When you think of female videogame characters, what do you think of? You most likely thought of the stereotypical hypersexualised woman: tall, wearing tight or very little amounts of clothing, and with a “sexy voice.” These representations of women are harmful as they perpetuate an unrealistic and sexist expectation of women. Although recently women have been put in more heroic spots, but before that, women were always in distress—causing a misogynistic view of that women are helpless and need a man to save them.
Samus Aran, the female heroine and bounty hunter from the Metroid franchise saved women from being in distress by putting herself in a suit of armor and saving an entire planet whilst destroying a whole species. Metroid was inspired from the 1979 film Alien, which followed a female protagonist trying to eradicate an alien species (the xenomorphs). Samus is typically seen wearing her bulky suit of armor, and more times than not, she’s mistaken for a man.
So, how exactly does Samus and feminism go together? Well, let’s examine what’s made her an icon in modern day. Samus is 6’3” and weighs 198 pounds, going against the typical ideation that women must be petite to be sexy. In her first game, Metroid (1987), her gender is kept a complete mystery until the very end when it’s revealed that under the armor, Samus is actually a woman. Players, dominantly men, are “rewarded” based on their efforts with Samus appearing in a bikini being the best ending. This shouldn’t be accepted, players shouldn’t be rewarded with a woman in a bikini. When her armor is shed, it’s as if everything she’d done has been erased, it’s dehumanizing to Samus. Metroid Prime (2002) represented Samus is quite a different way, players weren’t rewarded with Samus in a bikini, in fact players only saw Samus with her helmet off as a reward thus keeping her unsexualised therefore players won’t disregard everything they’ve—everything Samus—done.
Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991) and Super Metroid (1994) reprise Samus’ role as a badass bounty hunter set out to destroy the planet and the entire Metroid species, although in Return of Samus she’s met with a baby metroid at the end, establishing a maternal moment and showing Samus as more than just a woman in a power suit, but a loving person capable of feelings; a human.
One of the most recent Metroid games, Metroid: Other M (2010), completely destroyed what Samus had built as a character. Her controversial (and sexualized) look was met with a lot of disapproval from fans; we don’t want a sexy Samus anymore. We see Samus as a lone wolf heroine, our heroine and our inspiration—NOT a sex symbol.
Samus was one of the first female video game protagonists who showed the world that women don’t have to be in a place of distress, that women don’t need men to succeed in life. The terrifying misogyny that circulates the video game industry is scary, but fictional feminists challenge that misogyny. She showed us that women are independent. Metroid advanced feminism in quiet and impactful ways. She’s not only impacted feminism, she’s a role model for young women growing up. Samus broke the gender norm that is men have to be the hero. She’s a force to be reckoned with.