Super Metroid for the SNES might have been what put the series on the proverbial map back in 1994, but the entire Metroid franchise is more than just a single outing. To date, there has been more than a dozen Metroid games released, some before and most after the all-time classic with one more, Metroid Dread, set to arrive later this year.
Is Super Metroid still as super as it once was in 1994? If not, which Metroid game is better than the influential title? Read on below to find out.
Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt (2004)
It's hard to believe it now, but there was a time when releasing a console without a video game within it would've been considered blasphemous.
Nintendo was one of the first to break tradition by shipping the original Nintendo DS in 2004 without a cartridge packed. Instead, Nintendo shipped the handheld console with a demo for Metroid Prime Hunters, titled Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt, that showcased three small environments that would be part of Metroid Prime Hunters a little over a year later.
Make no mistake. First Hunt is a decent Metroid game. It's just incomplete and not really worth playing.
Metroid: Other M (2010)
Other M isn't necessarily a bad game. It's actually pretty good, just not in the context of Metroid.
Other M was released for the Nintendo Wii back in 2010, three years after the release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption back in 2007. It was seen as an attempt to bring Metroid to Nintendo's latest console. Unfortunately, it lacked everything that would've made it a Metroid game.
Other M removed the sense of freedom and exploration commonly associated with the Metroid games. In its place was a fast-paced and straightforward shooter with no redeeming plotline whatsoever that effectively reduced Samus from a badass heroine to a child.
Although the action game wasn't half bad, the proof is in the pudding - Nintendo would not release a Metroid game for 5 years after Other M.
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (2016)
Similar to Other M, Federation Force is yet another proof that Nintendo can release a good game that doesn't belong in the right franchise.
As the first Metroid game in more than half a decade, fans were understandably excited to see Samus Aran in action in Federation Force. Unfortunately, instead of the solo adventure many expected, the Federation Force was a 3DS title that revolved around a team of space marines going on missions.
Federation Force was probably an attempt to make Metroid appeal to a younger audience given its visuals. However, in doing so, Nintendo only alienated and angered hardcore fans of the franchise even more. In the end, Federation Force ended up not catering to younger and older audiences alike, with its only sole redeeming quality being that it is actually a polished shooter that's only held back by the fact that it launched on a console with no voice chat and limited chat functionality.
Metroid Prime Hunters (2006)
Speaking of Metroid Prime Hunters, here it is.
Metroid Prime Hunters released in 2006 nearly two years after it was first teased. It put players in the shoes of Samus in a single-player campaign and had a multiplayer competitive mode where players could play as bounty hunters hunting each other down.
It was a fine shooter take on the Metroid formula, but it didn't exactly bring anything new to the table that made the switch to a more FPS-style gameplay worth it. It didn't help that the Nintendo DS wasn't exactly a powerful console. The result was a pared-down shooter that had awkward virtual touch-screen controls, which was and still is a recipe for absolute disaster.
Again. Metroid Prime Hunters wasn't a bad game. It was even good. It's just not a proper and class Metroid game, unlike the others above it.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004)
After making the successful jump to 3D platforming with Metroid Prime, its sequel, Echoes tried to one-up its predecessor and ultimately failed.
On a paper, Echoes had an intriguing idea. The environment is divided into light and dark zones. The latter draws Samus' energy and both realms are filled with creators that you can only take down using specific ammo. Things become less tedious later on as Samus starts picking up tools that make the constant shifting between dark and light zones more manageable.
Unfortunately, most players give up before ever getting to that point due to Echoes' innate difficulty on its own without the shifting realities.
On top of this all, Echoes had some of the trickiest and most challenging bosses in all the Metroid games, which only made playing what was already a tedious game even less appealing.
Metroid Prime Pinball (2005)
Yes. There was a Metroid Prime Pinball game. It was also quite good.
Metroid Prime Pinball was released in 2005 for the Nintendo DS and was a fun, as well as literal take, on one of Samus' signature powers, which is the ability to duck and turn herself into a "morph ball".
Odd doesn't even begin to describe Metroid Prime Pinball, but it's a fun game that just works.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Metroid Prime ended on a better note than Echoes because of Corruption. Although Corruption wasn't exactly that much better of a game than Echoes, it did at least show that Nintendo had already learned from its earlier mistakes, but not without committing some blunders as well.
First up, Corruption used the same standalone environments as Fusion did. The only difference is that it didn't have the same sense of exploration in Fusion where there were secret passageways that connected the different areas of the game.
For what it's worth, Corruption's multiple planets worked. Players didn't really have much time to think about these small details until they'd finished playing. The game forced you to constantly be on the move with frequent encounters between Samus and her rival bounty hunters, with Samus occasionally teaming up with the Galactic Federation as she dealt with a constant stream of threats.
Metroid II: Return of Samus (1992)
The first-ever Metroid sequel was one of the first of numerous surprise moves by Nintendo for the series. Instead of releasing it on the NES or SNES, Nintendo opted to launch Return of Samus to the original Gameboy. However, where everyone expressed doubts that the follow-up would work, Nintendo knew the handheld console well enough to design a game that worked within the limits of its capabilities.
While Return of Samus wasn't a huge step-up compared to the original Metroid game, it was still a marked improvement that dealt with the origins and evolution of the game's eponymous space-fairing parasitic organisms while setting the stage for Super Metroid.
For all the good things that Return of Samus did despite its limitations, it was still obvious that releasing it on the Game Boy wasn't exactly the brightest idea.
