Metroid Prime

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Metroid Prime
Samus Aran, the main character in Metroid Prime, is in a in a big, futuristic-looking powered suit with a helmet. There is a firearm on the right arm and large, bulky, and rounded shoulders, stands on an industrial-like corridor. Atop the image is the Nintendo GameCube logo, and the text "Only for" in the upper left corner. In the bottom of the image, the title "Metroid Prime" in front of an insignia with a stylized "S", the Official Nintendo Seal of Quality, Nintendo's logo, and ESRB's rating of "T".
North American and PAL region box art
Developer(s)Retro Studios
Director(s)Mark Pacini
Programmer(s)Mark Johnston
  • Todd Keller
  • James H. Dargie
November 18, 2002
  • GameCube
    • NA: November 18, 2002
    • BRA: December 15, 2002
    • JP: February 28, 2003
    • EU: March 21, 2003
    • AU: April 3, 2003
  • Wii
    • JP: February 19, 2009

Metroid Prime is an action-adventure game developed by Retro Studios and published by Nintendo for the GameCube.[1] Metroid Prime is the fifth main installment in the Metroid franchise and the first game in the series to use 3D computer graphics and a first-person perspective. Since exploration takes precedence over combat, Nintendo classifies the game as a "first-person adventure" rather than a first-person shooter.[2] It was released in North America in November 2002, and in Japan and Europe the following year. One day before its North American release, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance game Metroid Fusion, marking the return of the Metroid series after an eight-year hiatus following Super Metroid (1994).[3][4]

Metroid Prime is the first game in the Metroid Prime saga, which takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus.[5][6] Like previous games in the series, Metroid Prime has a science fiction setting in which players control the bounty hunter and series protagonist, Samus Aran. The story follows Samus as she battles the Space Pirates and their biological experiments on the planet Tallon IV. The game was a collaboration between Retro's staff in Austin, Texas, and Japanese Nintendo employees, including producers Shigeru Miyamoto and Kensuke Tanabe, the former of whom suggested the project after visiting Retro's headquarters in 2000.

The game garnered universal praise and commercial success, selling over 2.8 million units worldwide.[7] It won a number of Game of the Year awards, and is regarded by many critics and gamers to be one of the greatest video games ever made, remaining one of the highest-rated games on Metacritic.[8] In 2009, an enhanced version was released for the Wii as a stand-alone game in Japan, and as part of the Metroid Prime: Trilogy compilation internationally.[9]


View of volcanic caverns; an enemy with a jetpack shoots a green ray at the player, whose weapon (a large cannon) is visible in the corner of the screen. The image is a simulation of the heads-up display of a combat suit's helmet, with a crosshair drawn onto the enemy's location and two-dimensional icons relaying game information around the edge of the frame.
Samus in battle with a Flying Pirate. The player character is controlled from a first-person perspective.

Metroid Prime is a 3D action-adventure game in which players control series protagonist Samus Aran from a first-person perspective, unlike previous games of the Metroid series,[10][11] with third-person elements used for Morph Ball mode.[10] The gameplay involves solving puzzles to reveal secrets, platform jumping, and shooting foes with the help of a "lock-on" mechanism that allows circle strafing while staying aimed at the enemy.[10][11]

Samus must travel through the world of Tallon IV searching for twelve Chozo Artifacts that will open the path to the Phazon meteor impact crater, while collecting power-ups that let her reach new areas. The Varia Suit, for example, protects Samus' armor against high temperatures, allowing her to enter volcanic regions. Some items are obtained after boss fights. Items must be collected in a specific order; for example, players cannot access certain areas until they find a certain Beam to open doors, or discover new ordnance with which to beat bosses.[12][13] Players are incentivized to explore to find upgrades such as ammunition packs and extra health.[14]

The heads-up display, which simulates the inside of Samus' helmet, features a radar display, a map, ammunition for missiles, a health meter, a danger meter for negotiating hazardous landscape or materials, and a health bar and name display for bosses. The display can be altered by exchanging visors; one uses thermal imaging, another has x-ray vision, and another features a scanner that searches for enemy weaknesses and interfaces with mechanisms such as force fields and elevators.[12] The game introduces a hint system that provides the player with clues about ways to progress through the game.[15]

Players can gain two features by connecting Prime with Metroid Fusion using a GameCube – Game Boy Advance link cable: cosmetic use of the Fusion Suit that Samus wears in Fusion and the ability to play the original Metroid game.[12][16]


A metallic ball stands in a futuristic corridor, with sparks of electricity in the background. Atop the image is a bar and a number indicating the health of the player, and three round icons indicating the remaining bombs.
While Samus is in Morph Ball form, the view changes to a third-person view.

