Samus Aran has flown multiple gunships (and starships) throughout the Metroid series, but they have all been designed for roughly the same purpose and are mostly of the "Hunter" class. None of them have an official name outside of Gunship (ガンシップ Gan Shippu), Samus' Gunship, Hunter-Class Gunship, or Starship (スターシップ Sutā Shippu), but non-canonical media has named it as the Cosmo Liner and Hunter IV, and it was called the Stealth Strike Corvette in a pre-release version of Metroid Prime.
Samus' gunship (in any of its various incarnations) is primarily used for rapid transport and as a base camp for Samus' ground-based missions. Its versatile cockpit features both a mobile energy recharge system and a microfactory for the production of ammunition. It is built with a sophisticated computer which stores mission data. The ship's name, if it even has one, is unknown.
When Samus enters the gunship, she can save her progress and restore her Power Suit's energy and ammunition. Aside from Galactic Pinball, the gunship has never been directed by the player in-game until Metroid Prime Hunters was released, allowing selective flight between worlds. This function was expanded upon for Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, where Samus could fly to different sections on individual planets, as well. Interviews state that there were going to be portions of Hunters where Samus would control the ship, but they were dropped because they broke up the pace of the gameplay.
The first of Samus' ships that has ever been shown was in the 1986 Metroid manga and was called "the Cosmo Liner". The first ship seen in any English media was the "Hunter IV" (the likely origin of the Hunter Class name in the Prime series), which debuted in the Captain N: The Game Master comic. This ship is by far the largest ship known to be owned by Samus. Samus is shown piloting a Galactic Federation ship in the early Nintendo Comics System story when she abandons the Federation for the bounty hunting life; she is also shown to have many other aircraft and spacecraft (along with tanks and piles of other weapons) that she had collected and stored in The Locker.
All of Samus' gunships have a similar design on the front that somewhat resembles her helmet.
Samus' first Ship (pre crash)
Games: Metroid: Zero Mission
The ship is mainly oval-shaped. The front part of the ship contains the cockpit and flares out into two wings, one on each side, that house the engines. The majority of the ship is colored red, but the underside is yellow.
On Samus's first mission to Zebes (known as her Zero Mission) she flies there in her Gunship and, after dealing with Mother Brain, escapes in it. During her escape, Space Pirates stage an ambush and Samus's Gunship is shot down, crash landing near the Space Pirate Mothership. As her Gunship is rendered unspaceworthy by the crash, Samus infiltrates the Mothership and leaves the planet in a stolen Space Pirate Fighter, leaving her crippled ship on the surface.
The ship is absent in the the original Metroid as the game starts with Samus entering Brinstar and ends with her escaping Tourian after she destroys Mother Brain. The area of Crateria and the whole section in the Space Pirate Mother Ship were added in Zero Mission.
Samus' first Ship (post crash)
According to the Metroid Prime website, Samus's Gunship in Metroid Prime both "survived Samus Aran's mission on Planet Zebes and is the only space-faring vessel ever registered under the bounty hunter's name". If this is true, then this ship is a reconstructed version of the ship from Zero Mission. It is known that Zebes was occupied by Federation Researchers after Samus's Zero Mission, who presumably salvaged and repaired the original Gunship.
The Prime website also tells us "if battle becomes unavoidable, the ship is outfitted with enough firepower to survive firefights against bigger and more numerous foes", as it is "equipped with twin Power Beam turrets and a retractable rear-mounted Plasma Beam cannon", something the ship in Zero Mission was not shown to have, and was likely added after the ship was left defenseless against Zebesian Space Pirates.
The ship resembles the Zero Mission incarnation, though without the wings (presumably lost in the crash) and orange in colour rather than red. It also has a new set of four thruster-like multi-directional rockets underneath used for both landing and atmospheric flight. The ship still has the same topside entrance hatch. It is implied by a Space Pirate scan that the ship also has some form of cloaking device. The ship has been shown to be remotely controlled with Samus’s Arm Cannon, similar to the way the Command Visor is used in Corruption, and it also has some kind of hyperdrive that Samus uses when leaving the planet. This ship is therefore capable of inter-galactic travel.
It is unknown if the ship from Echoes, Return of Samus, Super Metroid, and Fusion's intros is related; it is possible since the ship's size, basic structure, and entrance point are the same, though the thrusters have been replaced with three antigravity landing pods.
