The Horrors of Metroid

For maximum effect, play this, this or this in the background.

Most Nintendo franchises have a wealth of things in their games that are nightmare fuel on their own. Zelda has things like Zant, the ReDeads, and most of Majora’s Mask. Pokémon has god(Arceus?) knows how many creepy Pokédex entries, Lavender Town and Giratina’s infamous jumpscare in Platinum. Xenoblade has Metal Face, the entire story behind the Bionis and X’s spoilery final boss which could easily fit in a Resident Evil game. And countless others. Today we look at the miscellaneous horrors of the Metroid franchise. Fitting, as the series draws much inspiration from Alien, which is scary enough on it’s own.

To begin with, many locations in the series qualify for nightmare fuel. As a result, singling out individual locales is tough. So how about starting easy and pointing out the GFS Valhalla from Corruption?

“And I’m also omitting the fact that these logs show a ship that demands you bring your brown pants”.

Ghost ships are nothing new to Metroid. The Frigate Orpheon, the sunken ship where Phantoon resides, the works. The Valhalla adds a stupid amount of creepy to it by making you travel in a deserted ship inhabited only by Metroids and dead carcasses with some very ominous music playing in the background, plus subtle but effective jumpscares like opening a door only to reveal a soldier drained of life which turns to ashes when you touch it(THANKS GAME). Topping the scares of the ship is the message left behind by Aurora Unit 313, describing in detail the invasion force that stormed the ship, providing haunting foreshadowing for things to come.

Okay, that was too easy. What else is scary…oh right, the B.S.L ship from Fusion.

Let’s ignore for a moment the implications given by the illegal experiments being conducted with dangerous creatures that could end civilization as we know it. The B.S.L has a smorgasbord of creepy stuff in it. Ridley’s dead corpse, Nightmare, and of course, the fact that you are STUCK in there because of a god damn X virus. Which is mimicking you. More on that later. A lot of the B.S.L’s creep factor is owed to the atmospheric music, which in conjunction with the always present paranoia of a TAP TAP TAP noise indicating the dreaded SA-X closing in, is an exercise in making players regret not bringing their brown pants.

One more locale to close this segment out…the Phazon Mines. It’s bad enough that Phazon itself is a lethal radioactive sentient substance that corrupts anything it touches and makes eerie noises whenever you’re close to or touching it, but then you learn that the Pirates are extracting it. For what? Experimentation! No regards for decency, just subjecting their own ranks to experiments that may or may not kill them. If you don’t make it, you die(duh). If you make it? You become a horribly mutated freak of nature used for the war effort that has a significantly shorter life span. Just look at the abomination that is the Omega Pirate; an insanely durable, Phazon infested Pirate that grew huge and is among the strongest Pirates to grace the series(to the point that it gets a passing mention in Federation Force).

 

“WHO. TURNED UP. THE GOD DAMN HEAT IN THERE, JESUS CHRI-oh hi.”

Retroactively, the entirety of the Phazon Mines gets creepier once you learn the full context behind Phazon and what it does in the next few titles, but being the first time the player is subjected to Phazon up close, it’s chilling.

But it’s not the locales themselves that are chilling. The things in these places help sell the scares. To get the namesake out of the way, Metroids themselves. They were created by the Chozo to act as predator to the X Parasites on SR-388. This worked pretty well, but then the Metroids ran out of X to eat, so they moved on and began to feed on any other lifeform they could. Their influence is nigh everywhere in the series, being weaponized by Pirates to being experimented on by the Galactic Federation(this is illegal, you know) to being the main antagonist of the Prime trilogy(the titular Metroid Prime being a heavily Phazon-mutated Metroid which later becomes Dark Samus). Some of gaming’s scariest creatures.

But of course, where to begin with the amount of pants-soiling monstrosities the series bears. Let’s go back to the BSL. The SA-X. Players remember this as the relentless virus possessing what was once Samus’ Power Suit and now wants you dead. And then the rest of civilization. And guess what? The Federation was experimenting on it! Oh joy, that can’t go wrong, experimenting on a life-threatening virus! Unfortunately, the scare factor is diminished somewhat by some rather poor coding on the creature itself, resulting in it acting remarkably stupid at times. Still, it’s spooky at face value.

