Nobody will blame you for being a little out of the loop, but we've got you covered!
Metroid Dread has been out for a week and a half now, but given that it’s been almost two decades since Nintendo released its last original 2D Metroid title, fans would be well and truly forgiven if they couldn’t remember the story — or just how great these games were. It’s impossible to deny that the franchise as a whole has a surprising amount of continuity in its storytelling when compared to your typical Nintendo franchise, so whether you’re a series veteran who’s been out of the loop for a while, someone who remembers playing the games casually back in the day, or someone who’s looking to get started with Metroid Dread, we figured everyone could benefit from a little rundown of what’s happened in the series to date.
Of course, there has been some deviations from the mainline Metroid series with the Metroid Prime arc and also Metroid: Other M, but we’ve decided to focus this rundown specifically on the mainline series — Metroid, Metroid 2: Return of Samus, Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion — since those are the stories that have fed directly into Metroid Dread.
Before We Start… The Metroid Manga
Originally printed in the Japanese Magazine Z, Metroid is also the name of a 16 chapter manga detailing the events of Samus’ upbringing, occurring between her early childhood and ending before the beginning of the first game. While it was never officially released outside of Japan, a fan-translation is available at the Metroid Database. The manga itself is dubiously canon at best, but certain elements do hold up, which makes it the best way to get caught up to speed prior to the games themselves.
In the manga, we learn that Samus Aran was born on the off-world Earth mining colony K-2L to parents Rodney and Virginia Aran. When she was three years old, her home was ravaged by a Space Pirate attack led by the high-ranking commander Ridley, which is where Samus’ long and storied history with the sadistic dragon began.
Having watched Ridley kill her mother and with her father having died destroying the supplies Ridley and his crew were after, Samus was the sole survivor of the raid on K-2L. She was taken in by the highly advanced avian race known as the Chozo, who raised her as one of their warriors on the planet Zebes after infusing her with Chozo DNA. The Chozo also developed Samus’ signature Power Suit, a powered suit of armour that would biologically fuse with her during use and augment her already-augmented abilities.
Upon reaching adulthood, Samus left Zebes and joined the Galactic Federation Police, where she served under Commanding Officer Adam Malkovich. After a disagreement with her commander, Samus leaves the Galactic Federation Police and begins working as an independent bounty hunter.
Metroid (NES, 1986) / Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA, 2004)
Find it on:
Metroid: Nintendo Switch Online or the Wii/Wii U/3DS Virtual Console
Metroid: Zero Mission: Wii U Virtual Console
Metroid 1’s story is told across two releases: the original title, released on NES in 1986, and a remake called Metroid: Zero Mission published on the Game Boy Advance in 2004. The events are the same across both titles, with the exception of an epilogue of sorts toward the end of Zero Mission, whose inclusion of a map and use of Metroid Fusion (2002)’s more modern gameplay make it an excellent alternative to the original.
During the year 20X5, a ship transporting an unknown lifeform from the planet SR388 is attacked and seized by a group of Space Pirates. The Galactic Federation receives intel that the unknown organism is actually a deadly creature called a Metroid. Fearful of the Space Pirate’s intentions to utilise the Metroids as weapons, the Federation launches a series of attacks on the Space Pirate’s base on Zebes. After their efforts are largely unsuccessful, the Federation sends in the lone bounty hunter Samus Aran.
Samus tracks the Space Pirate Commander known as Mother Brain to her adoptive home planet of Zebes, where she is being protected by a pair of high-ranking officials, Kraid and Samus’ storied archenemy, Ridley. After dispatching of both Kraid and Ridley, Samus gains access to Tourian, a region of Zebes housing the Zebesian Command Centre, and more importantly Mother Brain.
Samus defeats Mother Brain in combat and leaves Zebes aboard her starship, which is promptly shot down by a small surviving faction of Space Pirates. Back on Zebes’ surface without her ship, and separated from her Power Suit, Samus avoids detection and infiltrates the Space Pirate Mothership. Eventually, she happens across a fully-powered Power Suit within the ruins of the Chozo Temple, Chozodia, and puts it to use in hijacking the Space Pirates’ ship.
In a last-ditch effort, the Space Pirates release Mecha-Ridley, an incomplete robotic weapon constructed in Ridley’s likeness. Samus destroys the machine and finally escapes from Zebes, having foiled the Space Pirates’ plans (for now).
As with the original, Metroid: Return of Samus takes place across both 1991’s original Game Boy release and the 2017 remake, Metroid: Samus Returns, which was released on Nintendo 3DS. The events between both titles are mostly the same — save for the latter’s updated mechanics and a few additional boss battles — but, once again, Samus Returns is a drastic improvement over Return of Samus’s cramped, black-and-white Game Boy visuals. It’s also got a more distinct fast pace with the introduction of Samus’ mêlée counter, which has returned in Metroid Dread.
After witnessing several weaponised applications of the Metroids, the Galactic Federation decides the existence of the organism is too dangerous. Once again, after several failed attempts to infiltrate the Metroids’ homeworld, SR388, the Galactic Federation hires Samus as a bounty hunter (with experience in dealing with Metroids) to complete the task in its stead.
Samus makes her way through the labyrinthian SR388, where she encounters several Metroids that have matured beyond their jellyfish-esque infant stage. Eventually, the only Metroid that remains is the gargantuan Metroid Queen, which Samus is able to dispose of in combat just like all the others. At this point, a single Metroid hatches from one of the remaining eggs and imprints upon Samus, regarding her as its mother. The bounty hunter spares the hatchling’s life — you would too, it’s adorable — and takes it back to her ship.
