Metroid. It’s one of Nintendo's staple franchises, holding a solid three-decade legacy, but it hasn’t gotten much love in recent years. Its last main entry was Metroid Prime: Federation Force which, quite sadly, didn’t manage to be the revival fans were hoping for. AM2R was lauded as a fantastic addition to the series, but its fan-made status made Nintendo order a takedown leading to a great deal of outcry from the video game community.
Nintendo and Metroid have had a rocky relationship, to say the least. Despite being well liked and selling well, it’s always been a bit ignored in favor of The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, and Pokémon. It just doesn’t pull people in Nintendo wants it to. But is that Nintendo’s fault or the fanbase’s?
Regardless, Metroid has had a rich history filled with some of the best video games ever made but also some of the worst. When Nintendo really puts their effort into the franchise, true brilliance shines and precedents are set for future games. When they clear don’t care, precedents are still set, but not the kinds you’d want to be setting.
It all started with a simple sidescroller in 1986, and it’ll presumably keep going on so long as Nintendo and fans care, but is caring enough to make a good game?
It’s entirely possible that Metroid Prime: Federation Force could have been a well received, fun multiplayer shooter if Nintendo had decided to make it its own IP but, as it stands, Federation Force is little more than an insult to Metroid’s thirty-year legacy.
Fans had been clamoring for another Prime entry since 2007 so when that beautiful logo showed up at E3 2015, it seemed like Nintendo had been listening to fans the entire time. The trailer that followed, however, proved that all while they were listening, they weren’t quite hearing what fans were saying.
No Samus, no dark atmosphere, and a cutesy art style that in no way matched the aesthetic the series had been building for thirty years. Metroid Prime: Federation Force barely managed to sell 4,000 copies in Japan and was met with critical disdain by most reviewers. It was a game that everyone wanted but designed in a way that would satisfy nobody.
Pinball is fun. Metroid is fun. This does not necessarily mean that a pinball game themed around Metroid will be fun. It’s not offensive like Federation Force or Other M, but Metroid Prime Pinball isn’t really a Metroid game. It tries to capture some of the atmosphere present in the series, but it feels a bit misguided considering it’s still, well, pinball.
The Nintendo DS also made it difficult to see where the pinball was going to land when it was shifting between the top and bottom screen, which definitely detracts from the pinball experience. Frustratingly, Metroid Prime Pinball is plagued by far too many minigames, so if you’re actually enjoying the pinball of it all, it won’t last.
It’s not really a Metroid game, and it’s a pretty shallow pinball game, but it is harmless. In hindsight, it’s pretty obvious Nintendo just wanted to tide fans over in the wait for Metroid Prime Hunters.
In a way, I feel like we can blame Metroid Blast for Federation Force. Featured on Nintendo Land for the Wii U, Metroid Blast is one of the many Nintendo themed minigames present. At launch, it was a nice homage to the Metroid franchise proving Nintendo hadn’t forgotten about Samus and her endeavors, but it was also a pretty shallow attempt at a mix of mission-based third-person shooting, and the traditional multiplayer deathmatch fare.
While nowhere near as poorly designed as Federation Force —since its cutesy aesthetic actually matches the game it’s a part of— Metroid Blast ultimately suffers from a lack of dedicated online: a bane that plagued Nintendo for much of the Wii U’s early life.
Metroid Blast is shallow, but it was also a nice time killer and one of the more charming minigames featured on Nintendo Land, but with no one to play it with, what’s the point?
Metroid: Other M is a steaming, pile of garbage that killed any good will the series had up until its release. It was hyped up as a hybrid of the traditional Metroid gameplay mixed with Prime’s first-person elements, but it was bogged down by one of the worst stories Nintendo has put out and a character assassination unlike any other. So why isn’t it last on the list?
Other M actually can be fun, believe it or not. The sidescrolling sections aren’t terrible by any means, and there’s some clever design found there, but the story is so prevalent that there’s just no forgiving its flaws even if on a technical level everything works.
