The history of Metroid: part 1

How Nintendo gave birth to a gaming icon

When it comes to epic sci-fi action, nothing comes close to Metroid. Following the adventures of bounty hunter Samus Aran as she pursues the evil Space Pirates across the universe, its sprawling settings, cool weapons and innovative approach to the familiar 'run and jump' platforming formula has seen the series re-writing the videogame rulebook since it first exploded out of Nintendo's Kyoto HQ back in 1986.

Following the success of Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros and The Legend Of Zelda on their NES console, Nintendo decided it was time to branch off into more adult territory so set two of their most experienced designers, Yoshio Sakamoto and Gunpei Yokoi (the inventor of the Game Boy), loose on what would become the first Metroid game.


The resulting game was a colossal achievement. A sprawling science fiction masterpiece directly riffing on the Ridley Scott's recent Alien (the principle antagonist was named Ridley in his honour), Metroid saw you in control of a lone bounty hunter called Samus Aran, dispatched to the desolate planet Zebes to destroy the Space Pirates, who in turn were attempting to use mysterious alien lifeforms called Metroids for their own nefarious means.

It was the first platformer to ditch the standard left-to-right scrolling template and demand you back track and explore its huge alien world. Not only that, but the twist in the tail - that Samus Aran was actually a woman - was a bold, cheeky first for gaming.

It took five years for a sequel to appear - the solid Metroid 2: Return of Samus on the Game Boy - but it wasn't until Super Metroid touched down on the SNES in 1994 that the franchise really caught fire. It took the original's basic platforming template and made it bigger, bolder and more beautiful, packing huge levels and enormous bosses into a humble game cartridge. It was a massive critical success and remains one of the greatest videogames ever released.

However, launching right at the end of the SNES lifespan, against the new Sony Playstation, it sold relatively poorly in its native Japan. Despite the enthusiasm of fans over the world, the years passed and no follow up appeared. Could the Metroid series be over before it had had a chance to really take flight? Not a bit of it. As it turned out, Nintendo had some rather exciting planned for their underappreciated femme fatale...