This is the next installment of my series on women in video games. For the first one, please go here for Princess Peach.
Samus Aran is the hero of the Metroid series of action-adventure games known for her Power Suit, an advanced weaponized armor that integrates new weapons and abilities that she scrounges during her exploration of alien worlds in pursuit of various evil enemies and creatures.
Samus first appeared in the 1986 video game, "Metroid" as a then-unknown bounty hunter sent to destroy a species called the "metroid" and the group of space pirates trying to turn them into weapons. While simple and relatively uninviting by today's standards, Metroid was an incredible achievement in 1986, and has since become a core component of a de facto game type (the Metroidvania type of RPG-adventure). The real shocker for 1986 gamers, however, was that the hero of the game was revealed (only if you completed the game quickly!) to be a... woman. Yep. That badass robot suit bounty hunter was a woman all along.
Gasp! Shock! WOW!
While it may seem silly now, remember that this game came out in the 1980s, when most game characters were barely beyond a few pixels. Samus being a woman seems like a given today, but for gamers in the 1980s it was kind of a big deal.
It also helped that she was a badass of the highest order:
Beyonce Rating (4/5 Rings on It)
Woah, I know, only 4/5! Well, as much as Samus gets points for being completely self-reliant (in most of her games) and never once having some shoehorned romantic plot (unless I'm missing one?), she gets a point docked for the "reward" in earlier games being seeing her in a bathing suit (in the first game you can forgive it because it was a shocking reveal and the graphic limitations meant that a bikini made it easier to show her gender). But in a lot of other games, it was unnecessary.
However, I could even just give a half point penalty for that. I'm forgiving. Where she loses the full point is recent games like Other M that have tried to make her "womanly" in the sense of "emotionally vulnerable." NO. JUST NO. Samus was always meant to be a steely, driven bounty hunter who kicked ass and had a massive murder suit made of space magic.
Nintendo, get your shit together and make Samus a 5/5 like she should be.
Macklemore Rating (1/5)
No real statements here, unless you count the fact that she's a woman.
Best Game Featuring this Character
Super Metroid. Hands down. THE END.
Worst Game Featuring this Character
Metroid: Other M. Tear down Samus's independence as a woman? Terrible "find the pixel!" sequences? Shitty monologues? Bad storyline? Thanks Nintendo!
Samus was one of my video game heroes growing up, no doubt. It didn't matter that she was female, she was a badass. She was armored with an incredible suit of laser space armor that shot missiles, she fought giant monsters, and she looked badass doing it every second of the way.
She was, and still is, proof that a female protagonist can be massively popular with male gamers. I get that the suit "neutralizes" her being a woman to some extent, but she could have just as easily been a man in the suit— her being a woman helped my perceptions as a kid. She taught me to think differently about how the character on the screen could be portrayed, and that women could be just as strong.
So yeah, she's definitely one of my faves, and she should be one of yours, too.