The Metroid universe (メトロイド, Metroid) refers to the Smash Bros. series' collection of characters, stages, and properties that hail from Nintendo's famous Metroid series of science-fiction adventure games. It is one of the company's most successful franchises. The series has had eleven official games released thus far, with most of them being near-universally praised by critics and gamers alike. The series also has a compilation (Metroid Prime Trilogy) and two enhanced remakes (Zero Mission and Samus Returns). The main series revolves around the space-faring bounty-hunting exploits of a woman named Samus Aran trying to stop the terrors brought about by the parasitic Space Pirates and their monstrous commander, Ridley, while the Prime subseries revolves around Samus stopping the sentient mutagen substance Phazon and its avatar Dark Samus.
After the incredible success of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda for the Famicom / NES, Nintendo began work on Metroid, an action game inspired by Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi horror film Alien. Nintendo set the game in the labyrinthine, subterranean cave network of a science-fiction alien planet to help impress a feeling of desperation and solitude on the player, and attempted to set the game apart from other games by making it a nonlinear adventure-based game that required exploration and backtracking. Like Zelda, Metroid helped pioneer the concept of acquiring permanent tools during the quest that would open up the way forward once the player returned to earlier areas. Metroid was also one of the first games to contain multiple endings, which were awarded based on how fast the game was completed; this had a hand in popularizing the concept of the "speedrun". Finally, Metroid was one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist - and this was initially presented to the gaming public as a concealed secret until the game was beaten in a fast-enough time.
For all these reasons and more, the August 1987 release of Metroid for the NES was another revolutionary and enormously successful release for Nintendo. Metroid had a palpable effect on the future of the video game industry, integrating what was technically several styles of gameplay that had already revolutionized the industry on separate prior occasions into a new formula that was married with a foreboding atmosphere. The revelation that the player-character, Samus Aran - appearing as a suited, mechanized soldier that the instruction manual referred to with masculine pronouns - was a woman underneath the armor plating was lauded as innovative for blowing away established norms of females in video games (like the damsels in distress in Mario and Zelda).
Many retrospectives, however, find faults with some of the original game's design and layout in comparison to modern action-adventure standards, and these shortcomings were only partially addressed in the first sequel, Metroid II: Return of Samus, released for the Game Boy in November 1991. This sequel did something that very few Nintendo series attempted to do during this time frame: directly continue the story from the previous game. The adventure was considerably linear, with the only goal being to track down and exterminate all of the Metroids on Planet SR388, but it served to lay the foundation for the gameplay and story to come.
By far the most significant evolution of the Metroid formula, however, was the seminal Super Metroid, released on the SNES in April 1994. With vastly refined combat, exploration mechanics, world design, and dialogue-free storytelling, the game garnered universal acclaim and is often labeled by official publications as not only one of the best games on the SNES, but also one of the best video games ever made. The greatest irony is that the American and PAL versions of Super Metroid sold well as a result of aggressive marketing by Nintendo that was spurred on by the game's poor sales in Japan. Analysts proclaim that the Japanese release of Super Metroid was poorly timed, not only because of more commercially successful games being released at the time like Donkey Kong Country, but because of the launches of the next-generation systems Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn. This was a big contributing factor to what became a now-legendary eight-year hiatus for the series, which remained dormant despite Samus's appearance in Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64, and Nintendo mentioning the possibility of an N64 installment which had never came to fruition.
The franchise would continue its presence in the Super Smash Bros. series as Samus reprised her role in Melee, but no new core entry appeared to be on the horizon. The rebirth of the Metroid franchise at the end of 2002 was arguably one of the most daring and ambitious for any video game franchise; two completely separate, high-profile Metroid titles were released on the same day in the Americas, on November 17, 2002. The first was Metroid Fusion for the Game Boy Advance, which was an all-new adventure based on the familiar two-dimensional sidescrolling formula of Super Metroid. However the more noteworthy title of the two was Metroid Prime for the Nintendo GameCube, the series's inaugural transition into the third dimension, which was highly controversial prior to release. Not only was it being developed by a then-unknown company in the United States, the Texas-based Retro Studios, but its presentation with a first-person perspective led to accusations of being a complete departure from the Metroid fabric for the worse. The released product ultimately allayed these concerns, to say the least; Metroid Prime garnered extremely enthusiastic acclaim from critics and fans for managing the task of faithfully transplanting the classic formula into three dimensions and using the first-person viewpoint to its advantage and became one of the GameCube's bestselling titles as a result, securing the franchise's place as a Nintendo staple for the foreseeable future.
