Countdowns (also known as escape sequences) are timed sequences where Samus must escape or prevent a disaster within a certain time limit before it claims her life. Countdowns often take the form of a Self-Destruct System occurring after defeating the final boss to force Samus to evacuate before the place explodes. Most countdowns either have the same music track titled Escape, albeit remixed each time, or Vs. Ridley is used (either slightly altered or untouched). Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime Hunters have had original music tracks, titled Frigate Orpheon Escape and Escape, for their countdowns. Metroid Dread also uses an unique track for its countdown.
In some cases, while not an actual countdown, similar chase sequences occur where Samus nevertheless has to rapidly escape from an otherwise lethal hazard that will quickly kill her if she stops.
Countdowns in the series
|“||TIME BOMB SET
GET OUT FAST!
タダチニ ダッシュツ セヨ
—Japanese on-screen text
In Metroid, upon defeating Mother Brain, Samus is given 999 time units, (3 units is one second, therefore the time limit would be 333 seconds, or about 5 1/2 minutes) to climb up a tall, tower-like room to escape from Tourian's Time Bomb.
SELF DESTRUCT SEQUENCE
|“||TIME BOMB SET!
Super Metroid has two countdowns, both escaping from locations to be destroyed, one at the beginning of the game and one at the end. In the beginning, Samus must evacuate Ceres Space Colony in less than one minute following her first battle with Ridley. At the end of the game, Samus has three minutes to escape from Zebes as the planet begins to explode after defeating the revived Mother Brain.
On Ceres, Samus will encounter falling debris in one hall. Explosions do not damage her, but she will flinch if she comes into contact with any. This does not occur in any other games. The explosions on Zebes are also capable of taking out Space Pirates.
In both instances, a variation of the Vs. Ridley theme will play with alarm sounds blaring in the background.
|“||Emergency in Sector 3. Six minutes to Main Boiler explosion.||„|
—Computer Voice, First countdown
|“||Fire alert. This sector will soon be locked down. Sixty seconds to isolation lockdown.||„|
—Computer Voice, Second countdown
|“||60 seconds to detachment of Restricted Laboratory.||„|
|“||Propulsion sequence activated. Destination: planet SR388.||„|
—Computer Voice, third countdown
|“||Orbit change implemented. 3 minutes to impact.||„|
There are three countdowns in Metroid Fusion. The first countdown happens after leaving Sector 5 for the first time, where Samus must race to Sector 3's Main Boiler Control room to stop the Biologic Space Laboratories research station from overheating and exploding in six minutes. Samus must also fight a Core-X mimicking a scientist. This is the first countdown to have a PA voice heard in the background counting down and announcing the event that the countdown was for rather than simply appearing in text. This is also the first ever countdown to have a boss of any kind, as well as the first countdown in the series to have the player have to actually avert the event it was counting down for rather than merely escape from it. Later, Samus must Space Jump to the top of a shaft with Metroids floating around her in under one minute. In the final sequence, Samus activates the station's propulsion sequence and has three minutes to escape the research station whilst it hurtles toward SR388 while fighting an Omega Metroid.
In the first countdown of Sector 3, there are no explosions; the screen simply flashes red constantly. During the Restricted Lab escape, there are explosions. No explosions occur during the propulsion sequence (not counting the part where the Omega Metroid bursts out from behind the wall).
If the player pauses the game before the second countdown formally begins, the first phrase will loop. Similarly, the opening line for the first countdown will loop until after Samus contacts Adam.
