earlier this year i finished the last two metroid games i hadn’t played, but it’s taken me a while to find time to sit down and post my ranking of the entire series. in looking at the series as a whole, it’s clear why this deserves a place among the best of nintendo’s franchises, right up there with the mario and zelda series. although the games’ generally slower pace may have caused it to lack the other series’ more-popular appeal, the games are deeply satisfying and from the start focused on exploration in a way that was new, captivating, and hugely influential, as seen by any number of games that followed it, most famously the castlevania series. not to mention its heroine, samus aran, one of the first ladies of gaming, and a true video game icon.
when i ranked the mario series about a year and a half ago i enlisted the help of another blogger to provide a contrasting view. i had a hard time finding someone else who had played the series and wanted to write about it, so this time around i’ll be posting the ordering of the soon-to-be-defunct nintendo power. they included a ranking in their october 2010 (v. 259) edition, although it omits metroid: other M, which had just been released. so without further ado, here’s my ranking of the fantastic metroid series, with links to the corresponding posts on my blog. as with the mario series, i’m really looking forward to seeing how my own opinion evolves as i begin my second tour of the series, and heartily looking forward to more games in this great series. (incidentally, i didn’t include them in the list, but if you’re interested you can check out my thoughts on metroid prime pinball and the metroid prime hunters demo called first hunt.)
|the metroid series|
|as ranked by geozeldadude and nintendo power|
|#||geozeldadude‘s list||nintendo power’s list (excerpts from vol. 259)|
metroid prime (GCN) (1 | 2 | 3): much as i loved super metroid, i have to give metroid prime the edge and put it at the top of my list, and i suspect many people would be as torn as i am. although i prefer 2-D games in general metroid prime brings the metroid universe to life in a way that really highlighted all the advantages of the 3-D game, at the expense of minimal drawbacks. the gaming universe was skeptical, to say the least, of the transition to 3-D, but retro studios pulled it off beautifully: not only nailing the combat, but succeeding in making the platforming feel natural as well. the game builds on the core metroid exploration-focused gameplay and incorporates new, absolutely top-notch design. there are several gaming moments in my life that really stick out in my mind as highlights, and first landing in the light rain of tallon IV and stepping out into the gentle snowfall of phendrana drifts are high among them. one of my favorite games of all time, up there with mario 3 and the original game boy tetris. i’m wary of replaying this game again in case it loses some of its magic (esp. after having played through its sequels), but at the same time i’m quite looking forward to it.
Super Metroid: Super Metroid, even more than the 8-bit original, defines what we think of as a Metroid game. The action is beautifully tuned, but it’s not a pure action game. It’s a game about exploring an alien world, about always wanting to find out what’s around that next corner. The drive to progress — to knock of the bosses and gather new items — is all wound up in that need to push forward and see something new. … It’s the kind of world that compels you to visit again and again, and it makes Super Metroid one of the finest games of all time.
|2||super metroid (SNES): another case of a close second. although i played this game after fusion, the difference really is in the details and this game was perfectly paced and a leap forwards from the NES and game boy games.||Metroid Prime: Playing Metroid Prime felt a little strange at first. But one thought predominated: “They actually did it.” Prime spent a very long time in development, during which Metroid fans wondered if their beloved side-scrolling series would really work with a shift to a first-person perspective. … Then the fall of 2002 rolled around. You could feel a collective double-take ripple through the gaming world as we discovered that Metroid Prime was everything we could have hoped it would be: a powerfully immersive 3D re-creation of the classic Metroid experience. … Rarely has a series so perfectly made such a massive technological leap, but Nintendo and Retro Studios almost made it look easy.|
|3||metroid: zero mission (GBA): usually i wouldn’t include remakes in a list like this, but zero mission feels completely distinct from the NES original it’s based on. although the NES game originated the core of the series’ greatness, zero mission had a few new tricks up its sleeve, including a great section featuring the debut of zero-suit samus. and although samus was as sprightly and speedy as in fusion, the pacing of this game was much better with areas opening up in a more satisfying way.||Metroid: Zero Mission: Zero Mission is the kind of remake that gives remakes a good name. The Game Boy Advance revival of the original Metroid got it right — it held on to the essential character of a classic game while improving it in every possible way. … Better graphics … Deeper storytelling … New bosses, new items, new areas, a whole new final level … What’s more quietly exciting is the way Zero Mission creates a bridge from the first Metroid adventure to the events of the Metroid Prime trilogy, making it feel more like those games are telling one big story.|
|4||metroid (NES): although i’d played it as a kid, it took me a while to bring myself to replay the original NES game. despite modern sensibilities the lack of a map turned out to not be as painful as i had feared, and although i was stuck for a bit trying to find the ice beam i enjoyed the game’s slower pace and reacquainting myself with the origins of the series. not quite the classic that the original mario is, but still very enjoyable.||Metroid Prime 3: Corruption: Though it never quite reaches the towering heights of the first Metroid Prime, Corruption nonetheless stands as a phenomenal conclusion to the trilogy. The move to the Wii console brought with it enhanced controls, which demonstrated that first-person shooting could feel significantly better with the Wii Remote than with a standard controller. To showcase that, Corruption shifted the formula slightly to place a greater emphasis on action … Retro Studios again proved its knack for crafting imaginative, cohesive worlds that beg to be explored.|
|5||metroid fusion (GBA): my bias towards 2-D games puts fusion ahead of the other games. the linearity of fusion didn’t bother me as much as it did others, and i found it to be a nice change of pace from the rest of the series. but the game does feel easier and more mindless than the rest of the series. a middle-ranking metroid game still beats out many other games, though, and it’s still an enjoyable if not hugely memorable experience.||Metroid (NES): … Metroid combined platforming with world exploration to make an adventure that was thoroughly unique for its time and has been the template for dozens of games since. Samus Aran jumped, rolled and fired lasers and missiles with an inventive control scheme that took full advantage of the Control Pad and two buttons. … the game broke new console ground with its amosphere and exploration-heavy platforming, plus it was among the first console adventure [sic] with a female lead character.
