As a character Samus has always been changing constantly. I started doing this when I read a TV Tropes article titled "Depending On The Artist"
which writes about how a character could change depending on who is involved with the design as different people could have their own interpretations. On the "Video Games" section they write on Metroid. After looking at how she keeps changing I wanted to make my own timeline as I always liked looking at how something or someone changes through the years. I apologize if it's to big as I wanted to keep the sprites in here very clean. Spinoffs like Metroid Pinball and Federation Force are not counted as they don't show Samus either suitless or helmetless.
I also want to write my take on how each of them look:
- If players were able to complete the game in under three hours Samus would take off her power suit and in a twist was revealed to be a female. At the time there wasn't really that many female protagonists in video games so it was a breakthrough to see that. They even went out of there way to trick players to believe she was a male since the [manual]
refers to Samus with male pronouns like "him", "he", and "his". Typically most people refer to this depiction of Samus as "Justin Bailey" due to a famous password that had this phrase which allowed you to play suitless. People also associate her as having the odd choice of green colored hair in this form. However, that's only once she recieves her Varia Suit as she's regularly a brunette in this game [Varia Suit Acquirement]
. The association with green hair likely started from the aforementioned "Justin Bailey" password due to it starting the game off in Norfair with some items already acquired and the Varia Suit is one of them. Lastly, there's the misconception that "Bailey" is slang for swimsuit but the thing is there has never been any place that has had slang for it and was just an incorrect fact that kept being spread. Besides Samus is wearing a leotard not a swimsuit.
1991 (Metroid II: Return of Samus) -
As Metroid II would be released on the original Gameboy there would be no display of color for her on here. This lack of color was actually why the Varia Suit would gain it's recognizably huge shoulders to distinguish it from the regular power suit. Here Samus wears a top and underwear which is most likely referencing how Ripley from Alien looked like at the end of the movie [Reference]. The Alien movies were a huge influence on the creation of Metroid so it is a definite.
1994 (Super Metroid) - One of the most notable things here is that she now has visible muscles showing that she still has super strength even outside of her suit. In fact one of the more known pieces of art from that era showed her to be very strong and placed her to be 6'3" and 198 lbs. Super Samus.
Another notable thing here is that Sakomoto confirmed that her design is based off of the actress Kim Basinger [Comparison].
2001 (Super Smash Bros. Melee) - Metroid would not have a game on the Nintendo 64 and Samus' only appearance on the system was in Super Smash Bros. which was released in 1999. Two years later its sequel, Melee, was released on the Gamecube. This game would introduce collectable trophies which are obtained in various ways. In total there is 290 trophies to collect (291 in Japan as the Tamagon trophy is not in the international versions). However, there is two more additional trophies that were given only at events. One is the Mario & Yoshi
trophy and the other trophy is the Samus Unmasked
trophy . These two trophies can now only be obtained through cheating devices like Action Replay. Her hair is placed in a ponytail with a red hairband which will be seen later on [Hairstyle]
2002 (Metroid Prime) - After a eight year hiatus Metroid would return with two games released on the same date. Metroid Prime would be made by Retro Studios which is a western development company. As it's being made by different people she would be radically different. In a piece of concept art one of the goals states that she needs to be "More realistic" and indeed this is the most realistic she will ever be.
2002 (Metroid Fusion) - Meanwhile the other game released was Fusion. While these two games were released on the same date both designs demonstrate the contrast between the Japanese and Westerners. This design was also used in the canonical manga. One of the Japanese endings shows her with mechanical gloves, boot straps, a belt, and a gun [Ending Image].
2004 (Metroid Zero Mission) - Zero Mission would be a remake of the first game. This would be the debut of the Zero Suit making it her standard attire from now on. With the Zero Suit being skintight it gave her sex appeal. This is evident as they had rather suggestive shots    within the game and even in the Japanese commercial [Image]. This is perhaps tied to "Sex Sells" as Metroid really isn't that popular in Japan. At least it looks like they wanted to finally establish a concrete design though as this would be where things like even her hairstyle would be placed. Her hairstyle would be in a ponytail tied by a red hairband and loose locks on each side of her face. Aside from the Zero Suit there is an orange attire similarly to the Fusion one seen only in the ending images [Orange Attire]. As a last point o
ne of the developers has stated that the graphics in this game is supposed to look like that of American comics which is why the art design has bolded lines with vibrant colors. This comic book influence is even seen in the Japanese strategy guide  
2004 (Metroid Prime 2 Echoes) - Prime 2 was released only a few months after Zero Mission. The realistic design of Prime was replaced and now Samus wears the Zero Suit. The suit itself was inconsistent as it was very dark blue and had gray patterns on it. This version of Samus was actually made into a statue by First 4 Figures [F4F Page]
2006 (Metroid Prime Hunters) - Prime Hunters wasn't actually made by Retro Studios but by Nintendo Software Technology. Perhaps for this reason Samus looks radically different yet again. The Zero Suit itself is even different as well. This one has no patterns or markings at all making it look more like a generic latex body suit. The suit also doesn't also cover her hands either [Full Body Shot]. The most interesting part is that there is a green line on the neck area. Such a shame we won't be able to see a high quality version of her here due to the DS's low resolution getting in the way.
2007 (Metroid Prime 3 Corruption) - Samus in Prime 3 would somewhat retain the look she had that was previously seen in the E3 2006 Brawl trailer ['06 Samus]. Her face does look a bit different from that one though.
2008 (Super Smash Bros. Brawl) - Brawl was first revealed in 2006 and introduced many newcomers. One of them was Zero Suit Samus. Zero Suit Samus existed for two years prior to the reveal in this trailer but since Smash Bros. is a more popular series than Metroid her existence became more known. This can be seen in the [Google Trends] chart which has two spikes correlating to Smash Bros. The first spike is in 2006 which is the release of the reveal trailer and the next one is in 2008 which is the year Brawl was released. It really shows how much Smash Bros. can expose characters people might not have seen at all.
2010 (Metroid Other M) - Other M was co-developed with Team Ninja known for the Ninja Gaiden and Dead or Alive games. Her design was changed once again and the Zero Suit was completely redesigned as well. One controversial addition to the suit was the wedge heels. Also a mole which was mentioned by Sakamoto but never seen was now placed on her face.
2014 (Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS) - After Other M Samus' next major appearance was in the next Smash Bros. The Zero Suit still retains the design from Other M but Samus herself has a slightly altered looked that isn't completely taken from Other M. The additions this time were black and yellow bracelets and rocket heels to help with her jumping abilities. The rocket heels were definitely better than the pointless wedge heels.
Lining them all up like this really shows the contrast each design has from each other. It's like there different people.
I'll update this and add more when the next Metroid games come out (In two or three years I bet... )
Special Thanks to:
- For the NES Metroid Title Screen fontSuperMario811
- For having high quality pictures of the Samus Unmasked trophy as I couldn't find any good pictures of itnio107
- For the [Yellow Box]
NES Metroid logo as that is the only distinct official english logo and I didn't want to use the [Gray Box] logo as it is rather generic. I also didn't want to use the
in game sprite title as I wanted the game logos to be uniform. The [Label]
that they made is the closest one I could use so thank you very much