According to predictions, Metroid Dread in 2021 will be the game that restores the series to its former glory. The Metroid series has had its share of problems, but it also created a new genre of video games.
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The name has come under attack from an unseen foe. The various franchise entries are the work of a large number of developers. To compete with other teams’ ideas, you need to make significant changes to the original formula that made these games so successful.
Metroid began as a 2D non-linear side-scroller but has since transitioned into the more traditional first-person science-fiction adventure genre. At least up until Metroid Dread, so we may as well see where else the series goes.
What Is Metroid About?
You probably know what a typical 2D Metroid game looks like, since this franchise title is half of the inspiration for the genre term “metroidvania,” but I’ll break it down anyway. In these games, the protagonist, Samus Aran, dons a power suit and explores a level over and over again in search of secret passages, upgrades, and, of course, more levels.
The plot of every Metroid game essentially revolves around these core elements: Samus Aran loses access to her power suit’s abilities early in the game, but because it is made of organic materials, she is often able to find upgrades on the planets she explores to restore her full strength. There are hostile alien enemies and bosses she must defeat along the way, often set to eerie yet beautiful music. Samus Aran’s morph ball mode is one of many upgrades that have appeared in multiple games. A new Metroid player once asked, “[w]hy can’t metroid crawl?” because of this ability, which allows her to compress her body into a surprisingly small, spherical shape so that she can roll into the narrow pathways. If you’re wondering why the series is called “Metroid” and not the bounty hunter, it’s because the aliens in the show are deadly life suckers whose only weakness is cold (which Samus can exploit with an ice beam power-up for her arm cannon).
The narrative doesn’t always play a major role in the Metroid series. Knowing why Samus ventures to distant planets in search of ancient alien artifacts increases the pleasure I get from discovering such things as the speed boost upgrade that allows Samus to gallop through stone barriers. Read on if you’re interested in learning more about our protagonist.
Who Is Samus Aran?
At the outset, the majority of players knew very little about Samus. Samus’ gender wasn’t revealed until the very end of the original Metroid game. (Page 7 of the original game’s manual blatantly lied about this.) A fast enough player would see Samus take off her helmet, and possibly the rest of her suit, revealing a tiny red bikini. This theme was revisited in subsequent Metroid games, with Samus donning more and more functional garb with each entry. At first, she ditched the bikini for a sports bra and bike shorts, and then, in the games, her undergarments were shown as the Zero Suit, a blue jumpsuit covering her entire body. Over the same time period, the Metroid games have gradually unveiled more of her backstory and underlying goals. She was a fully realized individual, not just a hot body in a power suit. She had a tragic past and an impressive list of professional accomplishments. After a dozen games, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on who she is.
Samus, a human female, lives in a galaxy in the far future where interstellar travel is commonplace and multiple intelligent alien races frequently interact with both humans and one another. According to the Metroid manga—which has a questionable canonical status but inspired the story of multiple canonical Metroid games—our heroine was born on K-2L, a planet with a small human colony, and lived there with her parents until she was three years old. Meanwhile, the Chozo, who lived on K-2L’s neighboring planet Zebes, were an alien race with avian features who had been around for millennia and developed advanced technology. Afloraltite, a fuel source also sought after by the Chozo, was being mined on K-2L by humans. The humans initially said no to the Chozo’s request for this fuel because they gave no indication of why they needed it, but it seems they wanted it for bioengineering Metroids.
As a young girl of three, Samus witnessed the attack on K-2L by hostile aliens known as Space Pirates. (It may sound like a job title, but it’s actually the name of an alien race.) The Afloraltite was the target of a theft attempt by the Space Pirates, led by Ridley. Both of Samus’ parents, along with everyone else in the human colony except for Samus, were killed in the ensuing battle. Although the Chozo arrived late to the human’s distress call, they were able to save 3-year-old Samus and take her home with them.
This aspect of Samus’s history, where the Chozo raised and trained her to be a warrior, is detailed in not only the manga, but also in the manuals for a number of Metroid games. The Chozo implanted her with their DNA and created a custom power suit so she could use their advanced arsenal. This is why Samus can fight while wearing a power suit that no other human can use, and while employing enhancements that no one else in the galaxy has access to.
