Synthesis of transition metal nitrides induced by excimer laser irradiation of metal foils immersed in liquid nitrogen was studied. Nitrogen incorporation was found by sputtering Auger Electron Spectroscopy in all six investigated metals (Ti, Zr, Hf, V, Nb and Ta). X-ray diffraction was used to determine the compounds formed. The morphologies of the irradiated surfaces often indicated that the surfaces had gone through a molten state. Micronthick mononitrides were grown on Ti, Zr and Hf, whereas Ta and Nb formed Ta2N and Nb2N respectively. The nitrides on V were not satisfactorily identified. The extent of nitridation correlates with the thermodynamic driving force, i.e. the Gibbs free energy for nitride formation.