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?
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).
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.
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?
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.