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Metroid, Nintendo's action-adventure series, is one of its oldest. But unlike Super Mario or the Legend of Zelda, Metroid's release history is patchy. Fans can typically expect a game or two, followed by a long dry spell, then another release or two—if not a deluge.
The release of Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS marked the beginning of another tour of active duty for the bounty hunter Samus Aran. It also encouraged us to review every single Metroid game released to date.
Jeremy Parish rose to the challenge (with a little help from Kat). As with our SNES Classic game reviews, he looks back at each game with a fresh, more modernized set of eyes. Now you can, too.
Metroid is Rough by Today's Standards, but its Influence is Undeniable
LINK: "Metroid's single greatest contribution to gaming could be this, the concept of a self-contained, self-reliant, ever more powerful protagonist. Samus is explorer, weapon, and key all at once. Her power-ups have permanence, unlike those of her action game forebears. Pac-Man's energizers wore off after a few seconds. Mario would lose his Fire Flower from bumping into a bad guy. Samus's powers are forever."
Metroid II: Return of Samus is Clumsy, but Full of Important Ideas that Evolved the Series
LINK: "While some of Metroid II's creative choices may not work out as well as intended in this outing, they would become trademarks of the series from here on out. Samus's beefier armor would appear in all subsequent games, as would her rather vain starship, along with a number of new abilities introduced here such as the Spring Ball (which allows players to jump while tucked into Morph Ball form) and the Spazer Beam."
Super Metroid Is the Pinnacle of the 2D Metroid Games, and Still One of the Best Games Ever Made
LINK: "Much of what Super Metroid introduced to the medium seems to have been accidental genius. By that I don't mean Sakamoto and his team stumbled onto good ideas through dumb luck; a game as drenched in tiny details as Super Metroid clearly didn't happen by mistake. Rather, I simply mean that the devs invented elements for the sake of making Super Metroid better and, in the process, came up with game design concepts that worked just as brilliantly in (and soon trickled over to) other games."
Metroid Prime Granted the Series a Smooth, Seamless Transition to the Third Dimension
LINK: "Prime immediately catapulted Metroid to the rarified ranks of legacy franchises to successfully navigate the transition from 2D to 3D. While not quite perfect, it nevertheless presented a convincing Metroid experience from an immersive first-person perspective."
Metroid Fusion Invites Criticism, but That Criticism Isn't Fully Warranted
LINK: "But in fact, that's the whole point. You're meant to resent Adam, to chafe at his constant demands, to resent his constant and tiresome briefings. Adam makes the player feel powerless to control their actions because that's precisely Samus's condition throughout Fusion."
Metroid Zero Mission is the Gold Standard of Game Remakes
LINK: "Therein we find one of Zero Mission's greatest strengths: It isn't afraid to mess with the structure of the original game when it suits the developers' purposes. While Zero Mission first and foremost exists to bring the NES game up to the technical standards of its sequels, it also presents the story of Samus Aran coming into her own as the legendary warrior foretold by the vanished Chozo race.
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes Falls Shy of its Predecessor's Greatness
LINK: "If all these comparisons to other games give the impression that Echoes is something of a game without its own identity, well, it's a fair criticism. In attempting to avoid creating a game that felt too much like a retread of the first Prime, Retro created a game that casts about for inspiration and ends up a hodgepodge of influences and ideas."
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption Brings Out the Best in the Wii's Motion Controls
LINK: "But none of that gets to the game's greatest achievement. Corruption may have lost the graphics race against its competition, and it may have broken up the design traditions of the franchise, but it nevertheless plays better than any other Prime entry for one key reason. Heck, it arguably plays better than any of its better-looking contemporaries, for that matter. And it all boils down to a simple detail: Motion controls."
Metroid: Other M Misses the Point of Metroid
LINK: "On paper, the thought of Team Ninja tackling Metroid sounded like a sure win. Something went wrong along the way, though, and the end result was a far cry from anything Metroid fans could have wanted. Rather than rejuvenating the franchise, Other M nearly killed it."
Metroid: Samus Returns Brings Samus Back to Glory
LINK: "In almost every respect, Samus Return is a near perfect remake. It grasps much of what worked in the original and dramatically heightens it while minimizing its flaws. There are so many great little touches throughout Samus Returns, from the menacing red eye of the mysterious... thing... stalking you throughout SR388, to the slime dripping in the background of the massive egg chambers at the heart of the planet."
Metroid's Spin-Offs are a Nice Diversion When You Need a Break from Space Hunting
LINK: "You can find something to enjoy in [Metroid Prime: Pinball, Metroid Prime: Hunters, and Metroid Prime: Federation Force] but none of them will force you to reevaluate your feelings about the Metroid franchise or present you with a transformative experience that will redefine your relationship with video games. They're a pretty good time, but none of these holds up to the finest of Samus' canonical journeys."