The broad goal of this paper is to characterize the network feature of metro systems. By looking at 33 metro systems in the world, we adapt various concepts of graph theory to describe characteristics of State, Form and Structure; these three characteristics are defined using new or existing network indicators. State measures the complexity of a network; we identify three phases in the development of transit networks, with mature systems being 66% completely connected. Form investigates the link between metro systems and the built environment, distinguishing networks oriented towards regional accessibility, local coverage or regional coverage. Structure examines the intrinsic properties of current networks; indicators of connectivity and directness are formulated. The method presented is this paper should be taken as a supplement to traditional planning factors such as demand, demography, geography, costs, etc. It is particularly useful at the strategic planning phase as it offers information on current and planned systems, which can then be used towards setting a vision, defining new targets and making decision between various scenarios; it can also be used to compare existing systems. We also link the three characteristics to transit line type and land-use; overall the presence of tangential and/or (semi)-circumferential lines may be key. In addition, we have been able to identify paths of development, which should be strongly considered in future projects.