Shinesparkers Feature:

In Search of Samus

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While Samus Aran is not the first ever female protagonist in a video game – that honor belongs to Billie Sue from the 1982 Atari 2600 game Wabbit – she certainly made the biggest impression when her true identity was revealed at the end of Metroid, defying assumptions that she was a man or a robot. (beat that, Lara Croft! Jk jk I love you too…)

At the time of writing, 37 years have passed since she first emerged in Brinstar on her mission to defeat Mother Brain. At least 23 women have stepped into Samus’s Power Suit, either voicing or portraying the stoic Bounty Hunter in games and commercials for the Metroid series, or otherwise playing themselves as they channel Samus through the games. Most of these women have gone unidentified… until now.

It all started when I was tipped off to the name of Samus’s actress in the Metroid: Other M commercial in late 2021. After a decade of searching, we finally knew who she was, and I made contact with her. That gave way to our interview with Lenka Volfová in early 2022. It made me realize I could potentially find other actresses who played Samus in commercials, who have disappeared into obscurity. Hearing about a similar investigation into the first actress to portray Mavis Beacon, another influential game character, further inspired me.

As we entered 2023, I began my research into every actress who has ever portrayed Samus in a commercial, or voiced her in other media. I gave myself a self-imposed deadline of December 2023, challenging myself to find every actress, with the intention of publishing this feature no matter how many I found. In the end, I managed to identify all but three of them.

Ever since Past is Prologue, the live-action commercial for Metroid: Other M aired, I had been curious to identify each actress that had portrayed Samus. My initial consultation of online forums proved to be unhelpful, with many discussions about the commercial turning negative towards the games and/or the actresses themselves. Some guessed the woman in the Other M commercial was Beth Riesgraf, January Jones or an obscure Danish or Swedish actress. I believed it was unlikely that a high profile actress would be hired for a non-speaking, minute long commercial that was not a million dollar brand endorsement. I tried repeatedly over twelve years to identify her, to no avail.

Then I was alerted to a web page from The Mill, the visual effects firm that brought Past is Prologue to life. We attempted to seek an interview with Filip Engstrom, who The Mill identified as the commercial’s Director, but he never responded. However, he did reply to someone else. As I was in the midst of finishing some projects in September 2021, a user on Wikitroid (a large resource of user-created information) named “Thugcat”, who had never previously contributed to the site, came on and provided the name of the actress on the commercial’s page. She was Lenka Volfová, a Czech model that now works in education policy. While Thugcat didn’t provide a source for her involvement, the name was all I needed to quickly determine that they were sincere.

Within seconds I had ecstatically texted the former Creative Director of Shinesparkers, Darren to tell him, and we arranged for an interview with Lenka that we published in January 2022. To have identified one of the most notable Samus actresses after so long felt momentous to me.

Some of the best known voices of Samus include veteran video game actress Jennifer Hale, who recorded Samus’s effort sounds for the Metroid Prime series, Jessica Erin Martin, the first actress to speak as Samus extensively in Metroid: Other M, and Nikki García, whose single line in Metroid Dread was enough to make the most dedicated Metroid fan faint from admiration. Many more have given Samus their voice, or stepped into her suit, but for too long, we haven’t known who they were. How could these women, who each brought a trailblazing character to life, have been allowed to disappear?

Emboldened by my discovery of Lenka, and undaunted by the challenge, I went in search of the other actresses whose names we do not know, to finally recognize them for their contribution to Metroid.

I went in search of Samus.

The very first actor to portray Samus did so in the Japanese live-action commercial for the original Metroid. He or she wore a costume based on the Power Suit and emerged from an explosion in a Spin Jump, before landing on a Famicom cartridge and flying. They were seen running through a hallway with the Power Suit giving off steam, before Spin Jumping back onto the screen.

Sadly, this was the only actor for whom I could find no leads at all, and one of the three I couldn’t identify within my self-imposed deadline. This is not to say that they don’t exist. I only state a name if I have compelling evidence to back up my discovery. I believe that the performer was a stunt person working in commercials and/or perhaps film as well. Should I develop any leads in the future, I will investigate and update this feature if I can identify the actor.

Minako Hamano, a composer for the Metroid series starting with Super Metroid, recorded a death scream for Samus in that game. The famous Japanese developer interview that revealed this indicated it was not used since it sounded overtly sexual. However, dataminers determined in 2021 that a feminine moaning sound exists in the game, supposedly unused. It was actually incorporated into Samus Aran’s Final Cry, the Game Over flourish, and while unconfirmed, it’s likely to be Hamano’s recording. The sound itself has been isolated and extracted, and made available online – for reference, you can listen to it here, both in its raw form and edited for pitch and speed.

This makes Hamano-san the first actress to give Samus a voice. At the time of writing, she still works for Nintendo, now in an advising capacity for a new generation of musicians on the Metroid series and other games. We marked her 50th birthday with a tribute feature to recognize her often overlooked work on the series, which has been as important to it as that of Kenji Yamamoto.

