Armor Watch

We have written about women’s armor in video games several times. Too often we see characters in plate mail bikinis and high heels. But a Tumblr titled Women Fighters in Reasonable Armor has me looking for some positive examples of women’s armor in video games.

I can point at :

Jeanne D'Arc: wearing metal armor that fully protects her chest and arms.

Emma Honeywell (from The Last Remnant): wearing armor with metal plating on her arms, chest, and legs.


Samus from the Metroid series: wearing full body armor with no visible vulnerable points.

What are some other games that show women in appropriate armor? How many positive examples can we find? Let’s find some great examples to counteract the plate mail bikinis so often seen in this media.


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41 Responses to Armor Watch

  1. Andrew says:

    How about the Knights of the Old Republic series? Or Mass Effect? Bioware has a pretty good track record with offering equal coverage to its male and female protagonists.

    I’m not sure how Dragon Age stacks up, since I haven’t played it, but Adrian Shepherd is definitely cased in several inches of nanotube polymers.

    • Deviija says:

      Mass Effect’s protagonist (Shepard) has great coverage whether male or female, yes.

      The NPCs in ME2, however? Horrific. Nearly every single woman was running into battle in skintight full-body latext-like boobsuits, or have plunging necklines down to their belly (like Samara), or had what the community terms ‘nipple harness’ for what Jack wears. I found it way exploitative and sexualized for the women in general in that game, especially since you couldn’t change their attire/armor like in ME1.

      The most ‘revealing’ for men is Thane’s hint of showing his chest in his leather coat-wearing and nearly full-bodied outfit. Or Jacob’s form-fitting outfit… but it’s nowhere boob and butt and crotch clinging as Miranda’s attire.

      So — protag armor? Great. NPC armor? Fail.

      • L.R. Weizel says:

        I think with Jack it was probably a case of showing off her Tattoos than her figure, and give her the impression of being more “feral”, with a shaved head she’s not conforming to the current standard of beauty, anyway. I don’t like the idea that you CAN’T show skin on a woman – a body is a body – but I agree they should even it out with the guys, get them to take their kit off now and again too!

  2. chalcopyrite says:

    An older game, but: Chris Lightfellow from Suikoden III. She’s captain of the Zexen Knights, and she’s dressed like a knight, not a pin-up.

  3. Sannom says:

    Does Neverwinter Nights 2 count? If memory serves, it’s merely the same model for men and women, with the notable exception of the original armor for the Warlock in the original campaign, which became less egregious in Mask of the Betrayer.

    If you disregard the heels yeah (yeah, that’s kind of missing the point, I know), some of the women in Dungeon Siege 3 are nice : Jeyne Kassynder and Anjali, especially. Of course, they are in the game along with Katarina, Rajani and Saraya, and most of the Archons fight ‘naked’, so I’m not sure that game would gain awards on that point.

  4. gunthera1 says:

    I have not played the Knights of the Old Republic game (something I need to remedy soon) but I am glad to hear that armor is handled well there.

    How did I not think of Mass Effect right away? They did a wonderful job with armor definitely!!

    Dragon Age armor has its ups and downs. If I remember correctly my rogue had a midriff shirt at one point and Morrigan (though a magic user) had a strip of cloth for a top.

    • Sannom says:

      Most of the RPGs I have played generally avoid the ‘armored bikini’ thing when it comes to heavy armor, and KOTOR’s lightest armors are made of hard and rigid material. Of course, KOTOR 2 had the ‘slave Leia’ outfit, but that thing was fan-service and silliness from the start and was not meant as armor.

      Dragon Age is not good for leather armor, and Morrigan’s robe is indeed ridiculous. Did she once justify it by saying that she lived in a forest, or did I misunderstand that line?

  5. Lucas says:

    There seem to be 3 varieties of breast shape on armor (once we manage to actually get something over the chest):

    Single breast shape:
    Double breast shape:

    I’m wondering what sort of historical precedence there is for any of them. How much of it is sexualized by & for our culture? And since history and practicality aren’t always in tune, is there any practical value for the wearer? I’m a person who has never had breasts, so I lack any experience there. I imagine supportive underclothing does everything that’s needed.