Throughout the game, players must find and collect items that improve Samus's arsenal and suit, including weapons, armor upgrades for Samus's Power Suit and items that grant abilities—including the Morph Ball, which allows Samus to compress herself into a ball in order to roll into narrow passages and drop energy bombs, and the Grapple Beam, which works by latching onto special hooks called grapple points, allowing Samus to swing across gaps. Unlike those in earlier games in the series, the beam weapons in Metroid Prime have no stacking ability, in which the traits of each beam merge. Instead, the player must cycle the four beam weapons; there are charge combos with radically different effects for each. Other upgrades include boots that allow Samus to double-jump and a Spider Ball upgrade that allows her to climb magnetic rails.[12]

Items from previous Metroid games appear with altered functions. Art galleries and different endings are unlockable if the player collects a high percentage of items and Scan Visor logs. Prime is one of the first Metroid games to address the reason Samus does not start with power-ups acquired in previous games; she begins the game with some upgrades, including the Varia Suit, Missiles and Grapple Beam, but they are lost during an explosion on the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon.[17] The producers stated that starting with some power-ups was a way to give the player "different things to do" and to learn the functions of these items before settling into the core gameplay.[18]


Background and setting[edit]

Metroid Prime is the first of the three-part Prime storyline. Retro Studios wrote an extensive storyline for Metroid Prime,[19] which was considered a major difference from previous Metroid games. Short cutscenes appear before important battles, and a scanner in the heads-up display extracts backstory-related information from objects.[11] The Prime trilogy is set between the events of Metroid and Metroid II.[5][6]

The game takes place on the planet Tallon IV, formerly inhabited by the Chozo race.[20] Five decades ago, the Chozo race fell after a meteor impacted on Tallon IV. The meteor contaminated the planet with a corruptive, mutagenic substance that the Space Pirates later named Phazon,[20][21] and also brought with it a creature known to the Chozo as "The Worm".[22] A large containment field emitter of the Artifact Temple in the Tallon Overworld area was built as a seal to the meteor's energies and influence within the crater where it landed,[23] which the Space Pirates attempt to disable or bypass in order to gain better access to extract the Phazon.[24] The containment field is controlled by twelve Chozo artifacts that are scattered around the planet.[12][25]


Samus Aran intercepts a distress signal from the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon, whose crew have been slaughtered by the Pirates' own genetically modified, experimental subjects. At the ship's core, she battles with the Parasite Queen, a giant version of the tiny parasites aboard the ship. The Parasite Queen is defeated and falls into the ship's reactor core, initiating the destruction of the ship. While Samus is escaping from the frigate, she encounters a cybernetic version of Ridley called Meta Ridley. During her escape, an explosion damages Samus's suit, causing some of her abilities to malfunction. Samus escapes the frigate and chases Ridley in her gunship towards the nearby planet Tallon IV.[26][27]

After landing in the Tallon Overworld, Samus explores nearby areas of Tallon IV and discovers the Chozo Ruins, the remains of the Chozo civilization. As she explores the ruins, she learns the Chozo on the planet had been killed by something referred to as "The Great Poison", designated as Phazon by the Space Pirates, that originated from a meteor that impacted on the planet many years ago. After regaining her lost abilities in the ruins, Samus finds her way to the Magmoor Caverns, a series of magma-filled tunnels, which are used by the Space Pirates as a source of geothermal power. Following the tunnels, Samus travels to the Phendrana Drifts, a cold, mountainous location which is home to an ancient Chozo ruin and Space Pirate research labs used to study the Metroids. After obtaining new abilities, Samus explores the wreckage of the crashed Orpheon and then infiltrates the Phazon Mines, where she learns the outcome of the Phazon experimentation project, including the Metroid Prime, a creature that had come to Tallon IV with the meteor. Advancing deeper into the mines, Samus fights her way through the Phazon-enhanced Space Pirates and obtains the Phazon Suit after defeating the monstrous Omega Pirate.[26][27]