The first voice actress to narrate as Samus was Keiko Toda, best known for being the Japanese dub of Thomas the Tank Engine, and dubbing Hollywood actresses like Carrie Anne Moss, Jodie Foster and Sigourney Weaver, Ellen Ripley herself. Toda, as Samus, narrated a promotional reel for Super Metroid that played in Japanese game stores in 1994. It was translated in 2014, but Toda’s name was unknown until, in the midst of investigating, I discovered another upload of the reel on YouTube. Five of the comments identified her as Keiko Toda (an auto-translation of four of them can be seen below), and we compared the voice to Toda’s other recordings, determining it was her. We first revealed this in our feature on the top facts you didn’t know about Metroid.

Update (May 25, 2024): In preparing our translation of the Spaceship articles (see below), I contacted Toda-san via her staff and obtained direct confirmation that she voiced Samus in this reel. Unfortunately, she did not remember much about the recording process.

The first portrayal of Samus outside of her suit in live-action was in the Super Metroid commercial released in Japan. A 60 second theatrical reel suggests the commercial was named “She”. Caucasian actors had been hired to play the roles of Samus and the Ceres Space Colony scientists, with Japanese dubbing. The commercial, which was included at the end of the promotional reel, showed Samus in a lab coat receiving a distress signal. Without uttering a word, she immediately threw it off and ran into an echo chamber, where the Varia Suit materialized onto her with very 90’s tokusatsu CGI. This Varia Suit was an action figure that was animated using stop-motion. We can confirm it was the same figure used in the Japanese Metroid II commercial.

Identifying this actress was always going to be a significant challenge. Then, I had a stroke of luck: I discovered scans from Spaceship, an old Japanese magazine, posted by the artist Wata Ridley on Twitter. The magazine contained an article about the special-effects for the commercial. It revealed that “She” was directed by Yasuo Kanemaki and produced by Shirogumi – which later did contract work on Metroid: Other M – as well as the Japanese agency 21 Incorporation, and Industrial Light & Magic created the special effects. I knew that Kanemaki was likely my best shot at identifying this actress.

Much of my overall investigation was focused on getting a hold of Kanemaki. Multiple leads were pursued, many of them dead ends. For instance, 21 Incorporation indicated that Kanemaki left their company and they didn’t know how to contact him. One of their directors had apprenticed for Kanemaki-san at 21 Incorp, according to his biography. When I contacted him directly, his manager received my message and attempted to locate Kanemaki for me, to no avail. Japanese privacy laws mean that it’s much more difficult to track down people in that country than in North America or Europe. Personal information cannot be posted online or given out to strangers without permission. 

Working with our internal Japanese translator, Vectrex28, we discovered that Kanemaki now travels across Japan giving lectures at universities, including Gakugei University in 2017, and Bunkyo University in 2022. Neither university could put us in touch. Eventually, I was able to reach Kanemaki through a connection that passed on my message to him. We quickly arranged an interview, and to my extreme disappointment, he did not remember the actress’ name and would not have been able to tell me regardless. All he said was that she worked as a model at the time. Caucasian models in Japan are rare, and she was one of two finalists in the casting. I will continue to search for evidence until I have finally found her, and once I do, I will update this feature.

Update (May 25, 2024): Since publishing this feature, I found another possible photograph of the model, taken by Brazilian photographer Fabio Cabral circa 1994. He did not remember her name, only that she was an American model who would be 60+ years old at the time of writing, and it was for a Brazilian magazine.

[Added January 31, 2024] In November 2023, Did You Know Gaming? (“DYKG”) published a video with new information regarding Retro Studios’ cancelled projects, such as Raven Blade and Adept, a Portal-like game prototype that used Metroid Prime 3 assets. Cid Newman, who worked on Metroid Prime in the early stages of development, and was not credited in the final game, was interviewed. He revealed that he performed motion capture for Samus in Prime, albeit the early version seen in 2001 with third-person cinematics. Presumably, none of that work survived into the release version, but I still thought him worthy of inclusion once I finally watched DYKG’s video for myself in full. Cid might be the second man to portray Samus in some form, if the actor in the first Metroid commercial is male.

Samus’s best known voice actress might have to be Jennifer Hale, also acclaimed for her roles as Commander Shepherd in Mass Effect, Cinderella in various Disney media, Thorn in Scooby Doo, Sam in Totally Spies!, Bayonetta in Bayonetta 3, and countless other games, movies and TV series.

In other interviews, Jennifer has said that when taping her first demos as a voice actress, she recorded numerous action sounds, otherwise known as effort noises, grunts, foley sounds etc. They ended up being used in Metroid Prime when Samus was hit. Jennifer was not credited for her contribution, but a Nintendo Power Profile in issue 241 (May 2009) revealed her as the actress for the first time. You can read scans of the profile on her Wikitroid article.

