This subject is related to the Black Mesa Incident era.


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Gonarch model.jpg
General information

Xen wildlife


Headcrab breeder

Personal information
  • Hazardous chemicals
  • Front legs
  • Spawn baby Headcrabs
Game information



The Gonarch is the final life phase of the Headcrab[1] introduced in Half-Life. It is encountered on Xen in the chapter, Gonarch's Lair, as the chapter's boss.


The Gonarch on Xen.

Little is known about how and when the metamorphosis from a Headcrab to a Gonarch takes place, as few Headcrabs ever reach this stage.[1] The name may be a portmanteau of the words "gonad" for its reproductive organ, and "monarch" for its boss status.

The Gonarch's body is composed of a smooth dark brown carapace, supported by four arthropod-like legs, and a large fleshy and gelatinous egg sac that dangles from its underbelly. This sac is how it reproduces young headcrabs. Interestingly, despite it's massive size, the Gonarch is capable of walking and running on webbing that covers up pits in two areas of its lair with ease, whereas both the player and other enemies can just fall through them.

When it spots the player, melee attacks, takes damage, and dies, the Gonarch produces loud whining cries. It will make low-pitched mournful sounds when a baby headcrab is killed. Upon death, the Gonarch will destructively explode, as it is seen destroying an area of the cave floor where it is finally killed before the player progresses to the next chapter. Its explosion, however, will neither harm the player or other nearby enemies.

Behavior and skills[edit]

When in sight of an intruder, the Gonarch will rapidly reproduce baby headcrabs in large numbers from its sac. The babies are not very dangerous on their own but can swarm at attackers in groups, distracting them from their breeder. If any young headcrabs are killed, the creature will continuously spawn more to take their place.
A Baby Headcrab.

From afar, the Gonarch will also spew out white globs of harmful chemicals from the top of its carapace to "shoot" at its attacker. At close range, it will use its front legs to swipe at the attacker, dealing massive amounts of damage. These attacks can even harm and kill any other enemies within range.

The Gonarch is almost completely invulnerable to damage, with the large sac that hangs below the thorax as its only vulnerable area.

Behind the scenes[edit]

  • The Gonarch is also nicknamed the "Big Momma" by Valve.[1] Its model is also named "big_mom.mdl", while its entity is "monster_bigmomma".
  • Gabe Newell states the Gonarch or "Big Mama" was created when someone at Valve asked, "Why don't we put a giant testicle on a 20-foot-tall armored spider?" while also stating "Whereas alternatively, there are certain beasts we've created through gameplay, instead of crazy ideas".[1]
  • According to Ted Backman, the Gonarch was a strongly contested design around Valve's office during the development of Half-Life, considered by some to be too graphic, a thing Backman did not agree with. However Gabe Newell liked it, which greatly influenced its inclusion in the game.[1]
  • Strong art direction and clear goals were set for the Gonarch from the start, but the AI proved to be very complicated due to the size of the creature and how different it was from the more common game monsters of that time.[1]


List of appearances[edit]

Main games[edit]