Metroid takes place during Samus’ adult life, when she is a bounty hunter and an officer for the Galactic Federation, a military force that frequently fights Space Pirate attacks on other planets. Samus’s past with the Space Pirates, combined with her access to advanced Chozo technology, made her a highly valuable military asset who was frequently sent on dangerous missions that were beyond the capabilities of her peers.
What Are The Metroids?
The Chozo were the ones responsible for bioengineering Metroids. Several sources, including the Metroid manga and game manuals, claim that they were developed with Mother Brain’s input. Mother Brain was an artificial intelligence developed by the Chozo. As it turns out (more on this later), the Chozo was wrong to put their faith in Mother Brain’s decision-making abilities. Remember that everything you’re about to read is merely background; these are things that happened long before the first Metroid was ever created.
The video game Metroid Fusion revealed the true motivation for the Chozo to create the Metroids. They acted as a predator to another harmful parasite, “X,” which threatens entire ecosystems. Samus returns to the planet SR388 in Fusion, where the X was initially discovered and where the Chozo once lived. As soon as the Chozo discovered the X parasite on that world, they essentially manufactured a second dangerous parasite to combat it. What’s more, it was successful. To this day, Metroids are the only known form of life capable of wiping out the parasite X, but if they ever get loose, they could easily wipe out entire galaxies.
The X parasite on SR388 was defeated with the help of the first bioengineered Metroids, but after they finished their mission, they began to mutate and prove difficult for the Chozo to control. The Chozo colony on SR388 was wiped out by the Metroids, and the Zebes colony met the same fate. Mother Brain is portrayed as having betrayed the Chozo in the Metroid manga, colluding with the Space Pirates and helping them take over Zebes.
After learning about Metroids from Mother Brain, the Space Pirates planned to weaponize them in an attempt to conquer the galaxy. Samus’s view of the Space Pirates as mortal enemies was cemented when they conquered her second home on Zebes and began operating from there. It is established early on in the original Metroid that all Chozo life and civilizations on Zebes and SR388 have been wiped out, save for a select few who managed to flee under mysterious circumstances. Samus confronts the Space Pirates and Mother Brain on her home planet of Zebes in the original Metroid and the remake Metroid: Zero Mission, destroying the Metroids they stole and weaponized. Taking place after the events of Metroid, the Metroid Prime trilogy is largely a side story, but it nonetheless sees Samus continuing to eliminate various threats across the galaxy, including Metroids.
Samus’s final phase of Metroid annihilation occurred on SR388 (specifically, during Metroid 2 and its remake, Metroid: Samus Returns). Samus tracked down the last remaining Metroid, but because it was so young, it mistook her for its mother and imprinted on her. Instead of destroying it, Samus captured it and gave it to the Federation for study. After Ridley stole the baby Metroid from Samus’s care in Super Metroid, she went after him to get it back. That necessitated a return trip to Zebes where the venal Mother Brain, the rest of the Space Pirates, and the infamous Ridley could be confronted once more. To everyone’s surprise, the baby Metroid reappears at the end of Super Metroid to help Samus and ultimately sacrifices itself in their final showdown against Mother Brain.
To make matters worse, we’ve finally arrived at Metroid: Other M, the most reviled but still technically canonical game in the Metroid series.
Wait, Do I Have To Play Other M? That’s The Bad One, Right?
You can skip playing that game without any harm coming to anyone. The plot will not be a secret from you, as I will explain it now.
Despite its current poor reputation, Other M was initially met with only mildly less acclaim than the series’ other entries. Players had issues with the game’s linear structure, as well as Samus’ clumsy dialogue, deadpan delivery, and childish fixation on her former commanding officer Adam Malkovich. Despite being the most quoted and mocked line from the game, Samus’s “Confession time” statement sums up the game’s theme: “There’s no question I saw Adam as a father figure because I was so young when I lost both of my parents.” (Every Metroid fan I know uses the phrase “confession time” facetiously, but they also use it seriously sometimes.) Samus is shown to suffer from severe PTSD in Metroid: Other M after Ridley murders her parents. When confronted with a clone of Ridley, Samus freezes and is unable to take any action, which is surprising given that she never displayed such symptoms in the previous Metroid games.