These recordings were reused in Metroid Prime 2, 3 and Hunters. In Metroid Prime Pinball, one effort noise is used, and only heard when playing on the Impact Crater table. While interviewing Matthew Nightingale in 2023, I asked him about the grunt. He believed it was reused from Prime, and suggested that the reason it’s only heard on the Impact Crater is either because you’re fighting the final boss, or I may have discovered a bug all these years later.

The lack of any credits for Jennifer Hale, and supposedly limited evidence that she voiced Samus, led to speculation on Behind the Voice Actors as to whether or not it really was her. Some thought that there was no reason an actress of Jennifer’s stature would fly to Austin, Texas to record simple foley sounds. At least one person speculated that Audrey Peterson, credited as an “Additional Contributor” in Prime, had done the voice since an actress of the same name had recorded lines for Ultima IX: Ascension, another game developed by a different Austin, Texas-based studio. Audrey herself came forward on Wikitroid and denied this, saying she was an engine programmer who left in development before any effort noises were present in Prime.

To clear up any doubts, we reached out to Metroid Prime’s Audio Lead Clark Wen. He told us in our interview with him in 2018, that the Foley recordings were handled by Nintendo themselves – possibly out of their now defunct California office, although that’s me speculating – and then given to him to use. A dozen actresses, including Gabrielle Carteris of Beverly Hills 90210 fame, auditioned. The recordings each had the initials of the actresses’ names, and the ones used in the Metroid Prime series have the initials “JH” – Jennifer Hale. However, there was a plot twist, which I’ll get into below.

We have extended an invitation to Jennifer to appear on our podcast, and look forward to hearing her reply.

The plot twist I mentioned is that in the release version of Metroid Prime, Samus had two voice actresses. In our interview, Clark told us that he used the death scream of an actress with the initials “VM”, since she had the higher register for it that he wanted. In a subsequent interview, Clark added that the scream from VM better matched the scream in Super Metroid.

He didn’t know who VM was, but speculation ensued that she was Vanessa Marshall, best known for her work in multiple DC games. In the midst of preparing this feature in February 2023, I sent Vanessa a message on Cameo. On the 8th, the day that Metroid Prime Remastered was announced, Vanessa responded. She remembered recording voice work for Metroid Prime, confirming she was “VM”! A few days later, Vanessa tweeted a link to our interview and at us, signed xo “VM” ❤️.

It’s also possible that Vanessa recorded the unused narration that’s often been attributed to Jennifer Hale, although she didn’t directly confirm this.

The first Western live-action portrayals of Samus were in the commercials for Metroid Prime, Prime Evil, and Metroid Fusion, Parasite. Prime Evil saw a brief theatrical release and was scanned into 4K on YouTube in 2021. Set photos from Studio Kite, the production company that made the Varia and Fusion Suits, showed a woman wearing the Varia Suit with her face visible from the side. A low quality video on their YouTube channel also showed her face from the front.

As the commercial was filmed in Australia, it was reasonable to assume that the actress must be Australian as well. An inquiry to Studio Kite gave me a partial name, Mel. They directed me to the stunt supervisor for Prime Evil, Glenn Boswell. I also contacted Mick Corrigan, a stunt performer I identified who had worked on another commercial for Nintendo (not Prime Evil or Parasite).

The Metroid Fusion commercial, “Parasite”, was filmed a month after Prime Evil and directed by Bruce Hunt. The Fusion Suit worn in this commercial was also made by Studio Kite, and the Varia Suit was repurposed as the SA-X’s armor. In my correspondence with Mick Corrigan, he gave me another name to contact regarding Mel: Bruce Hunt. It was just my luck that he turned out to be the director of Parasite. I quickly arranged an interview with him, in which he revealed, among other things, that Samus was played by Melanie Peyton-Smith.

She is an Australian acrobatic gymnast-turned stunt performer, and in 2003 she doubled for Sofia Vergara, as Lara Croft, in a Visa commercial. Mel has since retired from stunt work and is now a co-owner of Aerial Angels Academy in Varsity Lakes, Queensland. When I returned to Glenn, he confirmed that Melanie was Samus in both commercials. Sadly, I was unable to get a hold of her for comment.

The Japanese commercial for Metroid: Zero Mission was filmed in live-action, and featured gravure idol and tarento (talent) Chisato Morishita. In the commercial, Morishita-san crawls through a vent in the Space Pirate Mother Ship, screaming as Space Pirate shots fly past her. Morishita-san is the first Japanese actress to portray Samus onscreen.

As part of her collaboration with Zero Mission, Morishita-san gave an interview to Famitsu Weekly (which was translated in May 2013), wrote a strategy guide for the beginning of Zero Mission that was shared on the official website, and signed flyers and standees for a speedrunning contest. She was hand-picked by Yoshio Sakamoto himself, since he believed she possessed the ferocity of Samus. Sakamoto asked her to play Metroid Fusion to prepare, and Morishita recalled having trouble with the Zazabi boss fight. It’s unclear how far into the game she ultimately got.

