Female portrayal in video games has long been a tireless subject of controversy and debate. Commonly held opinions implicate that women are primarily represented in submissive roles, through sexual objectification, or by being simply outnumbered. Though very relevant, my purpose is not to argue the validity of these views. As a life-long gamer and a female, I feel our society has become so preoccupied fighting the good fight for our digital dignity that we unknowingly dismiss or ignore the substantial, wholesome impact many female characters have made on video game history. So my purpose, rather, is to celebrate the formidable and inspiring instances of feminine awesomeness that have left a mark on the industry. With nearly half of all present-day gamers being female, I feel it is important to honor the positive contributions our pixel comprised personas have made.
Join us weekly as we highlight the most memorable and influential heroines in video games of past and present.
Samus Aran: The Metroid series
“There’s only one person who calls me ‘Princess’ and that person is Anthony Higgs of the Galactic Army.”
Who she is:
During the development of the original Metroid, a member of Nintendo’s team pondered on how players might react if they uncovered that the heavily-armored, bulky character they had been progressing for the last 12 hours was actually a woman. So after a quick show of hands in favor of overhauling convention, the first significant female protagonist in gaming was born.
Competent, confident, and intelligent, Samus Aran is an ex-Galactic Federation soldier turned intergalactic bounty hunter and the star of the Metroid series. This week’s pick is definitely a no-brainer. Granted, when Metroid was released in 1986, it was not apparent that Samus Aran was female until the end of the game. However, once we became privy to this fact we were never the same.
Pretty sneaky, right?
Why we love her:
From the early days of NES to next gen consoles, Samus Aran has donned body armor and pursued space pirates, remaining nearly unchanged for decades. Samus is a resourceful, skilled warrior. She is normally fitted with an armored suit, a powered exoskeleton that provides protection and utilizes weapons such as beams and missiles for defense. Throughout the series, Samus executes missions assigned to her by the Galactic Federation while hunting the antagonistic Ridley, leader of the Space Pirates, along with the parasitic organisms called Metroids.
Samus Aran emanates self-assurance. And why wouldn’t she? She is fiercely independent. She explores caves in solitude, decimates enemies, and traverses secret passages, all on her own accord. Her story does not consist of her being kidnapped or requiring rescue, rather she is a proactive force in an ever-changing and dynamic world; she does not merely react to her situation but instead interacts with her circumstances.
It’s been nearly thirty years since Metroid debuted, and the industry is still lacking in the presence of strong female leads whose gender is irrelevant to their circumstances. Samus Aran has easily become an endearing heroine. Many regard Samus as a feminine beacon in a male-dominated industry. But whether you choose to view her as a breakthrough for feminism or yet another faceless sci-fi warrior, Nintendo’s unexpected reveal is legendary proof that women can be immensely significant in gaming lore.. all while keeping it covered and classy.