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Segmented Serpent

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The Segmented Serpent is a snake-like or worm-like enemy which is made up of lots of individual body segments, all joined together in a line. This is a simple way to allow for interesting dynamic flexing and bending movements in a 2D sprite-based game, although the same principle can work in three dimensions as well. In its simplest form, a Segmented Serpent is simply a line of enemies following an invisible track, giving them the impression of being a larger composite creature.

This enemy type is very common in scrolling shooters. Because it normally appears in 2-dimensional games, it can often move through its own body and form closed loops to trap the player. Burrowing into the surrounding terrain and reemerging is another common tactic.

There are many different design variations on this idea, some exploiting the unique properties of a segmented creature to come up with interesting gameplay mechanics. Common ones include:


Being made of multiple sprites, Segmented Serpents are often quite large, usually larger than the player. They often appear as end of level bosses due to their spectacular appearance and their potential for interesting gameplay. They can be given weapons, but more often than not, their sheer size and dangerous movement is enough of an obstacle.

When a Segmented Serpent is destroyed, it's common for them to explode segment-by-segment from the point of destruction.



    open/close all folders 


  • Gunstar Heroes loves this. To list some of the more obvious bosses:
    • Seven Force manages to do seven bosses out of the same set of segments.
    • Valvalis in the Dice Palace.
    • The Core Guard System's "Unit of the Dragon".
  • An early boss in Strider (Arcade) is a long, segmented Transforming Mecha that slithers around in the air and is made of politicians.
  • Orchidee, the third proper boss of P.N.03, is a mecha-centipede on rails.

    Beat 'em Up 
  • Battletoads for the NES has these in Karnath's Lair. Instead of killing them, though, you have to climb them as they slither around spiked balls hovering in the air.
    • The Battletoads arcade game's second boss is a bit of a subversion in that one of these snakes is a boss. He still looks segmented, but all he does is bite at you from the background.
  • Muramasa: The Demon Blade features a couple of centipedes as Kisuke's second boss that crawl over the buildings and fire flames out of the various segments.

    Platform Games 
  • Super Mario Bros.
  • Donkey Kong Country Returns has the boss Mangoruby, a plant-like serpent with an electrified body. In order to attack it, its body must first be de-electrified
  • Kirby: Triple Deluxe features Coily Rattler, a snake made out of solid gold, ornated segments. They can separate as well to be sent individually at the pink puffball.
  • Super Metroid features Botwoon, the water serpent. Metroid Fusion features Serris, a snake with super speed. Metroid: Zero Mission features the Charge Worm and Acid Worm. They all must be shot in the face.
  • Dynamite Headdy has the skippable robot dragon Mini-Boss Snake Eyes on the upper path toward the end of Scene 2-2, which can be fought for a Secret Bonus Point.
  • Megapede, the final arena boss in Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando, where blasted-off segments turn into irritating cannons that distract you from the main boss.
  • Alien Soldier has about four enemies of this variety. Oddly, one of them attacks by breaking apart and hurling all its segments at you.
  • Turns up from time to time in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The Caterkillers from the first game come to mind, as do the Caterkiller Jr.'s in Sonic 3, and from Sonic and Knuckles, the jumping worms in Sandopolis and the flying worms in Lava Reef. One also shows up as part of the Oil Ocean boss in Sonic 2 this, plus one of the bosses in Sonic Advance 2. Sonic Advance 3 also involves these as a regular enemy.
    • Eggman builds one as the final boss battle in Sonic's storyline in Sonic Adventure.
  • In Mickey Mouse's Magical Quest the first boss is one of these, and you can knock the segments off to throw back as a missile weapon at him.
  • Crystal Caves has a rare enemy which looks like a green snake built of four segments. Shooting it in the head causes it to become shorter.
  • Mega Man 3 and the Big Snakey minibosses in Snake Man's stage. Somewhat unusually, the segmented portion is actually part of the floor and stops moving when you destroy the head.
  • Mega Man 7 has these in Junk Man's stage.
  • Mega Man X has two on Launch Octopus' stage: One that actually obstructs the path leading to the boss and must be killed to advance, and another that blocks the way to a secret Heart Tank. Neither can be harmed in any way except by shooting the head or the tail, and those are the only parts that can hurt you, so you can go for a ride on its body and pelt the head or tail with shots as much as you want.
  • In Mega Man Zero 2, a variation is used in an early boss fight, where it's the battlefield that's the segmented serpent. The boss is simply a snake-themed robot master.
  • Mega Man ZX has Giga Aspis, which as an intro level boss is one of the easiest enemies you'll face.
  • One of the bosses fought in world 8 in Monster Party.
  • Bug has a borderline example in the form of... "caterpillars". They will fire out their "segments" one by one, and only after all the segments have been fired out will the "head" (actually an insect by itself) run away and become vulnerable.
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins has multiple battles against dragons of this type.
  • A curious example is the giant earthworm that appears in Hammerin' Harry. It extends its front part to squirt blue stuff at you and generally looks very out of place in the game.
  • Stinkoman 20X6 has Saargtsson, a giant snake that jumps out of lava and shoots lasers at Stinkoman.
  • Green Grub from Kid Niki Radical Ninja, whose segments become skeletonized as you fight it.
  • The red worm boss of Stage 5 of The Legendary Axe II.
  • The 3-D Battles of WorldRunner has the Alien Serpentbeasts, fought in the Boss Battles at the end of every stage.
  • In Dragon Egg!, the fifth boss is a segmented dragon that circles around and loses segments when hit.
  • Bone Dragons in the Castlevania series.
  • Aladdin (Capcom) depicts Jafar's snake form in this way.
  • In Taz in Escape from Mars, the boss of Planet X is a snake-like monster, whose weak point is his tail. With each hit, a piece of his body bursts off.