Morishita has since retired from entertainment. In 2019, she began a new career in politics. That culminated in her election to the Miyagi Prefecture House of Representatives in 2021.

In my investigation into the Metroid Prime 2 commercial Iron Woman, I uncovered evidence that the visual effects were handled by Asylum Visual Effects. That led me to their former lighting artist, Yuichiro Yamashita, who lit Iron Woman. He told us the commercial was shot in Los Angeles – meaning the actress was American – and his boss at Asylum was Nathan McGuinness, who would know more. Asylum shut down in 2010, and Nathan had moved to Australia to work for a VFX firm there called Notorious (he has since moved back to Los Angeles).

Nathan was happy to discuss Iron Woman with me over a Zoom call, which I transcribed into a text interview. Among many details of its production, he revealed that the actress’ name was Melissa Keller. Melissa is a former Sports Illustrated model and actress with roles in the TV film Impact Point, the South Beach series on UPN, and the music video for George Michael’s song Outside. She now runs a holistic wellness company, Keller Made, which holds frequent wellness retreats down south. Reached by email, Melissa didn’t immediately remember Iron Woman – she’s done many, many commercials so it’s understandable – and asked for a link to jog her memory, which I provided. She didn’t respond to me any further.

When communicating with VGMStudios in 2019, ahead of his Community Spotlight in late 2020, we found a poster in his collection for Metroid Prime 3. It featured a live-action model as Zero Suit Samus, with French text saying “Vos mains seront les siennes” (Your hands will be his). Presumably, this refers to the motion control scheme, and “his” should be instead “hers”, but I digress… We asked VGM to highlight a line of fine print that we couldn’t make out on her right thigh. It read “Alerte Orange”, a defunct advertising agency in Paris that went insolvent in 2015.

I’d meant to ask around with former employees, but this got sidetracked, until I discovered another print ad featuring the same model as Zero Suit Samus. It was shared by Liam Robertson in 2015, and indicated to have been rejected, possibly by Nintendo. I traced the image to a Tumblr post, which led me to the 187th issue (October 2007) of the French magazine Consoles+ that included it. Sure enough, an even higher resolution version of the ad on the French preservation site abandonware.org showed that it had the name Alerte Orange on the left side in fine print.

Eventually, I identified the woman who portrayed Samus as Amandine Decroix, a French model. Reached via email, Amandine told me that she signed a contract for a one year print advertisement campaign exclusive to France. She has since become a voice actress while continuing to model, even recording an advertisement in English, which you can listen to here.

This feature was meant to cover only the actresses known to have played Samus herself. Eventually, I realized there were also at least three “Samus-adjacent” women in commercials, who were not playing Samus but either dressed themselves like her, or otherwise conveyed her spirit as they played Metroid games. The first of these was in one of the many European commercials for Metroid Prime 3, which featured gamers of multiple countries playing the game and showing off the Wii Remote controls. For the version aired in France, a blond woman with her hair styled to resemble Samus was featured.

Through my investigation, I identified her as Amélie Honoré, a French fashion model. She did not answer my messages regarding the commercial.

In 2008, Samus had her very first spoken role in English in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Her new Zero Suit Samus form was given three taunts and a victory pose (plus effort noises), creating four iconic quotes: “Is that all?” “Try me.” “You’re mine…”, and “Be still.” Alésia Glidewell, a former voice actress best known as the likeness and motion capture performer of Chell from the Portal series, provided the voice of Zero Suit Samus. She also voiced Krystal from Star Fox (like she did in Star Fox Assault) and Knuckle Joe in Brawl. Her Samus recordings were reused in Smash 4 and Ultimate.

Alésia, in interviews subsequent to Brawl’s release, acknowledged being familiar with Samus and Metroid before she won the role. She recorded her lines at Bad Animals – the same Seattle studio where the English actors for Metroid: Other M performed their roles – after sending in an audition tape from home. She was given limited direction for the character, and the studio only showed her two line drawings of Samus in her Varia and Zero Suits. Within a week of her audition, she’d won the role, and was given the opportunity to audition for Knuckle Joe as well. Alésia expressed interest in voicing Samus in a canon Metroid game as recently as 2015.

We reached out to Alésia a few years ago to request an interview, by which time she had retired from acting. She appeared on Shark Tank in 2015, promoting You Kick Ass. This was a new venture where customers could order personalized 3D printed superhero action figures with their face. It received $100,000 in funding from Mark Cuban in exchange for 10%, but the business had shuttered the following year. Alésia now works as a filmmaker and producer in Los Angeles, having directed multiple segments of the behind the scenes series Disney Insider, among other works. A comprehensive list of her work can be found in her resume.

