Metroid Prime

Metroid Prime
Metroid Prime
A person in a big, futuristic-looking powered suit with a helmet, a firearm on the right arm and large, bulky, and rounded shoulders, stands on a 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 box art
Developer(s) Retro Studios
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Kenji Miki
Michael Mann
Composer(s) Kenji Yamamoto
Kouichi Kyuma
Series Metroid
Platform(s) Nintendo GameCube, Wii
Release date(s) Nintendo GameCube
  • NA November 17, 2002
  • JP February 28, 2003
  • EU March 21, 2003
  • AUS April 3, 2003[1]
  • JP February 19, 2009
  • NA August 24, 2009
  • EU September 4, 2009
  • AUS October 15, 2009
Genre(s) First-person action-adventure
Mode(s) Single-player

Metroid Prime is a video game developed by Retro Studios and Nintendo for the Nintendo GameCube, released in North America on November 17, 2002. It is the first 3D game in the Metroid series, the fifth main installment, and is classified by Nintendo as a first-person adventure[2] rather than a first-person shooter, due to the large exploration component of the game and its precedence over combat. Metroid Prime, along with the Game Boy Advance game Metroid Fusion, that was released alongside it on the same day in North America, marked the return of the Metroid series after eight years – the last game in the franchise had been 1994's Super Metroid.[3]

Metroid Prime is the first of the three part Prime storyline, which takes place between the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus.[4][5] Like previous games in the series, Metroid Prime has a science fiction setting, in which players control the bounty hunter 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 collaborative effort between Retro's staff in Austin, Texas and Japanese Nintendo employees, including producer Shigeru Miyamoto, who was the one who suggested the project after visiting Retro's headquarters in 2000. Despite initial backlash from fans due to the first-person perspective,[6] the game was released to both universal acclaim and commercial success, selling more than a million units in North America alone.[7] It not only won a number of Game of the Year awards, but it is also considered by many critics and gamers to be one of the greatest video games ever made and remains one of the highest-rated games on Metacritic.[8] In 2009, an enhanced version was released for Wii as a standalone game in Japan and as part of Metroid Prime: Trilogy 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 surrounding the enemy and two-dimensional icons relaying game information around the edge of the frame.
Samus facing a Flying Pirate, surrounded by a crosshair; also shown are: immediate area danger level (left), radar (top left), health status (top middle), mini-map (top right), missile ammo (right), current/available beams (lower right), and current/available visors (lower left).

As in previous Metroid games, Prime takes place in a large, open-ended world with different regions connected by elevators. Each region has a set of rooms separated by doors that can be opened with a shot from the correct beam. The gameplay revolves around 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 on the enemy. The game is the first in the Metroid series to use a first-person view as opposed to side scrolling, except in Morph Ball mode, when Samus's suit transforms into an armored ball and the game uses a third-person camera.[10]

The protagonist, 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 enable the player to reach previously inaccessible areas; the Varia Suit, for example, protects Samus' armor against dangerously high temperatures, allowing her to enter volcanic regions. Some of the items are obtained after boss and mini-boss fights, encountered in all regions except Magmoor Caverns. The most important feature about the power-up system in Prime is the neccessity to collect items in a specific order, so that the player may progress. For example, players cannot access certain areas until they find a certain Beam to open doors, or discover new ordnance to beat bosses with.

The heads-up display simulates the inside of Samus's helmet, featuring a radar, a map, ammunition for missiles, a health meter, a danger meter for hazardous landscape or materials, and a health bar for bosses along with the boss name. The display can be altered by exchanging visors, including one using thermal imaging, another with x-ray vision, and a scanner that searches for enemy weaknesses, and interfaces with certain mechanisms such as force fields and elevators, allowing the player to operate them.[11] Prime also introduces a hint system that provides the player with a general idea of where to go next.[11]


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 camera.