Old-school players may see the series originator’s number-six ranking as an injustice, but the game does show its age. … Furthermore, its place on the list is a testament to the innovation that it inspired in the Metroid games that followed.
|6||metroid prime hunters (DS): it was refreshing to play a 3-D metroid on a handheld, and it was impressive how much of the metroid prime design they managed to fit in. there were still many places where the limitations were apparent, though, including the visuals and recycled boss fights. the controls weren’t ideal (although not that uncomfortable) and the new emphasis on combat was a nice change of pace, although the repetitive structure made the experience feel too predictable. more memorable than fusion, but a less polished experience overall.||Metroid Prime 2: Echoes: Prime 2 might be a better game than this ranking suggests, if you look at it in a vacuum. It suffered a bit from coming out relatively soon after the breakthrough of the first Metroid Prime, though. They’re very much alike in some regards, and the sequel amplified some of the weaker points of the original. Nonetheless, Echoes is worth playing, beyond a doubt, for its grim, moody atmosphere and some very creative level designs. The rest of the Metroid Prime trilogy just happens to be a fair bit better.|
|7||metroid prime 3: corruption (wii): it took me a lot of effort to finish this game. the third in the trilogy really didn’t add much new except for the new wii controls which felt great. despite the polish the formula felt tired, and the overall experience was highly disappointing.||Metroid II: The Return of Samus: When it was the only handheld Metroid on the block, volume two of the original saga held up all right. It’s been a while since then, though, and subsequent games raised the bar pretty high. The graphics and stages couldn’t help but be repetitive — you can ask only so much from the original Game Boy — and that emphasized problems with the level layout and scenario design. … Return of Samus has its memorable moments, though, especially the introduction of the charming little Metroid larva.|
|8||metroid ii: the return of samus (GB): samus’s first foray onto a handheld console. serves as a nice bridge between the original NES game and the SNES masterpiece, but the linearity does hold it back. a fun metroid game, but not that memorable when compared to the rest of the series.||Metroid Prime Hunters: [The] packed-in demo of Metroid Prime Hunters, subtitled First Hunt … proved the fledgling handheld as a viable platform for first-person-perspective gaming. The final version of Hunters … touting a relatively short single-player adventure and multiplayer arena battles for up to four via Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, along with a voice-chat feature. Samus was just one of seven bounty hunters tearing up the game’s space-station locations, and each had similarly crafty abilities. … The emphasis on the multiplayer experience makes it less of a classic Metroid adventure than the rest, and control proved to be a little unwieldy.|
|9||other M (wii): i had a really bad experience playing this game. although i’m all for series exploring and testing their boundaries, this game really felt subpar in every way. as a successor to fusion the nimbleness of our heroine makes some sense, but the ninja-style combat felt shoehorned in. the needless transitions from 2-d to 3rd-person and 1st-person views were awkward at best and extremely jolting and irritating at worst. the exploration lacks the masterful design of the other games in the series, and the hokey story disappointed legions of fans, myself included. probably the most disappointing main-series nintendo game i’ve ever played, and the only consolation is that the series can only go up from here. (hopefully sooner than later!)||–|
|10||metroid prime 2: echoes (GCN): as disappointed as i was in other M, i have to give it the edge over metroid prime 2 and put the latter in last place in my ranking. prime 2 is far from a bad game, and it seems really unfair to put it in last place, but that just goes to show how consistently great the series is. the game felt like a rehash of the original metroid prime, and the endless monochromatic purple of the dark world really brought down the overall experience for me. prime 3 mixed things up a bit better and had the added benefit of new motion controls on wii, but aside from more of the same there wasn’t much that felt really new in prime 2.||–|