It may not be an entirely reliable source, but Urban Dictionary got it pretty spot on when it defined fan service as “scenes designed to excite … the viewer”. In a broader sense, this can also include any aspect of a game designed purely to appeal to fans of the series, including easter eggs, inside jokes, or subtle nods to the fandom.
It’s hardly a new trend, but fan service’s classification as such and its use in games is definitely a modern-day occurrence. For centuries, plays, films, television shows, and novels have included subtle metatextual references, breaks in the fourth wall and winks to the audience; and sports games have frequently involved the participation of cheerleaders to keep their audiences satisfied during slower moments. But while all of these trends constitute as fan service, the term is most often applied to Japanese exports like video games, anime, or manga.
In this list, we’ll be having a look at twenty characters throughout gaming history that constitute as the worst (or best, depending on how you look at it) of fan service. All of these characters were created with the intention of exciting the player, and most of them have no personality or significant character traits that don’t revolve around their physicality. Without any further ado, let’s move onto the fun!
20. Bayonetta (Bayonetta)
I’ll admit to never actually having played Bayonetta, even though by all accounts it’s meant to be a brilliant game. A hack and slash, Bayonetta follows the titular character who is a witch capable of shapeshifting and using various spells and guns to defeat her enemies. That said, it’s a red flag that she uses her super long hair to summon demons to do her bidding,
If I’m being honest, I think the lead character’s outfit design is the main reason I’ve never given the game a chance. Bayonetta dresses like a hot librarian meets deviant, with a pair of glasses topping off her black skin-tight latex catsuit. Worse of all is her physique, which is frankly ridiculous and which would make shooting any gun a nightmare. How does she even sleep with those things?
19. Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)
Lara Croft is an iconic and brilliant character, but let’s keep it 100% real: the girl is the definition of fan service. Croft has one of the tiniest outfits in gaming history, which generally involves a blue tank top and short shorts. Especially in the earlier games her design was hilariously over the top. She even has a sexy English accent to boot.
That said, we have to give kudos to Square Enix for trying to make Lara a little more serious in her 2013 reboot. 2013’s Lara is a little less revealing, and a little more troubled traveler, and she even managed to find some real pants to wear. Yay for liberation!
18. Alexander The Great (Eiyuu*Senki)
Eiyuu*Senki has to be one of the most ridiculous series ever created. It follows a mysterious, singular male protagonist as works with the greatest heroes from throughout history to defeat a group of vengeful gods: except all of the heroes have been changed into females. Yes: Nostradamus, Geronimo, and Napoleon now wear mini-skirts. Think of it as a mature version of Final Fantasy Dissidia or Super Smash Bros., but with more fan service and less interesting gameplay.
Probably the most fan service-y character in the game is Alexander the Great, who has naturally been genderflipped into a lolita fantasy right out of Harajuku. I’m sure the real Alexander would be rolling in his grave.
17. Lin Lee (Xenoblades Chronicle X)
Xenoblades Chronicle X is overall a pretty good game, but there was a few features that raised eyebrows upon the game’s Japanese release. One was a chest slider; a character customisation technique which could be moved up and down to determine the size of your character’s … erm. You get it. Sadly, there was no “slider” for male characters.
One character the slider could be implemented on was Lin Lee, a thirteen-year-old engineer who’s actually pretty awesome. The problem with Lin isn’t her personality, but the outfits that players can and do choose to put her in. Some of them are pretty innocuous, but the barely-there design show off way too much for an adolescent character. Thankfully it was removed in the western release of the game.
16. Kagura (Onechanbara Z2 Chaos)
There comes a point where games become so insane and over the top when it comes to adult themes that it just becomes hilarious. That’s clearly what’s happened with Onechanbara Z2 Chaos, a vampire-themed hack and slash which finds two pairs of sisters teaming up to take down horde after horde of zombies.
Kagura is the most provocative of these sisters, and depending on the player’s choice she can run around in her standard cowboy themed outfit, a costume where she’s simply covered in leaves, or the one above where she balances fruit on her privates as a magic trick.
15. Yumi (Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus)
A selection of gorgeous girls to choose from? Check. Gratuitous scenes of them bathing? Check. A plot? Let’s not bother. Senran Kagura follows in the trend of Japanese fighting games that have resorted to shameless fan service, following a large group of girls who attend an all-female shinobi school. Yumi is one of over twenty-five of these students, and judging by how lax she is about her outfit falling apart it doesn’t seem they have a strict dress code.