There are three different themes used for the countdown sequences in this game. In the first countdown and to a certain extent the latter half of the third countdown while fighting the Omega Metroid, the theme used is Sector 3 Restore the Cooling Installation Timer Mission, the second theme was the frantic version of SA-X Appears (which also acts as the only instance of the theme being played where the SA-X neither pursues nor even notices Samus), and the first half of the third is a sped up version of Vs. Ridley from Super Metroid. The third countdown was originally planned to be ten minutes long instead of three minutes long, but it was shortened by release. However, the sound files indicating the original length are nonetheless present in the game, although unable to be accessed even by artificially increasing the time limit.. The prototype version of the third countdown's theme also originally had a siren sound playing within the soundtrack. 
|“||Evacuate immediately. Evacuate immediately.||„|
|“||Reactor Core critical! Evacuate Immediately!||„|
In Metroid Prime, Samus must escape the Space Pirate frigate Orpheon in seven minutes, before it explodes at the beginning of the game. Some vent caps will explode during the escape, opening new passages for Samus, and once Samus reaches the Exterior Docking Hangar, the frigate will begin to explode. As Samus is escaping, an explosion damages her suit and removes some of her powerups.
"Evacuate immediately" is present in the Impact Crater sound effects package, suggesting a playable countdown was planned after the defeat of Metroid Prime as well. Although there is no playable countdown in the final game, a text message stating that the Impact Crater's integrity was compromised before demanding an immediate evacuation from the premises was nonetheless retained in the final version just before Samus exits from the portal of the doomed Artifact Temple. Jack Mathews stated in 2018 that he vaguely remembered an escape sequence idea, suggesting it may not have gone far in development.
Metroid: Zero Mission
|“||Self-destruct mechanism activated! Evacuate immediately!||„|
In Metroid: Zero Mission, similar to the original Metroid, Samus must escape from Tourian after defeating Mother Brain. This time, she must jump onto various crumbling platforms and travel through Crateria to board her Starship. The time limit also varies depending on the difficulty mode; three minutes on Easy, two minutes on Normal, and one minute on Hard. Later, Samus must evacuate the Space Pirate Mothership in seven minutes on Easy, five minutes on Normal, or three minutes on Hard after defeating Mecha Ridley.
Unlike in Metroid, explosions do occur in the shaft and continue into Crateria, but they do not hinder Samus. Sirens also blare in the background while the screen flashes red. The explosions and flashing screen cease once Samus reaches the outer area with her Starship. On the Mother Ship, no explosions occur and there are no sirens.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
|“||Planetary condition critical! Escape at once!||„|
At the final sequence of Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, after taking the last of Dark Aether's energy and defeating the Emperor Ing, Samus must return to Aether whilst Dark Aether crumbles from loss of energy, in 8 minutes. Along the way, Phazon blocks the exit as she battles Dark Samus for the third and final time.
Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt
Two of the training exercises in Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt include countdowns. Regulator has a very large 10 minute time-limit, while the Morph Ball mode ends at 55 seconds if the player does not collect the last module before then.
Obviously, no explosions happen because the timer is not counting down to an explosion.
Metroid Prime Hunters
|“||Octolith taken! Octolith taken! Octolith taken!||„|
|“||Security protocol initiated. Evacuate immediately!||„|
—Countdowns after acquiring an Octolith
Quickly reach the energy overflow shutoff terminal!
—Fuel Stack countdown
In Metroid Prime Hunters, Samus must escape from each planet and space station after defeating one of the 2 types of bosses found in the Stronghold Voids and acquiring an Octolith. The time limit differs for each boss encounter, ranging from 8 minutes, 30 seconds, to 3 minutes. Also, when Samus enters the Fuel Stack for the first time during her second visit to the Vesper Defense Outpost, there is a malfunction with the power generator that threatens to destroy the entire station. Samus must get to the top of the room in one minute and fix the problem by scanning a computer in an alcove. This brings the total countdowns to nine, the second-most of any Metroid game to date.
No explosions occur during the countdowns triggered in the Stronghold Voids because the areas she escapes from are not self-destructing. When Samus returns to these areas, there are no signs of recent structural damage; it seems these countdowns refer to an unseen security system that solely targets the robber of the Octolith and terminates without damaging the surrounding environment. As Samus leaves the Stronghold Void, a voice will sound, "Octolith taken", thrice. Explosions do occur in the previously mentioned Fuel Stack.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
|“||Attention all personnel. Meteor impact will occur in four minutes.||„|
|“||Engine override initiated. Deploying emergency escape pod. Slow sequence commencing, 5 minutes until engine shutdown.||„|
In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, as soon as Generator C is reactivated Samus must get to the Control Tower before the Leviathan hits Norion in four minutes. Also, she must activate an escape pod in SkyTown to escape the Spire Pod carrying a bomb that is dropping on the Leviathan Seed Shield after she shuts off the pod's engines within five minutes. Neither countdown actually depicts a timer on-screen, as a voice (Aurora Unit 242 during the first and PA system during the second) tells Samus every minute, unlike the rest of the series; however, a timer does show on the Spire's terminal after being used to shut down its engines.
