The Kirby Games Are Unintentionally Horrifying

kirby spider

One of the first games I got for my Game Boy was Kirby’s Dream Land. I spent many a happy hour collecting Twinkle Stars, sucking up enemies, and enjoying its chipper tunes.

But none of those things were what made me want to play Dream Land. I wanted it because I thought the game looked super creepy.

kirby's dream land box art

Looking back, the Kirby’s Dream Land cover really isn’t the scary masterpiece that I thought it was. Yeah, Kirby looks like a ghost, and yeah, Whispy Woods looks a little eerie, but there’s nothing about it that’s particularly spooky. Still, I think little me was on to something. Intentional or not, there’s something very sinister about the Kirby series.

For starters, there are Kirby’s abilities, which get more horrifying the more you think about them. He inhales deeply, forcing helpless creatures into his gaping maw. From there, he can either spit out their destroyed bodies or swallow them whole, taking on the traits they had in life.

Things get even creepier as Kirby refines his copy abilities. In Kirby Super Star, Kirby gains the ability to make a “helper”, which is basically a clone of someone he swallowed. The instruction manual shows an enemy with a single tear running down his cheek as he heads towards his grim fate. His clone, however, doesn’t seem to have a care in the world. He’s more than happy to help Kirby fight his former friends.

Kirby-Before-and-AfterThe Kirby series is also filled with bizarrely terrifying bosses. Take Zero from Kirby’s Dream Land 3, a giant floating eyeball that lives in a world of dark matter. He shoots red projectiles at you that look suspiciously like blood, and can summon other floating eye things. Things get really horrifying near the end of your battle, when he discards most of his body in an incredibly gory way.

Kirby ZeroBut horror finds its true form in 0², the last boss in Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards. When he first appears, he’s wearing a cute smile and looks almost adorable. Then all the pieces fall into place, and you see his true form: a bloody eyeball with a halo and fragmented angel wings. Shattering his halo will cause a freakish green stump to emerge from his body. There are Silent Hill monsters who have nothing on him. The 0² fight never gets as gruesome as the Zero battle, but it doesn’t haven’t to. He’s terrifying enough all on his own.

Kirby-Zero-2Image Source: x-EBee-x at DeviantArt

What makes Kirby scary is that, unless you’re eight-year-old me, it’s not scary at all. Those weird abilities and monstrous bosses feel like they genuinely don’t belong in the adorable Kirby universe, and their presence is unsettling.

Just as simplistic graphics can make horror titles more frightening, innocent games can make small scares much more powerful. There are moments in Kirby that have stuck with me more than Amnesia‘s torture rooms or Resident Evil‘s zombies. The Kirby games were never intended to be frightening, and that’s what gives them the power to scare.

About The Author

The 3D Platformer: How 1996 Witnessed the Birth of a Genre
Nintendo Power Predicted a “Pokémon Trade War” in 1998
Super Mario 64 Was Ultra Game Player Magazine’s 1996 Game of the Year
How Gamers Took Screenshots in the 90s