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. Among these are the Morph Ball, which allows Samus to roll into narrow passages and drop energy bombs, and the Grapple Beam, which works similarly to a grappling hook by latching onto special hooks, called grapple points, and allowing Samus to swing from them across gaps.[11] As a difference from the original games, the "Beam weapons" Samus collects no longer have the "stacking" ability, where the traits of each beam merge with each other. Instead the player has to cycle among the four, and there are "Charge combos" for each, with radically different effects.

Items from previous Metroid games appear, with altered functions. Art galleries and different endings are unlockable if a player obtains a high percentage of collected items and Scan Visor logs. Prime is one of the first Metroid games to address the reason Samus does not start with power-ups attained in previous games; she begins the game with certain upgrades, but during an explosion on the Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon, they are all lost.[12] The producers stated that starting with some power-ups was a way to give the player "different things to do" before settling into the core gameplay.[13]

Players of the game can gain two features by connecting Prime with Metroid Fusion using a Nintendo GameCube Game Boy Advance Cable: use of the Fusion Suit that Samus wears in Fusion and the ability to play the original Metroid.[11][14]


Metroid series
fictional chronology

Metroid (Zero Mission)
Metroid Prime
Return of Samus
Super Metroid
Other M

Chronologically, Metroid Prime takes place second in the fictional Metroid universe. Retro Studios wrote an extensive storyline for Metroid Prime,[15] which was considered a major difference from previous Metroid games.[16] Short cutscenes appear before important battles, and the Scan Visor can be used to read records from the Chozo and the Space Pirates. The Prime trilogy is set between Metroid and Metroid II,[4][5] but sources such as Gradiente, Brazil's former distributor of Nintendo, and the Nintendo Power comics adaptation of Metroid Prime,[17] set the games as occurring after Super Metroid. The Brazilian publicity even states that the Phazon meteor is a piece of Zebes,[18] destroyed after Super Metroid. However, in Prime 3 it was confirmed that the meteor was a Leviathan from the planet Phaaze.

The game begins as Samus receives a distress signal from the Space Pirate Frigate Orpheon, whose crew has been slaughtered by the Pirates' own genetically modified experimental subjects. Upon arriving at the ship's core, she battles with the Parasite Queen, a giant version of the tiny enemies occasionally seen in the ship. Having been defeated, the Parasite Queen falls into the ship's reactor core, setting off the destruction of the ship. While Samus is escaping from the doomed frigate, an electrical surge destroys all of her Power Suit upgrades, and she encounters Ridley, now a cybernetic version of himself called Meta Ridley. She watches as her nemesis flies towards Tallon IV before giving chase in her gunship.

Samus initially lands on the Tallon Overworld, a rainforest-like area. She discovers the Chozo Ruins, the remains of the Chozo civilization on Tallon IV that was destroyed with the crash of a meteor, which contained a corrupting substance called Phazon and a creature known to the Chozo as "The Worm".[19] Samus locates a Chozo temple in Tallon Overworld, and discovers that the temple houses a seal to the meteor's impact crater,[20] which the Space Pirates are trying to break.[21] The containment field is powered by twelve Chozo artifacts, which must be found to open the path to the crater.[22]

Samus finds her way to the Magmoor Caverns, a series of magma filled underground tunnels. The Caverns are used by the Space Pirates as a source of geothermal power, and connect all of the game's other areas together. Following the tunnels, Samus journeys to the Phendrana Drifts, a cold, mountainous location home to an ancient Chozo ruin, Space Pirate research labs used to contain Metroids, and ice caves and valleys home to electrical and ice-based creatures. After obtaining the Gravity Suit in Phendrana, Samus explores the interior of the crashed Orpheon, and then infiltrates the Phazon Mines, the mining and research complex which is the center of the Space Pirates' Tallon IV operations. Here she battles Phazon-enhanced Space Pirates and obtains the Phazon Suit after she defeats the monstrous Phazon-mutated Omega Pirate.

