While most of the heroes in the Dragon Quest games are male by default, a few of them let you choose the gender. The first game to provide this option is Dragon Quest III, which is interesting as the game reveals that this hero is the Erdrick/Loto from whom the heroes of the first two games are descended, and everyone in those two refers to this character as male. I remember some of the dialogue being slightly different when the hero is female, but it doesn’t affect the gameplay, other than in terms of whether the character can wear certain female-only pieces of armor. You also have this choice in DQ4, in which the default name for a male hero is Solo, and Sofia for a female. This hero is the ancestor of all three women your main character can marry in DQ5, and it seems likely that the male hero would marry his best friend Eliza after bringing her back to life. With a female hero, I can’t say who the man in the picture is. This game also has four different female characters who join your party, although one of them isn’t controllable.
The game’s second chapter features Alena, Tsarevna of Zamoksva, whose goal is to prove herself the world’s most formidable fighter. At first her father doesn’t approve, but after she sneaks out and proves herself, he decides to go along with it. She can fight quite well without weapons, although claws will give her a boost. She also achieves a lot of critical hits. The King of Endor offers his daughter’s hand in marriage to the winner of a tournament, but if the winner is female, this becomes null and void. Princess Veronica does say she might be interested in Alena if she had been male, which a lot of DQ fans on Tumblr appreciate. She eventually ends up with the Prince of Ballymoral, but there’s no hint that Alena has any romantic interests of either sex. One of her companions, the priest Kiryl, has a crush on her, but she’s apparently unaware of it, or at least chooses to ignore it.
I’m not sure whether priests in this world are allowed to marry anyway, although the ones in DQ2 mention having wives and kids. The Dragon Quest Wiki mentions Alena’s attire resembling that of a wizardess in DQ3, but she is incapable of learning magic. Her father has prophetic powers, but there’s no indication as to whether she inherited any of those. Although the name of her country changes in the DS version, her own name does not. I guess it would be pronounced “Arena” in Japanese, though. I wonder if that’s an intentional pun, since she fights in an arena. Alena is apparently a fan favorite, as she appears in the Fortune Street games and is slated for inclusion in Dragon Quest Heroes as well.
The Super Mario Wiki points out some similarities between her and Princess Daisy.
The fourth chapter stars Maya and Meena, daughters of an alchemist who discovered the Secret of Evolution. His apprentice Balzack murdered him and used the secret to turn into a monster. While trying to find out more information, Maya works as a dancer and Meena as a fortune teller. They’re not twins, but they look very much alike, the main thing that distinguishes them being that Maya wears much less clothing. Although younger by two years, Meena is the more level-headed and responsible of the two, with Meena being rather flighty and addicted to gambling. While later games in the series have special magical dance moves, Maya’s class doesn’t really affect her abilities in battle, and she mostly functions as a fire mage. She is the only party member who can use the iron fan as a weapon, though. Meena is basically a cleric, with a lot of healing spells. She can also read Tarot cards to help out in battle, although it’s kind of a crapshoot because the Fool card will kill the entire active party. They can also be used as a weapon, although I’m not entirely sure how that works. Mind you, this is the same game in which a merchant can use an abacus as a weapon. The Dragon Quest Wiki says that Meena is likely the founder of the desert kingdom of Helmunaptra, where the Zenithian Helm is kept in DQ5.
The final female party member in the game is Orifiela, a Zenithian who fell from the sky onto the World Tree. Although she has wings, they must have broken from her fall, because she needs your help to get back home. She turns out to be the caretaker for the Zenith Dragon’s offspring, and when she leaves your party she gives you a baby dragon to help you out.
It’s apparently implied in the DS version that Orifiela is the hero’s mother, but there’s another Zenithian I feel is a more likely candidate,