More info from the Prime website:
|Vessel Classification||Hunter-class gunship|
|Dimensions||9.144 meters by 6.096 meters by 2.4384 meters|
|Drive type||Relativistic: 44 MHz|
|Power source||Field-exclusion Gluino|
|Maximum velocity||Relativistic: 7.2 x 10 C|
Samus' "iconic" ship
Aliehs III, was first seen in Metroid II: Return of Samus, and has largely remained the same design ever since. There is no other ship like it, so the distinct hull lines mark it to friend and foe alike. The ship has three "anti-gravity" lift engines which also serve as landing pads for the ship. Once again, Samus enters and exits the ship through the topside hatch.
The ship was (chronologically) first seen in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, where Samus was sent on a mission to Aether to find out what happened to and assist Galactic Federation troopers who had crashed onto the planet earlier. What may be the ship's control screen is seen at the beginning of the game, scanning Aether for a landing site before selecting a flight path. The ship suffered damage after it was struck by a bolt of lightning composed of Dark Energy during its descent to the surface of Aether, and it subsequently crash-landed in the Temple Grounds, where it slowly repaired itself over the course of the game.
The ship was missing in Metroid Prime 3, where Samus had a new, custom-built ship that she designed herself (see details below), but it returned in the next (chronological) entry of the series, Metroid II, where she was sent to SR-388 to eliminate the Metroid threat forever. After landing on the planet, Samus left the ship and ventured into SR-388. Due to the more linear gameplay of Metroid II, Samus could not always re-visit her ship at any time to recharge her health and missiles (if she wanted to, it would require a large amount of unnecessary backtracking). At the end of the game, after eliminating the Queen Metroid and finding the Metroid Hatching, Samus re-boarded the ship and left the planet.
Samus flew straight to the Ceres Space Colony to deliver the baby Metroid to the researchers there. Shortly after leaving, Samus picked up a distress call from Ceres and returned to investigate. Finding the researchers dead and a reborn Ridley making off with the Hatchling, Samus began pursuit in her ship and discovered that the Space Pirates had returned to Zebes. After she landed, her ship stayed in Crateria and served as a mobile restoration unit. After finally dispatching Mother Brain once and for all, Samus escaped on her Gunship before the whole of Zebes exploded.
In Metroid: Other M, the overall design of the gunship seems to be the same as Super Metroid's version. Samus can be seen using a ball pad to control the gunship during a cutscene. It looks identical to its Super Metroid appearance, except the landing gear can now retract into the ship during flight, which makes it resemble the ship in Metroid II: Return of Samus, and the landing gear itself looks more like its Echoes appearance, except with blue lights instead of red. Samus now exits her ship via a hatch on the bottom (rather than the top) that uses a lift like her ship in Corruption.
Samus is next seen using this ship when escorting Biologic Space Laboratories researchers on SR388, where she is attacked by an X Parasite. On the way back to the Biologic Space Laboratories research station, Samus loses consciousness and her ship drifts into an asteroid belt. Though Samus is safely ejected in the escape pod and is rescued, the ship is lost forever.
The ship is also seen in the prologue of the Metroid Manga. Interesting to note is that one of the unlockable artworks in Corruption features this gunship flying through the atmosphere of Skytown and the docking bay of Norion, suggesting that it was originally planned in the game for Samus to use her iconic ship rather than her custom-built one.
Samus' Ship in Corruption
Games: Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Samus is seen with a new ship that she designed herself. It is a fusion of Chozo and Galactic Federation technology, making it completely unique. Its powerful Chozo biotech computer allows the ship to engage in complex activities and grants it basic intelligence. Later in the game, it is equipped with both a Ship Grapple node on its underside and Federation Ship Missile Launchers, which are stored in the front prows and deploy when firing. It also has an auto-repair function that comes into effect after Ghor attempts to destroy it in the Main Docking Bay of SkyTown. The auto-repair also presumably comes into effect after the ship is damaged by Anti-Aircaft Cannons on Bryyo, but are not shown. Its auto-repair functions are notably faster than they are in Echoes. This ship no longer recognizes Samus when her Phazon Corruption attains a level higher than 75% upon landing on Phaaze, seemingly because the high Phazon concentration alters her DNA to a point where her Gunship fails to recognize her as the owner. If Samus attempts to enter her ship, the message "Phazon corruption levels at critical. Unable to use ship." will appear onscreen, and a voice saying "Invalid command" will be heard from the ship. Samus enters and exits from the underside rather than the top; the entryway is a lift that descends just behind the cockpit and supports the back half of the ship when it has landed. A hatch on the roof of the ship resembles the ones on Samus' previous ships in Prime and Echoes, indicating that it is possible for Samus to exit this way. Stabilizing thrusters on the rear of the ship balance it whenever the lift retracts, often with Samus in it.
