The Metroid series is not only one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises, it’s one of the most successful game franchises in the world. The Metroid franchise also gave us Samus Aran, one of gaming’s earliest badass female protagonists.
We’ve mentioned this many times before and you’re probably tired of hearing it from us too, but here it is anyway: we’re primarily PC gamers. Yes, yes #PCMasterRace! But we’re not fools. We’re willing to acknowledge that a good console game can come along every now and then. Usually, when you think console, the first thing that one thinks of is either Xbox or PlayStation. But the franchise we’re going to talk about was for neither of those consoles. Yet, it’s arguably one of the most successful game franchises out there. We’re talking about Metroid.
Metroid was designed and created by Makoto Kano and Hiroji Kiyotake and is set in a sci-fi universe. The name itself, “Metroid” was coined as a combination of the words ‘Metro’ and ‘Android’, to represent the very robot-like Samus Aran. Though she doesn’t look very *ahem* robot-like in her more recent iterations. Not that we’re complaining.
Samus Aran is an intergalactic bounty hunter. She was raised by an advanced alien race called the Chozo after her parents were killed in a raid by Space Pirates. Her trademark power suit was given to her by the Chozo, which she dons to take on Metroids and the Space Pirates. Metroids are creatures Samus deals with for most of the series. These creatures absorb the life essence of other creatures and are pretty much immune to conventional weaponry.
Then, you’ve got the Space Pirates, who in addition to uh, space pirating, also conduct experiments on lifeforms to harvest their essence and create weaponry. Sound familiar? Yea they’re pretty much trying to be Metroids. Not if Samus can help it though, what’s the point of having a power suit if ya ain’t gonna use it, right?
There have been many Metroid titles over the years and Samus has made an appearance in many Nintendo crossover games. For the purposes of this franchise article we’ll skip spin-offs and stick to the main titles. Starting of course with…
The very first Metroid released on the Japanese Famicom system, and later on the NES in 1987. That’s 30 years ago! It was among the first games to use a password to save and load progress. It was also possibly the first open-world 2D scroller game. You could easily go back and forth between areas you’d visited unlike in other 2D side-scroller games of the time like Mario or Contra.
This is the game that first introduces us to the deadly Metroids. It’s also the game where we first face-off against the reptilian Space Pirate Kraid, the Space Pirate General Ridley and of course, the final boss, Mother Brain. You’ll see these names popping up a lot throughout the Metroid universe. Ridley also happens to be the same Space Pirate who lead the raid that killed young Samus Aran’s parents; so it’s personal. Another really cool thing about the first Metroid is that nobody really knew what Samus looked like or what her real identity was. It was only if you got the best ending that you found out that Samus Aran was a woman. Yes, the game had multiple endings.
Metroid II: Return of Samus
The second Metroid game released in 1991 for the Game Boy and was twice as large as its predecessor. It was one of the first Game Boy games to come with battery backup. In this game Samus visits the Metroid home planet to investigate why the Metroid population was growing uncontrollably. You come across various new types of Metroids and the Queen Metroid as the final boss. Her selection of weapons and abilities also increases.
In 1994 Samus arrives on the Super NES. We’re back to the Chozo planet Zebes and now we’ve got more variety in environments and we get our first look at Samus’ Gravity Suit, which allows her to traverse through different environments with ease. There are new weapons and various space suit attachments as well.
Metroid Prime released about six years after Super Metroid for the Nintendo GameCube in 2002. This was the first Metroid game to step away from the 2D sidescroller format and played out in first-person. You could scan objects and the environment around you to discover secrets and hidden passages in typical Metroid fashion. It was also the first Metroid game where Samus was voiced, if you can call grunts voice acting.
Metroid Fusion also released in 2002. While Prime released on the GameCube, Fusion was released for the Game Boy Advance. Chronologically, Fusion is the last game in the Metroid series. In Fusion Samus falls victim to a parasite called ‘the X’. The only way to save her is to inject her with a serum made from Metroid DNA. However, this leaves Samus with a weakness to the cold. Fusion sticks to the old school 2D side-scroller format but features a few new mechanics like being able to grab onto ledges. You could even link the Game Boy Advance to the GameCube via a link cable to get her Fusion Suit in Metroid Prime.
Metroid: Zero Mission
Zero Mission is a remake of the first NES Metroid game. In terms of looks it was much better than the original and used many of the new mechanics that were implemented in the previous 2D Metroid game – Fusion. It remained true to the original for the most part but many of the areas had been expanded upon. Zero Mission also included an epilogue wherein we see Samus escaping Zebes and losing her Power Suit. This is the first time we see Samus’ iconic Zero Suit.
In Echoes Samus is on the planet Aether, being hunted down by the Ing, a mysterious space race. Samus had to traverse between the light and dark worlds of Aether in order to solve mysteries, discover secrets,and restore her Power Suit to full power. Metroid Prime 2 was the first Metroid to feature multiplayer and allowed upto four players to compete against each other.
Metroid Prime: Hunters
Released in 2006 for the Nintendo DS, Hunters was first bundled as a demo with the first generation of Nintendo DSs. It would be a few years before the full title was released on the DS. Hunters excelled the most in its multiplayer. Once again, up to four players could compete against each other, but thanks to Nintendo’s WiFi connection it was a much smoother experience. Players could choose between seven different bounty hunters and play across twenty different maps and seven different games modes.
Metroid Prime 3 was the first Metroid game for the Wii. And since it was on the Wii, it took full advantage of the Wiimotes for what is hailed by critics as the best control scheme yet in a Metroid game. Samus once again has to deal with the Space Pirate threat, but there’s a dark Samus who you’re constantly battling throughout the game.
Metroid: Other M
In Other M we see the game go back to traditional controls and a mix of third-person exploration with first-person combat. Other M tells us more about Samus’ history and features fully voiced cutscenes.
Other than the Metroid Prime games, the Metroid games weren’t exactly released in Chronological order. The current timeline is something like this:
- Metroid / Metroid: Zero Mission
- Metroid Prime / Metroid Prime Trilogy
- Metroid Prime: Hunters
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes / Metroid Prime Trilogy
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption / Metroid Prime Trilogy
- Metroid II: Return of Samus
- Super Metroid
- Metroid: Other M
- Metroid Fusion
The Prime trilogy basically encompasses all of the Metroid Prime games.
Metroid is one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, not far behind Mario or Pokemon. Its protagonist – Samus Aran, is one of gaming’s few badass female protagonists. The Metroid franchise is distributed across the Nintendo Wii and WiiU, and their handheld consoles. The games themselves have been featured in several “greatest of all time” lists. It’s unlikely that you haven’t played a Metroid game if you own any of Nintendo’s consoles. And if you’re planning to get yourself a Nintendo console, you now know of another franchise you have to play.
Manish "Trigger-Happy" Rajesh
If he's not gaming, he's... no wait he's always gaming.