I’d crash landed among mutated purple flowers, stemmed from vines rushing up the rock faces surrounding me. My spaceship lifted me from the pressurized airlock. I saw the flowers looking at me, opening wide to release some sort of toxic fume. I was Samus Aran, a disoriented bounty hunter. And what I didn’t know at the time was that I was a not a man but a woman, and nearly every living creature on that planet wanted to have my head. I’d have to keep my eyes out for the cybernetic dragons and the steel-plated moles.
Samus Aran hails from the Metroid universe, which had its debut in 1986 with Metroid for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Without giving too much of the plot away, Metroid are creatures that can be best described as life-force leeches, and although they are harmful, they provide an abundant source of energy if harnessed properly.
Samus’ true identity came as a surprise to most gamers when she was depicted in her underwear at the end of the first Metroid, if said gamer was able to beat the game with a specified time. Supposedly, the game developers decided halfway through the game to make her a woman, but ever since then, her womanhood has not just been an added feature.
I wasn’t there in 1986 and had no reason to believe Samus was a woman. I would play a handful of games before I ever found out. When I did find out, I actually liked her more, knowing she could compete with other Nintendo characters almost all of which were male.
Samus claimed the coveted spot in my mind as favorite video game character. She could super-charge her arm cannon, swing from an electrified grappling hook, and alter her shape in to the infamous Morphball, planting small bombs and sneaking through tight spots..When asked by my friends who I’d like to be in a Super Smash Bros. battle, they laughed and reminded me she was a girl. At first this bothered me, but I wasn’t going to change my favorite character just because of her gender. What would be the point? I became stronger by standing by my character, even though she was thought as less significant because of her gender.
In the meantime, Samus Aran made the cut. Not for most badass exosuit or highest voltage plasma cannon, but for Hottest Women In Video Games. While this list may also take into account Samus’ ass-kicking nature, her sexuality is at the forefront. In fact, Samus is depicted in her Zero Suit and we can see the suit itself has been reduced, allowing us to take in her form, for better or for worse.
I won’t sit here and pretend recent depictions of Samus aren’t appealing, but this was always second in my mind to the fact that Samus is a unique leading character with enough experience and lore to contend with other Nintendo franchises such Link from the Legend of Zelda or nearly one hundred Mario games. I’m torn between treating Samus as special because she is a woman in a industry designed for men or treating her “like one of the guys” and putting her on an equal scale.
What the Metroid franchise lacks in extensive software, it makes up for in deep story and a character I could feel at home in. Each game focuses on isolation and the overwhelming feeling that the player is an alien on a planet existing without her. As the bounty hunter completes complex puzzles and upgrades her armor, she becomes equipped to unlock unreachable zones and piece together a mysterious storyline. As the series progresses, we see Samus Aran as an individual, not just a girl locked up in her armor.
Alan is a staff writer for Girls in Capes. He holds degrees in psychology and creative writing from the University of Toledo.