There’s a surge in female confidence, and girl power is on the rise across much of the world. Female protagonists have popped up to defend against the Mog Chothra, or been found creeping around Sevastopol trying to avoid a particularly terrifying alien species. But one female hero has been consistently unnoticed on her journey across the galaxy. Whether she’s defending against the depredation of the Space Pirates on Tallon IV, or stopping the rampage of the monstrous Gorea, she’s persistently overcome every obstacle thrown at her. That female hero (as the title already told you) is Samus Aran.
Samus Aran has been around since 1986, when on the planet Zebes, she overcame the Space Pirates who intended to exploit the parasitic organisms known as Metroids (where the name of the game comes from for those trivia-inclined) for galactic domination. The great empowerment to women with Samus Aran is that her gender is rarely mentioned, or barely played upon. Her victory in Zebes had nothing to do with gender politics, and everything to do with Samus Aran being an incredible bounty hunter. The human operating the power suit was merely the greatest hero in the Galaxy, and that’s all that mattered.
This is in contrast with much more recent portrayals of female protagonists in all forms of media. The most notable example is the new Ghostbusters movie which has played too heavily on replacing the original casting with a female line-up. Not only was the storyline badly written, but the acting was cringe-worthy at best and it’s done no justice to their decision to change Ghostbusters. The reality is that women don’t need to replace male heroes, as they can be heroic in their own right. Samus Aran didn’t replace a male Samus Aran. She was the original and that should be the inspiration for all female protagonists in games, movies and across all platforms of media.
It’s a bad reflection on directors and game designers if they cannot come up with original material for a female protagonist that people can be inspired by. But that wouldn’t be a true reflection, for we’ve seen original female protagonists time and time again, and therefore this new wave of laziness shouldn’t be shaping opinions in the way it has. Everybody is a critic, and not everybody is going to be happy with how a new female character is portrayed. This over-focus on what a female should be is partly why Samus Aran has gone unnoticed. She doesn’t portray much of the expectations for a female protagonist; she’s in a power-suit.
There’s always the accusations of sexism directed at much of the gaming world, with the Gamergate situation of 2014 always a little mystifying for those who have engaged in gaming for a long time. Whilst a lot of female characters can be seen as overly sexualized, Samus Aran has shown it isn’t necessarily the norm. Her femininity has never really shaped the games, nor has it been a concerning feature in any of the gameplay. Sometimes, there’s a habit of looking far too much at a small negative, rather than embracing something legitimately positive. No one could argue against Princess Zelda being a strong, defiant, resourceful girl whom was vital in defeating Ganon; and there are serious concerns for those who can sexualize Kazooie. Female heroes exist in gaming, and they’ve existed since the beginning.
And with Metroid Prime: Federation Force set to be released on August 19th in North America and September 2nd in Europe, there’s a reason to reflect on how empowering Samus Aran should be. She has been one of (if not the) first female protagonist in a game, and she continues strong to this day. Vitally, her gender or sexuality has never been a part of the games. Samus Aran should be the future of female protagonists, not Ghostbusters. Samus Aran should be the face for girls in gaming, not Anita Sarkeesian. Samus Aran should be the example of female empowerment in gaming, and hopefully upon the release of Metroid Prime: Federation Force, there will be a realization that gaming remains as inclusive and accepting as it has always been.