Metroid is one of Nintendo’s most beloved franchises, and today marks the 30th anniversary of the first game in the series. The original Metroid launched on August 6, 1986 on the Nintendo Entertainment System. It was met with critical acclaim due to its innovative progression system, eerie atmosphere, and overall originality. Its map was continually revisited throughout the duration of the game, with new areas becoming accessible by weapon and ability upgrades. This game mechanic in Metroid, along with similar game design by Castlevania, sparked a new genre known today as Metroidvania. Samus Aran, the franchise’s bounty hunter protagonist, is one of Nintendo’s many iconic characters.
The next follow-up was on the Game Boy in 1992, titled Metroid II: Return of Samus. While not as good as the original, the rough-looking handheld title held its own. Limited by the video and audio aspects of the Game Boy, it was not nearly as engrossing or digestible as its predecessor. However, a great ending paved the way for what many consider to be the best game in the series.
Metroid was met with high regard on the NES, but when Super Metroid on the SNES launched in 1994, the series’ popularity skyrocketed. This direct sequel to Metroid II retained everything great about the franchise, only it was more polished and perfectly modernized. Of course, atmosphere played a huge factor in the mood and general feel of the game. Players today reference Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as the two best examples of the Metroidvania genre.
The Metroid series lay dormant for many years until 2002 saw the release of Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance and Metroid Prime on the GameCube. While Fusion was a new take on the traditional 2D sidescrolling Metroid game, Prime took the series into a completely new 3D first-person perspective. Metroid Prime retained all of the elements of the previous games and flawlessly converted them to 3D, similar to the way Nintendo reimagined their iconic 2D franchises with Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
2004 saw a remake of the original game, entitled Metroid: Zero Mission on the Game Boy Advance, as well as a follow up to Prime called Metroid Prime 2: Echoes on the GameCube. A spin-off pinball game called Metroid Prime Pinball launched in 2005, which was surprisingly met with good reception. Another spin-off called Metroid Prime Hunters was released on the Game Boy Advance in 2006, while a full sequel, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption launched in 2007 on the Wii.
After the third installment in the Prime series, Metroid seemed to be largely forgotten by Nintendo. Metroid Prime Trilogy compiled the three games in the series into one package on the Wii in 2009. Metroid: Other M was released on Wii in 2010, though many found it to be a disappointing installment in the franchise, often criticizing it for not being a “true” Metroid. It was too much of a departure from the traditional formula and focused far too heavily on long-winded cutscenes and story. What makes Metroid’s storytelling great is its slow pace and mysterious atmosphere.
Since then, fans have been wanting a return to traditional 2D Metroid, though Nintendo has made no indication of anything in the works. This year a new game called Metroid Prime: Federation Force is being released, which is a co-op first-person shooter. Many fans have rolled their eyes at this installment, continuing to wonder when the next true Metroid will be released. After so many years, people have begun to wonder if Nintendo will ever put dedicated effort into Metroid. Perhaps the NX will surprise us with some brand new releases.