Although it’s not quite the signature franchise that both Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda continue to be for Nintendo, the Metroid series is one of the greatest first-party contributions of the gaming giant to the NES. Arriving in 1987 alongside the Western release of The Legend of Zelda, Metroid would require passwords in its NES release despite the Famicom Disk System version featuring multiple save files. Metroid joins several other iconic video game franchises that would debut on the Famicom in 1986 and make their way West to the NES just a year later, all of which still endure to this day as some of the pillars of the medium.
Featuring production from Nintendo luminary and Game Boy creator Gunpei Yokoi, Metroid would go on to pioneer its own genre. Though the game is an action-platformer, Metroid is now one-half of the “Metroidvania” portmanteau for action-platformer titles with large, interconnecting maps and progression gates that require explorations and hunting for character upgrades. Right alongside Metroid, the second game in the Castlevania series (Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest) would introduce similar gameplay mechanics to see the two series be the prototypical versions of one of the more popular action-adventure subgenres.
Metroid’s release in Japan on August 6, 1986 would see it receiving plenty of positive acclaim as a “side-scrolling shooter” game, with plenty of parallels existing between it and Ridley Scott’s iconic 1979 film Alien. Contrary to most games in the genre at the time, Metroid features a female protagonist and no exposition detailing the story or the character’s mission. In fact, the isolation of Metroid is a characteristic that would come to define the Metroidvania genre.
Metroid sees players assume the role of intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran, who heads to planet Zebes in hopes of stopping the infamous Space Pirate crime syndicate. The Space Pirates, along with their leader Mother Brain, are in possession of an organic life form that has the power to siphon energy — the titular Metroid. With just a basic blaster and her iconic suit of armor, Samus begins to explore planet Zebes, uncovering a plethora of upgrades and weaponry along the way that make her increasingly capable of taking down Mother Brain and stopping the Space Pirates from using Metroids to conquer the galaxy.
Gameplay in Metroid takes place from a third-person, 2D side-scrolling perspective. Accordingly, Samus can shoot in multiple different directions and jump across platforms to reach her goal. One key aspect setting Metroid apart from other games of the time is its reliance on a large map and password system rather than individual stages. Players need to memorize their path through Zebes and recall unreachable secrets in order to return to them later with the proper upgrades now making them accessible. As a result of its complexity, many players of the original Metroid would keep a graph paper legal pad available when playing for the purpose of hand-drawing maps.
The original Metroid would receive a remake in the form of Metroid: Zero Mission for the Game Boy Advance, bringing the gameplay of the original game more closely in-line with that of the SNES classic Super Metroid. Comparatively, the original game in the franchise is much more floaty and less precise in both its platforming and shooting than later series entries, making it fairly more difficult as a result. Still, most of the iconic series weapons and suit upgrades for Samus make their debut as far back as the 1987 original.
Metroid Main Characters
The sole humanoid character in the game is the player character, Samus Aran. Other than the protagonist Samus, the only other entities that players can consider to be “main” characters are the iconic bosses that debut in Metroid and go on to reappear in subsequent games in the series. Main characters in Metroid include:
- Samus Aran: The protagonist of Metroid and an intergalactic bounty hunter, Samus is one of the most notorious arms of justice in the galaxy. Her upbringing by the now-extinct Chozo race (along with her suit of armor of Chozo construction) makes her a near-unstoppable force for good.
- Mother Brain: Mother Brain is the insidious AI leading the Space Pirate crime syndicate. Under Mother Brain’s direction, the Space Pirates explore planet SR388 and kidnap Metroids to breed them in captivity. Her goal is to enslave the galaxy using Metroids as her own personal army.
- Ridley: Ridley is one of Mother Brain’s lieutenants and a leader among the Space Pirates. He is a dragon-like creature that can breathe fire and is extremely dangerous.
- Kraid: Kraid is another one of Mother Brain’s lieutenants in the Space Pirate legion, though he is less capable than Ridley. Samus will defeat Kraid long before she ever faces Ridley or Mother Brain, illustrating his place as somewhat of a lackey.
Games in the Metroid Series
Even though it doesn’t hold the same prestige as Mario or The Legend of Zelda, Metroid is still one of the pillars upon which Nintendo’s success is built. Not only that, it is responsible for spearheading and creating the Metroidvania subgenre of action-platformers, joining its other first-party Nintendo franchises as an innovator within the medium. The franchise recently saw a return to form with 2021’s Metroid Dread, which would end up being the best-selling game in the franchise by a large margin. Games in the Metroid series include:
- Metroid (1986)
- Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991)
- Super Metroid (1994)
- Metroid Fusion (2002)
- Metroid Prime (2002)
- Metroid: Zero Mission (2004)
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004)
- Metroid Prime Pinball (2005)
- Metroid Prime Hunters (2006)
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007)
- Metroid Prime: Trilogy (2009)
- Metroid: Other M (2010)
- Metroid Prime: Federation Force (2016)
- Metroid: Samus Returns (2017)
- Metroid Dread (2021)
- Metroid Prime Remastered (2023)
- Metroid Prime 4 (In Development)
Metroid Cheats & Cheat Codes
While there aren’t any “cheats” that players can take advantage of, there are several passwords available for the original Metroid that will significantly impact gameplay. Simply head to the password screen and enter any one of the following codes to activate the intended effect. Note that passwords ARE case-sensitive.
