It is hard to imagine modern gaming without Metroid. It's importance resonates in today’s video gaming culture and without a doubt in generations to come. There are a myriad or reasons why the franchise is so greatly revered; the explosive action, the genre-defining landscapes, the droning music that reverberates through the player. The reason why the franchise is so important, however, can be attributed to one factor. Name a girl in gaming. Princess Peach? Zelda? Correct! Now name a woman... Samus Aran, Bounty Hunter. She is the DNA of every modern video game heroin - that core mix of bravery and strength that allows the evolution of female representation in the medium. Femininity in gaming is still a large grey area in gaming, with characters and attitudes which would be considered exploitive and ridiculed in any other artistic medium. With Metroid, what we see is a female playable character who is resilient, noble and able to annihilate any adversary that comes before them. The player has a job, and Samus is the woman to do it. With the Metroid series, we can describe them succinctly with the terms 2D and 3D. Both styles offer different experiences while still being exciting, immersive, visually impressive and interesting from a game play standpoint. From the first level of Metroid for the NES, we know what were up against. The cavernous, cold and relentless tunnels of Zebes offer little consideration for the player. There is nothing here except things that want to kill you. You’ve fought your way through corridors and mazes with nothing but your arm cannon and grit and then, you find something; a Missile Expansion, an Energy Tank, the Morph Ball. You grow stronger and you hit back harder. Everything that moves deserves it. The music of the first games are powerful compositions and, like many Nintendo franchises, are still ever-present in the minds of people who may not heard them in years. The bleeps and fissions of the Metroid start screen to the fanfare received when you find a new power up are timeless. In the 3D games, we are allowed to really see the galaxy. The planet Elysia from Metroid Prime 3 is one of my favourite levels from any videogame. It’s beautiful to look at, wonderfully textured and the movements of its mechanical inhabitants juxtapose its broad hollowness masterfully. It’s in the Prime series that we really get to see Samus’ isolation. She is a bounty hunter, going above and beyond any other human in the galaxy with the bare minimum human contact and rarely seeks help or guidance from her own race. When we play through these vast areas in the first person, it’s interesting to see the landscapes that exist beyond where we can visit. The sheer scale can sometimes be perceived as a threat itself.
Samus is a pretty important character then, but what is a bounty hunter without a bounty? The antagonists of the Metroid series are fantastic. Ridley is a fantastic character as he is the complete ying to Samus’ yang. He’s a destructive, hate-fuelled creature that, no matter how many times you find a way to kill him, he will just hunt you down. Again. And again. It is also worth mentioning that he is a flying, reptilian Space Pirate who can breathe fire. A worthy adversary. Metroid is a series which is admired, appreciated, and simply just complete, frustrating, hair-pulling fun. Killing jellyfish and pirates is a lot more satisfying in space.