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Women and gaming: the best PC games by female games designers

Best PC games by female games designers
(Image credit: 3-Fold Games)

In our guide to the best PC games by female creators, we’ve set out to prove that although the video games industry remains frustratingly male-dominated, there are women working at every level within the industry who are responsible for creating some of the most enterprising, and literally game-changing, titles money can buy. 

These women have been winning awards, and championing diversity in game design, production, art and music for decades.

This list, just in time for PC Gaming Week 2020, is comprised of PC games made by some of these women and serves as evidence that not only are women very much a part of the industry, they have contributed to making games that have sent shockwaves through the community – for all the right reasons.

Before I Forget

(Image credit: 3-Fold Games)

1. Before I Forget

A provocative offering from 3-Fold Games, Before I Forget is a touching point-and-click game about love, life and loss, but from the perspective of a dementia sufferer.

The player must reclaim old memories through uncovering present memories. This short, but impactful, game can be played in one sitting -  and, in fact, you are advised to do so.

Be warned, though; this game tugs at the heart strings and forces the player to ponder their mortality and health. Sorry, who was crying? Me? Never! You’re thinking of the wrong person.

Despite the whole game being an hour in total, Before I Forget leaves a lasting impact well after completion.

Even the Ocean

(Image credit: Analgesic Productions)

2. Even the Ocean (2016)

Even the Ocean is an indie 2D narrative-driven action platformer designed by Marina Kittaka. It is a socially-conscious game that follows a power plant worker on her journey to cleanse the dark energy from her city.

Even the Ocean unusually allows the player to customize their game by choosing between different gameplay styles: “Full Game”, “Story” and “Gauntlet”. Gauntlet removes the story from the game, while Story removes the gameplay. Meanwhile, the Full Game includes little bits of visual novel and 16-bit RPG.

The dialogue is good, and the gameplay is very good, fluid and clever, if a little slow to ramp up in difficulty. It’s a great choice for the indie game lover and for a little nostalgia.

  • Available to purchase on Steam

Bioshock

(Image credit: 2K)

3. Bioshock (2007) and Bioshock 2 (2010)

Bioshock and Bioshock 2 are first-person horror shooters developed by 2K Marin and published by 2K Games.

Bioshock and Bioshock 2 are certainly up there with our favourite games of all time. From its twisting storylines to its survival horror gameplay, and an expertly-achieved immersive world, there are barely any criticisms we could pin against it.

Alyssa Finley, was project lead and Executive produced both titles and the remasters. She is also credited with producing several Telltale games and other titles.

  • Available to purchase on Steam

Left 4 Dead 2

(Image credit: Valve)

4. Left 4 Dead (2008) & Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)

Valve, Kim Swift

Left 4 Dead and its sequel are multiplayer survival horror games designed by video game designer Kim Swift.

Swift was a lead developer on the titles, which are well-respected, owing to being some of the first big co-op and asymmetrical mode (versus) games on PC, and are likely the inspiration for titles like Dead By Daylight.

The Left 4 Dead games are great for those who enjoy four-person co-op, horror or zombies – or, indeed, all four at once. The sequel in particular is still played today, eleven years from its release.

  • Available to purchase on Steam

Portal

(Image credit: Valve)

5. Portal (2007)

Portal is a 3D puzzle-platform game developed and published by Valve. It began life as Narbacular Drop, a short game developed by Kim Swift and her fellow DigiPen Institute of Technology graduates that caught the interest of Valve, who hired the team.

Portal is a fun puzzle game, with a lot of charm and humour to keep your puzzle-solving mind entertained.

  • Available to purchase on Steam

SMITE

(Image credit: Hi-Rez Studios)

6. SMITE (2014)

Smite is a Free to Play, Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) produced by Hi-Rez Studios. However, unlike most MOBAs, Smite is played from a third-person perspective.

Players have to navigate the battleground as different gods, goddesses and mythological creatures while fighting enemy-controlled gods and minions on the map.

Smite is a fun game and great if you’re into team-based combat and intense and strategic gameplay.

Joelle Silverio is a game developer and designer who has worked on multiple Hi-Rez Studios games including EVE Online, and Tribes: Ascend and Killing Floor 2 for Tripwire Interactive.

  • Free from Steam or SMITE website and available on all platforms

Gray Matter

(Image credit: Viva Media Inc)

7. Gray Matter

Gray Matter is a point-and-click adventure game written and designed by author and games designer Jane Jenson. Jenson has designed several games, including Sierra On-Line’s hit adventure game Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers. She also co-designed King’s Quest VI with fellow legendary female games designer, Roberta Williams.

Gray Matter, despite its wonky cut scenes and character motion, is a worthwhile purchase for the puzzle and adventure game enthusiast, deep and well-written. Its depiction of England is not too bad, particularly the locations.

MySims

(Image credit: Electronic Arts/EA Mobile)

8. MySims (Windows release 2008)

MySims might seem like an odd choice to add to the list, but we challenge you to give us a good reason why not!

MySims, is a light-hearted, uplifting spin-off to Maxis’ legendary Sims franchise for the Wii and Nintendo DS. Also available on PC, it’s a great game to play if you’re not looking for anything too intense.

Robin Hunicke, Lead Designer on MySims is also one of the brains behind Bafta award-winning game Journey.

While hard-core Sims fans may look down on MySims, we think that its simple, yet fun, design makes it a worthy entrant on this list.

Journey

(Image credit: Annapurna Interactive)

9. Journey

We’re sure this game requires no introduction, as when it launched, it saw worldwide commercial and critical success, won several game of the year awards and is now considered one of the greatest video games of all time.

Originally released as a PlayStation 4 title, Journey was finally ported to Windows 10 in June 2019. It was produced by Robin Hunicke and co-developed by Thatgamecompany (which was co-founded by video game designer and former studio president Kellee Santiago).

Journey is a rich, immersive game with endless opportunities. The player can encounter other players over the internet- but only one at a time. Both players can either choose to interact and assist each other or continue as strangers.

  • Available to purchase now on Steam

Earthlight Spacewalk

(Image credit: Viveport)

10. Earthlight Spacewalk

Earthlight Spacewalk is a virtual reality game that deserves a mention. Winner of multiple games awards including Australia’s Game of the Year 2017, Opaque Space collaborated with NASA to create a jaw-dropping realistic recreation of a spacewalk.

Jennifer Scheurle was Game Design Lead and Danielle Hindi was producer.

Available through Viveport’s Netflix-like subscription service, Infinity, it requires Windows 64-bit 7, 8.1 or 10 operating systems in order to bring your galactic dreams to life.

It is compatible with most VR headsets, including the Oculus Rift.

Although arguably a bit too short, Earthlight Spacewalk is an experience that every space enthusiast must try.

TechRadar’s PC Gaming Week 2020 is celebrating the most powerful gaming platform on Earth with articles, interviews and essential buying guides that showcase how diverse, imaginative, and remarkable PC games – and gamers – can be. Visit our PC Gaming Week 2020 page to see all our coverage in one place.