While not exactly a "countdown," there is also a time limit on the boss fight against Meta Ridley in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption; this, however, is measured in meters (representing the distance between Samus and the bottom of a shaft) rather than in actual time. If Samus does not defeat Meta Ridley before they reach the bottom of the shaft, she will be killed. The shaft is approximately 16,700 meters. On a related note, while not a true countdown sequence, her arrival on Phaaze has a similar mechanic where Samus, due to being forced to vent all of her Energy Tanks to avoid being completely consumed with Phazon Corruption by Dark Samus's earlier infection of her, has a limited time period to descend into the depths of Phaaze and destroy Dark Samus as well as the corrupted Aurora Unit 313 before undergoing total corruption, with the time either being depleted faster or time added depending on certain actions she does with Phazon abilities.
Other than the end of SkyTown's escape sequence, no explosions occur during any of the other events, although there are powerful tremors on Norion as the Leviathan approaches.
Metroid: Other M
|“||Self-destruction protocol activated. Please evacuate the facility immediately.||„|
After the Metroid: Other M credits, the Galactic Federation ultimately plans to destroy the BOTTLE SHIP. Just a few days before they do so, Samus returns to retrieve Adam's helmet. As soon as it is in her grasp, a self-destruct protocol activates, giving her five minutes to get back to her ship. She escapes in her Zero Suit, utilizing the Paralyzer to defend herself against Super Zebesians as she runs to the Star Ship. This is the first time a suitless Samus is playable during a Countdown sequence.
Explosions occur multiple times, making popping sounds as they happen randomly. They are similar to those of Super Metroid in that they are still capable of killing Zebesians, but not harming Samus. However, if Samus comes into contact with flaming debris, she will be hurt.
Metroid Prime Pinball
Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Outmatching Hunters, Metroid Prime: Federation Force has the most countdown sequences out of any Metroid game.
- M03: Smokestack - After the Generator on Talvania is destroyed, the Federation Force has 45 seconds to escape the lower part of the power station before it floods with highly toxic gas.
- M06: Infiltration - Once the command computer for the Space Pirate weapons factory has been activated, the Marine must return to their Mech and hold off attacking Pirates until they can be extracted. The Force has a total of 8 minutes to escape.
- M12: Last Stand - A Rohkor Beetle that is 400 meters away from an important Galactic Federation probe must be destroyed before it can get too close.
- M16: Slipstream - The Pirate Warship battle is timed. The Federation Force must destroy the ship in 10 minutes, before it crashes into the ancient skiff they are riding and destroys it.
- M17: Infestation - The mission is to set off the self-destruct sequence in the secret Metroid breeding facility and escape in 6:40.
- M18: Hightower - The Drill will take 10 minutes to breach the ground. The Force must defend the Drill until its job is complete.
- M22: Convergence - After the Master Brain is destroyed and the protection shield guarding the Doomseye is removed, the Federation begins an attack on the ship. This countdown is scripted. The ship's integrity drops below 50% before Samus assists the Federation Force and opens a path for them. On their way out, part of the ship is destroyed and the Force is sucked into space. Samus rescues them with her Gunship.
In Metroid Dread, upon defeating Raven Beak X, Samus has three minutes to escape to her Gunship in Hanubia as planet ZDR begins to explode. Failing to escape in time displays a unique Game Over screen wherein ZDR's destruction can be seen in the background in place of the regular red visuals.
