Thursday, August 6, 2015

Top Five Metroid Games

29 years ago, the original Metroid released on the Famicom in Japan. It seems like there is no better opportunity to celebrate the series than with an in-depth top five list discussing the best the Metroid series has to offer. Despite having a modest selection of entries compared to other franchises of the same time span and age, it was very difficult coming up with the five Metroid games that best represent the glorious bounty hunter Samus Aran's galactic exploits. After you've checked out my order of titles, hit me up with your faves in the comments below.

5) Metroid Fusion (GBA)

A much more linear Metroid compared to most games in the series, Metroid Fusion saw Samus Aran heading to a space station to eliminate the threat of the X Parasites. This was all the while occasionally encountering the mysterious and highly deadly SA-X, taking the form of Samus. Through intense chase sequences, players have to quickly retreat from the persistent SA-X pest or else suffer fast defeat. The gameplay of Metroid Fusion was quite similar to past 2D games, particularly Super Metroid. New abilities came in the form of Core-X from defeated bosses and from various download stations across the space station. A higher emphasis on story was presented as well to the more linear affair that the game presented players. It all ended with a much deserved beat-down of the SA-X, retreating the destructing space station before it exploded, wiping out all of the X Parasites on board from existence.

4) Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GCN)

After the grand success of Metroid Prime, developer Retro Studios decided to take the series into a different direction. Now, by no means, was the gameplay greatly affected by this. Instead, Retro went with a heavier emphasis on story with Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, taking place in two different dimensions, Light Aether and Dark Aether, as Samus Aran not only deals with the menacing Ing, but also her own doppelganger in the form of Dark Samus. Many critics argued that Metroid Prime 2 suffered with its higher difficulty, but for me personally, it was just right. Many times Metroid games were easy affairs unless you were speedrunning them, so the increased difficulty suited me just fine. What didn't work so well that would work with the later released Metroid Prime Hunters was the multiplayer component which felt shoehorned in. That said, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is an incredible entry in the series that should not be passed on.

3) Metroid: Zero Mission (GBA)

An enhanced remake of the original Metroid, which was a game that definitely needed some enhancing due to its obtuse level design and lack of helpful map, Metroid: Zero Mission launched on the Game Boy Advance with gameplay very reminiscent of the superb Super Metroid. Not only that, but the visuals were beefed up supremely compared to the original Metroid, and an entire bonus section of the game where Samus Aran is without her Power Suit, forcing her to stealthily move through a Space Pirate ship with a mere stun pistol. While Metroid: Zero Mission is a bit short even with this new content, the game, like many others in the series, demands multiple play-throughs to experience everything the game has to offer. Doing something like getting 100% game completion within a set amount of time is an objective proficient players can shoot for.

2) Super Metroid (SNES)

One of the greatest 2D titles of all time, Super Metroid delivered fantastic level design, near perfect pacing, and killer ambiance with its myriad marvelous environments. The brand-new auto-mapping feature meant even beginners could have a fighting chance at exploring planet Zebes without hitting too many roadblocks. Super Metroid was the first Metroid game to have fully realized environments, meaning that unlike the original Metroid and Metroid II: Return of Samus on the original Game Boy, you could easily tell the difference between rooms, making getting lost much less of a problem. Perhaps my only reason for not sticking Super Metroid as number one on this list of top five Metroid titles is the first visit to Maridia, where movement is sluggish underwater thanks to the lack of the Gravity Suit, which isn't earned until later in the game. Other than that, Super Metroid has withstood the test of time and deserves not just one play-through but several.

1) Metroid Prime (GCN)

Originally a mess of a project before some divine intervention in the form of gaming god Shigeru Miyamoto stepped in to lend the folks at Retro Studios some direction, Metroid Prime went from what was looking like a failed experiment to bring the Metroid franchise into a first-person perspective to becoming not just what I perceive to the best that Metroid as a series has to offer, but one of the best games of all time. With a story that allows players to dive as deeply into it as they want to by scanning the environment for added narrative to impeccably designed areas that felt like you were in a living, breathing world, Metroid Prime took everything that players loved about the 2D games and made it work wonderfully in 3D.

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