many people consider it one of the best indie games. Additionally, Madeline’s struggles with her identity and anxiety, which mirror Thorson’s experience at the time, make her an extremely relatable character and one of the best independent protagonists.
Gabriel Knight – Jane Jensen
Created by Jane Jensen, who is an American video game designer and author, Gabriel Knight is an iconic 1990s trilogy of point-and-click adventure games featuring the titular character as he solves supernatural cases with his friend and future love interest Grace Nakimura. Like most video games where players are expected to solve cases, the player interviews a wide array of unique characters and investigates different puzzle-filled environments.
The first entry in the series, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers, has well-known actors such as Tim Curry, Virginia Capers, Mark Hamill and Michael Dorn in lead voice roles. Besides creating other adventure games like Grey matter and Moebius: Empire Rising Jensen has also written numerous novels and short stories.
The King’s Quest – Roberta Williams
It’s impossible to talk about women in the gaming industry without mentioning Roberta Williams, who co-founded Sierra Entertainment and is often called the “Queen of Adventure Games”. In 1980, Williams pioneered the adventure genre by creating the first-ever graphical adventure game, Mystery House, which was for the Apple II. Later, she would also create the classic 1995 FMV adventure game Phantasmagoria.
Of all her works, however, Williams is probably best known for creating the classic adventure game series King’s Quest, which mainly follows King Graham and the rest of the royal family of the Kingdom of Daventry. Every entry in this landmark series was designed by Williams until the 2015 reboot.
Suikoden – Junko Kawano
Loosely based on the classic Chinese novel Waterfront, Suikoden is a JRPG series that generally follows a group of 108 heroes as they fight against political corruption. Although most people credit Yoshitaka Murayama solely for creating this unique franchise, he actually co-created the first two entries with Japanese game designer, director, and writer Junko Kawano.
In the early 1990s, Konami had Murayama and Kawano work because they were both newcomers, and their combined ideas and work later led to this series.. Although Kawano did not work on Suikoden III because she was already working RPG Twinbee and shadow of memories, she became the main creator of Suikoden IV and Suikoden Tactics after Murayama left Konami.
Xenogears – Kaori Tanaka
While at Square, Japanese video game writer Kaori Tanaka, also known by her pen name Soraya Saga, created a project proposal with her husband, Tetsuya Takahashi, for Final Fantasy VII. Although this proposal was considered too dark and complicated for a Final Fantasy title, the pair were allowed to develop it as their own game, which would eventually become the first science-fantasy title Xeno series: Xenogears.
Released in 1998 for the PS1, Xenogears follows Fei Fong Wong and his friends as they travel across multiple countries to uncover the mysteries of the world and defeat the floating country Solaris. After leaving Square, Tanaka helped create the Xenosaga games too, but she left the franchise before the Xenolame securities.
Portal – Kim Swift
Released in 2007 and often considered one of the best games ever made, Portal is a platform and puzzle game created by game designer Kim Swift. After Swift and the rest of her team developed the game Narbacular Drop for their senior project at the DigiPen Institute of Technology, one of Valve’s developers, Robin Walker, noticed their work at one of DigiPen’s job fairs and invited the team to pitch the game to Valve .
Company president Gabe Newell hired the band after the presentation, and Narbacular Drop slowly developed into Portal, which follows a silent protagonist named Chell as she uses a portal gun to solve puzzles orchestrated by an AI called GLaDOS. Besides this game, Swift has also worked on other titles such as left for dead and Star Wars Battlefront II.
Uncharted – Amy Hennig
Since the late 1980s, Amy Hennig worked in the video game industry and helped create several titles, which include entries in the Kain’s Legacy and Jack and Daxter series. But, she is best known for creating the beloved Unexplored series and making the first three main installments.
Inspired by Hollywood franchises such as Indiana Jones, this critically acclaimed series follows professional treasure hunter Nathan Drake as he embarks on dangerous adventures around the world. After leaving Naughty Dog during development of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, she is currently working on the next action RPG game Speak.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons – Aya Kyogoku
Since the beginning of this century, Aya Kyogoku has been one of Japan’s leading video game directors, producers and supervisors. Before joining Nintendo in 2003, Kyogoku worked at Atlus and helped create the Dreamcast title fromSPIRIA and the PS2 spin-off of Witchcraft series Magic: Tale of the Forsaken Land. Once she joined Nintendo, she first worked as a screenwriter for The Legend of Zelda franchise, in particular Four Sword Adventures and Twilight Princess.
From 2008, however, she worked as a director, producer or supervisor of the animal crossing series. For the latest mainline entry in this social simulation franchise, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Kyogoku was the lead director for this amazing episode which helped many people through the tumultuous time of 2020.
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