The ship has a much more active role in gameplay than in the previous games of the series. Samus is able to control her ship via the Command Visor. Samus can lock onto targets for the gunship to land on, to shoot Ship Missiles at, or to pick up and drop with the Ship Grapple. This is the first instance in the Metroid series where this was made possible. It is also the first time Samus' ship is seen using weapons.
Using the gunship, Samus travels from planet to planet, as well as between locations on a planet. Samus can enter the gunship at anytime it is near, and the player can then explore the inside of it to a degree. A lot of information, including Corruption Level (which increases steadily through the game's story), amount of enemy kills, and more can be accessed using the controls inside the cockpit. Other available functions inside the ship include thruster controls, a retractable Blast Shield, and an offensive mode that displays a HUD onto the ship's windshield and presumably activates whatever weapons the ship has, although they cannot be seen from inside the ship. If the player activates the weapons while the ship is floating in space (either in the begining of the game or after destroying a leviathan) the front prows will open and the missile launchers will be visible. Unlockable in the Bonus Gallery are the options to decorate the gunship with Ship Bumper Stickers and a Mii Bobblehead. Also, putting in certain combinations on the transmission console will allow special messages from the game developers to be heard. However, all of the messages are in Japanese, though one contains a music performance. Translations can be found on the Metroid Database. 
It is unknown why Samus uses this ship in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption but uses another gunship in Metroid II, the next game in the chronology, which is presumably the same one from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Whether the change involves the mysterious spacecraft seen tailing Samus in Corruption's secret ending is currently unknown. It is possible that some unseen event forced Samus to switch to her old ship before Metroid II. It is also possible that she chooses to use different ships depending on the type of mission she is given, or even that the Gunship in Corruption is actually the same one from previous games, merely outfitted differently. The Corruption manual sheds light on this change by stating that the ship Samus is using in this game is 'based on the previous version', which may have been re-used later for unspecified reasons.
It should be noted that the ship's design bears similarities to the gunship she receives in Metroid Fusion.
Samus' Ship in Fusion
Games: Metroid Fusion
In the opening sequence of Metroid Fusion, Samus's iconic gunship that had served her throughout the years crashed into an asteroid belt. Samus escaped, and, after recovering from an X Parasite attack, was given a new ship, by the Galactic Federation on the condition that Samus follow the orders of the computerized CO.
Though there are few specifics available on the new ship, there are several noticeable external differences. The new ship is colored purple and has wings with tips that split in half. When landing, these wingtips extend downwards as landing gear instead of the ship landing on its belly or hovering above the ground. Samus does not enter this ship through a hatch on top; instead, she stands underneath it and a beam automatically comes down and pulls her in similar to the way her gunship in Corruption lands and receives her. Official art of the ship reveals that the ship's wings are shaped more like a fighter jet's in that they jut backwards instead of forwards as the wings of Samus' ship in Corruption do.
The most important feature of the new ship is an on-board computer which Samus names Adam after an old commanding officer of hers, Adam Malkovich. The computer takes the role of her new CO, issuing her commands through various Navigation Rooms in the BSL research station. By the end of the game, Adam (the computer) has begun to speak to her like Adam Malkovich, whose personality, Samus learns, had been uploaded to a computer before his death.
Samus' Gunship in other media
Super Smash Bros
Super Smash Bros. Melee
The ship is seen in the opening video, racing the Great Fox from the Star Fox series and the Blue Falcon from the F-ZERO series. It is also featured as a Trophy that is unlocked by beating the Countdown in the Adventure Mode at Brinstar. The Trophy reads:
"This compact ship is used by Samus as her base of operations. Of course, Samus can't fly it into the catacombs of every planet she visits, so she leaves it on the surface as her sanctuary. Samus can recharge her Power Suit inside the ship, so it tends to be the only safe and secure spot on inhospitable alien terrain."