Throughout the 2000s, the Metroid franchise settled into a more regular release schedule following Prime and Fusion. Metroid: Zero Mission, released for the Game Boy Advance in February 2004, was a top-to-bottom remake and expansion of the original NES Metroid that incorporated elements and design choices from future installments such as the control scheme, power-ups, and movement mechanics. The key difference from the original was that while the first game allowed Samus to be playable without her armor using a cheat code, Zero Mission established Samus' abilities when outside of the Power Suit, making Samus playable in the new "Zero Suit" as part of the narrative. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, for the GameCube in November 2004, was a Prime follow-up that changed several concepts and was tuned to a much higher level of difficulty. Metroid Prime Hunters was an ambitious effort to present the graphically intensive Metroid Prime first-person formula on the restrictive hardware of the Nintendo DS in March 2006. Retro Studios concluded the Metroid Prime subseries (albeit temporarily) with the August 2007 release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii. The final chapter in the original trilogy, this entry introduced immersive pointer controls to the series for controlling Samus and aiming her weapons, which were carried over to the Japan-only "New Play Control!" rereleases of the first two Prime games. In late 2009, all three games were compiled into one disc as the limited-edition Metroid Prime Trilogy for Wii, bringing with it updated textures and slight difficultly revisions along with faster load times and a unified interface. The compilation eventually came to the Wii U Virtual Console in January 2015 after the physical version went out of print.
Following the Wii compilation's original release, Retro Studios would shift its focus to revitalizing another dormant Nintendo franchise in Donkey Kong Country, leaving them preoccupied for the time being. After the conclusion of the Prime trilogy, Metroid: Other M was introduced in August 2010 for the Wii, developed by Team Ninja of Ninja Gaiden fame. Its new third-person action-adventure gameplay aspects were generally well-received; however, some reviewers criticized its strikingly linear approach to level design, approach to characterization of Samus, the voice acting and dialogue (with the English dub directed by the non-English-speaking Yoshio Sakamoto), and the game's methods of telling a cutscene-heavy story, with these aforementioned elements causing a high degree of fan controversy and backlash. This, combined with the game's poor sales outside of Japan, dealt a critical blow to the series's success streak and marked the beginning of a second hiatus for the franchise.
Five years later at E3 2015, a new game in the series was announced for the Nintendo 3DS, Metroid Prime: Federation Force by Next Level Games, a spinoff of the Metroid Prime series due for release in 2016. The game is a cooperative first-person shooter, where the player assumes the role of a faceless Galactic Federation Marine and featuring gameplay elements similar to that of Metroid Prime Hunters. The game also featured a side mode called "Blast Ball" in which two teams of four Federation troops blast a large soccer ball to the other team's goal. Much like Other M before it, the game was met with a highly polarized reception, though Federation Force was lambasted for its change in graphical style, heavily reduced focus on Samus, focus on combat over exploration, and its overall departure from the series's general tone. Further criticism was aimed at the fact that the first Metroid game announced after the franchise's five-year hiatus was a spin-off title and not a core entry in either the 2D series or the Prime series, particularly for the franchise's 30th anniversary. On release, Federation Force sold poorly and was generally met with lukewarm reviews, now being considered "dead on arrival" to critics and fans.
With the controversy surrounding both Other M and Federation Force, as well as the five-year hiatus between them, the early-to-mid 2010s marked a period of uncertainty surrounding the state of the Metroid series. However, two new mainline Metroid titles were announced during E3 2017 - Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch, and Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS. The latter of the two is an enhanced remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus developed by MercurySteam, who previously handled the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow games. Samus Returns would release in September of that year and the reveal of these two games marked the true end of the main series' hiatus and, together with a new sub-line of Metroid amiibo, signaled the return of Metroid as one of Nintendo's flagship franchises.
While Samus Returns saw incredibly positive reception from fans and critics for bringing the series back to its roots despite lukewarm sales (which can be partly attributed to the waning lifespan of the 3DS), information on Metroid Prime 4 was hazy at best. Shortly after the game's teaser announcement, it was confirmed that longtime developer Retro Studios would not be returning for the new entry. Instead, it would be handled by an unspecified new development team. Roughly two years later, even after the series saw an increase in representation in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it was announced in January 2019 that the game's development would be restarted from scratch. Shinya Takahashi cited development struggles under the new team to meet the quality standards of the previous Metroid Prime titles and the expectations of series fans. As a result, series producer Kensuke Tanabe would restart the game's development, but with none other than the original developer of the Metroid Prime series - Retro Studios.