Samus' character is the point of contention here. She had been built up as a strong protagonist throughout the entire franchise, but Other M spits on all her development. In Other M she is a weak, timid person unable to make any of her own actions. The gameplay’s good when it’s there, but everything else is just too offensively bad to ignore.
Metroid II: Return of Samus isn’t so much bad as it is boring and short. If you want a good follow-up to the original Metroid, check out AM2R but we’ll get to that later.
Return of Samus, while tighter on a technical level that the original Metroid, suffers from hardware limitations. Link’s Awakening and Pokemon would prove that it’s possible for a Gameboy game to have plenty of atmosphere and still be in black and white. At its release, Nintendo hadn’t quite figured out how to bring the dreary mood of Metroid onto the handheld yet.
The result is a rather blank and empty world that, funny enough, doesn’t feel lifeless in the right ways. Return of Samus introduced some convenient elements that made it easier than the original like save stations, but it’s debatable that it was made too easy. It’s far from a bad game, but it’s really not worth playing either.
Metroid is a great game with great music and great level design, but it’s also an absolute nightmare to traverse when you’re accustomed to games that actually give you direction and help you out. Metroid is a hostile game and it will stop at nothing to murder you at every turn.
The design doesn’t hold up so well in the modern era of gaming, but it’s still a great look at what video game priorities used to be. It’s not like Metroid was just a hard game, though, there’s some ingenious level design that leads to more secrets than you can count and the non-linearity is as fun today as it was back in 1986.
Metroid’s biggest problem —that still persists to this day— is that it’s hard to tell where you are and where to go. Getting lost is easy, finding out where you need to go is hard. But, hey, it’s all part of the experience.
Metroid Prime Hunters is Federation Force done right. It’s almost hilarious how well Nintendo did with an online Metroid Prime in 2006 compared to their 2016 attempt. Every playable character had their own unique play style, each map was designed with the hunters in mind, and the story —while simple and linear— actually managed to replicate Metroid Prime’s atmosphere on the Nintendo DS.
The real meat of Metroid Prime Hunters, which kept people going back to it for years, was its online play. It’s baffling how Nintendo failed to latch onto online considering how well they did it with Hunters. Servers ran well and were relatively stable without much trouble. Plus, the sheer variety available was outstanding. Nintendo has since shut off all online capabilities for the original Nintendo DS, but Metroid Prime Hunters’ legacy will always live on. And there’s still local multiplayer if you’ve got some friends.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is easily the worst of the Metroid Prime Trilogy, but it’s still a great game that proves the original first-person Metroid was not a one hit wonder. Echoes stands out in the trilogy as being the longest and hardest of the Metroid Prime games. Constant backtracking elongates the story for a bit too long, and enemies can be bullet sponges at times. That said, Echoes also offers the darkest and most creative design of any Metroid game, period.
At times, Echoes can feel like a legitimate nightmare (not the Other M kind), forcing Samus to survive in a hostile environment. There’s more combat present than in the original Prime, but it works to Echoes’ advantage, really hammering home the danger Samus is in this time around.
It may not be the perfect sequel and it might not strike the same chords the original Prime does, but Echoes is a worthy successor that pushes the series further.
The grand finale of the Metroid Prime trilogy before Nintendo decided to pry open the casket and force Federation Force inside, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption stands as one of the finest games on the Nintendo Wii and one of the best endings to a trilogy.
The motion controls are some of the best on the Wii and make shooting incredibly smooth. Some might miss the analog aiming found in Prime and Echoes, but others will be pleased with the sheer precision they can pull off. Corruption is a bit more story heavy than its earlier entries but, unlike Other M, it’s actually an interesting plot that ties up Samus’ arc neatly.
It’s only real fault is that it’s on the linear end of things and not in a good way. It can be a bit discouraging going from the first two Prime games and then hitting Corruption and realizing you won’t be doing too much exploring, but everything else is so strong that it’s easy enough to overlook and forgive.
