If there’s one genre that saw a boom in the 90s, on the PlayStation, it was survival horror. Stranger still, a lot of them starred female protagonists including, obviously, these six games. It’s funny to see developers still struggling with implementing strong female leads today. Regardless of their problems, for today, let’s celebrate the early days of survival horror and salute these brave ladies.
Alone in the Dark & Clock Tower 2
Alone in the Dark – The New Nightmare: The original Alone in the Dark sort of birthed the survival horror genre. This game is the fourth entry in the series. The game revolves around detective Edward Carnby who is investigating the murder of his best friend and some ancient tablets he was investigating. Carnby hires Aline Cedrac, a professor, to help with the investigation. Things go bad fast, as their plane crashes into a mysterious mansion, running wild with shadow beasts. Players can choose either character, but for the point of this article, Aline is the star here. With a less direct role in the story, her camping is far more mysterious and “scary” as it were. Leave it to a strong woman to take the series to new heights.
Clock Tower 2 – The Struggle Within: This is the third installment in this point and click adventure series. Like the rest of the games, there is an emphasis on puzzle solving rather than action. This game stars a crazed schoolgirl named Alyssa Hale. She’s schizophrenic, with a psychopath named Bates trapped in her body. The game goes through her struggle with keeping the murderer at bay only to randomly wake up at times and discover strewn body parts around. It’s probably the most disturbing game on this list and genuinely feels sickening. Kudos developers?
Dino Crisis & Fear Effect 2
Dino Crisis: Essentially, this is Jurassic Park combined with Resident Evil. There’s a scientist who has been reportedly found dead on a mysterious island where a tactical team is sent to investigate. Once Regina and her three teammates enter the island, they discover everyone is dead and the lab is infested with dinosaurs. This game is exactly like Resident Evil: hammy dialogue, crazy monsters, and backtracking puzzles. That’s not to say it isn’t great, because as a sort of bizarre spin-off to Resident Evil, Capcom did a decent job. Plus, who doesn’t like redheads?
Fear Effect 2 – Retro Helix: This is actually a prequel to the first game. At the time, FE2 got a lot of attention because it starred a lesbian protagonist: Han Tsu-Vachel. She and her lover are sent to retrieve some data from an underwater facility when things get a little sketchy. The game features cel-shaded characters with pre-rendered backgrounds. Plus, instead of life bars, characters have a fear status. Get overwhelmed by baddies and the fear effect will deteriorate. In so many ways FE2 was innovative and very forward thinking from the lesbian protagonist to the gameplay. Well, not everything. It still used clunky tank controls, which made an already tough game harder.
Parasite Eve & Resident Evil 3
Parasite Eve: Merry Christmas New York City! For this holiday a psychopathic woman will unleash a mitochondria plague unto the populous, turning man and animal into crazed monsters. But have no fear because detective Aya Brea is on the case that is seemingly immune to the virus. What makes PE truly stand out is the integration of horror with a RPG. This was back when Square Enix, then Squaresoft, launched a flurry of standout titles that were experimental and excellent, but never saw sequels. While PE saw two sequels, they didn’t come close to the first one. Parasite Eve is a treasure for both horror and RPG fans making it number one on this list.
Resident Evil 3 – Nemesis: And in second place there’s RE3. The game takes place alongside the events of Resident Evil 2 and stars Jill Valentine. She’s trying to escape Raccoon City while a horrific monster, Nemesis, hunts her and her fellow S.T.A.R.S. members down. This was also the first Resident Evil that really stepped up the notch in the action department. Guns and modifications were plentiful and while there was a boon of supplies, the game was balanced out with the undying Nemesis. It made for a lot of great, horrifying moments. Plus it was nice to see Jill come into her own after the first game.