    The explanation I’m leaning toward is that in many cases (don’t want to assume all, but probably in Western cultures), women wore armor designed to be unisex or designed for men, and women’s armor in fantasy art (or scifi, like FemShep’s armored breasts) is sexualized. For instance, the Jeanne d’Arc cover posted above: the whole point of her subversive legend was that she wore men’s armor, but that art has steel cones welded to her breastplate.

    • Maverynthia says:

      Well this page and image:

      Shows that women wear the exact same thing as the men AND IT FITS. So yeah, boob armor is just a sexualization of the women for no purpose what so ever other than wank material. The only time I can see book armor is if someone was doing an alternate Rome, where some of the more ornate armor actually had sculpted man boobs on them.

      • Jawnita says:

        Yeah, actual armor is not very tight-fitting (remember that you’d be wearing at least a thick wool padding layer underneath), so it’s not like it really echos the body shape underneath. There are plenty of examples of genuine historical armor that are shaped like muscles, or have exaggerated crotch bulge or whatnot, but this is pure ornamentation which followed the contemporary clothing styles, not any sort of concession to wearability or fit. I could imagine a particularly busty lady wanting a bit more space in the torso, but there’d be no need for anything detailed.

        As for “I imagine supportive underclothing does everything that’s needed”: shaped support undergarments did not really exist in Medieval or Renaissance Europe (which I’m focusing on because that’s the inspiration for 95% of the Fantasy stuff we’re talking about here). In Medieval times, you’d go without, or wear a wide belt (or a tight vest, later on) if you were particularly busty; during the Renaissance, there were certainly corsets (for the well-off), but they were much more cylindrical or conical than fantasy illustrators seem to think. Neither created today’s spherical boobs, and especially not that “double breast shape.”

        • miaou says:

          Other than the aforementioned padding that would hide and compress body shape, the thing about the double-breast-shaped sexy armour is that the boob-shapes are channelling pointy things right into the middle of one’s chest, while most of the value of platemail came from deflecting blows away from the vital organs. She may be ‘covered’, but it’s definitely not practical battle-wear. Boob-plate is purely cheesecake.

          • Sas says:

            Yeah, boob-armor is stupid and useless … But I’ll take that over another SoulCalibur’s Ivy any day. ;3

      • Lucas says:

        Good point with that link.

        The only time I know of boob armor being justified was in Eddings’s The Belgariad, where Ce’Nedra has a suit of entirely nonfunctional golden armor with breasts made so she can be a symbol to the army she’s building.

        Thanks for the clarification on underclothing. It’s clear now how much of the boob armor is sexualized (all of it). No practical reason for it at all.

  6. UbiquitousGrue says:

    Halo:Reach? :P (…snark aside, that game hit me right in the childhood yearning. I got a bit misty. It was all a little pathetic.)
    Mount and Blade had proper armor on ladies (they might actually have just been identical to the dudes’), but I suppose a vague overture towards authenticity was its selling point. (I did enjoy playing as a lady, though I prefer games with so-called “unrealistic” egalitarianism than those that let you play as a woman in a sexist setting).

  7. Blake says:

    The Suikoden series (of console JRPGs) deserves special mention, I think. With VERY few exceptions almost every female character across the whole series is reasonably dressed (even the mages!) which is saying something because there are 108 PCs per game. Chris Lightfellow (a warrior and one of the 3 stars/protagonists of the third game) even avoids the “boob armor” problem that often plagues even well-covered female fighters like Jeanne and Emma above.

    For reference:

  8. spunos says:

    I like that Tumblr. Nice to see some good artwork that avoids the tired clichés.

    One good example I could think of is Agrias Oaks, from the game Final Fantasy Tactics ( She’s a holy knight, works as a bodyguard, is fully armored, and doesn’t let anything get between her and her job. She’s pretty awesome.

    It’s a real shame she didn’t have a bigger role to play in the story. Her character is definitely a fan-favorite, both here and in the west.

