This week we look back at a true standout classic in gaming, Super Metroid. Being listed as one of the greatest games of all time in numerous publications like Electronic Gaming Monthly (rest in peace you wonderful magazine), it might surprise you to know that I never played Super Metroid until ten years after its original release! While I had played Metroid and Metroid 2 at a friend’s house, the first game in the franchise I would own was Metroid Fusion. After how much I enjoyed it I wanted more, so I turned to Super Metroid. Strangely enough I played Super Metroid on a modded Xbox and absolutely loved it! But how does this 1994 Super Nintendo classic hold up today, roughly 23 years after its original release?
Samus Aran has successfully destroyed all but one of the remaining Metroids off the planet SR388. Finding a lone Metroid egg that that hatched in front of her, Samus was unable to kill the infant that thought she was her mother. Deciding to spare the creatures life, Samus and the baby board her ship and leave SR388. Deciding to deliver the baby Metroid to the Galactic Federation Samus heads to Ceres Space Colony.
Super Metroid is a 2D side scrolling action adventure game with a focus on exploration and collecting. Later games that would adopt this play style would become known as “Metroidvania” games, a namesake based on the popular Metroid and Castlevania franchises in the genre. At the beginning of the game, all you have at your disposal is a standard beam gun. Due to the limits of the basic loadout you quickly find there are not many places you can visit. Moderate exploration quickly yields the Morphball and Missiles, items standard to the franchise, which expands the areas you can explore. This is the basic formula for the rest of the game, explore rooms you can reach until you find an item that lets you explore rooms you couldn’t explore before. Thankfully Super Metroid includes a map, unlike the first two entries of the franchise, to further help you know where you have and haven’t explored.
All this exploration would get boring quickly without the dangers, creatures, and pirates of the planet Zebes. Samus has several weapons at her disposal, ranging from traditional Missiles and Bombs to the new Grapple Beam. Favorites like the Ice Beam, Wave Beam and Screw Attack also make a comeback in new 16-bit glory. Samus takes considerable damage from enemies, so hidden in the game are suit upgrades to further protect Samus as well as open new areas for exploration. Combat itself is pretty simple, shoot an enemy until it dies. Most enemies have a weakness to one of Samus’s weapons so try experimenting with different ones until you find a match.
Many major moments in Super Metroid are segmented with a boss fight. Boss fights are split into two categories: minibosses and bosses. Minibosses usually block a path to new areas needing to be explored and offer more challenge than standard room enemies with some being completely immune to certain types of attacks. Bosses also have certain weapons they are immune to, but are required to be defeated to move on to the final area and confrontation of the game. Overall Super Metroid has ten separate bosses split between the mini and boss categories.
The wonderful atmosphere achieved by Super Metroid is 100% due to its sound design. Right from the title screen with the chirps of the baby Metroid and seeing the bodies of humans around it, the eerie music completely sets the stage for what’s to come. Each area of the game has its haunting melodies that truly makes you feel alone and vulnerable. Each boss encounter likewise has its lively tones to further echo the urgency of the fight. Creatures, bosses, and Samus have “cries” when damaged adding to the feel of battle. Weapons and bombs also have their distinct place among the other sounds. Super Metroid is quite literally an example of perfect sound design.
Like sound design, graphics in Super Metroid are among the best to grace a Super Nintendo Console. Sharp sprite work, diverse environments, and large bosses are just a few of the achievements of Super Metroid. Action is easy to follow thanks to smooth fluid animations. Literally no animation is lost in intense scenes.
With Metroid Fusion being the first Metroid game I ever owned, you can say I arrived late to the Metroid party, well, cuz I did. Regardless I will always be glad that I went back to explore the origins of the Metroid franchise. While Metroid and Metroid 2 aren’t as fondly remembered as Super Metroid, they laid the foundation for what this game would become. Playing it again this last week has reminded me how truly timeless gaming can be when a game is built this well. If you are new to the franchise, played every game, or just happened to miss Super Metroid like I did, spend some time this weekend to go and play it. Even 23 years after release Super Metroid is as relevant a game today as it was in 1994 and, let’s be honest, it’s probably better than most games today.
TL;DR: It’s a friggin’ masterpiece go play it!
Alright, I convinced you, huh? How can you play this game?! Super Metroid was released originally on the Super Nintendo and then later the Wii, Wii U, and New Nintendo 3DS as part of the Virtual Console Service.
SNES (~$65) – The original release, no real reason to pursue this version unless you are a collector or seeking a true nostalgia fix.
Wii ($8) – Emulated port of the SNES version easier to get ahold of than the SNES cart.
Wii U ($8) – Emulated port of the SNES version easier to get ahold of than the SNES cart.
New 3DS ($8) – Emulated port of the SNES version easier to get ahold of than the SNES cart. Great version to get to have Super Metroid on the go.