By the mid-1990s, there was doubt whether a three-dimensional Metroid, in the manner of Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64, could be made. However, the franchise would be rebooted on the GameCube, N64's successor console.
Metroid Prime: Samus Aran's First-Person Adventure
In 2002, Metroid Prime was released for the Nintendo GameCube after a number of years in development. Texas-based Retro Studios, the game's developer, didn't want to make another first-person shooter, feeling that the strength of the Metroid series had always been exploration and non-linear gameplay.
As a "first-person adventure," Metroid Prime had a number of innovations. Lock-on targeting assistance made blasting enemies intuitive in 3D environments, and a complex heads-up display allowed players to scan for clues, download story-related data, and access schematics and maps.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
The success of Metroid Prime led to the inevitable sequel, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004). Samus investigates the disappearance of Galactic Federation troops on the planet Aether, only to find that the planet has split between two dimensions, Light and Dark.
Samus's task is to restore the balance to the Light side by destroying the Ing, a vicious army from Dark Aether. Along the way, she grapples with Dark Samus, a clone created in her encounter with Metroid Prime in the previous game – and, of course, more Space Pirates.
Echoes featured tweaks to the Prime interface (making scans easier, for instance), introduced new elements to the Metroid series, such as a multi-player mode, and brought back abilities from earlier Metroid games, such as the Screw Attack and wall-jumping.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
When the Wii replaced the GameCube as Nintendo's flagship console, Metroid fans were treated to the final installment of the Metroid Prime series. In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007), the Space Pirates hatch a plan to spread Phazon across the galaxy. Samus is sent to purge the Phazon from the infected worlds. She locates the planet Phaaze, source of the Phazon, which she destroys after a final showdown with the Phazon-infused Dark Samus.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption used the Wii's motion-sensing controls to revolutionary effect. Although the overall look of the GameCube installments remained, aiming was now done with the Wiimote, there was a greater focus on action, and a new system of achievements was introduced.
The Metroid Prime Trilogy for Nintendo Wii
The legacy of Metroid Prime and its two sequels is at least as great as the first three classic Metroid games. The revitalized franchise had a string of sequels on Nintendo's hand-held systems, including Metroid Fusion (2002) and Metroid: Zero Mission (2004) for the Game Boy Advance and Metroid Prime: Hunters (2006) for Nintendo DS.
Metroid Prime also formed the basis for North American comics and Japanese manga, which fleshed out more of Samus's personal history before Metroid.
In August 2009, Nintendo will release The Metroid Prime Trilogy for the Wii. All three Metroid Prime games will be collected on one disc, and the GameCube installments will be updated so that players can use the Wiimote targeting from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. A new system of unlockables that works across all three games will also be featured.
It's fitting that the entire trilogy, which redefined Metroid for the 2000s, will be accessible for a new generation of gamers as the decade comes to a close.