|X-z-uJ lls0W0 fVvweG 000WNr
|Start with 215 Missiles, 5 Energy Tanks, All Power-Ups, and Both Kraid and Ridley Defeated
|000000 000000 03-200 000089
|Start with 255 Missiles
|222222 222222 UUUUUU UUUUUU
|No Morph-Ball at start (Makes game impossible)
|M7—- –zOA0 2T-tfm a000d5
|Start Outside Tourian (Final Area)
|000000 000000 080h00 0000gu
|Begin with Missiles in Kraid’s Lair
|000000 000001 00F300 00008X
|Begin with Missiles in Ridley’s Lair
|X—– –N?WO dV-Gm9 W01GMI
|Get the Best Ending (Regardless of Completion Time)
|ITs-JU ST-YOU ZIPO– —-Ci
|Begin in Norfair with Morph Ball, Varia Suit, and 212 Missiles
|JUSTIN BAILEY —— ——
|Start just before Mother Brain with All Upgrades (except Ice Beam)
|00U— -u0000 0AFw9Y 1800sb
|Start in Ridley’s Lair
|y54I04 0G9040 0B–00 0000YE
|Begin with All Energy Tanks; Fill the Tanks then head to Mother Brain to receive All Upgrades
|NARPAS SWORD0 000000 000000
|Samus is Invincible; Infinite Missiles
|mMuiS1 II6-GE Jls?h0 m00WRM
|Samus has No Suit but All Upgrades
|333333 333333 KKKKKK KKKKKK
|Input to head back to Title Screen
|000000 000020 000000 000020
|Start as Bikini Samus with All Items
|V – – – – – – r – e69 t?A00e 00M04p
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with All Items, get 2nd Ending
|X – – – – – – – N?WO dVue08 001GL2
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with All Items, get 3rd Ending
|OV – – – – – – r – e6 9t?A08 000GTq
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with All Items, get 4th Ending
|7 – – – – – – zVw1Y T – YW01 – W5WCl
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with All Items, get 5th Ending
|5X – – – – – – – N?W OdVue0 0000iu
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with All Items, get Best Ending
|0iF – – – – – – w – q 3ax – 50 0000wx
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with All Items, Samus has No Suit, get Best Ending
|XXXXXX XXXXXX KKKKKK KKKKKK
|Start in Tourian (Final Area) with No Suit, 1 Energy Tank, and 48 Missiles (Nearly Impossible to Beat)
|000000 000000 0Fy000 00003-
|Start with 255 Missiles
|000000 000000 4G0000 00000H
|Start with Bombs and Morph-Ball
|000000 000000 080000 0000Y8
|Start with Ice Beam
|000000 000000 100000 000004
|Start with Long Beam
|000000 00000G 7?2ruA 005WFh
|Start with Samus in No Suit, 5 Missiles, All Upgrades, No Energy Tanks
|000000 000000 040000 0000X8
|Start with Wave Beam
|000000 000020 000000 000020
|Start with Samus in Bikini
|l-aaaa aaaaaa aaaaaa aaaaaa
|Start with No Suit, Wave Beam, No Long Beam or Morph Ball, both Kraid and Ridley dead (Tourian open)
|CONTIN UE_MY_ GAMEMI NIBOSS
|Start with No Suit and No Powerups, Tourian open
|999999 999999 KKKKKK KKKKKK
|Breaks the game (no Varia Suit, no Mother Brain boss encounter)
|00WX00 2W0000 41TW1o 0000ℓD
|Start with No Suit Samus
|ZETROI DNINTE NDOc19 87????
|Start in Ridley’s Lair with No Suit
Metroid Cheat Codes FAQ
What do passwords do in Metroid?
The passwords allow players to begin the game at certain points with a variety of items in their inventory. Essentially, rather than start from scratch and need to explore the entire map, the passwords allow players to skip entire sections of the adventure and get right to the main confrontation of the game against Mother Brain (or her lieutenants).
What does the “Justin Bailey” code do?
The notorious “Justin Bailey” code allows players to start the game with a full arsenal of 255 Missiles. Additionally, Samus appears in the Bikini that she wears in the game’s “Best” ending for clearing the adventure in under 3 hours.
Why does Samus not talk?
Truthfully, there are actually a variety of theories as to why Samus is a silent protagonist. The most plausible is that her true identity of being female is a secret that players only unlock by beating the game in a shorter amount of time. Further, there are those who think Samus is silent as a way for the player to impart their own identity on the character as an avatar. Either one of these explanations holds water when comparing the original game to the rest of the series. Though there are are some entries where players see Samus talk via text, the only game where she has a speaking role (Metroid: Other M) is nearly universally panned.
The image featured at the top of this post is ©Metroid cover art.