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The rise of the female hero at E3 2015

Though this year's E3 saw plenty of muscle-bound masculine heroes, more playable female characters had their time on stage, too.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

At E3 2015, not only was there a significant increase in the number of women presenting games at the expo's big press conferences, but the games themselves saw more playable female characters come to the fore. Here's a look at the biggest games with the biggest female names attached to them.

A note on how we decided which games to include: We picked only games whose playable female protagonists are unique characters unto themselves. This means that games where you have the option to play as a male or female version of the same character, such as Mass Effect: Andromeda, Fallout 4, and Call of Duty: Black Ops III, aren't included. However, games where a choice between a male and female player exists with those two protagonists being unique and separate characters, are included.

Faith in Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Though DICE is being quite heavy-handed in its positioning of Faith as "a catalyst for change" (geddit?), it's interesting that the developer has made the character powerful and self-sufficient without allowing her to even pick up guns this time around. In Mirror's Edge Catalyst, Faith fights on her own terms.

Emily Kaldwin in Dishonored 2

Daughter of Dishonored protagonist Corvo Attano and Empress of the Isles, Emily Kaldwin is a playable character is Dishonored 2 alongside her father. Not only will choosing to play her role offer unique perspectives on each mission, but she has an entirely new set of otherworldly powers that are separate from Corvo's.

Aloy in Horizon: Zero Dawn

There is little else that's more badass than fighting robotic dinosaurs with a bow and arrow, but that's daily life for Aloy in Horizon: Zero Dawn. We see her training, crafting and ultimately hunting her mechanical prey with agility, guile, and a variety of different arrow types. Her dialogue suggests she belongs to the game's oldest, more advanced tribe.

Lara Croft in Rise of the Tomb Raider

Lara Croft established herself as a strong-willed survivor in 2013's Tomb Raider reboot. With that origin story complete, we're now going to see her transformation into her eponymous role in Rise of the Tomb Raider. While a survivor is always on the back foot, this time around Lara seems more of the active adventurer: smarter and more experienced.

Jewel in ReCore

A new IP from the creators of Mega Man and Metroid Prime, ReCore follows a character named Jewel and her robotic dog companion, who is trying to help her bring humanity back to the game's planet. Jewel must explore the planet's sand-swept surface and dark underground vaults while retrieving robotic cores to activate new companions.

Evie Frye in Assassin's Creed Syndicate

Evie Frye was announced as a playable protagonist when Assassin's Creed: Syndicate was revealed, but it wasn't until E3 2015 that we actually saw her in action. In contrast to her brawler brother, Jacob, Evie offers more stealth-focused gameplay, and her missions take a more investigative tone than the street-level fist-fights we saw previously.

Senua in Hellblade

Developer Ninja Theory is exploring mental health and psychosis through Senua, the main character of the studio's new game, Hellblade. You'll explore the depths of Senua's mind as the symptoms of our own mental issues are represented in the world itself, or heard through voices in her head. Those representations will become more literal as the game progresses.