Back in 2009, I was made aware of Jenni Källberg, a Swedish cosplayer who’s been cosplaying since 1999. Her “damaged” Samus Power Suit cosplay was so impressive to Nintendo that their European division hired her to pose for an official Metroid Prime Trilogy ad in German magazines. I first saw it before the release of Trilogy and I was quite amazed. Jenni later created cosplays of a clean Varia Suit, as well as the Gravity and Zero Suits, and she even made custom Zero Suit and Justin Bailey figurines. Her great work was featured in Nintendo Power twice. According to an interview with J-Popcon, Jenni works by day in information technology (IT) and lived in Japan as a child.

Jenni is also a gamer and counts Super Metroid and the Trilogy among her favorite games, according to another interview with the German gaming site 10do.de. I wasn’t able to find out what she’s up to these days. Hopefully Jenni is doing well and living her best life.

Metroid: Other M was the first mainline Metroid title to feature Samus in an extensive speaking role, first revealed with her introduction, “I’m Samus Aran” at the end of its E3 2009 trailer. More than half a year later, Nate Bihldorf revealed in an interview that the actress’ name was Jessica Martin, a voiceover artist from Seattle who had never worked in games before. Jessica, as the first true voice of Samus in any medium, performed as a character and narrator. She was herself interviewed by GameTrailers in the leadup to Other M’s release. Jessica spoke about the contrast between voicing Samus as a narrator and warrior reflecting on her past, how video game voiceover contrasts with her theater background, and working with Adam Malkovich’s voice actor Dave Elvin, among other topics.

Jessica also recorded the voiceover for the commercial starring Lenka, which went through a few iterations. As revealed in our interview with Micky Coyne, Jessica recording “Rated T for Teen” in Samus’s voice broke character, something Nintendo disapproved of. They only relented once they realized that to hire another actor to record the line would have cost more money and delayed the commercial past its deadline.

In 2019, with Darren’s assistance, I was able to send Jessica my copy of Other M to be autographed, along with a handwritten letter. Jessica sent it back signed “To Roy, any objections?”, along with a response to my letter, the contents of which will remain between us. We had the privilege of inviting Jessica to appear as our guest for Episode 8 on the Shinesparkers Podcast back in 2020. Jessica told us that having no prior knowledge of the Metroid series allowed her to start fresh, and she and Samus were able to discover each other during the recording process. She is particularly proud of her lava death scream.

One of the questions we wanted to ask most was how she felt about the negative reception towards the game, and to Samus’s portrayal specifically. Jessica stood by her performance, which was done at the direction of Yoshio Sakamoto. Off-recording, she told us that nobody had sent her any nasty or threatening messages, which was a relief. In recent years, many voice actresses such as Jennifer Hale, Lily Gao and Laura Bailey have incurred the wrath of players disaffected by their performances, including often sexist and in Lily’s case racist harassment. This is unacceptable. You can like or dislike a role, but never take it out on the actor. They’re performing the character as they were told to, and it’s not fair to eviscerate them for someone else’s creative decisions.

Since putting in her time in space, Jessica has gone on to direct a short film called For Patrick, narrate audiobooks, and appear as Los Alamos’ librarian Charlotte Serber in the Christopher Nolan film Oppenheimer. When I saw her on the screen while watching it with my friend, I tapped his shoulder and whispered, “That lady voiced Samus!”, which surprised him. I’m positive I was the only one in the theatre who could have possibly known that.

Jessica’s Japanese counterpart for Other M was Ai Kobayashi, a veteran voice actress. As with Jessica, Other M marked her first time voicing a video game character. Because her lines were recorded first, then Jessica’s, her performance set the tone for the English dub, which was directed in a way that it would match the Japanese audio track. Kobayashi-san’s role was first revealed in the developer featurette that was available on the Wii’s Nintendo Channel, which is now viewable here. Said featurette included footage of Kobayashi-san recording her lines. Unlike Jessica, Kobayashi-san does not appear to have spoken much or at all about her role as Samus. Her other notable roles include Deunan Knute in the 2004 film Appleseed, and Lily Borjano in the Turn A Gundam series.

As I got to writing this feature, the scope of it kept expanding when I remembered another actress that was overlooked, and another, and another. One of those is the little girl who portrayed Samus as a child in Past is Prologue. She was depicted being thrown back by Ridley as her adult self literally walked through her own past. Lenka humorously described the girl as a “flying kid” in our interview with her, something I still chuckle at.

In our interview with the commercial’s Creative Director, Micky Coyne, we asked if he knew the name of the other actress. Unfortunately, he did not, although he remembered her as being cute, “super brave and a real trooper”, who was thrown into a pad about fifteen times. I didn’t want to forget her, since she is the only actress to date who has portrayed Samus as a child in any form of media. To identify her, I consulted multiple people involved in the production including the director, Filip Engstrom, the Director of Photography, Fredrik Bäckar, and Lenka herself. Sadly, none of them knew the girl’s name.