    Puzzle Games 
  • Snake features one as the protagonist, where the snake keeps moving around a Wrap Around map and grabbing segments of food that cause it to grow another block in length. The main difficulty comes from the fact that hitting the snake's own body causes a Game Over, which becomes increasingly harde to do since the snake occupies most of the screen.
  • In Gomola Speed for the PC Engine, you play as the head of a worm-like creature and join up with other segments, which will scatter if you get hit. The object of the game is to eat food by enclosing it; enemies can also be defeated this way.
  • Jetpack has the so-called Marble Worm. It's actually not a single enemy but a bunch of Steel Balls lined up in a row, though they can't be separated. This comes up again in "Double Wormage."
  • Trauma Center has Paraskevi, a nasty variant that must repeatedly be sliced in half until each part is just one segment. And each part aims to escape towards the heart and needs to kept stunned.

    Rail Shooters 
  • The dragons in Space Harrier are quite impressive-looking examples of this for a 1985 game. Averted in the PlayStation 2 remake, where the dragons have more complex 3D models.
  • Night Striker has the Dragon Head bosses, which are robotic sea worms. Unlike most examples, their whole body is vulnerable. Which is a good thing, because you'll have to fight more than one in later levels.

    Real-Time Strategy 

  • NetHack includes the long worm, which will likely split in half if you attack the middle.
  • Larry Jr. and its improved form, the Hollow, in The Binding of Isaac, as well as Pin and Scolex to a lesser extent. The first two have the segment-by-segment destruction and the capability to split into two if cut straight down the middle, while Scolex is only vunerable to shots that hit its tail. Interestingly, the fact that each segment takes damage for the whole unit means that you can hit them with something that hits all the parts at once (like piercing shots, lasers, or a Herd-Hitting Attack) for massive damage.
  • Enter the Gungeon features the Ammoconda, a second floor boss inspired by Snake. Each segment can fire and be destroyed (which only stops them from firing; the segments remain until the boss is defeated) individually, though each segment shares a health bar and shooting the head does more damage as a whole. Additionally, as you deal damage, more segments occasionally appear around the battlefield; if the Ammoconda manages to eat one before you can destroy it, it will regenerate some health, add the segment to its body, and move and fire faster for a few seconds. Once defeated, each segment explodes one-by-one starting with the tail.