Overall, the Metroid series is often held up as one of Nintendo's greatest classic franchises and maintains a dedicated fanbase, particularly in the West. Super Metroid and the Metroid Prime trilogy in particular have garnered significant praise from fans and reviewers. Samus herself, while not achieving the same level of recognition as Mario or Link, is widely praised as one of Nintendo's most iconic heroines and a groundbreaking example of proactive female protagonists in gaming.
The Metroid series stars Samus Aran, a battle-hardened, one-of-a-kind professional bounty hunter raised by a now-extinct race of bird-like humanoids named the Chozo and sporting a powered suit imbued with fantastic Chozo technology. With an arm-grafted cannon that can shoot a variety of projectiles seemingly without limit, and a suit function that affords Samus the seemingly superhuman ability to transform into a perfectly spherical metal ball that can self-navigate tight quarters, Samus is regularly called upon by the primary known sovereign government of the Metroid setting, the Galactic Federation, to go on infiltration missions into planets and compounds occupied by races of alien Space Pirates. The series' namesake is a floating, jellyfish-like lifeform called a Metroid, which has the seemingly supernatural ability to siphon life energy out of its victims; Space Pirates seek to breed and harness these creatures, so it is up to Samus, seemingly the only individual with the upgradeable weaponry capable of killing them, to explore Space Pirate-occupied worlds and destroy their operations down to the core. Each primary Metroid title adds to a chronology of canonical games, which is laid out below:
Despite there being no Metroid title on the Nintendo 64, the Metroid franchise is represented as one of several "standard universes" found in the first Super Smash Bros. installment. In total, there is one character and one stage representing the series, both which focus on the original Metroid and the more recent Super Metroid. This game makes Samus's first and only appearance on the Nintendo 64, and she was one of the four characters originally conceived for the pitch of Super Smash Bros. as a Nintendo all-stars crossover game, the other three being Mario, Donkey Kong, and Fox McCloud.
Much like the original Smash 64, there was no new Metroid game released before Melee, so the majority of Metroid representation is still from the original Metroid and Super Metroid. This game features much more Metroid content than Smash 64, including one returning character, two new stages, and a handful of trophies. This game also introduces the first Metroid item.
Full Trophy List
Main article: List of SSBM trophies (Metroid series)
A fairly decent amount of content from the Metroid franchise appears in Super Smash Bros. Brawl.
The Metroid series is one of the better represented series in Smash 4. Not only do all characters from Brawl return with updated designs and most secondary content (the Screw Attack item, the Metroid Assist Trophy, the Ridley boss, most stages, and music), but it includes a wealth of new content, including two new Assist Trophies, a new stage, and two new music arrangements. Much of the new content derives from Metroid: Other M, which was released between the releases of Brawl and Smash 4 in 2010.
Main article: Items
Bold italics denotes an Assist Trophy new to the Smash Bros. series.
Main article: Enemies
Enemies that appear in both Smash Run in the 3DS version and Smash Tour in the Wii U version.
Smash Run enemies
Enemies exclusive to the 3DS version. They appear in Smash Run.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Main article: List of SSB4 Music (Metroid series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to SSB4.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash titles.
Compositions and arrangements directly sourced from the Metroid series with no alterations.
Main article: List of SSB4 trophies (Metroid series)
Collectible trophies that appear in both the 3DS version and the Wii U version.
for Nintendo 3DS
for Wii U
Main article: Trophy Box
Main article: Masterpieces
The Metroid series has undergone one of the most substantial expansions of the "perfect-attendance" franchises. Along with the two Smash 4 veterans returning with updated movesets, two newcomers were introduced: one being a unique fighter and the other an Echo Fighter. The series's presence has also gone from being heavily skewed towards Other M to a more generous representation from across the franchise, including the Metroid Prime titles, even incorporating elements from the more recent installments on Nintendo 3DS. Many Spirits and several new music tracks both sourced and remixed round off the rest of the representation of the entire Metroid franchise.
All Metroid stages except for Planet Zebes and Pyrosphere return from previous Smash games. Pyrosphere was removed most likely due to Ridley's playable status, and Planet Zebes was likely cut due to being rendered obsolete by Brinstar.
Main article: List of SSBU Music (Metroid series)
Arrangements and remixes unique to Ultimate.
Arrangements and remixes from previous Smash titles.
Compositions and arrangements directly sourced from the Metroid series with no alterations.
Main article: List of spirits (Metroid series)
The kanji aruji "主" denotes a Master Spirit.
Games with elements from or in the Super Smash Bros. series