Crabs are a constant in daily life. That’s not shocking anyone out there. You go for a run in the hills? Crab. Traversing through the low-lands and riversides? Crab. Walking through your lab after it’s been ravaged by a rift in space and time? Crab.
Hell, some people even worship crabs.
Fittingly, crabs are well represented in the arts, though typically type-cast as the villain of the piece. For every Sebastian from the Little Mermaid there’s ten Mr.Krabs from Spongebob. What, you didn’t know he was the villain? Looks like you need to reassess your crab knowledge through a socialist lens, comrade.
Good or bad, these spicy crab boys deserve your love, admiration and respect, because they are the unsung heroes of your day-to-day gaming life.
1. Crabmeat, Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
I was always a Nintendo kid, so it took me a bit longer than most to get around to the blue blur’s adventures on Mobius. All I knew of Sonic were the various cartoon series and the phrase “Gotta Go Fast” so when I booted up the first Sonic game, eventually, I tried to go as quick as possible. “Oh cool, I can see the appeal here, you just run really quick, the colours whizz by…yeah, I’m digging it” I said, before the fun was halted by this little shit.
In a game where the goal is to go fast from left to right, being stopped suddenly by this little fuck seems very decidedly not cash money. It even seems antithetical to Sonic’s whole ethos…but maybe that’s the point? Maybe Sonic is a metaphor for life, and how we run passed the colourful, joyful part of existence and headfirst into demise. And what’s the last level of Sonic the Hedgehog? Scrap Brain Zone.
An industrial hellscape.
Crabmeat wants to make us stop, give up our worldly possessions (read: rings), take a break and enjoy the beauty of life. There’s a reason why Fellini’s 1960 classic ‘La Dolce Vita’ is canonically Crabmeat’s favourite film: he’s all about enjoying the beauty and sweetness of life.
2. Headcrabs, Half-Life (1998)
Headcrabs are the main obstacles in Valve’s seminal first-person crowbar-er Half-Life. They are little crab-like aliens who jump at your head. They are parasitic in nature, meaning that they use their beak (upon leaping on top of your noggin’) to turn the host human into a shambling zombie creature. Considering the previous entry on this list, you might assume I’m going to say headcrabs are a metaphor for how we let small things dictate our lifes, and we blunder through existence carelessly, consuming all around us like the walking dead.
But I’m not.
That’s what Valve want you to believe, that your silent hero Gordon, a former cog-in-the-machine scientist fights against his banal, zombified colleagues, that he’s the one person going against the grain in a more hopeless, sci-fi version of 1984. But it’s the exact opposite. You, the player, are a smug dickhead who goes around telling everyone about your IQ, dropping superfluous, extemporaneous contrafibularities hither and dither to look smart (even though we all know you just looked things up in a thesaurus… badly).
And the headcrabs? The poor headcrabs? Your friends and family trying to steer you off the path of the insufferable neckbeard.
3. Giant Crab, Dark Souls 3 (2016)
Dark Souls is the Dark Souls of Dark Souls.
Spiritual sequel to Demon Souls, and spiritual predecessor to Bloodborne & Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Dark Souls is one of the most popular modern series in gaming, credited for both the revival of truly hard games and the rise of useless metaphors from gaming journalists about game difficulty.
Dark Souls 3 is, funnily enough, the third entry in the Dark Souls series, and something From Software perfected over the years was multifaceted level design and immersive storytelling. Unsure what I mean? Let’s compare it to Bethesda’s Skyrim.
In Skyrim enemies are placed semi-randomly around the open world, only having a specific rhythm to it in the funnel-like dungeons. The story in Skyrim is told to you as you follow the main quest, with non-player characters (NPCs) telling you about the world, about you (the Dovahkiin), what you have to do and how/where you’re going to do it.
In Dark Souls enemies are placed specifically around the open world, and while you can approach enemies from multiple angles is almost all situations, placement is such that there’s always some logic to it. The story is told to you in that some NPCs will tell you something if you ask them. You can play most Dark Souls games without knowing why you’re doing anything, or at least making your own story for the long parts between boss fights. I’m not saying Dark Souls is a better game than Skyrim, but the purposeful placement of enemies can allow for some atmospheric storytelling that’s conveyed to the player through their actions.
You arrive at a swamp. You notice some tiny crabs scuttling up to you. As a seasoned video game player you see these as basic enemies, but this is Dark Souls – small annoying enemies could overwhelm you, or be weirdly powerful. So you take out these crabs, and make your way further into the swamp to see…
The Great Crab
A big angry fucker whose children you’ve just massacred. You monster. They come for revenge, and they deserve it, but you know you must persevere. So you murder an entire family…for no reason. The Great Crab might have a disgusting visage, but who’s the real monster here?
Oh yeah, I’ve just made all of that up. That could be the developers intent, sure, but it’s not for certain. There’s nothing in the game to suggest that, no item description or deep lore to even hint at that, just random supposition that vastly improves the gaming experience.
With this scenario in mind, the Great Crab is a tragic figure, one that witnesses the death of their entire bloodline – the death of their children – and is not only powerless to stop it, but too inept to claim righteous revenge for this great wrong. The Great Crab is a complex character that exhibits pathos that modern writers would die to emulate.
Also look at the size of this unit
4. Nipper, Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
I could well be excommunicated from every crab-related fandom or group in the world for including Nipper. Yes, Nipper is a hermit crab, and hermit crabs are not regarded as True Crabs™, but I’m counting it.
Nipper is a friendly crab friend in Banjo-Kazooie until your dickhead bird friend starts mouthing off, like a right dickhead.
Nipper, rightfully, lashes out, and Banjo & Kazooie (read: you, the player) murder him. He disappears into his shell, but when you follow him in, he disappears.
Don’t worry, nothing about pathos or that faux deep shit here, I just think he’s a cutie.
5. Mudcrabs, Skyrim (2011)
I slagged Skyrim off earlier, but seriously, what a game it was. It was so good they re-released it
two, three, four, maybe five times?
I’m honestly not sure
Anyway, Skyrim is a fantastic game, and the MVP of the game is the humble Mudcrab. Mudcrabs pose virtually no threat whatsoever, even in numbers, to the player character. They can be a nuisance at times, like when you’re trying to fast-travel but you can’t because you’re in combat apparently? What? Oh. A mudcrab has followed me halfway across the map, and has been trying to fight me this entire time.
What a champ. The mudcrab is perfect in its simplicity, and even the thousands upon thousands couldn’t mess with that-
Fucking bourgeoisie crabs…
Have some suggestions for my next feature, Top 17 Shrews in Literature? Click this link.