“METROID: DREAD” is finally out on the Nintendo Switch! It’s the first new (non-remake) 2D Metroid game in 19 years. It’s the 11th game in the series and the 5th main entry in this groundbreaking sci-fi platforming franchise that started with the original NES classic way back in 1986. If you’re new to the Metroid saga, this quick guide will bring you up to speed on the space-faring adventures of Samus Aran…
“METROID” (NES, 1986)
When people talk about iconic Nintendo games, Metroid is usually towards the top, alongside Super Mario, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Kirby, and The Legend of Zelda. Samus herself is pretty famous as well, with much of that thanks to the Super Smash Bros games.
“METROID” – the game that started it all, first premiered on the Famicom in Japan in 1986. Finally making its way to the states on the Nintendo Entertainment System the following year. The game was a platforming adventure where you play as a bounty hunter exploring a strange cavernous world. Shooting your way through hordes of alien enemies, finding upgrades for your suit, and hunting down a secret weapon in a space pirate stronghold. Like many old-school games, it’s tough and unforgiving, but it lays the groundwork for so many games to follow.
Like most games of the 8-bit era, the story was pretty straightforward. The game’s title screen gives us some vague text with orders to defeat “the Metroid of the Planet Zebeth*” (Zebes in later titles) and “destroy the Mother Brain”, whatever that is. If you delve further into the lore there is a rich backstory here. Space pirates have attacked and seized samples of a parasitic species known as ‘Metroids’ from a science outpost. Now they are using them to develop biological weapons. Metroids were first discovered on SR388 and can drain the life force out of other creatures. A lone bounty hunter named Samus Aran is sent in by the Galactic Federation to infiltrate their base and eliminate the threat.
One of the big twists in this game at the time was that there were alternate endings. The best versions of which reveal that Samus, the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy and the protagonist of the franchise, is in fact a woman. Which granted, isn’t exactly mind-blowing by today’s standards. However, still a really cool touch back then and a somewhat progressive step in the right direction.
“METROID: ZERO MISSION” (GBA, 2004)
This fantastic remake of the original ‘Metroid’ game debuted on the Game Boy Advance back in 2004. It wasn’t just a faithful adaptation with a graphics update. It was a loving recreation of everything the original game excelled at but expanded on it in several ways!
One of the biggest changes was the way the game actually continued from where the original ended with Samus blowing up the Mother Brain and escaping the base before it’s destroyed. Following that mission, Samus’s ship is shot down. She is forced to fight her way through the Space Pirates’ mothership. Eventually gaining an upgraded Chozo power suit and escaping with one of their shuttles, while the ship self-destructs!
While the original is undeniably worthy of praise, ‘Zero Mission’ is without a doubt the superior version.
“METROID: PRIME” – TRILOGY (GC/Wii, 2002 – 2009)
The “Metroid: Prime” trilogy was a bit of a deviation for the series. Going from the side-scrolling 2D gameplay of the first three games and changing to a 3D first-person-shooter perspective. While they were certainly different from the original games, the Metroid: Prime games were pretty great in their own right. Instead of just being a typical FPS, the games incorporated a lot of unique puzzles, weapons, and obstacles.
One of the coolest features was the ability to scan enemies, creatures, and objects which would often give you a detailed analysis. These games also really developed heavily on the lore, fleshing out the world like never before. It really puts you in Samus’s shoes as you explore magma-filled tunnels and creepy frozen mountain fortresses.
The Metroid: Prime trilogy takes place between the first and second games in the series. The first one was released for the GameCube in 2002. It follows Samus as she answers a distress signal from a Space Pirate frigate, the Orpheon. The crew has been slaughtered by their own genetic experiments. After a battle with the Parasite Queen, Samus’s suit is damaged, causing her abilities to malfunction. She eventually ends up on Tallon IV where she finds the ruins of the mysterious Chozo civilization. She discovers that they were wiped out by Phazon – a mutagenic substance brought by a meteor impact decades earlier.
The second game, “Echoes”, takes place on Aether – a planet fractured between dimensions. Samus has been sent to investigate after Federation Marines have gone missing, eventually coming face to face with ‘Dark Samus’. The third game, “Corruption”, begins aboard the Galactic Federation Flagship, Olympus. The Fleet Admiral has called together a meeting between Samus and 3 other legendary bounty hunters. The meeting is cut short by a Space Pirate attack. Culminating in a battle with Dark Samus that leaves her and the other hunters infected with Phazon energy. The game ends with Samus defeating her doppelganger and an organic supercomputer in the core of a planet.
“METROID II: RETURN OF SAMUS” (GB, 1991)
The second game in the Metroid series is arguably one of the better games released for the original Game Boy. It retains a lot of the same charm as the original NES title. You have to explore a massive underground labyrinth collecting items and upgrades, including the first appearance of the spider ball!
