Technically speaking, the first Nintendo game to feature a female protagonist is Clu Clu Land, but she’s only specified as being female in localizations outside Japan.

Released for the Famicom on November 28, 1984, Clu Clu Land can be broadly described as a response to Pac-Man, though a good many gameplay innovations distinguish it from Namco’s iconic dot-muncher. In Clu Clu Land, players control a red, spherical creature around various single-screen levels, but instead of eating dots, they’re amassing what the English localization deems gold bars, and instead of wending their way around corridors, they’re pivoting around poles, spinning in a circle until they shoot off in a new direction. It’s actually not the easiest concept to communicate in writing, but once you see it in action, you’ll get it.

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Nintendo’s First Playable Female Protagonist Isn’t Female in Japan