During her exploration of Tallon IV, Samus finds the twelve keys to the Artifact Temple, and lores recorded by both the Chozo and the Space Pirates, providing some more insight about the history of the planet and the two races' colonization of it and other activities. As she puts the last of the keys in place, Meta Ridley appears and attacks her, but is defeated by Samus with some aid from the temple's defensive artillery. The Chozo Artifacts and Phazon Suit allow Samus to enter the Impact Crater, where she finds a Phazon-mutated beast called Metroid Prime, the source of the Phazon on Tallon IV. After she defeats it, all the Phazon on Tallon IV disappears and Metroid Prime sucks out the Phazon in Samus's Phazon suit in a last ditch effort to survive, reverting Samus's armor to the Gravity Suit. Samus then escapes the collapsing Impact Crater and leaves Tallon IV in her ship. In a post-credits scene only able to be seen if the player has collected 100 percent of the items, Metroid Prime uses the Phazon Suit to recreate its body, becoming the entity known as Dark Samus, the antagonist of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.


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

After Super Metroid, Metroid fans eagerly awaited a sequel. It was supposedly slated for the Nintendo 64 or its ill-fated accessory, the 64DD, but while the game was mentioned,[23] it never entered production. Producer Shigeru Miyamoto explained that it was because Nintendo "couldn't come out with any concrete ideas".[24] Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto declared that he considered creating a new installment for the Nintendo 64, but was uninterested in being part of its development, particularly because of the console's controller – "I just couldn’t imagine how it could be used to move Samus around". Sakamoto also said Nintendo approached another company to make an N64 Metroid, but the offer was declined as the developer felt they could not make a game that could be up to Super Metroid's standards.[25]

Metroid Prime was developed as a collaboration between Retro Studios and important Nintendo EAD and R&D1 members. Retro Studios was created in 1998, by an alliance between Nintendo and former Iguana Entertainment founder Jeff Spangenberg.[26] After establishing its offices in Austin, Texas in 1999, Retro started working on four different GameCube projects. When producer Shigeru Miyamoto visited Retro in 2000, he did not like the games being produced, but suggested the development of a new Metroid game, considering the studio could deal well with the license after seeing the prototype of a first-person shooter engine they created.[27] In 2000 and early 2001, three games were cancelled at Retro,[28] and in July 2001, an RPG called Raven Blade was terminated so that Prime would be the only game in development.[29] During the last nine months of development Retro's staff worked 80 to 100-hour weeks to reach the deadline imposed by Nintendo.[27]

"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[30]

The Japanese crew, which included producers Miyamoto, Kensuke Tanabe and Kenji Miki, as well as game designer and Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto, communicated with the Texas-based studio through emails, monthly phone conferences and personal gatherings. The game was originally envisioned as having third-person perspective gameplay, but this was changed to a first-person perspective after Miyamoto intervened, causing almost everything already developed to be scrapped. Among the reasons for leaving the third-person perspective were Rare's trouble with the camera in Jet Force Gemini, shooting in third-person "not being very intuitive" and exploration being easier using first-person.[30] Miyamoto has also professed a fondness for games to be in the first person perspective in an interview with Satoru Iwata. He then said he even wanted The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time to take place in the first person perspective.[31] Lead designer Mark Pacini said Retro tried to make the game so that the only difficult parts would be boss battles, so players would not be "afraid to explore", because "the challenge of the game was finding your way around".[32] Senior designer Mike Wikan also declared that the focus on exploration led to development team spent much time making the platform jumping "approachable to the player", and that the resulting gameplay had "shooting [as] a very important, though secondary, consideration".[33] Retro Studios developed the storyline of Metroid Prime under the supervision of Yoshio Sakamoto who verified the plot ideas to be consistent with the lore of the series' earlier entries.[15] Kraid, a boss from Metroid and Super Metroid, was intended to make an appearance in Prime, and designer Gene Kohler modeled and skinned him for that purpose. However, time constraints prevented him from being included in the final version of the game.[34] The development team also considered implementing the Speed Booster power-up from Super Metroid, but discarded as they considered it would not work well due to the first-person perspective and the "limitations imposed by the scale of our environment".[33]