A lot of the spooky creatures in Metroid are entire species, which leads us into the next entry on this list: the Ing. Those black things in Echoes that, guess what, are an indirect byproduct of Phazon despite not being composed of it; they exist because a Leviathan(Phazon-carrying meteors from the planet Phaaze) crashed into the planet Aether, causing a space-time rift that split the planet into two dimensions, thus giving birth to them.

“As a moth thing I implore you to not ask about the logistics of this.”

Another civilization-threatening species that can assimilate dead beings and revive them like a zombie apocalypse. And then there’s Emperor Ing, the strongest Ing of all, an eldritch abomination that uses both light and dark energy to attack Samus. It’s not hard to imagine the untold damage that the Ing as a whole could have done to unprepared civilizations.

But back to individual things. I already mentioned the SA-X as the B.S.L’s main creep, but let’s not forget the appropriately named Nightmare(not to be confused with the hammy Kirby villain or the demonic Soul Calibur villain). It’s a giant floating thing that uses gravity for offense and is described as being used for military applications. And again, let’s ignore the more glaring implications of this thing’s legality and whatnot and ask: why on earth did it have to possess a face that begs to be killed off? Was it to scare an opposition? Or are the Federation scientists horror fans?

A face made from either Play-Doh or wax, apparently.

One more in the ‘bring-my-brown-pants’ category, and somewhat overlooked: Chozo Ghosts. Guess what? ANOTHER byproduct of Phazon. The souls of Chozo that resided on Talon IV, now driven mad due to the blue substance of death. They haunt the appropriately named Chozo Ruins. They want you dead. Yeah, forget the fact that they raised you and you’re effectively committing parenticide, they’re not the friendly old birds you knew. And they have the worst kind of battle tune that plays when you just want to get to the next area or are low on health. Christ.

Of course, these are just a few of the many spooks the series has for you. Sure, Nintendo advertised the first Prime title as an adventure game, but they forgot to slap on an entry for “horror”. Then again, they don’t do it for Zelda either when it decides to get freaky. Oh well.

Happy Halloween!

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4 comments

  1. I think Metroid’s scariest enemy is the Flying Ing Cache. I’m not a fan of the invisible enemy trick. Its just a cheap shot to make you jump and it never worked after that. I was way too cautious. As far as I’m aware I am the only person who met the thing right at the face.

    I do know somebody else on YouTube was jumped by the enemy. How I wish I had the internet and audio commentary back then.

  2. I hate to make a slight nitpick, but early in the article, you mentioned that Draygon was found in the Sunken Ship. Draygon was a dangerous, undersea creature found at the near-bottom of Maridia, somewhere far away from a sunken ship. The ship was home to Phantoon, which was a borderline ghoul, was way scarier than Draygon and was probably what you were thinking of. Otherwise, this is a pretty solidly-written article.

    Regarding the SA-X for even more spooks, and minor spoilers for Fusion here, but it’s mentioned that not only was the X a life-threatening virus that could shapeshift, it’s outright stated that it could asexually reproduce, meaning there were no less than 10 SA-X clones on the B.S.L. This wasn’t included in gameplay for reasons unknown (given that the AI was already questionable, most likely), and even then the SA-X didn’t have all of Samus’ equipment that would make it even MORE dangerous but someone did show off what that might look like using Super Metroid’s game engine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YO-x7j5RyGc

    Happy Halloween, by the way.

  3. Ah yes, the Prime games are probably my favorite example of fantastic creepy settings/horror elements in a game that’s not about horror. I am now quite curious what creepy settings a Prime 4 would bring. :0

  4. I legitimately refused to play Prime 3 at night at one point ’cause I was getting way too spooked. Everything about the Valhalla was way too much to deal with. Also, the Phazon Metroids that can DODGE YOUR ICE MISSILES? Screw every single thing about them. In fact, screw all Metroids in any of the Prime games, I had to pass the controller to my brother at all those sections because I couldn’t stand them latching on to the screen. Even playing through the earlier Prime games and being more proactive with scanning than I ever was, reading the descriptions on some of the mangled space pirates on Frigate Orpheon is seriously unnerving. If anyone here still owns Prime 1, you owe it to yourself to play the first level and scan some of the dead pirates. It’ll be no wonder how the game got its T rating after that.

    Special props have to go to Fusion though. The Nightmare and the SA-X still give me chills when I replay the game. The way the Nightmare swoops around the background on your first trip to the area, the way the SA-X stares directly at you with that dead expression… Nintendo really should have slapped the horror label on that game, it deserves it.

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