Samus’s excessive cloning isn’t the only time Other M appears in the story. After the events of Super Metroid, the Galactic Federation analyzed all of the DNA that had gotten on Samus’ suit, including that of Ridley and the baby Metroid. They made a copy of Ridley and new Metroids, and they even made a new Mother Brain (nicknamed “MB”) to lead them. Besides everything, what could possibly go wrong here?
Samus faces reanimated versions of Ridley, Mother Brain, and the Metroids in Other M. That’s cliché enough, except she has to do it while deferring to a male commanding officer who is reluctant to give her permission to use her full suite of power suit upgrades at first. In the end, Adam gives his life to wipe out MB and the Metroids while Samus takes care of Ridley. Once again, the Metroids have been exterminated, and peace reigns throughout the galaxy.
Except that it isn’t. Don’t forget the original intent of the Chozo in making the Metroids. Yeah.
What’s Up With The X Parasite?
Samus is summoned back to SR388 by the Federation in Metroid Fusion, the penultimate chapter of the Metroid series before Metroid Dread. For obvious reasons, this is not a good plan. Now that there are no more Metroids to keep the X parasite in check, it has spread rapidly and poses a serious threat to the galaxy. Samus gets infected with the X parasite, which nearly kills her.
Samus undergoes life-saving surgery carried out by Federation medical professionals and researchers. Samus is immunized from further X parasite attacks thanks to a vaccine developed from her genetic material, which was taken from the baby Metroid. To God’s credit, someone saved all that genetic material. I pray no one attempts to replicate Metroid with it. Please don’t think I actually believe that; I wouldn’t dream of it. As one might expect, the Federation did use that DNA to clone yet another Metroid, which Samus battles at the game’s conclusion. The problem is that we haven’t arrived yet.
Samus’ amputated power suit parts and other SR388 artifacts were taken to a nearby research station by Federation scientists during her surgery. The research station, which had been plagued by an unidentified explosion, had a tragic ending. Samus, her energy renewed by the vaccine, decides to look into the matter.
Despite Metroid Fusion’s release predating Other M, it is in Other M where we first see Samus Aran displaying greater emotional depth. She vents to a ship AI she names Adam after her commanding officer because the AI’s demeanor is reminiscent of Adam’s gruff, businesslike tone in her diary entries set in Fusion, and the AI reciprocates her trust. At the game’s end, she finds out that this was no fluke; the AI was intentionally programmed to mimic Adam’s mannerisms. In Metroid Dread, this AI makes a return appearance, this time guiding Samus and addressing her as “Lady,” Adam’s pet name for her. (It’s just as annoying as it was in Fusion and Other M, but Samus seems to enjoy it; she remarked on its “dignified” tone in Fusion.)
The SA-X boss that Samus faces in the final moments of Fusion is another direct influence on Metroid Dread. The SA-X is a copy of Samus that uses her own abilities and strength in battle; it was created when the X parasite infected the pieces of Samus’ power suit that had been removed. It’s a terrifying foe, and it was the model for the EMMI robots in Metroid Dread, thanks to its ability to follow Samus around the entire level.
The final scene of Metroid Fusion is a callback to Super Metroid, where an adversary is transformed into a friend: After the baby Metroid helped Samus defeat Mother Brain, SA-X does the same for her in her final showdown with the cloned Metroid. Due to its status as a natural predator of the X, the Metroid at the end of Fusion is able to defeat it, but Samus is also able to reclaim the pieces of her power suit after its destruction, restoring her to full strength. She wipes out the Metroid, SR388, and the research facility. That seems like the final chapter, but it isn’t.
Samus learns in Dread that the X parasite is still active on the planet ZDR, and that she might be the only one capable of eradicating it. Samus alone, among her human and Chozo ancestry, is the only living thing with Metroid DNA.
What About The Chozo Survivors?
