The 15 Greatest Women in Video Games

9.  Nilin Cartier-Wells (Remember Me)

Nilin_Profile_RenderThe protagonist of DONTNOD’s first game, Nilin has had a rough ride, and not just in her own story. Her game almost didn’t get made due to publishers refusing to release a game with a female hero, a challenge the company would once again face when shopping around their second game. But when Remember Me was finally released (by Capcom), Nilin smashed the status quo by being one of only a very small handful of black women protagonists in video games.

Independent of all that, Nilin has enough strength, compassion, and intelligence to go around. She finds herself in futuristic version of France, the child of supergeniuses who invented the Sensen, an implant that allows the user to discard unwanted memories. No one gives much thought to where these memories go, and the Sensen becomes a staple of society. Of course, with its widespread use comes addiction: the fact that memories are bought and sold means anyone can purchase a nice memory for a bit of euphoria, and the overuse of the technology has turned many into violent husks who prowl France’s underbelly. Nilin, with the help of a disembodied voice called Edge (who claims to be the leader of an underground resistant movement), Nilin escapes the main facility of Memorize, the company who created the Sensen, who have wiped most of her memories for reasons she can only guess (y’know, having no memory). She soon learns that she has the ability not only to steal memories, but to “remix” them. She decides to use her powers to defeat Memorize, who have essentially turned France into a surveillance state with their technology.

Sure, Nilin might follow whatever orders Edge dishes out, but just as he’s using her as a tool to achieve his end, she’s using him to uncover the truth about herself. Nilin’s theme song plays during certain parts of the game, fragmented, only coming together once her memory has been entirely pieced back together. By the end, when Edge’s identity is revealed, we (and Nilin) realize that she has truly been operating alone this whole time, working out the mystery between bouts of smacking down all kinds of overpowered enemies. The only real ally she’s had is another woman, Olga Sedova, a bounty hunter whose memory Nilin remixes early on. Of course, with this ability comes the opportunity to cause all sorts of carnage (the real reason Nilin was put away), and she handles her second chance with maturity while doing everything to achieve her purpose. Her lone scenes of contemplation are full of heart and honesty. She cares for her teammates, but has no delusions about everyone making it through this, and she only doubts herself when any of us would.

Just look at the list of baddies she K-Os: Olga the bounty hunter; Dr. Quaid, a mad scientist; Madame, the psychotic warden of the Bastille who has all kinds of sick mind powers; Johnny Greenteeth, the borderline invincible boogeyman of Paris; and best of all, Kid Xmas, a roided-up reality TV star who fights challengers to the death on live television (and oh is it sweet when Nilin scrambles his brain in front of his entire audience, then crushes the camera with the sole of her boot). Perhaps none are as rough (and meaningful), however, as the emotional confrontations with her parents, from which she also emerges stronger and more grown up than ever.

Nilin and her game helped normalize woman protagonists in current-gen games, paved the way for gameplay mechanics that are now changing gaming for the way, way better, and she did it without stereotypes or exploitation.

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