The Galactic Federation hires Samus to go to the Metroid homeworld, SR388, to exterminate the species, once and for all. While there, she discovers the creatures in different evolutionary stages (Alpha, Zeta, Omega, etc). After defeating the Queen Metroid, she finds a single Metroid egg that hatches in front of her – the Metroid imprints on her, thinking she’s its mother. Unable to kill the last Metroid, she brings it along with her, back to her ship. (more on that later)
“METROID: SAMUS RETURNS” (3DS, 2017)
This 2017 3DS remake of 1991’s ‘Metroid II: Return of Samus’ is a loving recreation of the Game Boy game. This time with way better graphics (and color!), more abilities, enemies, and expanded story elements. One of the big additions is the revelation that the Chozo actually created the Metroids the combat the X parasite! The game also ends on a surprise boss battle with a half-mechanical Ridley!
“SUPER METROID” (SNES, 1994)
“Super Metroid” (aka Metroid III) was a massive hit on the Super Nintendo in 1994! The game took everything awesome about the previous two games and elevated it. Starting with an intense opening level that mirrors the end of the first game. Eventually leading into a massive maze of tough enemies and even more insane bosses. ‘Super Metroid’ is typically credited for kick-starting the ‘Metroidvania’ genre, alongside titles like Super Castlevania IV. It was also the first Metroid game to implement a map. This is basically essential with how sprawling and confusing this game is!
The game starts with an innovative opening cinematic, kind of (Trust us, it was really cool at the time). We’re told that Samus Aran brought the last Metroid (see the previous game) to the Ceres Space Colony for study in hopes of harnessing its energy abilities for good. Samus returns to the station to find the scientists all dead. She encounters her old enemy, Ridley, the dragon-like leader of the Space Pirates. Ridley steals the Metroid larva before rigging the whole station to blow. Samus escapes in the nick of time and tracks Ridley back to Zebes, where it all began years before.
After navigating through several regions of the subterranean planet (Brinstar, Crateria, Norfair, Maridia, Chozodia, and Tourian), Samus makes her way into the depths of the Space Pirate’s newly rebuilt stronghold. During her final battle with a resurrected Mother Brain, the young Metroid comes to her aid. It heals her and sacrifices itself to defend her! Ultimately giving her the power to destroy Mother Brain and escape the crumbling base.
‘Super Metroid’ isn’t just a great game, it’s often listed as one of the best games of all time.
“METROID: OTHER M” (Wii, 2010)
While it’s often considered a low point in the series, 2010’s ‘Other M’ at least made an attempt to give Samus Aran a bit more of a backstory. A 3D action-adventure taking place primarily on a derelict Federation vessel. This game features Samus teaming up with a platoon of soldiers, including her former commanding officer, Adam Malkovich.
During the game, they realize there’s a traitor among them, it’s revealed that the Federation had cloned a breed of cold-resistant Metroids from the remnants of the Metroid that saved Samus (see Super Metroid) and Dr. Madeline Bergman turns out to be an android created by a Mother Brain entity called ‘MB’. Adam ultimately sacrifices himself to stop MB and destroy the amped-up Metroids, allowing the others a chance to escape.
“METROID: FUSION” (GBA, 2002)
Released alongside ‘Metroid: Prime‘, “Metroid: Fusion” was a return to the classic side-scrolling action that fans were craving. Unlike the ‘Prime’ series, moved the story forward after the events of ‘Super Metroid’. Released for the Game Boy Advance in 2002, it remains one of the most beloved entries in the Metroid series.
In “Metroid: Fusion”, Samus Aran is infected by the X parasite while surveying the surface of SR388. She’s transferred to the Galactic Federation for medical treatment, where she’s given a vaccine made from the Metroid that she had adopted years earlier (see Metroid II: Return of Samus). Samus gains superhuman abilities from the vaccine. Allowing her to absorb X nuclei, but she now has the Metroid’s weakness against cold.
She’s sent to investigate an explosion at the BSL space station. With a stripped-down power suit, guided by her ship’s computer ‘Adam’ (named after her former commanding officer), and armed with her new abilities. The X parasite is able to mimic any creature it comes into contact with. It even manages to replicate Samus herself. During her mission, Samus discovers that the Federation was secretly using the station’s lab to breed Metroids. She defies orders to leave the station. Instead, deciding to crash the station into the planet below, destroying both in the process – wiping out the X parasite…
“METROID: DREAD” (Switch, 2021)
19 years after the last chronological entry in the series (Metroid: Fusion), Samus finally returns to her 2D roots in “METROID: DREAD” for the Nintendo Switch! In the newest game, Samus Aran is sent to a remote planet called ZDR. Evidence has surfaced that the X parasite was detected there only to find that their EMMI research robots have been hacked! Continuing the same style of the previous side-scrolling Metroid games (with a significant graphics upgrade), incorporating the free-aim and melee attacks introduced in 2017’s ‘Samus Returns’, and introducing new stealth mechanics, this one promises to be an awesome addition for fans of this long-running series.
“Metroid: Dread” (Nintendo Switch)
hits shelves on October 8th, 2021 is out now!