    Roleplaying Games 
  • Colossatron: Massive World Threat, in a unique version of this trope, allows the player to become one of these. While you don't really control Colossatron's movement directly, you add on new segments with corresponding weapons onto its body, some of which merge primary colors into secondary colors, unlocking new weapon types, or combining three consecutive like-colored segments into a more powerful version of that weapon.
  • One of the toughest viruses in the first Mega Man Battle Network is a three-segmented serpent. It can't trap you, but it can easily block attacks to its head with its two body segments. Luckily, you only ever have to deal with just the snake, being one of two virus types that are only ever fought by themselves.
  • The Pot Centipede from Kingdom Hearts I. Actually, the monster itself is nothing but the head and tail piece; the rest of it is made of of Pot Spiders. While you can destroy the Spiders to make the Centipede smaller, the only way to deal damage to the boss itself is to attack the head or tail.
  • Secret of Mana has two snake bosses like this.
  • Pokémon Ranger subverts this with Steelix. It's made up of several chained segments, unlike all the other Pokemon in the game, but due to the way the game plays you don't target the segments at all. Instead, you have to draw circles around the whole beast in a continuous loop while it slithers around, with the segmentation simply making it bigger and more flexible. Known for being very, very, hard.
  • Zigzagged in Final Fantasy XIII, of all games. The fal'Cie Dahaka is a flying serpent creature that resembles a chain of beads, and while the "bead" segments do have to be destroyed, it's not part of the critter's boss fight, but rather done in cutscenes by the Menhirrim, not the party. But in true Segmented Serpent form, Dahaka will only die after you take out its "head" segment.
  • Ys I has Nygtilger (who gets a full 3D makeover in Ys Origin), and Ys III has Gilan the fire dragon.
  • Vaides, the dragon in Dragon Slayer Jr: Romancia.
  • The giant Wiggler from Mario & Luigi: Bowser's Inside Story. Unlike many examples, you have to attack the segments first as its head is invulnerable until all the body segments are turned yellow. Once you do so, the head can be attacked, but only for a short while- the Wiggler will turn red again after a few turns, forcing you to repeat the process.

