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The History of Metroid

Oct 23, 2007

The Metroid series has always been a victim of bad timing. It's one of the most critically acclaimed franchises in gaming. But thanks to dodgy release dates, internal politics and Nintendo's own disbelief in the franchise that's never quite rivalled the mighty Mario and Zelda series. Wrong place, wrong time?

1986; Atari was old news and the NES had successfully prevented the industry from spiralling into an imploding crash. 33-year-old Shigeru Miyamoto's hot-selling Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong franchises had proved that gaming wasn't just an arcade fad and Nintendo had risen to a position of industry domination.

Secretly, Miyamoto and EAD's overnight success had caused some internal competition at Nintendo, and former company superstar Gunpei Yokoi and his R&D1 team had had its feathers well and truly ruffled.

In recent years the former flagship team had been responsible for a string of one hit wonders including Duck Hunt, Excitebike and Ice Climbers, yet they had nothing to rival Miyamoto's mammoth franchises. With EAD producing hit after hit on the NES, Yokoi and his team had been tasked with handling game duties on the new Famicom Disk System - and this time Yokoi wanted his next game to match the success of Miyamoto's team.



Yokoi banded a team of four to create R&D1's new franchise. Kid Icarus man Yoshio Sakamoto in the director's chair, Hiroji Kiyotake handling the art design of Samus Aran and her gritty enemies and Makoto Kanoh creating the scenarios and concept for Metroid's dark and foreboding universe. Yokoi handled the project in a producer role.

The guiding philosophy was to not follow in Miyamoto's lead. Yokoi's team decided that it would come up with something completely different from what the father of Mario would usually create. The result was a game entirely disconnected from the colorful, family-friendly universe of Mario; a gritty, moody sci-fi adventure with something EAD's titles lacked; atmosphere.

Famously, the team took plenty of inspiration from Ridley Scott's Alien, even naming Metroid's dragon-like henchman after the director. Coincidently the follow-up Aliens arrived in cinemas that Summer.

Yokoi and his team decided to create a believable world filled with disgusting creatures, tension and bleak environments to explore, all while upgrading the player's abilities to encourage them further into the dark alien planet.

Miyamoto's Zelda is often credited as the original non-linear adventure game but Metroid was in fact developed at the exact same time. Non-linear design was near unheard of at the time, and the R&D1 wanted to set Metroid apart from Nintendo's other games.

Perhaps its most distinguishing design choice came about half way through development, when one staff member joked, "wouldn't it be kind of cool if it turned out that the person inside the suit was a woman?" And so Samus, the female, was born. Even the game's instruction manual referred to Aran as a "he" to keep it secret.

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10 comments

  • JosefMotley - January 8, 2010 3:53 a.m.

    they totally ruined metroid when it went 3D. everything that makes it metroid remained (unlike say mario 64) but these traits are the most ill-suited to adapt into a first person game ever. exploration? hard enough in 2D, in 3D the hidden passages and non-linear routes are just intensely frustrating, especially with a HUD that covers so much of the screen you feel completely removed from the action. i spent most of metroid prime rolling around in a ball just so i could actually see what the hell was going on. platforming is something that no first person game has ever done well and this is no exception. lastly the metroid prime games just don't feel anything like the old ones, they feel americanised and generally less cartoony and stylish. they should have just been a seperate series of games rather than running such a beloved and understocked franchise into the ground for the sake of fashion. PAH
  • AyJay - September 21, 2008 2:28 a.m.

    W00t first comment! metroid is always underrated
  • DARK HUNTER - November 17, 2008 8:49 p.m.

    Halo got boring real quick. Metroid prime did'nt. I have the first two in the trilogy and i'm going to get the third and i can say that between halo and metroid, i'd pick metroid. Metroid prime 1, 2 and 3 are awsome games and last longer and do better than halo. i like first person shotters and all, but halo is justlike every other shooter, while metroid should be in its own genre. It is that different feel that metriod gives that makes it way better than playing halo over and over.
  • Nodoudt - August 28, 2009 1:33 a.m.

    And I agree with Dark Hunter, Metroid beats Halo 1-3 ANY DAY. Hands down.
  • Cyberninja - August 25, 2009 7:32 p.m.

    the 2d metroids are the best
  • ihopethisisnotantistasblood - September 20, 2009 4:59 p.m.

    "Metroid Prime Hunters online beats Halo online" come on, i'm a metroid fan and i don't like halo that much but i know that's a big lie
  • madasivad - September 3, 2009 1:14 a.m.

    Return of Samus didn't introduce the Wave Beam or Bombs. It did introduce the Spider Ball though.
  • Dread - September 2, 2009 10:20 p.m.

    Why the hell does it say it doesnt rival the legend of zelda?Ive played nearly all of the legend of zeldas except oracle of seasons/ages & 4 swords, Metroid sick owns Zelda. Maybe not Mario but still.The only Metroid game i havent playd r Metroid 2. Metroid Prime Hunters online beats Halo online,but i think its a tie on which franchise its bettr since Metroid doesnt really hav multiplayer games except Hunters & Echoes.
  • Edge2k10 - August 30, 2009 7:29 p.m.

    I didn't realize that Metroid had such a struggle to get off the ground. It's very fortunate that Nintendo finally realized how to market the series.
  • Nodoudt - August 28, 2009 1:32 a.m.

    A little bit of me died inside when the gave this to Ninja...Next thing you know it's gonna be Metroid Extreme Beach Volleyball o_O

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