Over 20-years after it was first released, Super Metroid remains one of the best and most beloved games ever made. Often cited as the greatest 2D action game of all time, nearly every aspect of Super Metroid, from its gorgeous hand-drawn graphics to its labyrinth-like world and its haunting, wordless storytelling, is note perfect.
Of course, as is often the case with masterpieces, Super Metroid didn’t happen easily. The creation of Super Metroid was filled with turmoil, a lot of the influences are surprising, and the game contains secrets even long-time fans may not know about. Here’s a few facts about Samus Aran’s greatest adventure.
Nintendo’s higher ups weren’t fans of Super Metroid and almost canceled it three times.
While beloved by critics, the Metroid series has never been as popular as your Marios or Zeldas, particularly in Japan, where most Metroid titles were outright flops. As such, Metroid co-creator Yoshio Sakamoto had to pester his bosses for nearly six months before they finally relented and greenlit a SNES Metroid game in late-1991. Even then, the higher-ups, particularly Game Boy-creator and Metroid-producer Gunpei Yokoi, didn’t have much faith in the game. Here’s Sakamoto describing Yokoi’s less-than-warm reaction to the project…
“Yokoi-san was always angry when he saw us all completely absorbed and working crazy overtime on Super Metroid. He came in and said, ‘Are you lot trying to produce a work of art or something?’ Yokoi-san was becoming angrier with us day by day during that period.”
Yokoi became so grumpy about the frequently-delayed Super Metroid that he cut the game’s budget and threatened to cancel it three times. Thankfully, Yokoi never stuck to his threats, and he’d do a complete 180 once the game was finished.
“Yokoi-san was constantly playing Super Metroid once we’d finished it. He was hooked.”
Kim Basinger was the inspiration for Samus’ look in the game.
The Metroid series is obviously heavily influenced by the Alien movies, and the idea to make Samus a female character was inspired by Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley. But Samus’ appearance in Super Metroid was modeled after a different actress. Samus is supposed to look like ’80s/’90s bombshell Kim Basinger, who Sakamoto first saw in the erotic drama 9 1/2 Weeks.
Players were originally going to get a glimpse of a nude Samus when she died.
Speaking of sexy business, initially there were plans for Samus to have a pretty eye-opening death scene. Originally when Samus died, she would cry out in pain and her armor would fall off, revealing her bounty hunter birthday suit for a split-second. Ultimately the developers decided the combination of the moan-like cry and the nudity was more provocative than they were aiming for, particularly for American audiences, so Samus was given bikini-like undergarments and the voice sample was replaced with a more generic sound effect. While I’m sure the average teenage SNES owner would have preferred the original death animation, the change was probably the right decision from a character standpoint.
The game’s enemies were originally too cute to kill.
Super Metroid is one of the darkest, most “mature” looking games in Nintendo’s catalog, but it wasn’t always the case. The game was made by a small team of around 15, so people tended to take on multiple roles. In particular, most of them pitched in to create the game’s graphics, and since these were Nintendo employees, they tended to be too good at drawing cute stuff. This became a problem, as the game’s enemies and bosses were so darn cuddly, players didn’t want to kill them. Thankfully, artist Tomoyoshi Yamane came along and retouched everybody’s work, giving everything that bit of H.R. Giger gruesomeness it needed.
The sounds made by most of the game’s bosses were directly sampled from Godzilla movies.
Do some of the noises the bosses make in Super Metroid sound a bit…familiar? That’s because they’re directly sampled from various Godzilla movies. Part way through development, it was decided the typical SNES noises the bosses made didn’t make the proper impact, so they switched to samples, something rarely used in console games at the time. The bosses Crocomire and Phantoon let out cries similar to Titanosaurus from Terror of Mechagodzilla, Draygon sounds like Anguirus, and Mother Brain has the same “voice” as Mothra.
The office ‘Super Metroid’ was developed in had a nap area that “smelled like a zoo.”
Super Metroid took over two years to create, and by all accounts the last six months of development were pretty rough for everybody involved. The young team were mainlining caffeine and rarely going home, so in order to keep somebody from literally dying, mats were put down and the break room became the “nap room.” As you might imagine, said nap room got pretty disgusting, pretty quick.
“The nap room wasn’t being cleaned or looked after at all, because we were always using it. One morning staffer from another area came to wake us up and told us that the room smelled like a zoo. Another Nintendo employee put a room freshener in the nap room, but that only made the place smell even worse.”
Somehow it feels appropriate that the murky alien world of Super Metroid was created in an office that smelled like crusty gym socks.
Super Metroid’s map was a mess right up until the end up development.
Super Metroid is one of the most intricately designed video games of all time, so the game’s creators must have been working from a tightly drafted blueprint, right? Think again. The world of Super Metroid was pretty much a shambles right up until the last minute. Individual sections worked fine, but nobody on the team could agree on how they all fit together. Ultimately, the map didn’t start to come together until January 1994, one month before development wrapped. So yeah, one of the reasons speedrunners have found so many ways to break Super Metroid is because the game was frantically Scotch-taped together like a last-minute Christmas present.
The game contains secret attacks you never knew existed.
Think you know your way around Super Metroid pretty well? Well, even if you’ve collected and mastered every upgrade in the game, there’s still some moves you may not be familiar with, as Super Metroid has a series of four hidden attacks only super fans know about.
To do these moves, equip the Charge Beam and one other beam, then select power bombs as your secondary weapon. Start charging, and after about a second, Samus will briefly be surrounded by swirling projectiles. The exact type of projectiles will differ depending on whether you chose the Ice, Wave, Spazer, or Plasma Beam for your secondary weapon. These special attacks aren’t terribly useful, but it’s still fun to fool around with a new ability you didn’t know existed for two decades.
There’s also a way to refill your health without going to an energy charge station.
There’s another hidden ability in the game, and this one is a lot more useful than the attacks listed above. The Crystal Flash is a secret technique that lets you regain most of your health wherever you want, no Energy Charge Station required. That said, pulling it off is a somewhat complex task.
First off, you have to have less than 50 energy, and at least 10 missiles, 10 super missiles, and 11 super bombs on you. If you’ve met those requirements, go into morph ball mode, then hold down, L, R and X and Samus will ascend into a glowing orb which recharges most of her health.
Super Metroid was supposed to be the last game in the series.
After Super Metroid, fans had to wait eight years for another Metroid game, in large part because Yoshio Sakamoto considered Super Metroid the series’ grand finale, he was open to using Samus again in a different sort of game, but Samus’ struggle against the Space Pirates and Metroids was supposed to be done. In the early-2000s Nintendo and American developer Retro Studios began work on the first-person Metroid Prime, so Sakamoto made Metroid Fusion so as not be shut out of the series he co-created. Fusion wasn’t quite the experience fans were expecting, though, as it mostly did away with the open world and non-linear progression of past games in the series. The Metroid series has continued on in name, but in many ways Super Metroid was truly the last of its kind.
So there you are, a few factoids about possibly the most super Super Nintendo-y game of all time. Know any Super Metroid facts I didn’t collect? Want to share some Metroid memories? Blast off a few comments below.