Nintendo's original Metroid is an eyesore for a lot of gamers today. The graphics just simply don't hold up. However, for those willing to sit through the painful graphics, your eyes will adjust eventually. After that, you'll be treated with a game that was carefully handcrafted by Nintendo that featured everything from secretive floors and walls with an era-appropriate emphasis on making life hell for gamers.
For everything that might not have aged well about Metroid, the open-ended world, the multiple abilities, as well as the earliest signs of what would eventually become an entire genre of games, Metroidvania, are all timeless.
Even the plot twist at the end of Metroid that showed that Samus Aran was a woman was ahead of its time.
Metroid: Samus Returns (2017)
Metroid: Samus Returns is one of the two Metroid games that were released from 2011 to 2020. It's also the better of the two and one of the best Metroid games of all time.
Samus Returns gave the original Metroid II title was much-needed polish. It took the original plotline of the game and the layout of the SR-388, as well as the looming threat that was the evolving Metroids. However, it added a sprawling world filled with puzzles as well as a combat system that emphasized knowing when to avoid and how to counterattack, both of which are more reminiscent of the more recent Metroid games.
Samus Returns is much deeper, more involved, and polished than the original title while being a bit too over-complicated at times.
The Metroid games have never been known to be easy. Samus Returns was just too complicated at times. Its heavy emphasis on waiting for enemies to attack first tended to bog down the pace of the game, which was also counterproductive to making Samus feel more powerful as the game went on.
TLDR; For all its flaws, Samus Returns is a remake done right.
Metroid Prime (2002)
2002 was a big year for Metroid. Both Fusion and Metroid Prime would release on the same day. Both were also transformative games that divided fans at release.
Where Fusion used a clever twist to spice up the traditional Metroid gameplay, Prime was a 3D take on the classic Metroid formula. Regardless of which of the two games you think did it better, one can't deny that both of these games changed the Metroid franchise forever, for better or for worse.
Nintendo used Super Metroid as the template for Prime to make sure that the series' transition into 3D would go as well as possible. It works, for the most part. Even in the few times that it didn't, it only allowed Prime to shine more as its own game and less of a 3D take on Super Metroid.
The best thing about the switch to 3D was that Prime avoided the trappings of becoming a twitch shooter that was so prevalent back in the day. This isn't to say that there wasn't a lot of shooting. There was its fair share. But, it yad platforming too and exploration, with some navigating for you to do and some world-building in the form of scanning enemies with the Scan Visor.
If there's one thing bad about Prime is that it set the bar too high for its successors to live up to. To date, Prime remains one of the best Metroid games ever released with graphics that surprisingly hold up well in 2021.
Metroid Fusion (2002)
The GBA's Metroid Fusion is to blame for subsequent titles trying to put Samus into a more defensive position. It's also the one game that had the best take on it. It might have lacked the explorative features of its predecessors and subsequent games, but Fusion pulled this off perfectly. It took away everything that defined Samus to that point and forced her to follow a computer all the while being restricted into a confined space.
This idea of disempowering Samus and how powerful she used to be is constantly reinforced throughout Fusion. You'll even face off against SA-X, a powerful and sentient copy of Samus that you'll have no choice but to run away from for most of the game.
Yet, for all the powerlessness of Samus throughout Fusion, it's also what makes the journey of slowly building Samus' strength back up again so much more rewarding. This is a point that's further punctuated by the climactic battle between Samus and SA-X that sees Samus return to her full strength at the end of it all.
Make no mistake. Fusion is not a perfect game. It's a highly divisive title that either deserves to be ranked much lower or just right where we put it, depending on who you're asking.
Metroid: Zero Mission (2004)
Metroid: Zero Mission is Super Metroid 2.0. It's bigger and better than the title that preceded it by 10 years. It's also less original being that it's essentially a souped-up version of Super Metroid that used the setting of the original Metroid for the NES.
You'll find very few flaws in Zero Mission. The dev team took its sweet time crafting the game to make sure that it improved on everything that Fusion and Prime failed to do. This resulted in a fast-paced game that had the tight control of Fusion but with far less handholding even though the game actually pointed out new objectives on the in-game map.
Speaking of, Zero Mission really did a great job at letting you explore uncharted areas. The mysterious Chozodia region also offering a glimpse of the similarly enigmatic past of everybody's favorite bounty hunter.
In terms of weapons, Zero Mission gave Samus the entire kit, including the ledge grip skill and Power Bombs, while also reinventing the original boss encounters from the first Metroid game and introducing new enemies, as well as ways to incentivize players to go back and forth throughout the game's perilous but immersive world.
For hopeful game developers looking to study how to remake a classic video game, there's no better example than Zero Mission.
Super Metroid (1994)
If Zero Mission is the perfect example of how to do a remake right, then Super Metroid is the blueprint for doing sequels.
Super Metroid wasn't just a retelling of the events of the first game even though it took players to the same tubes and tunnels of Zebes. It might have been set on the same planet, but Super Metroid's environment, narrative, and mechanics were all so much larger and more complex than in the original Metroid game. Plus, Nintendo says that it's a sequel, so it's hard to argue against that.
The game gives you a meticulously detailed and secret-filled playground, complete with puzzles to navigate through and passages that are hidden from the naked eye. It also tells of a moving narrative tale that sees Samus go from becoming a near-invincible weapon capable of wanton destruction to losing despite all that power and ending on a literally booming note that sees a huge explosion.
There exists two reasons why Metroidvania is a genre. Super Metroid is one-half of that.