Samus Aran is the protagonist of Nintendo's Metroid series. She is a bounty hunter in the science fiction setting of the Galactic Federation.
Samus is one of the most well-known female protagonists in video games. Created at a time when female protagonists were largely unheard of in the medium, her gender was initially kept as a surprise thanks to the concealing nature of her power suit. Even the instruction manual for the original game referred to Samus as a male. However, players that completed Metroid in under two hours, or who used special passwords, discovered that Samus is, in fact, a woman.
Evolution of Design
In the earliest years of Samus's existence, her most common appearance was defined by the look of her power suit. Predominantly yellow and orange with a red helmet, the appearance of her suit has become one of the most iconic aspects of her design. However, in later games, as Samus has seen more suit styles and upgrades, the appearance of her suit has varied dramatically from the stripped down Fusion Suit in Metroid Fusion to the Light and Dark Suits of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes.
On the other hand, Samus's own physical appearance varied wildly in the early games, and was reserved only for viewing by players that managed to complete the games under stringent time and/or item collection requirements. For example, at the end of the original Metroid, she appears to be a brunette in the ending sequence, but her coloration changed if the player played the game without her power suit; a feat possible after completing the game under a certain time or through the use of passwords. In Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, she's blonde, but has a distinctively different look to her appearance in each game.
Samus's physical appearance became standardized in Metroid: Zero Mission. Retaining her blonde haired/blue eyed appearance, her hairstyle was changed to a distinctive ponytail. The game also introduced the Zero Suit; a blue bodysuit that Samus wears underneath her power suit that has become her standard attire when not seen in her armor. All Metroid titles released since Zero Mission have retained this particular look as Samus's canon appearance.
In Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus, Samus is a silent protagonist. She has no dialogue, and the stories in each game are told purely by in-game action. However, Super Metroid gave Samus text dialogue for the first time, albeit briefly, as she narrates a recap of the major events of the first two games. In Metroid Fusion, Samus was given extensive dialogue for the first time, as the game was the first in the series to include a friendly character that she routinely interacts with.
Metroid Prime, released on the same day as Fusion, was the first game in which Samus was voiced. However, this voice is limited to grunts, shouts and other vocal exertions rather than dialogue. This trend held throughout the rest of the Prime series. For Samus's appearance in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, she was given brief lines of dialogue, though she only speaks when not wearing her power suit. In Metroid: Other M, Samus is fully voiced. She speaks frequently throughout the game, both in dialogue and narration.
When Samus was three years old, her home, the mining colony K-2L was attacked in a raid conducted by space pirates. The raid was led by the powerful, monstrous alien Ridley. In the end, only Samus survived, and she would come to regard Ridley as the one responsible for the deaths of her parents. Following the departure of the pirates, she was rescued by a race of bird-people known as the Chozo, who adopted her and raised her on the planet Zebes. However, the planet's environment was not one in which the average human could endure for any extended period of time. In order to allow Samus to venture outside of their heavily sheltered settlements, the Chozo used a process that infused the young girl with their own blood that would allow her to live normally on the planet.
After the process was completed, Samus was seen as a true Chozo child by the rest of the race, and was thereafter given the same treatment and strict training regimen as all young Chozo warriors. Samus took exceptionally well to this training and eventually became known as one of the Chozo's finest warriors. At the age of fourteen, Samus was given the same right of passage as all trainees of their race and was fitted with her own power suit. However, when a mysterious plant is found growing on the surface of Zebes, the Chozo realize that the days of their colony on the planet are numbered, as the plant's spores would eventually alter the environment to make it uninhabitable even to them.
Soon after, Samus set out into the galaxy to find her own way in life. Driven by the murder of her parents, Samus quickly enlisted herself as a soldier the Galactic Federation Army. During her time as a member of the military, she served under the command of Adam Malkovich. Mutual respect between the two grew into a friendship that was shared with Adam's younger brother and fellow soldier Ian. However, after Ian was left to die during a mission under Adam's command, Samus became disillusioned with military life and left. Following her departure from the army, she became a freelance bounty hunter, leading to her adventures in the Metroid series.
Common Techniques and Skills
Many of Samus's most recognizable abilities are granted to her through the use of her power suit. Through the use of the morph ball, she can transform into a metal sphere with the ability to roam freely through the environment and drop bombs to defeat some enemies and clear paths that she couldn't otherwise access. When equipped with a speed booster, Samus can run at a vastly accelerated rate and is also granted the ability to perform a shinespark; a form of super jump or dash that allows her to clear great heights or jump great distances that would otherwise be impossible. The effects of weapons she adds to the arm cannon of her suit also typically stack. Thus, what starts off as a simple energy blast can evolve into a chargeable shot that's also capable of freezing enemies and passing through certain barriers. In addition, some games also grant her use of a grapple beam that she can use to latch onto certain objects in the environment and swing across wide gaps.
In Metroid: Zero Mission, Samus temporarily loses her power suit and must proceed for a stretch of gameplay without it. With only her Zero Suit for protection, she's more susceptible to damage, but is lighter, quicker, and more agile. Her only weapon in this scenario is a simple emergency pistol that only has enough power to stun enemies. In Metroid: Other M, the player must once again control Samus in her Zero Suit during the escape sequence at the end of the game's epilogue chapter. In Super Smash Bros. Brawl, her pistol is able to transform into an energy whip, and she can transition between use of her power suit and Zero Suit through the use of her Final Smash attacks.
Over the years, Samus has become one of Nintendo's most well-known protagonists and has appeared in numerous games outside of the Metroid series. She has appeared in every entry of the Super Smash Bros. series to date, and her games are often subjects of microgames seen in the WarioWare series. Samus has also made numerous cameo appearances in games such as Famicom Wars, Tetris, F-1 Race, and Super Mario RPG. More recently, Samus appears in a cameo in morph ball form in a stage in Dead or Alive: Dimensions that is inspired by the Team Ninja-developed Metroid: Other M.
Outside of video games, Samus has made appearances in several comics. To coincide with the release of Super Metroid, Nintendo Power ran a serialized comic that serves as a non-canon interpretation of the game's story. She also appeared as a recurring character in the Captain N comic book series as an ally of Kevin, the protagonist, and as a romantic rival for his affections to Princess Lana of Video Land. Samus made no appearances in the Captain N animated series, though Metroid antagonist Mother Brain did.
In 2002, a two-volume Metroid manga was published under the supervision of Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto. Though the manga was never officially published outside of Japan, fan translations of it are available online. The manga explores Samus's life from early childhood up until shortly before the events of the original Metroid. Certain elements of her backstory as depicted in the manga have also been directly referenced in the games Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid: Other M, establishing the the manga as a source of canon.