Samus Returns expands on Return of Samus’s plot a little. When Samus and the hatchling reach SR388’s surface, Ridley — who has now recovered from his injuries and taken on the name Proteus Ridley — ambushes the two and tries to abduct the infant Metroid. With some assistance from the baby, Samus is able to defeat Proteus Ridley and keep the sole remaining Metroid out of the Space Pirates’ hands. For research purposes (and safekeeping), Samus decides to deliver the infant Metroid to a team of researchers at the Space Science Academy located on the Ceres Space Colony.
Super Metroid (SNES, 1994)
Find it on:
Nintendo Switch Online (SNES version), Wii U/New Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console
The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.
Not long after delivering the infant Metroid to the Space Science Academy, the Ceres Space Colony sends out a distress signal. Samus returns to the station to find the crew slaughtered, and that the Metroid has seemingly escaped.
She finds the Metroid in Ridley’s possession and realises that the Space Pirate was able to follow her after their encounter on SR388. After a short fight, Ridley engages the station’s self-destruct sequence forcing Samus to perform a dramatic escape. She then follows Ridley to a rebuilt Space Pirate base on Zebes to take the Metroid out of dangerous hands.
Just as she was during her last escapade on Zebes, the Space Pirate commander Mother Brain is under the protection of a team of high-ranking Space Pirates including Phantoon, Draygon and the resurgent Kraid and Ridley. Disposing of the former three brings Samus to yet another battle against her arch-enemy Ridley — a battle in which she finally kills Ridley for good. Having dispatched the guards, Samus once again gains access to Tourian, where the revived Mother Brain resides.
Samus almost finds herself killed in her fight with Mother Brain as the Space Pirate Commander displays the ability to extend beyond her previously limited tank. Beaten within an inch of her life, Samus is saved when the now-former infant Metroid comes to her rescue. Having rapidly matured, the Metroid is able to drain Mother Brain of most of her life force and bestow that energy on Samus before Mother Brain finishes it off. Now equipped with the powerful Hyper Beam from the Metroid’s sacrifice, Samus retaliates against Mother Brain and takes her out.
With the self-destruct sequence initiated once again, Samus escapes Zebes before the entire planet is destroyed in the blast.
Metroid Fusion (GBA, 2002)
Find it on:
Wii U Virtual Console
Acting as a bodyguard for a team of Biologic Space Laboratories (B.S.L.) researchers on SR388, Samus is attacked and infected by a dangerous parasite known only as X. The X were originally hunted by the Metroid race, but after Samus’ efforts in Metroid II, they were able to expand their population and become stronger; the attack on Samus leaves her in considerable peril. A team of Galactic Federation scientists surgically remove the Power Suit from Samus — a side-effect of the Suit needing the biologically fuse with its wearer — and cure the remaining infection with a vaccine developed from Metroid DNA harvested from Samus’ infant Metroid. With the exception of some parts that had become too integrated with Samus’ own biology to remove in surgery, the Galactic Federation sends the suit to B.S.L. for containment and research.
After taking the Metroid-based vaccine, Samus finds herself developing certain Metroid-like characteristics including the ability to absorb the X nuclei for nourishment and the Metroids’ vulnerability to cold temperatures. With her newfound abilities, the Galactic Federation sends Samus to investigate a disturbance at the B.S.L. Research Station involving the containment of her infected Power Suit — a mission overseen by her new gunship’s AI system, which she names Adam, after her former commander in the Galactic Federation Police.
Samus soon discovers that the X have used the remains of her Power Suit to assimilate its abilities and transform into a replica of Samus herself, dubbed the SA-X. In order to extend their influence throughout the B.S.L. station, the SA-X releases multiple X parasites and infects most of the biological life aboard the station.
Exploring the B.S.L. Station while avoiding the SA-X, Samus discovers a Restricted Laboratory containing several Metroids owned by the Galactic Federation. The SA-X catches up with Samus and attempts to eliminate the Metroids, but its plan backfires when the Metroids get free, forcing the SA-X to activate the station’s emergency protocol and jettison the whole thing into space before it self-destructs.
After reprimanding Samus for ignoring orders, Adam reveals that the Federation had been secretly breeding Metroids for “peaceful applications.” He also divulged information about Sector 1 of the B.S.L. Station, whose environment is based upon that of the Metroid homeworld, SR388, and whose main purpose is to allow Metroids to evolve through the Alpha, Gamma, Zeta and Omega stages of their life more rapidly. Eventually, Samus learns that the SA-X itself has been able to reproduce… and there are no fewer than ten of them aboard the B.S.L. Station.
It is at this point that the Galactic Federation takes a keen interest in the X and the SA-X, ordering Samus to leave the B.S.L. Station at once. Knowing that any attempt to control the X for military purposes would be a suicide mission that could well allow the X to conquer the universe, Samus ignores the Federation’s orders and reveals her intention to destroy the Station and everything on it.
In an attempt to stop Samus and bring her back around, Adam traps her within the station’s navigation room. While bargaining with the AI, she directly addresses it by the name Adam for the first time, to which the AI reacts with surprise. After she explains the significance of the name, it’s revealed that Adam is actually Adam Malkovich himself — his consciousness uploaded into the computer after his death.
Adam sides with Samus, helping her hijack the station, alter its propulsion and send it crashing into SR388 below. The resulting impact and explosion destroys both the planet and the B.S.L. Station along with the X, seemingly ridding the universe of the parasite for good.
And now… Metroid Dread
After 19 years and several spin-off titles, Metroid Dread finally reveals what happens to Samus after the events of Metroid Fusion. I’ve played through it and Nintendo’s dropped a hint here and there… But I’ve got no desire to spoil anything for you. If you want to find out what happens next, you’ll just have to play Metroid Dread — it’s available now on Nintendo Switch — or wait for our review to find out!