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Upcoming Games With Female Protagonists You Won't Want To Miss

Players were treated to several great games with female protagonists in 2021, a promising trend for an industry long dominated by white male characters. Though video games still have a long way to go when it comes to diversity and representation on screen and behind-the-scenes, both old and new franchises continue to prove the clear market for projects led by women. From the "Metroid" series to "Celeste" and "Hellblade," developers have delivered a number of titles that place strong and complex ladies at the center of the narrative — no princes or white knights required.

Buoyed by the power of next-gen hardware, companies continue to explore different ways to tell stories and reach players. Thanks to these advances, it's an exciting time to be a gamer, especially if you love strong female protagonists. From sequels to never-before-seen IPs, you can expect a fresh lineup of releases headed by multifaceted and relatable women in 2022 and beyond. Here are a few of the most promising announcements so far. 

Horizon: Forbidden West - February 18, 2022

The sequel to 2017's "Horizon: Zero Dawn," "Horizon: Forbidden West" continues Aloy's story as she braves a post-apocalyptic, far-future, open world version of the Western United States. Searching for the source of the devastating storms and unstoppable plague driving the remnants of humanity to extinction, the huntress uncovers landmarks familiar to players, such as the ruins of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Amidst biomes ranging from lush forests and snow-capped mountains to barren deserts, Aloy must navigate a host of new tribes, cultures, and enemies to uncover the truth.

Building on the strong foundation established by the original, "Horizon: Forbidden West" offers several new abilities to master. Fresh traversal mechanics, including swimming and underwater exploration, make it even easier to investigate the dangerous and vibrant setting. Tools like the Shieldwing and Pullcaster remove much of the monotony of reaching objectives, while new skills, weapons, and ammo allow combat to unfold in a more intuitive manner that better suits Aloy's agility and strategy-based fighting style. Blending action with RPG and mystery elements, "Forbidden West" looks like a promising addition to an already beloved franchise.

Forspoken - May 24, 2022

A brand new IP from Square Enix and "Final Fantasy XV" developer Luminous Productions, "Forspoken" follows Frey Holland, a young woman unexpectedly transported from modern day New York City to the fantasy world of Athia. To survive and return home, Frey must master her newfound magical powers with the help of a sentient bracelet companion, "Cuff." In the process, she uncovers the tragic history of Athia, a once prosperous land destroyed by a corrupting blight known as the Break. Immune to the Break's effects, Frey becomes the last hope of the battered and broken inhabitants of Athia.

"Forspoken" promises stunning, next-gen visuals and unique, open world traversal through magically enhanced parkour. Brought to life through voice and motion capture by "Charlie's Angels" reboot star Ella Balinska, Frey represents an important milestone as one of the only Black female video game protagonists. The fact that she's headlining a AAA title from a massive publisher like Square Enix seems like a step in the right direction for the industry, however, outlets like Kotaku have expressed concerns about how the developers and white writers have handled Frey's depiction. Square Enix assured that it "worked closely with a number of consultants from BIPOC backgrounds to help portray Frey's character," an approach that will hopefully prove fruitful when "Forspoken" releases in 2022.

Open Roads - 2022

"Gone Home" and "Tacoma" developer Fullbright returns with "Open Roads," an indie adventure centered on a mother-daughter roadtrip. After chancing upon a cache of documents in the attic left behind by her grandmother, 16-year-old Tess sets out with her mother, Opal, to explore the ruins of old family properties. Intent on discovering the treasure hinted at in the letters and notes, the pair uncover a much deeper mystery, including a number of past events Opal has long struggled to leave behind.

Keri Russell of "The Americans" and Kaitlyn Dever ("Justified," "Last Man Standing") bring the leads to life through an interactive dialogue system. As Tess, you "bask in classic roadtrip vibes while listening to tunes on the radio and learning more about your mother. Much like the award-winning "Gone Home," "Open Roads" seems heavily character-driven, painting a picture of everyday individuals attempting to overcome relatable struggles. Throw in a lost fortune, and you've got the makings of a touching indie gem about change, truth, and repairing fractured relationships.

Project: Mara and Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 - TBA

"Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice" developer Ninja Theory has two releases on the way, both of which appear to place a female protagonist front and center. After exploring psychosis in its breakout game, the studio announced "Project: Mara" in 2020 via a teaser trailer. Described as an "experimental title that explores new ways of storytelling" with the aim of "recreating the horrors of the mind as accurately and realistically as possible," "Mara" remains a bit of a mystery. Based on snippets from the promo, Melina Juergens, the actress who brought Senua to life via voiceover and motion capture, may play the titular Mara.

While details remain scarce regarding Ninja Theory's foray into mental terror, the company has proven more generous with its promotion of "Hellblade 2." An extensive gameplay trailer dropped at The Game Awards 2021, showing off stunning next-gen graphics and a sneak peak at the next chapter of Senua's story. According to co-founder and chief design director Tameem Antoniades (via Polygon), the studio has gone all out to deliver "something extra special." The art and audio staff are using photography, photogrammetry, and satellite data to capture the 9th century Icelandic setting, in addition to creating and "[scanning in]" real world costumes for the characters. Juergens spent at least two years training to make the battles more intense and realistic and the full animation team also received combat training. It's clear Ninja Theory doesn't plan to rest on its accomplishments, choosing instead to continue pushing the boundaries of game design.

Unknown 9: Awakening - TBA

Third person narrative-driven action-adventure game "Unknown 9: Awakening" follows the struggles of Haroona, a young girl who grew up in the slums of Kolkata, India. She possesses mysterious abilities that allow her to tap into The Fold dimension, though her powers have long seemed like more of a curse than a blessing. With the help of an unknown benefactor, she starts to hone these gifts, learning more about the hidden realm and herself in the process.

The first video game from Reflector Entertainment, "Awakening" takes place in the "Unknown 9" universe, which "centers on humanity being on the edge of either transcendence or self-destruction." This "Storyworld" branches across multiple forms of media, weaving together a wealth of characters and narratives via novels, podcasts, comic books, and interactive experiences. Originally slated to release in 2021, "Awakening" appears to have experienced at least one delay during development, though the company behind it has not shared any official status updates. Even so, the game, and Reflector's overarcing transmedia approach, represents a unique take on game design poised to capture and keep the attention of audiences through several different but connected avenues.