That said, they all tried to point me in the right direction or offered what they knew. Filip referred me to a producer at the commercial’s production company, Unit+Sofa. Fredrik referred me to the CEO of a production company in Prague, who agreed to ask around with local casting directors for me. Lenka recalled that the girl was 5 or 6 years old at the time – putting her year of birth as 2004-2005, making her 17-18 years old at the time of writing – and was one of two finalists for the role. She also said the child had long hair and cried because it had to be cut for the shoot. Aww… I’m sure it’s grown back by now.

“Child Samus”, as I’ve taken to calling her for now, is the last of the three actresses I did not identify. I hope she will be found in the future, and I will update this feature if and when she is.

A long time ago, I did a deep dive through Vimeo for Metroid-related videos from developers. It turned up commercials from people who worked on them, reels from animators like Derek Bonikowski (who worked on the Metroid Prime series), and even some new discoveries. For instance, another commercial for Metroid: Other M directed by Julien Seri, titled “She’s cutting throats”. He uploaded the ad to his Vimeo channel in 2016, saying it was his second commercial for the game (the first is not on his channel).

In it, a blond girl whose hair is styled like Samus, plays Other M, wincing when she gets hit and making a satisfying throat cutting gesture when she beats a Griptian, hence the title. Through my investigation I was able to find stock photos and other commercials the woman had taken part in, although I could not identify her through those means. I asked Julien Seri for her name, and he told me she was Barbara Boëykens. I was able to briefly correspond with her through private messages, though not for long as she stopped responding.

In more recent memory, she founded a vegan cafe in Paris, Bears & Raccoons, which closed in 2020. Barbara appeared on the French show BFN Business in 2016 to talk about it.

The man in the other… Other M commercial from Julien is Antoine Huber, a fashion model.

The TV version of She’s cutting throats, and other commercials that aired in France for Other M, feature a narrator dubbing Samus’s in-game monologues into French. The game itself was not dubbed in French, although you can select French subtitles. I uncovered this actress when trying to find Barbara, and knew I wanted to seek the dubbing artist as well. The only reference I could find to her was a thread on the JeuxVideo forums, which harshly criticized this actress for sounding too old.

Julien told me that Alerte Orange – which had produced the printed ads with Amandine as Samus – also produced these French commercials. After numerous inquiries to others in the French voiceover industry went unanswered, I finally determined that the narrator was Laura Zichy. Her page on RS Doublage, a database of French dubbing artists, lists commercials for Other M among her credits. Listening to her reel of other roles solidified for me that it was Laura.

You can watch the commercials with Laura’s narrations here, here, here, here (featuring Antoine), here (featuring Barbara), here and here. Fun fact: in the process of looking for Laura, I uncovered the actress who dubbed Levi Stubbs’ Mother Brain in Captain N: The Game Master into French – Evelyne Grandjean.

The hiatus between Samus having a voice in games was even longer than the hiatus between Metroid: Other M and Metroid: Samus Returns for traditional Metroid games. In 2011, Michaela Watkins, best known for her work on SNL and Casual, voiced Samus in an episode of the sketch comedy series Mad. Samus was a finalist in Gaming’s Next Top Princess, a parody of America’s Next Top Model. Watkins gave her a valspeak dialect, with Samus suggesting that her rivals, Peach and Zelda, wanted her eliminated for destroying their bedroom with her Arm Cannon. While this is not a Nintendo-sanctioned appearance, I discovered it during my research and felt it would be appropriate to include, since how many other sketch comedy shows have parodied Metroid? I tagged Michaela in a tweet about her appearance as Samus, partially in the hopes she would respond to it. Alas, she did not.

The most recent actress to give Samus a spoken voice is Nikki García, a Spanish singer and actress. Nikki is best known for being the voice of Google Maps GPS in Spain, dubbing for Naomi Scott as Princess Jasmine in the live-action Aladdin remake, and as the presenter of El Mundo Today, Spain’s equivalent of The Onion. While Nikki only had one line in Metroid Dread, it was a significant moment that allowed Samus’s character to shine. Within a few days of the game’s release, she was showered with praise and support from the Metroid and wider gaming communities, which she was appreciative of.

Due to her active non-disclosure agreement, Nikki was unable to grant us an interview. That said, she has spoken publicly about enjoying the role, with her vocals being used in all international versions of Dread. With Metroid being safely in MercurySteam’s hands after two successful games, we can hope she will be called to give Samus a voice once again.

Sometimes in my line of work, while looking for something, I find it, but then learn a whole other thing. I was astonished to discover that for Metroid Dread, once again one actress had recorded Samus’s speaking lines or Foley sounds, and another was responsible for her scream. I had contacted Holly Renaut, the other actress credited in Dread, to confirm her exact role for a room article on Wikitroid. I suspected that she voiced the AI that says “Scan complete” when you enter Elun for the first time, and she confirmed that she did.