Thankfully, the game lets us know that Yumi’s dimensions. It is also revealed that the only reason she wears her kimono so strangely is because she is too large to wear it normally, and she wishes she had a smaller physique. Aw.
14. Ayane (Dead Or Alive)
It may not have started that way, but Dead or Alive has over the years morphed into a game which essentially defines the term “fan service.” Starting out as a classic arcade fighting game, the series has since morphed into a shameless excuse for hot characters in revealing outfits. And any respect the series might have once had originally went out the window with Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball, which is exactly what the name implies.
As the series’ mascot, Ayane is the main character to be accused of fan service. Avenging the perishing of her ninja clan, Ayane leaves people twice her age in the dirt. Let’s just ignore the fact she’s only sixteen.
13. Toki/Towa (Time And Eternity)
If you’ve ever wanted a girl who can manipulate time, Time and Eternity may be the game for you. The game follows Toki, an innocent princess who is forced to go back in time on her wedding day to prevent her groom from a dreadful fate. In doing so, she reveals her alter ego Towa, the tough-as-nails version of herself with even less clothing.
The game’s plot is classic Japan, as are the character designs in the game. Toki and Towa both wear lacey wedding dress-esque outfits with thigh-high slits, but like all of the female characters in the game they regularly swap out of these for convenient hot spring visits or changing scenes. Does it make it okay if they’re married?
12. Raul (Conception 2)
I’m still a little unsure as to whether Conception 2 is the worst fan service game of all time or the best troll in history. This absolutely shameless game follows a male protagonist building relationships with powerful female schoolgirls called “disciples,” participating in some weird activities called “classmating,” and then watching as their partners create “star children.” The partners and star children will then follow the main character around to battle with them in labyrinths around the world.
Conception 2 really takes fan service to all new levels, consistently finding new and creative ways to get themselves in sticky situations. One of the worst situations has to be with Feene, who decides that she wishes to model for someone in art class — do it for art!
11. Yuffie (Final Fantasy VII)
Yuffie is a character from Final Fantasy VII whose whole existence seems to be to appease old Japanese men with a penchant for young girls. Her personality is 100% Manic Pixie Dream Girl as she bounces around making silly jokes and using her thieving for slapstick effect, and she can even be dated in the game as a love interest for Cloud. Plus, she wears short shorts and a tiny tank top that are barely going to protect her from any attacks in a battle.
Despite all this, Yuffie is actually still a pretty likable character, who brings some comic relief to a somewhat serious game. It’s a shame her character is so weirdly portrayed, because if it wasn’t for that she’d definitely be a favourite.
10. Sophitia (Soulcalibur)
Sophitia is one of Soulcalibur’s fan favourite characters, and that fact alone suggests that their fanbase is most likely made up of teenage boys who get their kicks from fighting games. Sophitia’s outfit has changed over the course of the series to become more and more revealing, but it essentially consists of a loose Grecian robe, with gladiator sandals and a miniskirt.
If you needed any more proof that Sophitia is nothing more than fan service, consider the fact that in the original Soulcalibur game, Soul Edge, her body is basically a prize for completing the game. When you find her eighth weapon in Edge Master Mode, you can play as Sophitia without her armour; and when you find everyone’s eighth weapons, you can play as her in a swimsuit. What more incentive do you need to play to the end?
9. Every Frigging Character (Gal*Gun: Double Peace)
Just when we thought these games couldn’t get worse, they come up with more and more ridiculous ideas for plots. Gal*Gun: Double Peace follows Houdai, an unpopular school student who’s hit with a malfunctioning cupid’s arrow that makes not one girl, but hundreds of girls fall in love with him. Houdai must spend the rest of the game shooting at these girls with a shot that will prevent these girls from confessing their love to him or tieing him up while he searches for his one true love.
Naturally, every girl in this game runs at you dressed in their school uniform, and each one can be flirted with to see if they’re your soulmate. Because of this, it’s too hard to pick just one character from this series: they’re all equally dreadful.
8. Shion (Akiba’s Trip)
Akiba’s Trip – naturally pronounced as Akiba Strip – is another absolutely ridiculous fan service gesture that barely constitutes for any kind of game. The game follows the protagonist running around the real life district of Akihabara and taking down “Synthisters,” weird vampire/zombie hybrids that are taking over the town. In order to defeat the enemies, the main character must expose their skin to sunlight, which means – you guessed it – running in and helping them see as much sun as possible.
