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Moments: Super Metroid's Hyper Beam

by Joe Juba on Jul 31, 2013 at 01:50 PM

Samus is one of the most powerful bounty hunters in the galaxy, so we don't often see her facing opponents she can't handle. In Super Metroid, the fight against Mother Brain brings Samus to the brink of destruction -- but she is rescued by an unlikely ally and given the weapon she needs to survive.  

The scene where the "baby" Metroid bestows they Hyper Beam on Samus is one more in a long list of moments that Super Metroid gets completely right (and we discuss many of the others during our Super Replay of the game). Part of what makes it so great is that you are completely powered up by this battle. You have all of the beams and upgrades you could possibly need. You can access every area of Zebes; no doors are closed to you. However, even in your near-omnipotent state, you can't take down Mother Brain. I remember the first time she nailed me with that eye-beam of hers, and frantically trying to jump or dodge or bomb or do anything to stop the massive health drain. The moment when you're kneeling -- clearly outclassed -- as Mother Brain prepares the final blast is terrifying.

Then things suddenly swing in your favor. Right after taking gamers (briefly) to a state of powerlessness, the game lets you come roaring back with a vengeance. The baby Metroid swoops in and sucks the life from Mother Brain, also absorbing the power from her primed energy blast. That power gets transferred to Samus, not only restoring her life but also giving her an absurdly powerful gun. The monster that was looming above you only seconds ago ready to deliver a killing blow is now at your mercy. A single shot to the face from the Hyper Beam sends her head whipping back and causes her to shriek in pain. At this point, it's not even a contest: The fight is over quickly as you repeatedly shoot her until she explodes and crumbles into dust. In the span of a few short minutes, you hit an array of highs and lows that culminate in your ultimate victory.

As the icing on the cake, you don't immediately lose the Hyper Beam. You get to use it during your escape from Zebes. Even though that only takes a couple minutes, I like that the game gives you a chance to eradicate some other enemies with this new artillery. After the credits roll, the Hyper Beam vanishes into the same void where all of Samus' super-awesome upgrades disappear between installments, but it did its job by helping create one of the most memorable and empowering moments in gaming history.  

Jump ahead to about 1:05:00 to see the Mother Brain fight and the subsequent awesomeness.