I think it's pretty telling of the gaming industry's standard that I am totally excited that FFXIII has A FEMALE MAIN CHARACTER and OH MY GOD SHE WEARS SHORTS AND NOT A COMPLETELY IMPRACTICAL MINISKIRT.
One game I would really recommend is Beyond Good and Evil
. In the words of wikipedia, "Beyond Good & Evil is an action-adventure video game developed and published by Ubisoft and released in late 2003 for the GameCube, Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 2, and Xbox platforms. The story follows the adventures of Jade, a female investigative reporter and martial artist, who works with a resistance movement to reveal a planet-wide alien conspiracy. Players control Jade and allies, solving puzzles, fighting enemies, and obtaining photographic evidence."
It's so sad that this is even something I actually feel awed by but get this, it's an action-adventure game where the female lead actually wears practical clothes like pants and a jacket.
PANTS. When a battle comes up, the battle cries doesn't sound like they were mixed up with the audio of a porno. The supporting cast treats her like a competent person, often relying on her to fill traditional, male bread-winner roles (make enough money to get electricity going again, for example). In short, she is treated like most male main characters are in similar games, and so far (because I haven't finished the game because I rarely do finish games for some reason) there has been a refreshing lack of sickening grunches. No "you silly girl/you're just a girl" comments, no particular gendering that made me flinch. And on top of that I think the gameplay and the story are good and interesting, the graphics are (considering when it was made) good and stands the test of time fairly well and the battle controls are easy to handle, even for people like me who aren't particularly fond of Real-time battles in games.
I would also recommend the game Psychonauts
for the Xbox and PS2. Once again, in the words of wikipedia, "Psychonauts is based on the exploits of Raz, a young boy gifted with psychic abilities who runs away from the circus to try to sneak into a summer camp for those with similar powers in order to become a "Psychonaut". He finds that there is a sinister plot occurring at the camp that only he can stop from happening. The game is centered on the widely strange and imaginative minds of various characters that Raz enters as a Psychonaut-in-training in order to help them overcome their fears or memories of their past, so as to gain their help and progress in the game. Raz gains use of several psychic abilities during the game that are used for both attacking foes and solving puzzles."
While there is some gender stereotyping that I dislike in the game (female characters as well as male are very stereotypical in their looks and behaviour a lot of the time) it has so far not gotten into the category of wincing or I-have-to-stop-playing-this-or-I-will-puke. So that's always something! I think though that a lot of denizens of this forum might like the game because it's centered on the mind, virtually everything that happens in the game happens within people's minds (some of them sane, most of them don't). It deals a lot with people's traumas, phobias, fears and whatnot and is of course, filled with literal puns. People have emotional baggage, in the actual form of miserable little bags
who are missing their luggage tags. You can collect spiderweb in people's minds to access new areas as well as Figments of Imagination etc. The sheer twistedness of the game is something I greatly enjoy.
Anyway, those were my two cents.