CARLA, Monkey Island 1.
I have been looking at lists of “female videogames characters” etc. and I was reminded of Carla, who was only an NPC, but was decidedly badass. I think all the women in the Monkey Island games - at least the original two - are admirably competent and independent. Of course, with Guybrush Threepwood for a protagonist, it’s not difficult to appear competent.
At the start of the game, Guybrush is given three tasks to complete so he can become a pirate. One is to defeat the Swordmaster, who lives in a secret place on the island. Turns out, the Swordmaster is a woman, Carla. Later, you recruit her to join your crew because Guybrush decides to rescue Elaine, the island’s governor who’s been kidnapped. And the twist at the very end is that Elaine never actually required Guybrush’s help. She has her own escape plan that worked very well until Guybrush butted in and ruined it with his well-meant heroics.
Ahhhhhh, those were the days.