Samus discovers the Artifact Temple that the Chozo built to contain the Metroid Prime and to stop the Phazon from spreading over the planet. To gain access to the meteor's Impact Crater, Samus collects and unites the twelve Chozo artifacts. As Samus returns to the temple with the artifacts, Meta Ridley appears and attacks her. Samus defeats Ridley and enters the Impact Crater, where she finds the Metroid Prime. After she defeats it, the Metroid Prime absorbs Samus's Phazon Suit and explodes. Samus escapes the collapsing crater and leaves Tallon IV in her ship.[26][27] If the player completes the game with all of the items obtained, Metroid Prime is then shown reconstructing itself into a body resembling Samus.[28]


A series of drawings of a cave complex filled with root-like structures. On the upper right corner are drawings of larva-like creatures.
Concept artwork of the Impact Crater

According to producer Shigeru Miyamoto, Nintendo did not develop a Metroid game for the Nintendo 64 as the company "couldn't come out with any concrete ideas".[29] Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto said he could not imagine how the Nintendo 64 controller could be used to control Samus. Nintendo approached another company to make Metroid for Nintendo 64, but the offer was declined, supposedly because the developers thought they could not equal Super Metroid.[30]

Metroid Prime was a collaboration between Nintendo EAD and R&D1 and the American company Retro Studios. Retro was created in 1998 by an alliance between Nintendo and Iguana Entertainment founder Jeff Spangenberg. The studio would create games for the forthcoming GameCube targeted at a mature demographic.[31] After establishing its offices in Austin, Texas in 1999, Retro worked on four GameCube projects. When Miyamoto visited Retro in 2000, he suggested a new Metroid game after seeing their prototype first-person shooter engine.[32] In 2000 and early 2001, four games in development at Retro were canceled,[33] including an RPG, Raven Blade, leaving Prime the only game in development.[34] During the last nine months of development, Retro's staff worked 80- to 100-hour weeks to reach Nintendo's deadline,[32] as according to senior artist James Dargie, "I think it took us almost six months to do the first level that Nintendo approved, then we had less than a year to do the rest of the game."[35]

We didn't want to make just another first person shooter. ... Making a first person shooter would have been a cheap and easy way to go. But making sure the themes and concepts in Metroid were kept was something that we wanted to do. And translating those things into 3D was a real challenge. For example, translating the morph ball was one of the hardest things to do.

—Michael Kelbaugh, Retro Studios president since 2003[36]

Nintendo created the music, Retro handled art and engineering, and both teams worked on the overall design.[1] The Japanese crew, which included producers Miyamoto, Kensuke Tanabe, Kenji Miki, and designer and Metroid co-creator Sakamoto, communicated with Retro through e-mails, telephone conferences and personal gatherings. The game was planned to use a third-person perspective, but after Miyamoto intervened this was changed to first-person perspective and almost everything already developed was scrapped. The change was prompted by camera problems experienced by Rare, which was developing the Nintendo 64 game Jet Force Gemini. According to director Mark Pacini, Miyamoto believed that "shooting in third person was not very intuitive"; Pacini also said that exploration is easier using first-person.[36] Pacini said that after picking that perspective, the crew decided not to make a traditional first-person shooter. He said, "We weren't trying to fit in that genre. We had to break down the stereotypes of what a first-person game is and make a fun Metroid game."[1]

Pacini stated that Retro tried to design the game so that the only difficult parts would be boss battles and players would not be afraid to explore because "the challenge of the game was finding your way around".[37] Senior designer Mike Wikan said that the focus on exploration led the team to spend time making the platform jumping "approachable to the player", and to ensure the gameplay had "shooting [as] a very important, though secondary, consideration".[38] Retro developed the storyline under the supervision of Yoshio Sakamoto, who verified that the ideas were consistent with the lore of the earlier games.[19] The developers intended that Kraid, a boss from Metroid and Super Metroid, would appear in Metroid Prime, and designer Gene Kohler modeled and skinned him for that purpose, but he was cut for time reasons.[39] The team considered implementing the Speed Booster power-up from Super Metroid but concluded it would not work well because of the first-person perspective and "limitations imposed by the scale of our environment".[38]

