The Metroid Prime Trilogy and Corruption Metaphor

I was a little uncertain how to write this, honestly. I tried to follow the posted guidelines and make some sort of real-life connection, just like the authors we have been reading have attempted to do.  Hopefully this is an adequate analysis. I’m open to feedback.


Metroid Prime, released on the Nintendo Gamecube in late 2002, saw the return of female bounty hunter Samus Aran for the first time since Super Metroid in the early 90’s. The plot of the Prime trilogy was a dark one, and literally; Samus was forced to brave world after world filled with corrupted “darklings” as she progressed deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding the Space Pirates and their use of the bizarre radioactive element, called phazon. As mentioned in some scans and on the Wikitroid page, the phazon shows signs of being “organic” and “sentient,” meaning it is a sort of radioactive poison plant of sorts that can think for itself.

Along the way, we learn of the fate of the bird-people she was raised among, the Chozo (Metroid Prime,) the telepathic insectoid race, the Luminoth (Metroid Prime 2: Echoes,) and several others on various worlds in the third installment (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.) All of these races have been plagued by the corrupting forces of phazon.

Samus’ main adversary is the bizarre creature called the “Metroid Prime” by the scanner systems in her Varia battle suit, and the phazon it has spawned from. The Metroid Prime is a formidable foe indeed, and pushes Samus to her limits throughout the series. At first, we assume the creature has died, but then, come the second game, we see it has mutated, and now, Samus’ worst enemy is her own dark side: a phazon-charged demon spawn that looks just like her and goes by the name of Dark Samus.

The idea of corruption is present throughout the series, and culminates in the third game, which is entitled, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Samus’ first experience with the phazon is on a Space Pirate frigate, where she finds the remnants and data from Pirate experiments done on floating, talon-bearing creatures created by the Chozo, called metroids. The phazon is used on metroids, and is also a source of great power.

Once landing on Talon IV, a Chozo colony, Samus finds only ruin. The phazon has spread across the planet, bringing with it mutations, destruction, and, of course, corruption. The ponderous thing about this story, the corruption that the phazon brings, and how this corruption actually becomes strong enough to create the Metroid Prime/ Dark Samus, is in the potential real world metaphors. Sure, one could look at the phazon, see it plaguing everything it touches, turning innocent peoples into monsters, and forcing Samus to kill former allies in a sci-fi horror show and say that phazon acts rather similar to any other kind of real world power. Some might argue corporations act this way, at the least in America- they run the world as they see fit, because they have the money and the influence to push their own agendas with much greater capacity than any one person. Corporations are an example of power- they have the ability to stick their hands into virtually any matter and influence it greatly, for better or worse. Money, too, is sometimes seen this way. If one acquires too much wealth, then the proverbial fear is that this person will become greedy. This behavior echoes Dark Samus’; it always feeds on phazon, constantly needing more to sate its appetite. Can much the same be said for money?

Not in every case. Money is used for good almost as often as it is used for something one might call “evil.” Philanthropy is hardly a dead practice- there are many million- and billionaires who donate a great deal to various charities and non-for-profits. In game, Samus gets a hold of the phazon’s power on a couple of occasions, and she uses it to destroy the Space Pirates, who eventually come to worship Dark Samus as if it were a deity, and all the darklings that Dark Samus sends her way. In the first game, the Phazon Suit, in addition to being arguably the “coolest looking” suit that Samus dons in the first Metroid Prime, offers her complete immunity from the phazon vines that cover parts of Talon IV, and affords her a primitive version of the Phazon Beam that she will have access to again in the third game.

But Samus experiences problems with the phazon in the third game. She does not simply get a jazzy suit, but gets a specific Phazon Enhancement Device built into her suit after she is exposed to a blast from Dark Samus. As the game progresses, she gets visibly more corrupted by the poison, which turns her suit progressively bluer, and also starts producing vine-like growths on her face and body that resemble the substance growing on walls and tunnels. She experiences vomiting and other side effects from the overexposure, and only gets rid of the substance completely by going directly to the planet Phaaze, from where all of the phazon in the universe is originating.

The sickness Samus experiences seems more symbolic of what I would be tempted to call “remorse” in the real world, almost like a reaction to realizing one has too much power, or more specifically, that one has mindfully abused such power.

It is challenging to speak of the game’s relation to reality in such vague and general terms, but there are several possible interpretations that make for interesting thought. Power and money are two potential ideas, but perhaps and even closer metaphor would be human treatment of the environment. The phazon corrupts the worlds and everything on them that it comes into contact with. Perhaps something like global warming is a fairly accurate real-world example of corruption. Just like the phazon, global warming at least indirectly affects everyone on the planet. With ice melting and glaciers falling apart, the oceans rise, and cities that are closer to sea-level, New York for example, may well be in danger of getting completely washed out in the coming decades as a result of the effects. The result would be much like the hurricane that rocked the shores of New York two years ago, sending water surging into the lower parts of the city.

Of course, these are all just brief examples of the potential metaphors that phazon may be loaded with, and all of these could be potentially erroneous speculations. Perhaps Metroid Prime’s phazon is simply an age old story element, a corrupting force that takes influence from virtually all others in our world, including stories written and told in the past. We can never be certain, but nonetheless, it may be a warning, or perhaps just a proverb for the masses— be wary of the world in which you live, and do your part to stop it from becoming any more corrupt than it already is.


One thought on “The Metroid Prime Trilogy and Corruption Metaphor”

  1. I think you got the spirit of the assignment here, which is basically to try to read a videogame using some of the methods we might conventionally use to analyze literature. Here you’re doing some thematic analysis. I haven’t played this game, but your tracing of the theme of corruption makes sense to me. Samus relies upon a power that is destroying her; the same power that drives the antagonist. I suppose a question I would have is how the player and the player’s actions are brought into this dynamic. That is, as we start to move beyond the strictly narrative element of the game, how is the theme of corruption explored?

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