Then Holly revealed that she also recorded Samus’s iconic rage scream at the end of Dread! I was stunned to hear that once again, one actress recorded some lines or effort noises for Samus, and another gave her a scream. Shortly after Dread came out, it was unclear whether Nikki or Holly had voiced Samus, which was resolved when Nikki came forward. Fans largely assumed she was also responsible for the scream; evidently, both she and Holly voiced Samus.

Metroid Dread’s Face the Threat commercial features a young woman alone in her apartment, playing the game. As she is getting into it, E.M.M.I.-03MB (the green one) sneaks in through the window and tries to come for her. True to the commercial’s tagline – Become the bigger threat – Samus’s helmet comes on over her face without any hesitation. As with Amélie and Barbara, I debated over whether to include this actress in my feature as technically, she is not playing Samus. She’s playing Dread and puts on the helmet to imagine she is Samus. All three of them, to me, embodied the spirit of Samus even if they weren’t directly depicting her, and therefore I’ve added them.

I discovered that she was Ashleigh LaThrop, an actress of big screen, silver screen and stage. She’s had roles in the Fifty Shades trilogy, The Handmaid’s Tale, NCIS: Hawaiʻi and The Kominsky Method, among others, and is a known lover of anime. My messages to Ashleigh asking her about Face the Threat went unanswered.

Additionally, I was able to identify the man in the Breathe commercial for Dread (set on a subway) as British actor Wilson James.

Physical inspirations

Aside from being portrayed in live-action, there have been at least three instances where Samus’s physical appearance in a game or comic was based on a real actress. The same developer interview that discussed Minako Hamano’s death scream in Super Metroid revealed that Samus’s look was based on American actress Kim Basinger.

For the Super Metroid comics, Samus did not have a distinctive look due to the difficulty in animating facial details at the time. An editor’s note from Nintendo Power’s then Editor-in-Chief, Gail Tilden, said that the magazine and the illustrator came up with an appearance combining Star Wars’ Leia Organa and Alien’s Ellen Ripley, and therefore their actresses Carrie Fisher and Sigourney Weaver.

Finally, a recent video about Retro Studios prototypes included some very early Metroid Prime footage. An early model for Samus in the game, created by Cid Newman, was based on Cindy Crawford. How she ended up looking in the final game was more like Uma Thurman in my opinion, although Metroid Prime Remastered makes her look completely different from that.

Honorable mentions

Lastly, I wanted to give recognition to seven women who gave their voice or portrayed Samus in unofficial, notable Metroid fan projects. While none of them have portrayed or voiced Samus in official media, their work is still popular and should be celebrated too.

“Aterga101” is an inactive user of DeviantArt who voiced Samus in the hilarious Newgrounds short film, Metroid Prime Catastrophe, in which Samus lands on planet R4ND0M 666. She loses her abilities when she’s hit by a Metroid, and spends 6 hours, 6 minutes and 6 seconds recovering them, when they were lying on the ground next to her the whole time. Aterga returned for the Metroid Prime Hunters-inspired sequel, in which Samus gets very angry when one of the hunters accidentally lands on top of her. Aterga was last active on DeviantArt in 2011 when she left the site, and she has not been heard from since. She was also a member of the SheezyArt furry community. If you have any information about where she is now, let me know!

Roberta Murgo is a Brazilian model who’s appeared in Maxim. She is also the inspiration for what is likely the most famous fanart of Samus, drawn by Ivan “transfuse” Flores in 2006 for a class project. Roberta is aware of the drawing, having taken some photos of herself in 2015 wearing a shirt with the design. She also acknowledged a tattoo someone got of the piece.

Rebecca Marshall (no relation to Vanessa) is a Canadian-American actress with roles in CSI: Miami, Two and a Half Men, Supernatural, and Saw 3D. She was cast as Samus in Metroid: Enemies Within, an unofficial short film that was being funded on Kickstarter, only to fall victim to Nintendo’s IP protection efforts within two weeks. Rebecca had previously worked with the director Christian Cardona on the film Y: The Last Man Rising, and she had played Metroid in the past. We spoke to both of them back in 2013, and you can read our interview with them here. Rebecca also spoke to RamblingBeachCat.com after the shutdown, and indicated she would have done most of her own stunts. If only we could’ve seen the movie.

Jessica Chobot is an American actress and the host of Nerdist News. She played the lead role of Samus in Rainfall Films’ Metroid: The Sky Calls, released in 2015. Jessica portrayed Samus in expositions and Iron Man-like closeups in the suit, while America Young performed Samus’s stunts. Both of them were fans of Samus beforehand and excited to share the role. Jessica’s face inside the Power Suit was captured with a specially designed camera. We were hoping to secure Jessica for The Sky Calls-themed episode of our podcast, but alas she was out filming a TV series that month. Hopefully in the future we can speak to her as well.