The first public appearance of the game was a ten-second video at Space World 2000.[40] In November of the same year, Retro Studios confirmed its involvement with the game in the "job application" part of its website.[41] In February 2001, the game was confirmed by Nintendo, which also announced that because of its emphasis on exploration and despite the first-person perspective, Metroid Prime would be a first-person adventure rather than a first-person shooter.[2] In May 2001, the game was showcased at E3 2001, with its title confirmed as Metroid Prime.[42]


Kenji Yamamoto, assisted by Kouichi Kyuma, composed the music for Prime.[43] The soundtrack contains arrangements of tracks from previous games in the series because Yamamoto wanted "to satisfy old Metroid fans. It's like a present for them".[44] The initial Tallon Overworld theme is a reinterpretation of Metroid's Brinstar theme, the music heard in Magmoor Caverns is a new version of the music from Super Metroid's Lower Norfair area, and the music heard during the fight with Meta Ridley is a fast-paced reimagining of the Ridley boss music first featured in Super Metroid—which has reappeared in most Metroid games since. Tommy Tallarico Studios initially provided sound effects for the game,[45] but Shigeru Miyamoto thought they were not yet good enough for an extended presentation at Space World 2001.[46] The game supports Dolby Pro Logic II setups and can be played in surround sound.[17] The official soundtrack to the game was released on an album called Metroid Prime & Fusion Original Soundtracks, which was published by Scitron on June 18, 2003.[47]


Metroid Prime was released for the GameCube in North America on November 18, 2002, and in Japan and Europe the following year on February 28, 2003, and March 21, 2003, respectively.[48][49][50][51]

Prime was released for the GameCube in five versions. The original North American and Japanese NTSC versions and the second North American version, which contained minor changes, all used a loader that sometimes caused the game to freeze in specific rooms. The European PAL version resolved these glitches and contained altered elements of the gameplay to prevent sequence breaking, a slower loader that prevented the occasional crashes, slightly different story details, and narration in the opening and closing scenes. Some of these changes were carried over from the PAL version to the NTSC region's Player's Choice re-release, along with additional changes not made in other releases.[52] This version, which was bundled with a silver GameCube, also contained a second disc featuring a preview trailer and a demo for Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, a timeline of Metroid games, and an art gallery.[53][54]


Metroid Prime was rereleased in Japan in 2009 for the Wii as part of the New Play Control! series. It has improved controls that use the Wii Remote's pointing functionality. The credit system from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is also included to unlock the original bonus content and the ability to take snapshots of gameplay.[55] Internationally, the Wii version was released in Metroid Prime: Trilogy, a single-disc compilation containing Prime, Echoes, and Corruption for Wii.[9] On January 29, 2015, the compilation became available for download from the Wii U's Nintendo eShop.[56][57]


Metroid Prime became one of the best-selling games on the GameCube. It was the second best-selling game of November 2002 in North America, behind Grand Theft Auto: Vice City;[73] 250,000 units were sold in the first week of its release.[74] As of July 2006, the game had sold more than 1.49 million copies in the U.S. alone,[75] and had earned more than US$50 million.[76] It was also the eighth best-selling GameCube game in Australia.[77] More than 78,000 copies were sold in Japan,[78] and Nintendo added the game to its Player's Choice line in the PAL region.[79] It sold a total of 2.84 million copies worldwide.[7]

Metroid Prime was met with critical acclaim.[8] Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded the game a perfect review score.[60] It won numerous Game of the Year awards and was praised for its detailed graphics, special effects, varied environments,[80] moody soundtrack and sound effects,[11] level design,[81] immersive atmosphere[10] and innovative gameplay centered on exploration in contrast with action games such as Halo,[82] while staying faithful to the Metroid formula.[83] Criticisms included the unusual control scheme, lack of focus on the story, and repetitive backtracking. Game Informer considered the control scheme awkward,[61] Entertainment Weekly compared the game to a "1990s arcade game, filled with over the top battle sequences, spectacular visual effects—and a pretty weak plot",[84] and GamePro stated that inexperienced players "might find it exhausting to keep revisiting the same old places over and over and over".[85] In 2004, the video game countdown show Filter said Metroid Prime had the best graphics of all time.[86]

