Samus and Halo’s Master Chief deserve more than their Who Would Win video

The internet loves to argue over who would win in a fictional battle, but sometimes the debate can even be more interesting than the battle itself. With fan-favorite Duelists Samus and Master Chief, it all comes down to one specific video.

A perennial question runs through all of pop culture: “Who would win?” That’s why we’re dedicating an entire week to the debates that have shaped comics, movies, TV, and games, for better and for worse. Get ready for Polygon’s Who Would Win Week.

People have always liked to compare Samus Aran and the Spartan known as Master Chief Petty Officer John-117 for two simple reasons: metal suit and gun. That’s it. They’re both burly badass who fight their way through a sci-fi setting, while hiding their faces behind metal power suits.

But this feud between Master Chief and Samus also finds its basis in an iconic piece of internet history. A “Haloid” fan animation, created by Monty Oum and posted to YouTube in 2007, imagined the two in an intense battle – but with a twist that made a lasting impression. As a result, Master Chief vs. Samus exploded into one of the biggest and most passionately debated fictional feuds.

We decided to look back and dig into how they actually form.

Haloid

The 2007 cult classic video “Haloid” choked on the internet in the early 2000s.

The video is exactly what the title suggests – a mashup of Halo and Metroid, which begins with Master Chief bashing on a group of Covenant. Half machinima, half animated, Master Chief dunks on the Covenant in a much flashier way than we’re used to, with early 2000s Matrix moves. Then once the super soldier has gutted the Covenant, Samus arrives on the scene to tackle the Spartan. At a key moment, her armor is shredded – but she continues to launch herself into the air, brandishing her weapon, which looks like equal parts whip and lightsaber.

After several minutes of cool and well-animated combat between our heroes, the Covenant return to interrupt the couple’s fight. The two must then work together to survive. Master Chief cuts with the energy sword and Samus splits a Banshee in half with her weapon. As the Covenant rushes, Samus explodes with her Zero Suit pistol, and Master Chief removes her chest piece and turns it into a bomb. As Samus flies Master Chief to safety, the screen fades to black, with the words, “I thought I was the only girl in armor…with the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

What is this? Master Chief is also a woman? In the final scene, Samus removes Master Chief’s helmet, and the two kiss semi-erotically, then the video cuts to credits.

Picture: Monty Oum

It is more a first video on the Internet, a video can be complete with simple animation and extremely unexpected fan service. It’s also badass and highlights the main reasons why fans like to imagine a battle between the favorite metal titans of video games.

Unfortunately, we can’t ask Haloid creator Monty Oum what led him to animate Haloid or feature the fan war between Samus and Master Chief. In 2015, Oum died of a severe allergic reaction in Austin, Texas, where he worked.

We reached out to his former colleagues at Rooster Teeth, the studio behind Red vs. Blue (on which Oum eventually animated) and RWBY (which Oum created), for insight into Oum’s process and what makes Haloid so special.

“We definitely became Monty fans because of the Haloid video,” said Matt Hullum, Chief Content Officer at Rooster Teeth. “It exploded everywhere because there were so many new ideas and such a unique style. In this work, you can see all the things that make Monty one of a kind – his incredible mastery of acting, his talent innate narrative and his knack for peppering fun and playful surprises.

“Monty’s workflow was really something unique and special,” said RWBY writer and director Kerry Shawcross. “He would often start with key moments, whether it was a cool combo he had in mind or a dramatic beat he wanted, and then fill in between. It was a very organic process.

Hullum elaborated on Oum’s style saying, “He always said his animation process was like doing a stir fry. He wanted to have lots of great ingredients ready and the flexibility to throw them in however he wanted in the moment, instead of strictly following a recipe. Few people have the talent to work like that and not get burned once in a while, but somehow he served up something awesome every time.

Picture: Monty Oum

This style is apparent in Haloid, with sequences bouncing between Chief and Samus. One section starts with the Morph Ball while another is about Rockets and Plasma Grenades. It’s a style that Oum took with him as we continued to animate key action sequences in Red vs. Blue.

Haloid also helped to deepen the myth behind the war between Samus and Master Chief. Despite all the duo’s kicks, they end up leaving the battlefield as equals. Oum asks the question “who would win?” and then intentionally don’t give fans an answer.

So 15 years later, we will answer ourselves “who would win”: Samus from Metroid or Master Chief from Halo?

So who would actually win?

illustration of Master Chief on a Halo Ring from Halo Infinite

Image: 343 Industries/Xbox Game Studios

To determine which of these heroes would emerge victorious, we need to consider the worlds Master Chief and Samus come from.

The Halo universe is a bit more challenging science fiction. It’s not without silly aliens and big orbs of talking zombies, but combat is done with physical bullets, as well as spaceships, planes, and UNSC weapons that look more realistic for human engineering. It’s the story of a humanity that is far enough in the future to have spaceflight but not far enough to be beyond war or gunpowder. Halo only gets truly fantastic when it mixes militaristic sci-fi with those mindless aliens and their futuristic technology.

Metroid, on the other hand, is more fantastical. Samus Aran appears to be one of the only humans in the world. She shoots lasers from the giant gun arm of her costume attached to her as Mega Man, she curls into a ball using what can only be magic, and she was raised by birds. His enemies are a purple dragon who is somehow smart enough to be the captain of the “space pirates” and a giant dinosaur who sticks his thumbs out of his three unique navels.

Throughout history, Samus has had the most powerful weapons in her arsenal: tools to freeze and disintegrate giant, sentient brains in jars. Master Chief’s primary tool is battlefield improvisation, which translates into the ability to turn most battles in his favor. It’s awesome, and it makes for some extremely cool moments in the Halo series. But it has nothing to match a Hyper Beam.

Samus Aran takes on a chained Kraid in Metroid Dread

Image: MercurySteam/Nintendo

In short: Samus deals on a more cosmic and technologically advanced level than Master Chief. In the war between Master Chief and Samus, Samus wins every time.

Even if we were to take the more contemporary versions of these characters and pit them against each other, Master Chief’s biggest innovation would be a grappling hook. Samus? She’s a female Metroid hybrid with an unstoppable cannon. It’s not a fair fight.

To come full circle, Haloid is actually the perfect revealer of who would win this classic war. Oum animates Master Chief doing silly and ridiculous things that we’ve never seen him do before. It’s clearly over the top and intentionally doesn’t fit the action of the Halo era. But Samus? His movements are not as unknown. She doesn’t kick enemies with pelicans; she uses her grappling hook beam, her arm cannon, her energy bombs. Samus works at 100%, but Oum had to get Master Chief up to 200% to really get them to face off in an interesting way.

Two people aren’t necessarily fit to fight, just because they’re both wearing full armor. Samus and Master Chief come from different worlds and different levels of fiction. It’s like asking who would win in a battle between Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Chewbacca just because they both work on spaceship decks in franchises that start with “Star.”

It’s time to let Samus and Master Chief rest until we can give them each the battle they deserve.

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