Keep in mind that some Chozo were able to make it out of the various decimated colonies. Fans of the Metroid series can anticipate even more information about the circumstances surrounding those Chozo to come up in Metroid Dread, which is based on MercurySteam’s remake of Metroid 2 titled Metroid: Samus Returns.
Those who completed Samus Returns with every available power-up and expansion unlocked a gallery of images titled “Chozo Memories.” They show the Chozo encountering X-parasite-infected creatures on SR388, as well as bioengineering the Metroids as a defense mechanism. The Metroids perform admirably at first under the direction of Chozo supervisors, but they mutate and turn on their masters in the end. The penultimate image depicts a few Chozo superiors talking to a Chozo general, and the final image depicts that general standing atop a heap of Chozo bodies as his soldiers stand at attention nearby. Although the full context of this image has yet to be revealed, it appears to suggest that the Chozo general ordered the deaths of all Chozo involved in the creation of the Metroids.
Samus arrives on the planet ZDR at the start of Metroid Dread, and she is almost immediately confronted by the same Chozo general, who proves to be a formidable foe. Samus loses her super powers when the general destroys her power suit and locks her underground, forcing her to explore and try to escape a hostile planet. The planet is covered in Chozo technology and abandoned research stations, suggesting that it was once a Chozo colony like SR388.
The Metroid Series
One of the most recognizable women in video game history debuted in a series from Japan. It’s bounty hunter Samus Aran, who fights parasitic Metroid creatures across the galaxy. To top it all off, she can use the Metroid power in her suit to learn new abilities.
However, the name was not chosen in reference to harmful outsiders. Metro (the subway system) and “android” (a mobile operating system) were used interchangeably in Nintendo’s original intellectual property. The events of the Metroid games take place in a futuristic undercity. The protagonist also dons a mechanized outfit.
It’s important to note that the Metroid monsters aren’t always around. In addition to the aliens and parasite races mentioned elsewhere, there are more in the entries.
Metroid’s groundbreaking aesthetic has influenced video game design for decades. The term “Metroidvania” is used to describe a group of games with similar layouts. Take the Castlevania series as an example.
The genre known as Metroidvania was introduced in the original, 2D Metroid game. This indicates a linear but potentially branching playthrough. There is only one map to check out, but you are technically free to go wherever you like within its confines. However, you cannot progress until you acquire the necessary weapons, abilities, or items.
The journey places a premium on discovery and environmental narrative. These concepts are also used in games like “The Legend of Zelda.”
Then, players will engage in platforming, exploring, and fighting off alien enemies. Samus gains the abilities she needs to survive in the harsh conditions typical of the futuristic worlds in which she finds herself.
However, the classic games are two-dimensional, side-scrolling games. Later Metroid Prime games were first-person shooters in 3D.
In 1984, Nintendo’s Research and Development 1 division began work on the original Metroid game. In 1986, they released two games that were described as “sibling games,” Metroid and Kid Icarus.
After three games, Kid Icarus was cancelled in 2012. Nintendo has released 15 Metroid games since the series’ inception out of kindness. There are ten main games, two supplementary games, two remakes, and a collection.
Every Metroid Game by Release Date
Metroid – 1986
In 1986, for the Japanese Famicom, the first Metroid game was released. The NES version wasn’t made available outside of Japan until a year later.
It’s worth noting that Intelligent Systems collaborated with Nintendo R&D1 on the game. Fire Emblem is another major series for Nintendo, and its creators are Intelligent Systems.
Samus sets out on a quest to rescue the Metroid organism from the hands of the Space Pirates. The pirates plan to weaponize the parasites in order to wipe out Samus and the rest of their enemies.
It was a simple “Metroidvania” side-scrolling 2D game. Samus enjoys herself in an expansive subterranean later. She has the ability to shoot, crawl (in a ball form), and jump.
Metroid II: Return of Samus – 1991
First released in Japan for the Game Boy in 1991 and later in Europe and North America the following year, Return of Samus has been a staple of the Game Boy library ever since.
Samus Aran has not given up on her quest to rid her home planet (SR388) of the Metroids. But she has to beat the Space Pirates, who are in a race to steal the parasites’ power.
