The Space Pirates have been active in the galaxy since the early days of the Galactic Federation, perhaps even before the GF's founding. They were notorious for raiding vessels in an instant and disappearing the next. However, their target was not always just the cargo. The Pirates would also lay claim to entire planets, establishing the now-captured planet as their territory and its natives as their slaves. They were known to be so zealous of their right to rule that they would even refer to themselves as the rightful inhabitants of the planet.
The Federation Police ordered the arrest of anyone affiliated with the pirates, but the Pirates were very mysterious and difficult to track in the vastness of space. The Police were eventually forced to turn to Bounty Hunters, paying high prices in exchange for captured pirates.
For many years, the Space Pirates have plundered many planets and countless ships, asserting themselves as the galaxy's dominant race. Amoral and avaricious, their greed and their lust for power seems to know no limits. They have repeatedly used technology and bioengineering to enhance their own physiology, resulting in radical differences in appearance between different members of their species. Their appetite for conquest and plunder has also resulted in some of the worst disasters in galactic history, such as the Phazon Crisis.
Space Pirates, although often vicious and cold-hearted, have been known to keep pets, including various animals from different worlds. Some more foolish pirates have even kept deadly Metroid parasites. This is shown on a Pirate Data scan in Metroid Prime, where they had to dispose of such pets due to Phazon madness. There's also a scannable warning to troops that soldiers caught using containment pods for "recreational use" will be punished.
The Pirates are merciless to those who break their rules (although they have been known to use other less draconian forms of punishment, such as docking pay, cutting food rations, or assigning them to slightly dangerous tasks). There are many posted warnings threatening execution for various reasons, and disloyal militia often end up killed and eaten by their superiors. In addition to this, an even worse punishment is suggested by the appearance of what resembles a Space Pirate head within the Pirate Cargo Drones found on the Pirate Homeworld in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, suggesting that soldiers who fail to obey orders are decapitated and built into said drones.
Several Pirate scans in Metroid Prime 2: Echoes reveal that when a Pirate Commando shows any sign of cowardice, they are shot in the back - an ironic action, considering the cowardly imagery of shooting another in the back. However, they do appear to allow free speech, as in the Prime games (especially Echoes), there are scannable terminals in which Space Pirates have expressed criticism of High Command or Science Team.
Space Pirates are fairly tall creatures in comparison to many other sentient organisms, and seem biased against shorter beings, going so far as to attempt to murder their own slaves for being too short. They also tend to zealously support any causes that will strengthen their race and organization, regardless of cost. They are often, however, quick to panic and flee when things go awry.
Space Pirates may have some form of honour code amongst themselves, such as when Samus successfully defends the Theronian Bomb so that it may be dropped on the shield defending the Elysian Leviathan, all the remaining Pirates committed suicide via leaping off the edges of the platform to their doom. This may imply that they realize that they have failed and that they are retaining their honour by ending their lives, or because either they would rather seek death than continue facing her in combat or die by their own hands than meet whatever punishment their superiors have in store for failure. Pirate Aerotroopers are also notorious for their suicidal dive-bombing attacks, which they all trigger when near death. The Logbook in Echoes states that they do this to prevent capture; "death before dishonour".
In Echoes, one pirate mentions in its log that the Federation Marines owe them a "fate-debt" for their attack on their supply ship. Whether or not this is a concept practiced by most Pirates, or if it is merely a cultural upbringing, is unknown.
Details of the Space Pirates' leadership are sketchy. They have operated under the command of various leaders such as Ridley and Mother Brain, though other titles in the Metroid franchise have included mention of a High Command. This High Command structure was likely headed by Mother Brain before her destruction, but since then its leaders have not been named or shown.
Space Pirates have been shown to use various forms of technology. They have been known to steal technology of other races evidenced by scans taken in Prime that refer to stolen Plasma Cannons and the turrets in Corruption that are said to be of Federation design which have been modified. By Corruption the Space Pirates seem to have adopted organic technology as well, as evidenced by their ships that appear to have flesh on and inside of them and the "eyes" that watch Samus within the Space Pirate Boarding Pods on the G.F.S. Olympus. Space Pirates also use genetic tampering to enhance themselves in many ways, especially with Phazon as seen in Prime with the Elite Pirate series and in Corruption with the new Troopers' Hypermode and the Berserker Knights and Lords.
They are also known for their use of other lifeforms as biological weapons, such as all of the captured creatures in their Tallon IV facilities, or the Metroids (they desired to use the Metroids for that very purpose), even devoting various resources to obtaining, breeding, and modifying them to serve their purposes, such as Phazon and Metroid Eggs.
Space Pirate physiology has varied significantly over time and depending on which planets they've been encountered upon. Obsessed with being superior to all other races, the Pirates have regularly modified their own genetic structures and upgraded themselves with cybernetics, resulting in their appearance changing between Samus's encounters with them. For the most part, they have remained bipedal, though their genus appears to have shifted between reptilian, insectoid, avian and crustacean. This has led many to believe that the Pirates are not a single race but an organization consisting of multiple allied races. Data extracted from various Pirate strongholds has disproven that theory, however; the Space Pirates are indeed all the same race, but their physiology seems to be altered with almost each encounter.
Below is a list of known types of Space Pirate encountered throughout the Metroid series.
- Space Pirate Militia
- Space Pirate Trooper
- Space Pirate Commando
- Shadow Pirate
- Elite Pirate
- Space Pirate Grenadier
- Space Pirate Commander
- Space Pirate Aerotrooper
- Aqua Pirate
- Phazon Pirate
- Omega Pirate
- Berserker Knight
- Berserker Lord
- Space Pirate Beam Trooper