Metroid Prime appeared on several lists of best games; it was ranked 23rd in IGN's Top 100,[87] 29th in a 100-game list chosen by GameFAQs users,[88] 18th in Official Nintendo Magazine's 2009 list of greatest Nintendo games[89] and 10th in Nintendo Power's "Top 200 Nintendo Games Ever".[90] IGN named Metroid Prime the best GameCube game,[91] while GameSpy ranked it third in a similar list, behind The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4.[92] Nintendo Power also ranked Metroid Prime as the sixth-best game of the 2000s.[93] Wired ranked the game 10th in its list of "The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade" for popularizing "exploration, puzzle-solving, platforming and story" among first-person shooters, saying that the game was "breaking the genre free from the clutches of Doom". Wired's writer continued; "This GameCube title took one massive stride forward for first-person games."[94] Metroid Prime also became popular among players for speedrunning; specialized communities were formed to share these speedruns.[95]


Metroid Prime marked the beginning of the Metroid Prime saga, which chronologically takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus. Four more games in the first-person perspective and a pinball spinoff would be released. The sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes - in which Samus travels to planet Aether and discovers that a Phazon meteor crashed there, creating an alternate reality, and Samus fights a mysterious enemy called Dark Samus - was released in November 2004 for the GameCube. It was followed by Metroid Prime Pinball, a spinoff game featuring the locations and bosses of Metroid Prime, developed by Fuse Games and released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS.[96]

The next game released was Metroid Prime Hunters for the Nintendo DS; its storyline takes place between the events of Prime and Echoes. A demo of the game, titled Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, was bundled with the Nintendo DS, and the full game was released on March 20, 2006 in North America, and May 5, 2006 in Europe. In its narrative, Samus tries to discover an "ultimate power" while facing six rival bounty hunters. Hunters was not developed by Retro Studios, but by Nintendo's Redmond-based subsidiary Nintendo Software Technology. The game contains more first-person shooter aspects than Prime and Echoes, with removal of assisted aiming, more action-oriented gameplay, and various multiplayer modes.[97]

Metroid Prime's third main installment was Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which closes the original Prime trilogy.[98] It was released on August 27, 2007 for the Wii console. In Corruption's story, Samus is corrupted by Phazon after being attacked by Dark Samus, who has become the leader of a Space Pirate group and is sending Phazon Seeds to corrupt planets. Corruption's gameplay differs from that of Prime and Echoes; the assisted aiming is replaced with free aiming with the Wii Remote, and the interchangeable beams are replaced with a stackable upgrade system.

Following Corruption's release, most of Retro's staff moved on to work on what would eventually become Donkey Kong Country Returns, leaving a small team behind to port the original trilogy to the Wii. Prime and Echoes would be re-released as part of the New Play Control! lineup in Japan and as part of a compilation known as Metroid Prime: Trilogy internationally. The next original title in the series, Metroid Prime: Federation Force for the Nintendo 3DS, was announced at E3 2015 and released the following year. The game was developed by Nintendo's Vancouver-based subsidiary Next Level Games and focused on cooperative shooting and a mission-based structure for up to four players, with Samus being relegated to small cameos in the main storyline. The announcement initially drew ire from fans, as the game's timing and overall structure were not what was expected after a five-year-long hiatus since the controversial 2010 game, Metroid: Other M.

A fourth main installment in the series, Metroid Prime 4, was announced at Nintendo's E3 2017 Spotlight broadcast, and is currently in development for the Nintendo Switch.[99] The game was initially announced to be developed by an entirely different team overseen by series producer Kensuke Tanabe, instead of Retro Studios.[100] Eurogamer reported in February 2018 that Bandai Namco Singapore was working on the game alongside Nintendo and that the project included some staff members who worked on the cancelled Star Wars 1313 game.[101] However, in a January 2019 development update posted on their YouTube channel, Nintendo announced that development of Metroid Prime 4 was restarted and the project would be handled by Retro Studios.[102]

Elements of Metroid Prime have appeared in other games, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl in which the Frigate Orpheon is a playable stage, featuring the Parasite Queen in the background and several music tracks from Metroid Prime as background music. This stage later returned in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.[103][104] Metroid Prime's style of gameplay and HUDs also influenced and was compared to later first-person shooters, such as Geist[105] and Star Wars: Republic Commando.[106]


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