Although not an escape sequence, the Survival Rush mode tasks Samus with defeating as many bosses as she can within a 5-minute time limit. Defeating a boss or finishing one of the three phases of Raven Beak's battle will add 30 seconds to this countdown, and clears without damage will add another 30 seconds. These time bonuses decrease for each cycle of the boss rush.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
In the Adventure Mode of Super Smash Bros. Melee, the player must escape an exploding Zebes in 40 seconds after fighting Samus. The first time the player succeeds, they earn a Samus's Starship trophy. If they fail, they lose one stock, and depending on whether how many stocks they have left, will either be shown a cutscene of Zebes exploding as if the player had successfully escaped, or simply be taken to the continue screen and then progress onward to the Dream Land level. Warning Siren plays in this segment.
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
In Adventure Mode: The Subspace Emissary mode of Super Smash Bros. Brawl, there is a countdown during the escape from the Isle of Ancients. Several Subspace bombs are set to go off, and the characters must escape the facility. The first part of the escape is an auto-scrolling segment; a countdown begins proper upon boarding the Falcon Flyer where Meta Ridley gives chase and must be defeated in less than 2 minutes.
Other time-sensitive situations
Throughout the Metroid series there have also been timed situations that do not induce a Game Over if failed:
- Throughout the Prime series, some Bomb Slots connected to a mechanism will deactivate after some time has passed. This can be seen in rooms such as the Ruined Gallery in Prime. The amount of time remaining is noted via the speed of the beeping in the background.
- In the Stasis Bunker, Samus must scan two Scan Points within 20 seconds as shown onscreen.
- Samus's Bombs and Power Bombs have a small window before exploding, as do Kanden's Larva Bombs; the length they take is dependent on the game. Regular Bombs take the longest to explode in Metroid Prime Hunters, but as Power Bombs do not appear in that game, Fusion has the longest detonation time for the latter bombs.
- Although not a traditional countdown, some rooms may fill up with a harmful substance forcing a quick escape (such as Lava Lake). Whether or not touching said substance results in a game over varies from game to game.
- When fighting the Alpha Sandigger, it will be possessed and become the Bomb Guardian after a set period of time.
- Blast Ball has a 5 minute countdown (1 minute during Tiebreaker) at which point the game will end when Time runs out.
- Some switches may deactivate after a certain amount of time has passed.
- Federation Force missions have set times to complete for points bonuses.
- Some countdowns are likely inspired by similar escape sequences in the films Alien and Aliens, which gave much inspiration to the Metroid series. The escape sequence of Aliens is also similar to that of Metroid Fusion, where the female protagonist is stranded with no means of escape and a dangerous specimen cornering them, and at the last minute, the gunship flies in to save them. This countdown is also similar to the escape sequence in Alien Resurrection, where the protagonist must escape a research vessel before it crashes into the planet below.
- The Spire Dock countdown in Corruption is also similar to the countdown of the original Alien, in that the female protagonist willingly activates a self-destruct mechanism to accomplish an objective and goes to the escape pod, but is forced to make an unexpected detour before escaping.
- In Metroid Fusion, Metroid Prime Hunters and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, the countdowns in the Main Boiler, Fuel Stack and at Norion, respectively, are the only three countdowns in the Metroid series where Samus is not evacuating the explosion, but rather trying to prevent it.
- In Other M, when Samus first met MB (while she posed as Dr. Madeline Bergman), she had a hypothetical vision of weapons being fired at the BOTTLE SHIP, creating a much more violent explosion than what is depicted in-game. Interestingly, this "vision" is shown if Samus fails to escape in time.
- The countdown sirens in Other M and Melee are the same.
- ^ http://tcrf.net/Proto:Metroid_Fusion/0911_Prototype#Voice_Over_Intercom
- ^ https://tcrf.net/Proto:Metroid_Fusion/0911_Prototype#Real_Music
- ^ Mathews, Jack (jack_mathews). "Yeah I vaguely remember an escape sequence idea but all that boss stuff was obscenely late." 18 September 2018 11:19 a.m. Tweet. https://twitter.com/jack_mathews/status/1042055535514791936