Game: Metroid II: Return of Samus [11/91]
Super Smash Bros. Brawl
In Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Subspace Emissary, Ganondorf and Bowser use a gigantic Subspace Gunship to battle against Meta-Knight's Halberd. Despite the Halberd's impressive capabilities, it was quickly disposed of after a cannon aboard the battle ship pierced it from end to end, after which it exploded above the sea. Much to Ganondorf's surprise, four smaller spacecraft emerge from the explosion; Captain Falcon's Falcon Flyer, Fox's/Falco's Arwing, Captain Olimar's Hocotate ship, and Samus's gunship. They begin to attack the Subspace Gunship, but this is quickly revealed to be a ruse as Kirby flies in on a Dragoon and guts the ship. Ganondorf and Bowser retreat into the Subspace bubble and are quickly followed by the Falcon Flier, Fox's/Falco's Arwing, Samus's gunship, Kirby's Dragoon, and finally the Hocotate ship. The particular gunship that Samus uses in this event is or closely resembles the one she uses in Echoes. None of the ships are seen again, but each is featured as a trophy and 3 stickers. The gunship's reads:
"The ship that Samus pilots. Entering the gunship allows Samus to restore energy and save. Samus has been on numerous voyages in the gunship, but after being attacked by an X parasite in Metroid Fusion, she crashes into an asteroid belt and destroys the craft. After that, the Galactic Federation provides her with a new starship."
- Gunship Metroid Prime 2: Echoes - [Explosive] Attack + 5 (All)
- Starship Metroid Fusion - [Weapon] Attack + 9 (Samus, Zero Suit Samus)
- Starship Metroid Prime Hunters - Launch Power +22 (All)
In Pinball, Samus' ship takes its appearance from Prime and Hunters as the game is based on the former. It can be seen in the background of the Pirate Frigate stage, and it can trigger Gunship Multiball on Tallon Overworld.
Captain N: The Game Master
Samus was shown to have this gunship in the Captain N: The Game Master comics.
Nintendo Comics System
Metroid Blast, in Nintendo Land for Wii U allows for the player using the new control tablet to control the gunship, while two Miis in Varia Suits shoot it down. In other game modes, the ground player and pilot team up to destroy enemies, and the ground player can use the Grapple Beam to shoot from the air, holding onto the bottom of the ship. The gunship is also a prize. Its description reads: "This is Samus Aran's sleek and stylish mode of galactic travel. The controls take some getting used to, but believe me--once you start soaring through the sky, you'll be hooked!"
Metroid II manual
"This is Samus’ elite custom scout ship designed to travel interstellar distances. Samus traveled to the planet SR388 in it. This ship is her base of operations for this mission. Samus may restore her energy and reload her missiles by returning to it."
Official Metroid Prime website
"Samus Aran's ship - Hunter Class Gunship. Principle use - Gunship. Weight in tons - 136. Crew - 1. Drive Type - Relativistic 44 MHz. Power Source - Field-exclusion gluino. Dimensions - 9.144 meters x 6.096 meters x 2.4384 meters. Maximum velocity - 7.2 x 10 c
Registered to Samus Aran, the Gunship is equipped with twin Power Beam turrets and a retractable rear-mounted Plasma Beam cannon. The versatile cockpit is used for navigation, regeneration and record retention. This ship survived Samus Aran's mission on Planet Zebes and is the only space-faring vessel ever registered under the bounty hunter's name.
The principle use of this Hunter-Class Gunship is rapid transport. Dual engines serve this purpose with great efficiency. If battle becomes unavoidable, the ship is outfitted with enough firepower to survive firefights against bigger and more numerous foes. Once the destination is reached, the ship serves as an excellent base camp for ground-based ops."
Corruption cockpit scans
- Data switch
- "Switch activates various data records that have been tracked during your current mission."
- Weapon switch
- "Switch primes the ship's weapon systems and activates the combat-targeting HUD."
- Thruster panels
- "Security panels are in place. Operate nearby switch to open and extend thruster controls."
- Hand Scanner
- "Helm controls allow you to to set your ship's course and fly to known destinations."
- Image displays
- "Image displays show the status of all ship navigation and weapon systems."
- Blast Shield switch
- "Blast Shield switch will engage a protective layer of armor around the cockpit."