    Shoot 'em Up 
  • Gradius Series:
    • Salamander has the Intruder, a serpentine fire dragon as its 3rd stage boss, although unlike most examples, the Intruder is pretty clunky and rigid in its first appearance, but future Gradius games give the Intruder and its kind more fluid animations due to more advanced computer programming.
    • Gradius III's dragon boss starts off as a 3-headed wyvern (kinda like King Ghidorah), but it transforms into a serpentine dragon with A Head at Each End, making the Vic Viper attack two weak points. This is only for the Arcade version; the SNES version just skips right to the serpentine form.
    • Gradius V has huge wormy monsters with vulnerable heads or tails. The ones in the Womb Level are actually downgraded versions of Gradius Gaiden's first boss.
    • A fire serpent enemy from the NES version of Gradius II, which was previously a boss in the arcade version of Salamander/Life Force.
    • Robotic worm-like creatures in Gradius: The Interstellar Assault/Nemesis II: The Return of the Hero show up as enemies in stage 2.
    • Speaking of the Vic Viper, the fighter's Options and their tail-like behavior give the Vic Viper a vaguely serpentine appearance, hence its name. The Vic Viper's ally fighters also have these kinds of Options.
  • R-Type has long, indestructible worms which coil around the player and seem to be one with the boss, a giant heart. Talk about a bad case of heartworm...
  • Recca had these as normal enemies, as well as sub-bosses. Like most examples they can only be attacked in the head.
  • In the Hunt had a long, ancient fish with a vulnerable head as the Mini-Boss of the fourth stage.
  • Bio-Hazard Battle has a few enemies like this. Like many other games, their weak point was usually the head.
  • Bio Metal has these as regular enemies, as well as the fourth boss.
  • Apidya has an eel like this. Again, only the head can be damaged.
  • The fifth boss in Super Star Soldier represents this very clearly- the thing is huge and consists entirely of joints, and moves very very fast. The fifth stage also features regular enemies of this wormy type (appearing one and a half minutes into this video).
    • Star Parodier has some odd takes on this: a flying roller coaster train at the end of the first stage, and a string of triangle blocks that rearrange themselves into various shapes at the end of the second.
  • Star Fox Command has quite a few of these, including two bosses. Sometimes all segments need to be shot, sometimes only the head (but shooting all other segments first will give more points).
  • Centipede. Blowing up a segment within the body of the centipede results in multiple centipedes, and individual segments are also mobile.
  • Eliminate Down has the first Mini-Boss as one of these.
  • Heavy Weapon has the Mechworm boss, which has its head as the weak point. It also has three segments that toss out bombs. The body parts are destructible, but getting rid of all three will make the head start using a Macross Missile Massacre.
  • Irem's Dragon Breed and Jaleco's Saint Dragon have the player controlling one of these.
  • Shadow of the Ninja has a pair of these as a miniboss in Stage 2-1.
  • The second boss of Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair.
  • The Dragon Laser in Lightning Fighters, a Smart Bomb-like special weapon that flies around the screen obliterating enemies.
  • Rezon has these as an enemy type in Stage 2 and also as a boss that stretches the width of the screen.
  • In Elemental Master, the water dragon boss is composed of segments, unlike all other dragons in the game.
  • Gynoug has a Mini-Boss like this. It moves in tight circles at first, then wider and faster across the screen.
  • In Zed Blade for the Neo Geo, the Stage 4 boss is a serpentine segmented mecha named Constrictor.

    Wide-Open Sandbox 
  • Terraria: Many worm and serpent enemies take this form — they typically have multiple segments of varying size and HP, and to kill them, you have to destroy any one, which can prove difficult with Bone Serpents — but the most significant ones are several of the bosses, which fit the Asteroids Monster model. They can be very tough to beat the first time (because you probably won't have access to the really good weapons yet), but since the game world is almost infinitely customizable and most bosses don't appear until certain triggering events, you can improve your chances significantly by building an "arena" to fight them in ahead of time.

Non-video game examples:

    Anime and Manga 

    Live-Action Television 

    Mythology and Folklore 
  • The joint snake is a creature from North American folklore that resembles an ordinary snake, but can split its body into multiple sections when threatened and reassemble itself if chopped to bits. Additionally, if one of the segments is taken away from the chopped-up snake, it can use the knife used to cut it up as a replacement.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Spine chains in Exalted. They are made of animated skeletons.
  • One made out of animated corpses shows up in the sample adventure in early editions of Palladium Fantasy RPG.

    Web Original 
  • Mortasheen takes this to silly lengths with the Bratwurm, which is one of these made entirely out of hot dogs!

    Real Life 
  • Tapeworms consist of a sucker-lined head, called a scolex, which is then attached to a long chain of segments called proglottids that gradually mature the further they get from the worm's head. If the tail-end segments are broken off, they can often carry eggs that can spread to new hosts while the rest of the worm continues growing segments: this makes removal of tapeworms difficult, as if even only the head remains, it can coninue on growing.
  • Despite common belief this is actually averted with earthworms, and cutting them in half won't actually grow into two separate worms. The head end can regrow a new tail (provided it's cut low enough and none of its vital organs are harmed), while the tail end wiggles about for a while but ultimately dies.
  • Glass snakes, a type of legless lizard, get their name for the length of their body being mostly tail (unlike true snakes which only have a rather short "tail" section), with multiple fracture points. When grabbed by a predator, the glass snake's tail breaks apart into multiple twitching fragments to confuse an attacker, while the rest of it escapes to eventually grow a new tail.


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