Metroid has been one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises since 1986, with around a dozen mainline games including two remakes released over the years. Since it’s been around so long, the series has a rich story, spanning decades, across numerous consoles. With the launch of Metroid Dread on the horizon, it’s a great time to catch up on the Metroid lore so you’re prepared for the upcoming release. It has been over a decade since the last mainline Metroid game launched — and even longer since the last 2D installment — so there will no doubt be some newcomers once Dread comes out.
Here, we’ll detail the story from all the main Metroid games, from the 2D originals to the Prime series, the remakes, and even some of the spinoffs.
Spoiler alert: In order to recap the series’ story in detail, we will be spoiling most games in the series here. If you’d rather play the series to experience the story yourself, come back here after you’ve done so.
Kicking off our list are the original Metroid (NES) and Metroid Zero Mission (GBA), which is a remake of the first game. For the purposes of this list, we’ll primarily be covering Zero Mission since it’s a remake and features more story elements than the original. The story begins on the planet SR388 during the year 20X5. Here, a lifeform known as the Metroids are discovered by space pirates who intend to capture the creatures to use them as weapons.
To prevent this from happening, the Galactic Federation Police sends bounty hunter Samus Aran to Zebes, the planet on which the space pirates live. Samus’ goal is to defeat the space pirates, the Metroids that have been captured, and Mother Brain, an A.I. that serves as the leader of the group. After defeating these deadly foes, along with Ridley, a dragon-like creature that earns its place as a formidable opponent, Samus is attacked as she attempts to escape the planet. She crashes back on the planet Zebes, this time, without her Power Suit, leaving Samus in a sticky predicament — helpless.
Samus then explores the planet and discovers the ruins of Chozodia, which used to be the home of the Chozo. It is then revealed that Samus was raised by the Chozo on Zebes as a child after her parents were killed by space pirates. Samus then passes the Ruins Test and is rewarded with a new Power Suit, which she uses to complete her mission on Zebes. She takes out the Mecha Ridley, destroys the Metroids, along with the Mother Ship, and then escapes.
At the time of the original in 1986, the story continued in Metroid II: Return of Samus. But the Prime series was inserted just before it, with several games serving as a prequel to Return of Samus first.
While the story of the Prime series is fascinating and absolutely worth experiencing, we won’t dive into it in as much detail since it isn’t totally necessary to play before Dread. Still, it’s at least worth being familiar with, as it fleshes out Samus’ backstory. The Prime series is well known due to shifting the perspective from 2D to a 3D first-person shooter. This gives the side series its own identity, separating it from the rest of the games.
The events of Metroid Prime (GameCube) begin after some of the space pirates from Zebes escape, leading Samus to the planet Tallon IV. It’s revealed that the space pirates have used a corrupt substance called Phazon to turn Metroids into more bioweapons, in attempts to take over the galaxy once again. And you guessed it — it’s up to Samus to stop them. After Samus defeats the Metroid Prime — the titular creature that landed on Tallon IV via the same meteor that contained the Phazon — it fuses with her discarded Power Suit, forming Dark Samus, an evil doppelganger of sorts. Samus narrowly escapes and searches for another bounty.
You’d think Metroid Prime 2 would be next, but instead, the DS exclusive Metroid: Prime Hunters take place just before it. This installment features online multiplayer for up to four players, making it a standout entry in the series. In this game, Samus is sent to the Alimbic Cluster to investigate a telepathic message that reads “The secret to ultimate power resides in the Alimbic Cluster.” Upon arrival, it’s discovered that Samus isn’t the only bounty hunter to have heard the message. Six other hunters join Samus in the Alimbic Cluster, butting heads as the story progresses. One of these hunters is Sylux, which will come up later. Ultimately, Samus and the hunters set their differences aside to take out Gorea, a powerful evil creature. Samus once again escapes, heading back into space toward Aether.
In Echoes (GameCube), Samus learns that more Phazon is found on the planet Aether, which is home to the Luminoth. Just like in the first Prime game, Phazon crashed onto Aether via a meteor, but this time it also caused a great divide on the planet. This split Aether into a light and dark half, with the latter leading to an alternate dimension. Then, the Luminoths and the Ign — beings who come from the Dark Aether — go to war over the planet itself. Naturally, it’s up to Samus to save the Luminoth from extinction, while defeating the space pirates who have come to harvest the Phazon.