The game is based on the original concept, but it includes several new staple features. This set features Samus’s Varia Suit, the Spazer Beam, the Spider Ball, and the Space Jump.
Super Metroid – 1994
The original version of Super Metroid was released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo.
Samus Aran visits Zebes in order to bring back a baby Metroid parasite. The young creature was taken captive by Ridley and his Space Pirate crew.
The game is based on the same formula as Metroid II. In addition, it allows you to shoot in any direction, has an automap, and an inventory screen.
Metroid Fusion – 2002
In 2002, Metroid Fusion was released for the Game Boy Advance. It’s the last main entry in the classic style before the “Prime” spinoff altered the formula.
The protagonist, a bounty hunter, investigates a parasite infestation on a space station. She refers to them as the “X” race.
In the same vein as its predecessors, Fusion is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with puzzles and shooting. It also adds missions that act as road signs for players to follow as they travel.
Metroid Prime – 2002
Released for the GameCube a day before its sequel, Metroid Fusion, 2002’s Metroid Prime was the first in the series. Being the first 3D installment in the series, the game took on a first-person shooting mode.
The events of the story take place between the two titles. Samus Aran fights the Space Pirates to destroy their biological experiments on Tallon IV.
In spite of this, Nintendo has labeled the game as a “first-person adventure” due to its emphasis on discovery. To access the final area, a meteorite, Samus must collect twelve artifacts from across the planet.
Exploration, gaining abilities, collecting necessary items, completing puzzles, and navigating platforming jumps are all part of the game. Then, Samus can shoot in any direction thanks to the game’s “lock-on” mechanics.
Metroid: Zero Mission – 2004 (remake)
In 2004, Zero Missions made its Game Boy Advance debut. This is Nintendo R&D1’s final Metroid game. Retro Studios instead served as the team leader.
It’s a reimagining of the original Metroid game from 1986. Graphically and mechanically, the 2D gameplay has been modernized. The plot is the same, but the origins of Samus are revealed this time around.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes – 2004
Originally released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, Echoes was developed by Retro Studios. This is the first Metroid game to feature cooperative gunplay. It was originally released in 2005 under the name “Metroid Prime 2: Dark Echoes” in North America.
Samus’ mission is to free Galactic Federation Marines trapped on a Luminoth spaceship. She learns of a new foe: the Ing, an antagonistic race from another world.
Samus destroys the Ing by visiting four temples. Dark Samus, her doppelganger, has emerged as a formidable foe in the meantime.
The game places an emphasis on narrative and innovative gameplay mechanics. In order to acquire the tools they need, players will essentially have to scour both planes. Furthermore, there are fresh abilities, new beam weapons, and restricted ammunition.
Metroid Prime Pinball – 2005 (spin-off)
Starting in 2005 (Australia), the pinball video game for Nintendo DS was released in Japan, Europe, and North America.
The Metroid spin-off was developed by Fuse Games, and it’s essentially just a Pinball game with a Metroid theme.
Metroid Prime Hunters – 2006
The first Hunters game came out in 2006 for the Nintendo DS. It was developed by Redmond, a division of Nintendo Software Technology. As with the first Prime game, this one has a multiplayer mode where players can compete against one another.
The plot revolves around the interactions of Prime and Prime 2. Currently, Samus Aran is looking into a transmission from the Alembic Cluster. She joins forces with fellow bounty hunters on the distant Solar System in order to track down the source of a dark force.
The focus of this game is squarely on the first-person shooting action. Samu’s gunship now has updated weapons and can be used to visit new planets. Wi-Fi multi-player support and voice chat were also included in the game.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – 2007
The 2007 release of Corruption for the Nintendo Wii was also the first for Retro Studios. It was released in North America and Europe before Japan for the first time, unlike the previous games.
Six months after the events of Prime 2, our story begins. While stationed at the Norion naval base, Samus Aran is protecting the Galactic Federation from an attack by Space Pirates. Dark Samus attacks her fellow bounty hunters during the mission. She soon learns that her doppelganger unleashed a deadly virus upon the world.
To interact with the game in a Nintendo Wii console, players must use the Nunchuk controllers. The gamepads allow players to perform a variety of attacks and abilities, including jumping, shooting, and aiming. Corruption also gives her control of her gunship and the ability to use powerful attacks.
