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Damsel in Distress: Part 1 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games

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Uploaded: 07 Mar 13
Duration: 00:23:35

This video explores how the Damsel in Distress became one of the most widely used gendered clichés in the history of gaming and why the trope has been core to the popularization and development of the medium itself.

As a trope the Damsel in Distress is a plot device in which a female character is placed in a perilous situation from which she cannot escape on her own and must then be rescued by a male character, usually providing a core incentive or motivation for the protagonist's quest.

Watch Damsel in Distress Part 2:
Watch Damsel in Distress Part 3:

Links and full transcript available at:


Those with spoilers are marked with an asterisk (*)

Dinosaur Planet (circa 2000)
Star Fox Adventures (2002)
Donkey Kong (1981)
Sheriff (1979)
Yume Kojo: Doki Doki Panic (1987)
Super Mario Bros. 2 (1988)
New Super Mario Bros. U (2012)
My Hero (1986)
Kung-Fu Master (1984)
Haunted Castle (1998)
Adventures of Lolo (1989)
The Adventures of Bayou Billy (1989)
Joe & Mac (1991)
Super Ghouls'n Ghosts (1991)
Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010)
Mario Sports Mix (2011)
Wizards & Warriors (1987)
Violent storm (1993)
Spinmaster (1993)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)
* Splatterhouse (1988)
Phelios (1988)
Arabian Fight (1992)
Rise of the Dragon (1990)
Super Adventure Island (1992)
Toki (1989)
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos (1990)
Final Fight (1989)
Time Crisis II (1998)
Final Fantasy (1987)
Altered Beast (1998)
Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness (1999)
Crash Bandicoot (1996)
Kid Icarus (1986)
The Legend of Zelda (1986)
Zelda II: The Adventures of Link (1987)
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons (2001)
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (2001)
* The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker (2003)
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures (2004)
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap (2005)
* The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass (2007)
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks (2009)
* The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (2011)
Vigilante (1998)
Prince of Persia (1992)
GoldenEye 007 (1997)
Metal Gear Solid (1998)
Star Fox Adventures (2002)
Metal Gear (1990)
New Super Mario Bros Wii (2009)
Sonic CD (1993)
Karateka (1984)
Karateka (2012)
Prince of Persia (1989)
Prince of Persia Classic (2007)
Dragon's Lair (1983)
Donkey Kong (1994)
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (2010)
Double Dragon (1987)
Double Dragon Neon (2012)

Many more examples of the Damsel in Distress on our Tumblr:

The multimedia clips included in this video constitute a 'fair use' of any copyrighted material as provided for in Section 107 of U.S. Copyright law which allows for criticism, comment and scholarship.

The Tropes vs Women in Video Games project aims to examine the plot devices and patterns most often associated with female characters in gaming from a systemic, big picture perspective. This series will include critical analysis of many beloved games and characters, but remember that it is both possible (and even necessary) to simultaneously enjoy media while also being critical of it's more problematic or pernicious aspects.

This video series is created by Anita Sarkeesian and the project was funded by 6968 awesome backers on

COMMENTS: Sadly, we have been forced to close comments on YouTube due to continued harassment of this channel but please feel free to post and share this video with your own social media networks to facilitate discussions.

Director: Anita Sarkeesian
Producer: Jonathan McIntosh
Writers: Anita Sarkeesian & Jonathan McIntosh
Motion Graphics: Black Math
Intro Music: Matt Joynt & Nathan Sandberg
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