  9. The originally Final Fantasy Tactics was a game that was blissfully egalitarian instead of separating job classes by sex. Whether white mages or knights, the male and female options were equally powerful and actually looked like the same class instead of the women looking absurdly sexualized compared to the “normal” men.

    • Maverynthia says:

      Except for the whole, skirt/dress thing most of the women are wearing. Which is a different problem on the battle field. Especially the Dragoon. You can’t move in something that tight?!

    • Sunflower says:

      I liked that game! The women’s costumes don’t look as sexualized as other games to me, but there’s still a difference in the skirts and the dancer/bard costumes especially. Of course I’m conflicted because short skirts aren’t necessarily sexual items in and of themselves. I mean what I’m saying (badly) is that wearing a short skirt doesn’t necessarily mean the wearer wants to cater to men sexually. But in so many cases it’s paired with certain poses and the lack of coverage is unequal so.. it’s depressing either way.

    • Ophelia says:

      Agrias is a really awesome character, in general.

      FFT is probably my favorite non-PC game. I kind of miss it…

  10. Sunflower says:

    I thought DDO had decent female armor back when I played a few years ago. I don’t recall everything perfectly but I thought my female character’s armor generally looked like it covered everything and could be usable as well as looking cool in a fantasy setting.

    • TheLaquidara says:

      As someone that has recently been trying to get into DDO, I can say that armor over there is pretty good. In fact the armor tends to stay in full parity with both body types. Unfortunately it’s not 100%. There are some armor types that are skin revealing, even to the point of bikini armor.

      Another game that does pretty well with armor is EverQuest II. Armor also tends to stay in parity. Again, not 100%, but heavy skin revealing armor is actually somewhat hard to find there.

      There’s also Age of Conan, which is literal with its armor parity. If it shows nipples on women, it’s going to show nipples on men as well. Much of the leather armor over there looks like S&M wear. Of course AoC has its own set of problems with gender both inside and outside of armor.

  11. melponeme_k says:

    Warhammer Online, with the exception of the Witch Elves/Sorceresses/Zealots, have full body armor for their female characters. It was one of the elements that impressed me about the game.

  12. Kaonashi says:

    One of my absolute favorite fantasy warrior designs is Titania:

    I’m no big Gears of War fan, but in the latest game Anya wears the same armor as the men:×0.jpg

    The Big Sister in Bioshock 2 isn’t as covered as the Big Daddies, but it’s for agility and no sexiness: I like this because it’s kind of monstrous in a way that female characters rarely are without being stereotypes.

    Then of course there’s Femshep in Mass Effect. Say what you want about the latest beaty contest, but you won’t see her in slimpy armor.

    Finally, there’s Soul Calibur’s Hilde. SC is laughably bad when it comes to female armor, except for Hilde, who is really decked out:

  13. Trodamus says:

    Unmodded Oblivion + Shivering Isles is pretty decent, but oh man is that a double-edged blade once you start talking about mods. Same for Fallout 3 and New Vegas.

    Fable 2 + 3 also have outfits and “armor” that is both appropriate as well as wearable by both sexes regardless.

    Dragon Knight Saga seems okay so far but I’m not past the first village.

  14. Overmind says:

    The games I’ve mentioned in “O Commander, my Commander…” comment section have well done armour for female characters: Fallout 1,2 & 3, Fallout Tactics and Fallout New Vegas, Baldur’s Gate 2 (and Throne of Bhaal), Kotor 1 & 2. I think that Morrowid too, but it’s been a while since I played this game.

    • Elena says:

      Morrowind did it very well indeed. Armour looked pretty much the same on males and females, save for a little body morphing for shape, and both males and females could and did wear trousers and skirts. Morrowind got it spectacularly right; after that, Oblivion was a big, disappointing step backwards.

  15. chrisy05 says:

    From Dawn of war 2: Retribution, I bring Inquisitor Adrastia:

    and Autrach Kaleth:

    I am of the opinion that breast shaped armor looks silly, but at least in the case with these characters, their breasts are much more realistically proportioned for women that frequently due battle.