Ainsley Bircher is a cosplayer and prop maker, who’s starred as Samus in two short fan films. The first, in 2016, was produced by Ideas for Hollywood as a proof of concept for a Metroid movie. Ainsley wore her own Varia and Zero Suit cosplays for the movie, and she also wore Samus’s silver training suit from her youth. In the Metroid short, Ainsley-as-Samus she explores ruins while the antagonist, a Space Pirate, plots to eliminate her. Taking off into space, Samus is shot back down onto the planet she had just left, stripped of her Varia Suit in the vein of Metroid: Zero Mission. Ainsley portrayed Samus without speaking in the movie; one of Jennifer Hale’s effort noises, and Vanessa Marshall’s death scream, are heard when she is hit and crashes on a planet after an attack on her spaceship.

This movie had the distinction of having Nintendo’s license, since it was made by The Backyard Filmmakers, which was part of the Nintendo Creators Program. While Nintendo did not endorse or sponsor the movie, a portion of the earnings from it go to them. On her YouTube channel, Ainsley has two behind the scenes videos from the filming of the Ideas for Hollywood short.

The second short film featuring Ainsley as Samus, Metroid: Attack of Ridley, was slightly longer and released in 2021. Attack of Ridley sees Samus visit the ice planet SR422 to repair her Power Suit inside a Chozo temple on the surface. As she explores the frigid caverns, true to the title, Samus finds the Plasma Beam upgrade, after which she is unexpectedly attacked by Metroids, and then Ridley. She summons the strength to once again defeat her nemesis, before leaving the planet.

Isabelle Amponin is a voice actress and singer based in Chicago. She provided the voice of Samus’s single speaking line at the end of AM2R, which was the famous narration from the introduction to Super Metroid: “The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.” Isabelle’s friend Curtis drew her as Samus in a tribute. Fun fact: DoctorM64 had originally asked Jessica Martin if she would like to reprise her role, but she declined since Nintendo had forbidden her from voicing Samus in an unofficial capacity. Her loss was Isabelle’s gain.

Amanda VanHiel is an American voice actress, cosplayer and presenter, and the host of The Shinesparkers Podcast! In December of 2023, I recorded an audio drama with her based on chapter 3 of the Super Metroid comic, where she voiced Samus and I played Houston. It fulfilled a longtime dream of hers to voice or portray Samus, and she did an excellent job of performing her.

Acknowledgements

I would like to offer my thanks to Darren for his support in the making of this feature, including proofreading, assistance with interviews, and always encouraging me to aim higher and go farther. I would also like to thank Quadraxis/Quaddy, our Features Manager, for his assistance in the interview with Bruce and in proofreading this feature as well. Last but far from least, it would not have been possible to complete this without the generous support of our invaluable translators, Glaedrax, Vectrex28, Carwyn Sugar and Darts. Their ability to correspond in French, Japanese and Czech allowed us to break through language barriers with this feature.

My gratitude goes to Thugcat, Wata Ridley, Takashi Yamazaki, Naohiro Hashimoto, Yasuo Kanemaki, Steven Rosewell, Mick Corrigan, Glenn Boswell, Bruce Hunt, Yuichiro Yamashita, Nathan McGuinness, Filip Engstrom, Rola Brzobohata, Fredrik Bäckar, Michal Skop and Julien Seri, each of whom led me to actresses previously unknown.

Finally, I would like to give an extra special thanks to Samus herself, or rather themselves: Vanessa Marshall, Melissa Keller, Amandine Decroix, Jessica Martin, Lenka Volfová, Nikki García and Holly Renaut, for speaking to me in interviews, or otherwise contributing information to this feature, directly or indirectly over time. Thank you as well to “Famicom Samus”, Minako Hamano, Keiko Toda, “Lab Coat Samus”, Cid Newman, Jennifer Hale, Melanie Peyton-Smith, Chisato Morishita, Amélie Honoré, Alésia Glidewell, Ai Kobayashi, “Child Samus”, Barbara Boëykens, Laura Zichy, Michaela Watkins and Ashleigh LaThrop for bringing Samus and Metroid to life in your own ways over the years.

I only hope that we will continue to hear and see more from our favorite bounty hunter in games and commercials, and perhaps even a feature film or television series. Every woman who has ever been Samus, or will be Samus, is worth celebrating, and if new actresses step into her suit, I will update this feature to include them.

See you next mission, Samus.

Written by Roy
Originally published December 8, 2023

Update #1 (December 20, 2023): This feature originally called the Super Metroid commercial director “Yasuro Kanemaki”. There is no R in his first name, this has been corrected.

Update #2 (January 31, 2024): Added Cid Newman. Replaced the link to the upload of the Super Metroid Promotional Preview, which has since been removed by the uploader, with a Wayback Machine link.

Update #3 (May 25, 2024): Added additional information regarding Keiko Toda and the Super Metroid Japanese commercial’s actress.