To do so, she flips back and forth between the two dimensions, taking out enemy Ing along the way, including an emperor. As teased in the first Prime game, Samus eventually takes on Dark Samus, who — remember — is the reincarnation of the Metroid Prime. Dark Samus is defeated multiple times but manages to reanimate. The final fight sees Dark Samus disintegrate before the real Samus must escape back to Aether. There, she saves the Luminoth and restores order to the planet. At the very end of the game, you can see Dark Samus return once again, teasing the events of the third entry.
At the time, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii) served as a conclusion of this side series, but in 2017 a fourth installment was announced. Nonetheless, Corruption nicely ties up the story of the Prime series, leaving few to no loose ends. In this game, Samus and other bounty hunters are sent to planet Norion, where another Phazon meteor (now called a Leviathan Seed) attracts the attention of even more space pirates. While there, the heroes, including Samus, manage to activate the defense system but inadvertently become infected with Phazon, giving them additional powers.
However, being infected with Phazon slowly drains Samus’ health, so she has to stop it once and for all — fast. Samus is led to the planet Phaaze, which is the origin of Phazon. Of course, Dark Samus is waiting for her there, but Samus manages to defeat her and, by doing so, rids the galaxy of Phazon. Samus’ health is restored, she escapes the planet, and the mission is deemed to be completed. The final portion of the game reveals that Sylux, a bounty hunter introduced in Prime Hunters, follows Samus’ ship, presumably leading to the events of Prime 4.
Metroid Prime is treated as a side saga, and Federation Force (Nintendo 3DS) branches off even further. Regarded as one of the worst games in the series, Metroid Prime: Federation Force is not necessary to play, but we’ll tell you what it’s about anyway. This game focuses on an elite group within the Galactic Federation called — wait for it — the Federation Force. These heroes are sent to the Bermuda System to take out the space pirates. Although Samus isn’t actually playable in this game, she does make an appearance, assisting the Federation Force on their mission.
Samus discovers the space pirates have built a giant ship called Doomseye, though the Federation Force cannot locate it. Eventually, the space pirates turn Samus against the Federation Force by using mind control, but she’s subsequently defeated. Once back to normal, Samus then rescues the Federation Force from space and all is well. The game ends once again with a post-credits scene of Sylux coming across a Metroid egg, so it’s presumed he will make an appearance in Prime 4.
Now, five games later, we’re back on track with the mainline Metroid series. The Prime games aren’t totally necessary to play before getting to Dread, but you can see how they flesh out the backstories of the characters. The story picks back up in Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy), but the remake, aptly titled Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS), is much better, so we advise playing that instead. It starts off with Samus going to the home of the Metroids, planet SR388, in an attempt to exterminate them for good.
Throughout the game, Samus destroys every Metroid in sight, except one — a baby Metroid that hatches in front of her. The baby Metroid thinks Samus is its mother, so the bounty hunter doesn’t kill it and instead brings it with her. Samus escapes with the baby Metroid, and in a post-credit scene, it’s revealed that SR388 is infected by X Parasite. Samus Returns isn’t as story-heavy, but it’s essential to play before Dread, especially since Samus is in the possession of the one and only existing Metroid at the time.
In Super Metroid (SNES), Samus takes the baby to the Ceres Space Colony where scientists study the creature. However, after leaving the Metroid there, Samus quickly returns to discover it has broken out of its test tube, killing all the scientists nearby. She then encounters Ridley, who guards the Metroid. After taking Ridley down, Samus has 60 seconds to escape the station before it self-destructs.
Samus then returns back to Zebes to defeat the space pirates and the Metroid once and for all. Upon arrival, she discovers that much of the planet was rebuilt during the events of the Prime series. She makes her way through Crateria, taking out bosses, and eventually comes across an oversized Metroid. This Metroid attacks Samus but leaves her with one HP. It’s revealed this Metroid is the baby she rescued in Samus Returns.
After that, an all-out battle ensues against Mother Brain, who turns into a large T-Rex-looking creature and nearly defeats Samus. Just before it can take her down, the Metroid flies in and sacrifices itself for Samus. Upon defeating Mother Brain, the planet is set to self-destruct, so Samus escapes on her ship and Zebes is no more.