The first public appearance of the game was a ten second video at SpaceWorld 2000.[35] In November of the same year, Retro Studios confirmed its involvement with the game in the "job application" part of its website.[36] In February 2001, the game was confirmed by Nintendo, who also announced that despite the first-person perspective, it would be more of a first-person adventure than a first-person shooter due to focus on exploration.[37] On May, the game was showcased at E3 2001, with its name confirmed as Metroid Prime.[38] The first news of the game had mixed reactions from fans, due to the change from 2D side scrolling to 3D first-person.[6]


Kenji Yamamoto, assisted by Kouichi Kyuuma, composed the music for Prime. The soundtrack contains remixes of tracks from previous games in the series, because Yamamoto wanted "to satisfy old Metroid fans. It’s like a present for them".[39] The initial Tallon Overworld theme is a remix of Metroid's Brinstar theme, the music in Magmoor Caverns is a remix of Super Metroid's Lower Norfair area, and the music during the fight with Meta Ridley is a remix of the Ridley boss music first featured in Super Metroid, which has been remixed and featured in most Metroid games since. Tommy Tallarico Studios initially provided sound effects for the game,[40] though Shigeru Miyamoto thought they were not good enough yet for an extended presentation at SpaceWorld 2001.[41] The game supports Dolby Pro Logic II setups, which allows it to be played in surround sound.[12] There was an official soundtrack released for the game called Metroid Prime and Fusion Original Soundtracks which was supervised by Yamamoto himself.[42]


Prime was released in three versions: the original North American version; a second version, released in North America and Japan, with resolved technical issues (such as a glitch that occasionally caused the game to freeze when using elevators connecting to Chozo Ruins); and the European version, with resolved glitches and altered certain elements of the gameplay to prevent sequence breaking. The European translation had logs removed or changed, resulting in a different storyline and log book. For instance, a narrator was added in the opening and closing scenes. Some of the changes were in the NTSC region's Player's Choice re-release, along with more changes not in other releases.[43] Shortly before the release of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes in 2004, Nintendo released a GameCube bundle with a copy of Prime containing a special second disc, featuring both a preview trailer and a demo for Echoes, a timeline of Metroid games and an art gallery.[44]

Metroid Prime was re-released in Japan in 2009 for Wii as part of the New Play Control! series. It has revamped controls that use the Wii Remote's pointing functionality, similar to those of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The credit system from Corruption is also included to unlock the original bonus content, as well as the ability to take snapshots of gameplay.[45] Internationally, the Wii version was released in Metroid Prime: Trilogy, a single-disk compilation featuring Prime, Echoes, and Corruption.[9]


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 96/100 (87 reviews)[46]
Metacritic 97/100 (69 reviews)[8]
Review scores
Publication Score
Edge 9/10[47]
Electronic Gaming Monthly 10/10[48]
Famitsu 33/40[49]
Game Informer 9.5/10[50]
GameSpot 9.7/10[10]
GameSpy 96/100[12]
IGN 9.8/10[16]
Nintendo Power 5/5 stars[51]
Entity Award
IGN Editor's Choice,
2002 Best GameCube Game[52]
2002 Game of the Year runner-up[53]
GameSpot Editor's Choice,
2002 Game of the Year[54]
GameSpy 2002 Game of the Year[55]
Electronic Gaming Monthly Platinum Award,
Game of the Year (2002)[56]
Nintendo Power Game of the Year (2002)[57]
Edge Editor's Choice,
2002 Game of the Year[58]
Interactive Achievement Awards Console First-Person Action (6th annual)[59]
Game Developers Conference Game of the Year,
Excellence in Level Design (2003)[60]