  16. Marco says:

    Noora and the Time Studio came out in Japan recently, and I really liked the designs (especially compared to Gust’s recent Atelier games which it’s kind of a parallel/mirror to).

    Although there’s technically only two knight/warrior types, one is a guy and the other a gal, and she has about as much armor as he does (neither has much in particular though). The female characters do generally have a dress/skirt look going on though. But I thought the designs were pretty fair. (Just a shame that none of the female characters seem to only wear pants, or at least, none on the official site.)

    Sadly, Opoona is about the only game in my library where a female character is a fighter and is dressed well (and happens to be one of the most known and formidable fighters at that).

    On a semi-related note, I remember that Fumito Ueda saying they couldn’t make the protag in the last Guardian a girl because of the skirt issue (and being so active, etc). And yet, we have Beyond the Labyrinth being developed by tri-Ace in which the only character we have is a female (with a cute and fairly practical design). She’s wearing a dress, but guess what, they gave her shorts to prevent the pantyshot issue! How ingenius, right? Ueda makes me very sad to this day with his excuse. (Speaking of tri-Ace, I wanted to mention Resonance of Fate, but I don’t know if it counts much.)

  17. Jargo says:

    i worked on the german RPG Drakensang, which has a lot of fighter classes where the female version armor was exactly the same functional armor.

    (only expedition are the questionable amazon classes which where some sort of metal corsage, but the armor value was not really good so you try to dress them in standard plate armor as soon you can afford it)

    p.s.: i know the general female proportions of Drakensang are unprogressive, but this is a another topic.

  18. Twyst says:

    Fallout 3 and New Vegas were good.

  19. Ikkin says:

    I have to give a shout-out to the armor in Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep. Aqua’s armor isn’t perfect (the exaggerated hip guards are kind of weird) and it certainly isn’t realistic, but it covers absolutely everything and it’s unrealistic in some more unlikely ways too (like the ab-detailing that’s more likely to be seen as a feature of male armor).

    What might be even more interesting about her armor, however, is the fact that her closest male equivalent’s armor is easily more fanservicey than hers is — detailed breastplates might not be very practical, but he’s wearing one too, and his armor is the only one with such a prominent posterior. I’d hazard a guess that juxtaposition of that sort is even less common than well-done female armor.

  20. Corbiu Geisha says:

    I would consider Major Dunya from Aliens versus Predator 2: Primal hunt:

    Though she just had to get an unnecessary shower scene.

  21. tossca says:

    I’ve always liked the female armor in Demon’s Souls. Often the armor sets look exactly the same on female characters as they do on males. The plate or heavy armor makes female characters look bigger and tougher just like it should. Even the light armor, while being more skin tight, generally completely covers her from neck to toe.

    A lot of the armor in the game is unisex, but there are some armor sets that are only equippable by female characters and vice versa. I don’t know why the developers decided to do this (maybe for replay value?) but at least the female armor isn’t designed to be revealing.

  22. Jonny says:

    Any thoughts on Monster Hunter?

    Probably the best fantasy armor designs in modern gaming, and although there are examples that might cross over the line (lots of skin, skirts for the girls) Mostly the designs match their male counterparts in looking as though they provide real protection. The skimpy outfits tend to skimp to the same degree on both genders, and in my opinion the designs are very cool as well as flattering.

    At the higher levels the armor becomes so bulky that both genders look like giant sexless robots, which isn’t really my thing, but it’s worth pointing out. I enjoy my character’s feminine qualities, but if a player wanted to kit out her character like a walking tank it is very possible.

    also: no heels :)

  23. Hardcore casual gamer says:

    Hilde in Soul Calibur IV has appropriate armor. She’s probably the only appropriately dressed female in the game.

  24. Clayton Hughes says:

    League of Legends is for the most part full of cheesecake, but there’s a few pretty decent examples:

    Kayle –
    Leona –
    Tristana –
    Poppy –
    and to some extent Lux – (who is actually a mage character, so that’s something).

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