- Biohazard scanner switch
- "Switch activates the biohazard scanner that measures the levels of hazardous materials in your body."
- Transmission console
- "Transmission console is used to send data and connect to active radio frequencies."
- Thruster switch
- "Use this switch to extend the manual thruster controls. Operate only while in flight."
- On the European Corruption website, the gunship has a music player on the left side.
- In the Cockpit is the song that plays inside of the ship in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.
- In Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, Samus can use her gunship to travel to other landing sites. When this is done on most planets, only the outside of the of the ship can be seen while it is flying. On Norion, however, it shows the inside of Samus's ship while she pilots it.
- The Gunship in Corruption runs on Fuel Gel, evidenced as the Gunship is shown leaking the substance before the Ghor battle. It is possible that all of her other Gunships use Fuel Gel as well.
- In Metroid Prime, Samus' ship was designed, modeled and textured by James H. Dargie  and later re-skinned by Gene Kohler.
- The gunship appears in two strips in the Super Metroid manga. The first is called An Unexpected Discovery, where Samus removes her suit and decides to clean up the gunship. She then discovers the perfect place to turn into her Morph Ball. The second strip is You Have to Press 'R', where Samus attempts to Shinespark up to a high ledge only to crash into her ship.
- The gunship models seen in Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption look somewhat similar to the vulture droids from the Star Wars series.
- In Echoes Samus can see through the glass of the ship to look at the control panel.
- In Echoes and Brawl, Samus' gunship already features the lower hatch that she uses in Corruption and Other M.
- Metroid II was the first game to feature any of Samus' ships, although there were several others depicted in comics.
- The version in Metroid II seems to be wider and lacks the three landing pads on the underside, but this is probably due to the technical limitations of the Game Boy graphics since it is implied that Samus went straight from SR388 to Ceres.
- The ship in Metroid II cannot save Samus' progress, but jumping into the ship and using the Morph Ball to roll around will reveal energy and missile battery items hidden inside.
- Super Metroid was the first game to feature the ability for the ship to restore both health and ammo automatically.
- Metroid Prime was the first canon game in the Metroid series to show Samus' gunship in 3D. Melee featured it as a trophy.
- In an early version of Metroid Prime the ship was known as the "Stealth strike corvette".
- The ability to use the ship to fly from planet to planet was first used in Metroid Prime Hunters, however a similar system was later used in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption and could be used to fly and land in different areas of the same planet.
- Interviews with developers of Metroid Prime Hunters states that flying segments were created for the game, but were pulled out due to pacing issues with the rest of the game.
- In the same interviews, it is stated that the ship in Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime: Hunters are the same.
- Samus's iconic ship seems to shrink between Metroid II and Super Metroid. In Metroid II, the ship's length is roughly six times Samus's height, but in Super, the ship is only a little over four times Samus's height. However this is most probably just due to graphical differences between the Gameboy and Super Nintendo, due to the two games being direct sequels. Both ships are roughly twice the height of Samus.
- Samus' gunship is said to have an advanced medical bay, although this is not seen ingame.
- It should be noted that in all Corruption cutscenes involving the gunship, the Ship Bumper Stickers are all visible, but if the blast shield is engaged and the weapon systems are activated before a cutscene, they are not visible from the outside of the gunship.
|Features of Samus Aran's Gunship|
|Personal||Adam's helmet • Chozo biotech computer • Data records • Logbook • Mii Bobblehead • Samus Screen • Ship Bumper Stickers • In the Cockpit • Music player|
|Armaments||Plasma Beam • Power Beam • Ship Grapple Beam • Ship Missile Launcher • Gunship Multiball • Bunker-Busting Annihilator • Gunship|
|Mission features|| Auto-repair function • Biohazard scanner • Blast Shield • Bombing Run • Command Visor • Commander Adam Malkovich • Cryostasis • Escape Pod |
Heads-Up Display • Helm controls • Landing Gear Legs • Microfactories
Missile Station • Recharge Station • Save Station • Tetra Galaxy Scan Screen • Transmission console • B-Unit
|Cargo||Theronian Bomb (1st piece • 2nd piece • 3rd piece) • Colossal War Golem|
|Passengers||Baby • Anthony Higgs • Dr. Madeline Bergman • Commander Adam Malkovich (computerized) • Dachoras • Etecoons|