Finally, Samus can use her ship to travel to new areas just like she did in the previous game.
Metroid Prime: Trilogy – 2009 (bundle)
A collection of Nintendo’s Prime games for the Wii was made available in 2009.
It includes the original Metroid, its sequel, and its third installment. Two games were released initially for the GameCube. That’s why Retro Studios adapted the controller layout for the Nunchuk on the Wii.
Metroid: Other M – 2010
Released in 2010, Other M is a Wii game. The game’s development was led by Team Ninja and Nintendo SPD.
Samus Aran investigates an abandoned Galactic Federation space station. A squad of Marines embarked on the mission with her.
The title’s cinematics, voice acting, and characterization were all given a lot of attention. After beating the game, for instance, players gain access to “Theater Mode,” a two-hour presentation consisting entirely of cinematics from the game.
Incorporating more compact character models and a first-person perspective, it fundamentally reworked the game. For certain abilities and sequences, however, the perspective changes to first-person (Samus’ HUD). Combat, exploration, platforming, puzzles, and the novel option of melee attacks are all part of the gameplay.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force – 2016 (spin-off)
The Federation Force spinoff is a cooperative first-person shooter. Next Level Games finally released it for the Nintendo 3DS after a six-year delay.
Take control of Galactic Federation Marines as they battle Space Pirates in this sequel to Prime 3.
The game relies on its first-person shooting mechanics and its multiplayer co-op campaign in Samus’ absence.
Metroid: Samus Returns – 2017 (remake)
The Samus Returns team expanded to include new programmers. The 2017 Nintendo 3DS game was developed by MercurySteam and Nintendo EPD.
This is an updated version of the classic Metroid II: The Return of Samus. Even though the game’s framework and narrative remain unchanged, the designers have completely revamped the visuals, user experience, character models, animations, and controls.
Even though it’s a 2D game, the mechanics are fresh. Samus, for instance, is equipped with a melee counterattack and has 360-degree aim control. It also includes 3D environments, movies, animations, and character models.
Metroid Dread – 2021
Launching in October 2021 for the Nintendo Switch, Metroid Dread has been a staple of the series ever since. This more recent game was handled by MercurySteam and Nintendo EPD.
The 2D side-scrolling genre welcomes Samus Aran once again. The game updates the series by introducing stealth gameplay, 3D graphics, and new mechanics.
The events of this story take place after those of Metroid Fusion. There was a resurgence of the X parasite species, and they have the ability to disguise themselves as anything. Samus is cornered by a dangerous foe and forced to go underground to wipe out the monsters. She has to find a way out of there and wipe out the X without her suit or many of her abilities.
Players engage in a side-scrolling action-adventure-style gameplay experience as they discover the planet of ZDR. Unlocking new areas and vanquishing enemies requires players to find and use various items, weapons, and powers. The Dread expansion adds stealth features as well. She develops a stealth ability called “Phantom Cloak” that enables her to remain hidden even when others see her. The ability to “dash” is also noteworthy as a new skill.
Finally, Dread is widely considered to be the series’ toughest entry. It’s also one of the year’s most challenging games. In addition, it was named 2021’s “Best Action-Adventure Game” by Game of the Year.
Every Metroid Game in Chronological Order
- 1987’s Super Mario Bros.
- Video Game: Metroid II: Samus Returns (1991)
- SNES Super Metroid (1994)
- In 2002, Metroid Fusion was released.
- 2002’s Metroid Prime
- 2004’s Metroid remake, “Zero Mission,” was a huge success.
- 2004, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
- 2005’s spin-off, Metroid Prime Pinball.
- Adventures in the Hunt for Metroid Prime (2006)
- Game Released in 2007: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
- Bundle of the 2009 Metroid Prime Games
- Video Game: Metroid: Other M – 2010
- 2016’s spin-off Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
- Samus Returns to Metroid in the 2017 remake.
- Fear of the Metroid – 2021
Will the Metroid series continue?
A Metroid Prime 4 teaser was released by Nintendo in 2017. That date is set for 2022.