Planet Zebes consists of a rough, jagged base, three main platforms (one of which is sloped at an angle), and one smaller platform ascending and descending to the far right of the stage. Hazardous acid surges below, periodically submerging most of the base and two of the three platforms, though never rising high enough to reach the topmost platform.
Touching the acid results in damage and serious knockback, capably KOing a player if their damage meter is high. It can also however be used strategically as a means of salvage if risen enough; in the event of a player being knocked off of the stage and into the acid, it will launch them skyward, allowing them to reuse their recovery or simply fall back onto the stage. Obtaining a Starman (or any form of strong knockback resistance or immunity) grants invulnerability to the acid, allowing the player to walk through it with no obstruction. However, if, while invincible, the player falls off the stage and through the acid, they will self-destruct. It will not "bump" the player up, as they are immune to its burn.
When the player fights False Samus in The Great Maze, the stage resembles Planet Zebes (except the colors and background are different).
This stage is very loosely based on Zebes, the planet on which Metroid and Super Metroid are set. A clear reference is the yellow acid featured in some rooms in Metroid. The acid rising up and down in this stage is a reference to Super Metroid, where the lava in some Norfair and Tourian rooms would rise after earthquakes. The platforms that appear to be composed of green bubbles with red highlights are a direct reference to the aesthetics of Norfair in both games.
Ridley, leader of the Space Pirates who has appeared in the majority of Metroid games as a reoccurring boss, occasionally flies in the background. Wavers, flying enemies appearing in numerous Metroid games, also occasionally appear in the background. Both Ridley and the Wavers are based on their sprites in Super Metroid.
The stage is commonly banned in N64 Backroom tournaments, mostly because of the acid that interferes with usual gameplay, due to being able to star KO at unexpected moments and covering up parts of the stage, forcing opponents to run and jump to avoid it. This can also cause the fighting space on the stage to become extremely small. In addition, the occasionally awkward camera angles making gameplay more difficult for most. However, the stage is sometimes allowed in non-official tournaments on behalf of its size, ideal for aerial combos. It is also occasionally allowed as a counterpick over Peach's Castle due to the larger size.