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,[61] and hit 250,000 units in just one week.[62] The game has since sold more than 1.49 million copies in America alone,[7] earning more than $50 million in revenue.[63] It is also the eighth best-selling GameCube game in Australia,[64] sold more than 78,000 copies in Japan,[65] and entered the Player's Choice line in the PAL region.[66]

Prime was also critically acclaimed,[8][46] including a perfect review score from Electronic Gaming Monthly,[48] and numerous Game of the Year awards. It was praised for its detailed graphics, with special effects and varied environments,[67] moody soundtrack and sound effects,[16] level design,[68] immersive atmosphere,[10] and innovative gameplay centered on exploring as opposed to the action of games such as Halo[69] while staying faithful to the Metroid formula.[70] Criticisms included the unusual control scheme, which Game Informer considered awkward;[50] lack of focus on the story, making Entertainment Weekly compare the game to a "1990s arcade game, filled with over the top battle sequences, spectacular visual effects – and a pretty weak plot";[71] and backtracking, stated by GamePro that inexperienced players "might find it exhausting to keep revisiting the same old places over and over and over".[72]

On GameRankings, Prime is the 7th highest rated game ever reviewed, with an average score of 96.30% (as of August 2010), making it the 2nd highest reviewed game of the sixth generation, just below Soul Calibur for the Sega Dreamcast.[73] The video game countdown show Filter named Prime as having the Best Graphics of all time.[74]

Prime was also chosen for lists of best games: 24th in IGN's Top 100,[75] 29th in a 100 game list chosen by GameFAQs users,[76] and 10th in Nintendo Power's "Top 200 Nintendo Games Ever".[77] GameSpy chose it as the third best GameCube title of all time, behind The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker and Resident Evil 4,[78] while IGN put it at first in a similar list.[79] Nintendo Power also ranked it as the sixth best game of the 2000s.[80] Wired included the game in its list of "The 15 Most Influential Games of the Decade" at #10, for popularizing "exploration, puzzle-solving, platforming and story" among first-person shooters, concluding that "breaking the genre free from the clutches of Doom, this GameCube title took one massive stride forward for first-person games."[81] Metroid Prime also became popular among players for speedrunning, with specialized communities being formed to share these speedruns.[82]


Three other Metroid games in the same first-person style were released after Prime, as well as a pinball spin-off. The first was the sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, released in November 2004 for the GameCube, in which Samus travels to planet Aether and discovers that a Phazon meteor crashed on the planet creating an alternate reality, while fighting a mysterious enemy called Dark Samus. It was followed by Metroid Prime Pinball, a spin-off game developed by Fuse Games and released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS.[83] Prime Pinball is a virtual pinball game that features the locations and bosses of Prime.

The next game released was Metroid Prime Hunters for the Nintendo DS, with a storyline that takes place between the events of Prime and Echoes. A demo of the game, titled Metroid Prime Hunters — First Hunt, was released with purchase of a Nintendo DS, and the full game was released on March 20, 2006 in North America, and May 5, 2006 in Europe. The storyline follows Samus trying 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 is more centered on first-person shooter aspects than Prime and Echoes, with removal of assisted aiming, more action-oriented gameplay, and various multiplayer modes.[84]

Prime's second full sequel is Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which closes the Prime series.[85] It was released on August 27, 2007 for Nintendo's Wii. 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 (called "Leviathans") to corrupt planets. Corruption makes changes in gameplay from Prime and Echoes, such as trading the assisted aiming for free aiming with the Wii Remote, and changing the interchangeable beams for a stackable upgrade system.

Elements of Metroid Prime have appeared in other games, such as Super Smash Bros. Brawl, where the Frigate Orpheon is a playable stage, featuring the Parasite Queen in the background and several tracks from the game for background music.[86][87] Metroid Prime's style of gameplay and HUDs also led to influence and comparison in later first-person shooters, such as Geist[88] and Star Wars: Republic Commando.[89]


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