Super Metroid is arguably the pinnacle of the Metroid series, and it’s also one of the most accessible too on modern-day consoles given you can play it on the SNES through Nintendo Switch Online. This is one of the best 16-bit era games with great gameplay, graphics, and also music too.
Metroid has developed a name for itself on the NES with two releases in the late 80s and early 90s. This was Nintendo turning their hand at Sci-fi, and created characters and worlds with atmosphere, unlike the other Nintendo mascots at the time that included Mario and Donkey Kong. Metroid was different – it was darker, the gameplay prompted exploration, plus there were plenty of secrets to uncover.
Metroid II: Return of Samus was released on the Game Boy and followed in the footsteps of the original game, however, this time there’s new equipment and new gameplay as well as trying to exterminate the Metroids. Metroid II was much more linear, whereas the original focused more on exploration.
Super Metroid is where the series really took off for Nintendo and laid the groundwork for the franchise, which up until recently has been mildly neglected and also given the reboot treatment along the way. Super Metroid was released in 1994 and is directly after the events of Metroid II. Samus is on her way to a research center with a baby Metroid that followed her following the events on the planet SR388. Ridley, Samus’ arch-rival, appears out of nowhere, steals away the baby Metroid and then the space station around Samus starts to disintegrate, leading to Samus racing for her escape.
Samus finds her way back to Zebes, but things have changed since the first game. The objectives are familiar, collect the upgrades, find the hidden secrets and defeat everything that gets in your way. Some familiar bosses are back from the Metroid including Mother Brain, Ridley, and Kraid. Although there are some familiar concepts from the older Metroid games, there’s plenty of new features in here too. Samus has new abilities including the Grapple Beam, which allow Samus to swing about the place and reach new areas she couldn’t before, and there’s also the Screw Attack too.
As well as the new moves and upgrades, we also have some good locations and atmosphere in the game. There’s Crateria, which is on the surface; Brinstar, this is now full of overgrown plants and calls back to the original Metroid; Norfair, this is covered in lava; Maridia, underwater; Wrecked Ship, which is a crashed ship and finally there’s Tourian, Mother Brain’s new home.
One of the features that sets Super Metroid apart from the rest at the time, and why it remains to be well played today is the gameplay and controls. Samus moves with ease, she can run, run, and also the addition of the diagonal shooting really helps. It’s a small tweak from the original games, but it makes a massive difference. Upgrades are easy to access with different button combinations. The game isn’t too easy, but it’s also not too difficult either which plagued some games of a similar era.
The graphics are classic pixel art, the environments are really well designed as well as the bosses and Samus to herself. There are a few cutscenes that bring the story to life, as well as the music and audio. The music changes pace with the game as the settings change – early one when you are looking for signs of life the music helps ramp up the tension, then later gets a little more action-packed. All the way through it’s a great soundtrack, offering up some of the best video game music of the mid-90s era.
Super Metroid is one of the best Super Nintendo games released, and arguably one of the best games of all time. These days we have a whole genre dedicated to the groundwork this game, and other games in the Metroid series paved the way for with the Metroidvania genre, with modern titles like Ori, Hollow Knight, and Axiom Verge some modern examples that look to emulate what Super Metroid achieved in the past.
Platform: SNES, Nintendo Switch Online
Release Date: 19th March 1994