Kirby, Nintendo’s little pink puffball, is adorable, lovable, and squishy. It’s hard not to be filled with pure joy while playing through bright, colorful stages, stumbling upon creative and unique characters, and solving clever puzzles as one of the cutest characters in video game history. However, are the Kirby games truly as innocent as they appear on the surface?
Kirby’s primary ability is to inhale enemies and copy their powers. This allows the player to make their way through stages and fight bosses in their preferred way, while also figuring out the best powers to use to solve puzzles. It’s definitely a fun, original mechanic that makes it stand out from other 2-D platformers, but have you ever thought about what happens to those he inhales? They don’t pop out of the other end feeling fine and dandy. There is no body to confirm their death. They are simply just gone. They’re completely wiped out from existence. When Kirby loses a power, or chooses not to absorb an enemy after inhaling them, a star is spit out, then disappears. Does this mean that those who are inhaled by Kirby are transformed, then vanish from existence? That’s a fate worse than death.
These games feature various characters becoming possessed. Dark Matter has possessed King Dedede, the Fairy Queen, and Daroach. Meta Knight has also been possessed numerous times, like when Yin-Yarn took control of him to fight against Kirby in Kirby’s Epic Yarn. These characters have lost complete control of their bodies and minds while still being alive and helpless to do anything. Their consciousnesses were completely locked away as someone else pulled the strings. That’s a terrifying thought to come out of such a seemingly-innocent video game.
The bosses in the Kirby franchise also become exponentially darker throughout the games. The first boss typically starts with Kirby accidentally stepping on the roots of Whispy Woods, a talking tree, who attacks by throwing his apples and blowing gusts of wind to avenge his hurt roots. That sounds just as lighthearted as the pink puffball himself. The final boss (when it isn’t the gluttonous King Dedede) is often a physical embodiment of nightmares, literally known as Nightmare, or an evil demon from another dimension, such as Dark Mind from Kirby and the Amazing Mirror. These are massive contrasts from the supposed lightheartedness of Kirby.
The plots of the Kirby video games are also much darker than they appear on the surface. A video game in this series often starts as something absolutely adorable, like Kirby sleeping but having a hard time dreaming or he is about to eat a delicious piece of strawberry shortcake that is stolen from him before he can do so. This seems harmless, but these stories always lead to something much more menacing. In Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland, Kirby trying to nap eventually leads to a fight on the moon against a frightening monster who wishes to spread darkness throughout the galaxy. In Kirby: Squeak Squad, Kirby wanting to eat his cake eventually leads to a being known as Dark Nebula being released from his prison and attempting to force the world into eternal darkness.
The Kirby video game series seems so adorable, bright, and innocent on the surface, but it gets so dark and creepy when it’s explored deeper. When I think of darker video games, I typically think of Bloodborne, Dark Souls, or Silent Hill. I, and probably most other people, would not immediately think of the Kirby series as being so dark, but after putting some thought into it, maybe it actually is.