This week in 1987, the Metroid series made its debut for the Nintendo Entertainment System in North America. The first entry in the series, named Metroid is also the first in the chronological timeline for all future sequels.
You play as Samus Aran, an intergalactic bounty hunter tasked with retrieving a newly discovered life form that has been kept in suspended animation. A research vessel was previously tasked with this mission. However, the ship was attacked by Space Pirates, who then absconded with the life-form to their fortress on planet Zebes. All attempts to retrieve the specimen by mass assault have failed. The last hope to retrieve the Metroid and preventing the Space Pirates using them as a weapon falls on Samus Aran.
The game is a 2D platformer. Unlike other platformers of the time, rather than having multiple linear levels, Metroid had one large level with interconnected sections that could be returned to at any time. The mechanism limiting progression in Metroid was barriers which required a certain ability or weapon to pass. Samus must find these upgrades to venture deep into the enemy base and locate two high-ranking Space Pirate officers, Kraid and Ridley. Once both are defeated Samus can face the final boss, Mother Brain.
Release and Reception
The North American version of Metroid was released a year after its Japanese counterpart. Metroid went on to sell 2.73 million copies globally. It was received well by fans and critics alike. Metroid appears on a number of lists for either ‘Best video games of all time’ or ‘Top games for the Nintendo Entertainment System’. Game Informer listed Metroid as the 7th best game of all time their “The Top 200 Games of All Time” list. Other outlets including Nintendo Power, Electronic Gaming Monthly and IGN have also placed Metroid on their lists for Best Video Games of All Time.
One of the most interesting aspects about Metroid is the identity of the protagonist. The appearance of Samus remains a mystery until the last moments of the game. The last scene reveals that the bad ass bounty hunter is a woman. This ending can only be unlocked if you defeat the game within five hours. Metroid was one of the first games to break the stereotypical female role of ‘damsel in distress’. She is now considered one of most iconic video game characters and has appeared in multiple Nintendo franchises.
Last year was the 30th Anniversary of the release of Metroid. Nintendo glossed over the event making no acknowledgment of the anniversary or Metroid’s Legacy. Luckily this year Metroid fans have something to get excited about. At E3, one new entry in the series was announced, Metroid Prime 4. A remake was also announced, Metroid: Samus Returns, which will be released this year for Nintendo 3DS.
Metroid spawned an entire genre of games which became known as Metroidvania which it shares with Castlevania.