Samus Aran is perhaps one of the most well known female game protagonists and is said to have “a cult following unlike nearly any other female game character” (IGN, 2001). She also makes many cameos in other Nintendo games.
In the original Metroid game, Samus’s gender is not revealed until the very end of the game. In the US manuals, the player-character was referred to as a “he” and in Japanese manuals, they were referred to as “it.” The character wears a complete space suit, until the end of the game, when the suit is removed and Samus appears wearing a bikini and boots.
This end “reveal” has become a common theme in Metroid games, “often as a reward for satisfying certain conditions” (Samus Aran, n.d.).
Samus is also shown as an explicitly female character in later games in the series, including Metroid: Zero Mission where cutscenes show her memories. Moreover, as J explains, “with each successive chapter her appearance has become increasingly feminine” (J, 2011). The rest of J’s article analyzes Samus’ evolving visual representation. That said, Samus’s personality has been largely undefined, and the franchise actually leaves characterization up to individual writers.
In a 1994 interview, artist Hirofumi Matsuoka suggested that Samus was transgender, specifically using the term “newhalf” which is difficult to translate directly. As McLelland (2003) points out, “its meaning in Japanese is ambiguous” (p. 59). In the early 1980s, newhalf “became one of many terms used in the media to refer to transgender men working in the entertainment industry” (p. 59). Later, people began using the term in a wide variety ways to describe their identities. McLelland argues that “newhalf can be understood as a site of identity. However, it is an identity based on occupation” (p. 60). Several authors have explored the possibility that Samus is a trans woman (see here, here, and here). Whether or not Matsuoka was joking in the 1994 interview, we cannot say. What is well documented is that partway through the development of the first game, someone working on the game suggested the person in the suit be a woman (see here, here). This is perhaps why Samus’s gender was treated as a reveal, to make the players ask the same question designers were “what if this person in the suit was a woman?”
- Bezio, K. (2014, March 2). ‘M’ is Not for Male: The Legacy of Samus Aran. The Learned Fangirl. http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2014/03/m-is-not-for-male-the-legacy-of-samus-aran/
- Evans, C. (2014, September 4). Beneath Samus Aran’s Surface, did Metroid Condone Transgenders? Omnireboot. https://omnireboot.com/2014/metroid-queers/
- Harris, C. (2004, January 30). Metroid: Zero Mission Director Roundtable. IGN. http://www.ign.com/articles/2004/01/30/metroid-zero-mission-director-roundtable
- Interview: When Samus Was Naked. (1994). Retrieved from https://www.metroid-database.com/old_site/sm/interview.php
- McLaughlin, R. (2008, August 15). IGN Present the history of Metroid. IGN. http://www.ign.com/articles/2008/08/15/ign-presents-the-history-of-metroid
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- Metroid: Zero Mission. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metroid:_Zero_Mission
- Metroid and Samus Cameo Apperances. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.samus.co.uk/cameos.shtml
- Samus Aran. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Samus_Aran
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- Smash Profile: Samus Aran. (2001, July 13). Retrieved from http://www.ign.com/articles/2001/07/13/smash-profile-samus-aran
- J. (2011, May 29). Guest Blog- Samus Aran: From Presumed Dude to Bombshell. Fasion Apocalypse. http://fashionapocalypse.blogspot.com/2011/05/guest-blog-samus-aran-from-presumed.html
- TheSponge278 SML Hero. (2015, January 30). Metroid Zero Mission: The Movie all cutscenes. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypD7vOov0KQ
- Wu, B. and McGrody, E. (2015, September 1). Metroid’s Samus Aran is a Transgender Woman. Deal With It. The Mary Sue. http://www.themarysue.com/metroids-samus-aran-transgender-woman/
- Wu, B. (2014, September 2). Well, That Escalated Quickly: A Samus Followup. The Mary Sue. http://www.themarysue.com/a-samus-metroid-followup/