At this point, the story of the Metroids and the space pirates is seemingly over, so Samus goes off in search of a new bounty. This is when the events of Metroid: Other M (Wii) begin. This is widely regarded as the black sheep of the series, as it’s far more linear and story-heavy than previous installments. But it’s nonetheless worth playing in preparation for Dread. As Samus searches for a new bounty, she receives a distress call from a space facility called Bottle Ship.
Here, she discovers the Galactic Federation 07th Platoon led by Commander Adam Malkovich, Samus’ former officer. The squad agrees to allow Samus to assist on their mission, though she isn’t quite clear what it is yet. She eventually uncovers the truth: This Galactic Federation uses the station to secretly conduct research on bioweapons, all under the helm of Dr. Madeline Bergman. It’s later revealed that Metroids were also being researched here, and Samus eventually comes across one in the Bottle Ship in Sector Zero. Dr. Bergman reveals Malkovich is actually behind the operation to experiment on Metroids, dubbed Project Metroid Warriors.
After encountering another baby Metroid, Samus is then ambushed by Malkovich, who then reveals plans to destroy Sector Zero. However, he traps himself in Sector Zero instead, detaching it from the rest of the station after giving Samus one last mission: Find a survivor in Room MW. Samus agrees and goes off looking for the survivor, who ends up being the real Madeline Bergman. That’s right, the initial Bergman was an A.I., infused with Mother Brain DNA (referred to as MB).
Then, the MB is confronted but quickly summons all of Bottle Ship’s deadliest creatures to attack the station. The creatures are defeated, along with MB. Samus is then commended on her efforts and is escorted to her ship. Later, she returns to Bottle Ship to retrieve Adam’s helmet and faces off against the immense boss known as Phantoon (who appeared in Super Metroid). Phantoon is defeated, the station is set to self-destruct, and Samus escapes in time.
All of that brings us to Metroid Fusion (GBA), the most recent game in the series’ timeline. It begins with Samus once again visiting SR388, this time to accompany a team of scientists from the Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL). There, the crew and Samus are attacked by a parasite, but they defeat it quickly. However, the parasite fuses (hence the name) to Samus and leaves her unconscious while on her ship. The parasite, known as X Parasite, causes her to crash into a meteor, but she’s rescued and taken to the Galactic Federation medical station.
Samus recovers but discovers she now has Metroid DNA infused in her body, due to the vaccine that was given to her. The vaccine was made with DNA from the baby Metroid from before, which is coincidentally a viable treatment for the X Parasite. At this point, Samus travels to BSL to investigate an explosion, where she encounters deadly foes infected by X Parasite. To assist her, Samus has the help of her ship’s A.I. she names Adam — in honor of her commander who died in Other M. The X Parasite then fuses with Samus’ suit and creates a copy of it to take her out (almost like Dark Samus). This clone is called SA-X.
She runs away from SA-X but encounters the Restricted Laboratory, which is full of Metroids. The lab is ejected and it self-destructs (in typical Metroid fashion). After speaking with Adam, it’s revealed that the Galactic Federation has been secretly breeding Metroids. At this point, the two argue and Adam triggers the station’s self-destruct sequence. However, Samus reminds Adam that she named the A.I. after her former commander, so the self-destruct sequence is temporarily stopped (somehow striking a chord with Adam). Samus decides to alter the orbit closer to SR388 so it blows up during the station’s self-destruct sequence.
After this, Samus is ambushed by SA-X, who morphs into a monstrosity but is defeated anyway. Things seem safe, but then an Omega Metroid attacks Samus and nearly kills her. However, the SA-X saves Samus (for some reason), fusing with her suit to give her additional powers. She uses her newfound abilities to take out the Omega Metroid and escapes. The station flies into SR388 and explodes, taking the planet with it, along with the X Parasite.
Adam and Samus then discuss the events that unfolded. Samus worries she’ll be held accountable for going against the Federation’s orders. Adam replies, “Do not worry. One of them will understand. One of them must.”
Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch) is gearing up to launch on October 8, 2021. We know there’s evidence to suggest the X Parasite might have survived the destruction of SR388 in Fusion. The Galactic Federation received a video from the planet ZDR with footage of the X Parasite, still alive. To get to the source, the Federation sends robots known as E.M.M.I. to ZDR, but contact with them is lost. The Federation sends Samus to investigate.
This game will conclude the main story arc introduced in the original Metroid. However, Metroid Prime 4 is still on the way and will launch at an unknown date.