The Metroid series has always been known for its dark atmosphere, but Metroid Fusion takes it to an all new level by taking the franchise by ratcheting up the horror elements. Metroid Fusion, plain and simple, is terrifying. As Samus makes her way through an abandoned space station, she’s also being hunted by a doppelganger of herself hellbent on murdering her at every encounter. The thing that makes Fusion so scary, however, is that Samus can’t fight back, she needs to run.
There’s a real feeling of adrenaline in hearing SA-X’s theme start playing and knowing you have mere seconds to find an escape route before you’re torn to pieces. An isolated and dreary narrative also gives weight to Fusion, developing Samus with careful grace and consideration.
Fusion is a bit on the linear side, but each area is designed with that in mind, so it never feels like you aren’t finding things on your own. Plus, the linearity lets it be even scarier than it would have been otherwise.
A remake of the original Metroid and the last 2D entry in the series developed by Nintendo. Metroid: Zero Mission is one of, if not, the best game on the Gameboy Advance. It takes everything wrong with the original Metroid and fixes it without losing any of the integrity of the NES Classic.
There’s direction now, you have access to a map, and you can save. Still, the game retains its difficulty: the world is still hostile, and nothing has been removed. It’s a gold standard for remakes, showing that you can take a game as it was and properly update it for a modern audience. There are new additions, like a playable epilogue after the original final boss, that really make Zero Mission feel like more than 1:1 remake.
More than anything, Zero Mission just feels great to play thanks to an incredibly comfortable control scheme. It also introduced Zero Suit Samus so you’re welcome.
AM2R, otherwise known as Another Metroid 2 Remake, is a fan remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus developed by Milton “DoctorM64” Guasti. While the game has since been DMCA’d by Nintendo and taken down off the net, AM2R is proof that 2D Metroid still has a place in the video game industry and would do well.
The game is a remake in the vein of Zero Mission but taken one step further, altering and fixing everything in Return of Samus to the point that it’s hard to believe they’re basically the same game. More importantly, AM2R shows what just one person can do with enough passion.
It’s hard but fair, the level design is complex without being convoluted, and the atmosphere has that same Metroid feel that made the series so unique. It might not be available to download anymore, but look up some videos and check out just how incredible of a project AM2R is. Take notes, Nintendo.
Leading up to its release, Metroid Prime was controversial, to say the least. It was absolutely nothing like the Metroid series had been up to this point. The 2D was gone, the sidescrolling was gone, and the genre had shifted to a first person shooter. Fans were cautious, but when Prime hit shelves in 2002, all those fears washed away.
Metroid Prime remains one of the most atmospheric and well designed first-person games ever. The near apocalyptic planet Samus has landed on invokes a legitmate feeling of isolation, as all she has to provide context are scattered documents. It’s a new feeling for the series, but it somehow manages to feel like a real progression of the Metroid formula.
In many ways, Prime is the Ocarina of Time of Metroid, taking such a sharp turn in the shift to 3D without compromising the series’ integrity. It’s a brilliant game with magnificent design that stands the test of time better than most.
Super Metroid is 2D sidescrolling at its finest. It takes everything that made the original Metroid work so well and perfects it. Other games in the series have added their own quirks to the formula, but none have managed to touch the precedent Super Metroid set. The minimalist soundtrack is elevated by the game’s color palette, creating a truly alien environment. Not to mention that Samus’ controls are at their best, with every action flowing in and out of each other.
The difficulty is just hard enough to pose a challenge without ever being frustrating, and the exploration is out of this world with the series’ smartest secrets hidden around the game’s world. It’s a genuinely tense experience that tests your platforming skills, but it also tells a powerful story without having to say much at all.
The series has been through a lot in thirty years, but Super Metroid remains a gold standard not just for Metroid, but for video games as a whole.