7. Kira (Arcana Heart)
Where do we even start with Arcana Heart? The game has to be one of the worst excuses for fan service in history. With a cast of female-only fighters, the game follows “extraordinary rare maiden” Heart Aino as she investigates a strange occurrence happening in the Tokyo skies, where it seems as if someone is trying to break through from the heavens.
Sounding okay so far? Wait until you figure out that every single character in the game is an underage lolita fantasy, panting their way through every fight in the tiniest outfits possible. Kira has to be the worst, as she looks around thirteen.
6. Rikku (Final Fantasy X)
Rikku’s first appearance in Final Fantasy X is a memorable one. She begins the game diving for treasure in a skin-tight wetsuit which masks her assets, and her age, pretty well; but it doesn’t take long for her to slip into something more comfortable. There’s an entire CGI scene of her getting into her iconic outfit.
However, by far the most “fan service” moment has to come in the sequel, FFX-2. By this time, Rikku has aged two years and she’s showing that off through her outfit, which consists of a bikini top and short shorts.
5. Katsuragi (Senran Kagura: Estival Versus)
Estival Versus is another game in the infamous Senran Kagura series that follows four Japanese female shinobi from different clans who struggle to deal with the deaths of their sisters. It all sounds pretty serious, until they’re transported to a beach paradise and forced to fight to the death (and to the naked) in order to give their sisters a proper burial. As the girls fight, their clothes inevitably get damaged and fall off, and the less they wear the more damage they take. Ouch.
Katsuragi is the most bare-chested member of the gang, affectionately referred to as “Mama Jugs” by fans. This nickname was earned not only due to her own bountiful assets, but also her tendency to randomly grab other characters breasts at strange moments throughout the game. The nipple is officially free.
4. Lili (Tekken)
In yet another game to add to the list of fighting games with provocative female ninjas, let’s take a look at Tekken. One of the most successful fighting games of all time, the game documents the events of the King of Iron First Tournament, whose prize is control of the Mishima Zaibatsu corporation.
Since the fifth game in the series, Emilie De Rochefort, or Lili as she’s nicknamed, has been aiming for that title. A posh and stuck-up aristocrat, Lili has a caring heart and obsessively aims for poise and grace in her fighting. This doesn’t stop the creepy developers from taking advantage of the fact she kicks high. The fact she’s basically just wearing a French maid outfit makes things even worse.
3. Purple Heart (Megadimension Neptunia VII)
Megadimension Neptunia VII is clearly a game meant for hardcore gamers only. In traditional Japanese style, the game takes banal everyday objects – in this case, game consoles – and gives them personalities, physicalities, and entire character arcs by turning them into attractive girls that all call each other “goddesses” while they look after their hygiene. Right.
Purple Heart is the ‘CPU’ of Planeptune, and personifies the unreleased gaming console the Sega Neptune. Her hobbies include wearing outfits made out of nothing but bandages, transforming into a fighter jet, quoting the Konami code for hours on end, and eating cookies, for which she’s called “pudgy” by the other characters. If this is what pudgy looks like in Japan, I must be at beached whale levels of weight gain.
2. Shurelia (Ar tonelico)
Ar tonelico has to be one of the cringiest games in existence, thanks to the fact that its entire gameplay mechanic follows a group of female characters stripping down to their underwear and dancing. The game follows the story of the ‘Reyvateils’, an artificially created race which can only be women because the Y chromosome suppresses their powers. Reyvateils are designed to utilize “song magic,” which can only be absorbed when their skin is on display and they’re jiving around. What?
1. Rise Kujikawa (Persona 4)
Persona 4 has to be one of the best RPG games for the PS2, nailing the fusion of everyday life simulator and classic combat-based fantasy. Which is why it was all the more disappointing when the game was re-released as Persona 4 Golden, along with a lot of new questionable material that can only be described as fan service.
One addition was a selection of revealing outfits that placed the female characters in rather compromising battle positions. Rise is a character affected by both of these new changes, and she’s already quite liberated to begin with. A former idol, Rise is trying to leave her life of bikini modelling behind her when she moves to Inaba; but with the new changes, she doesn’t manage it very well.