Even the biggest franchises have to start somewhere. Now that we’re approaching some five decades of video gaming, with an unfathomable number of games released each year, the discourse about the greats tends to coalesce around franchises. Very rarely do one-off games get the kind of vaunted retrospection lauded upon series that seem to iterate with each new platform generation.
Of course, there is the risk of oversaturation. Mario, perhaps the best-known character in all of gaming, has made more than 200 appearances in his career. His longtime rival Sonic has appeared in more than 90 (including a few with Mario, too). And while we love Mario and Sonic dearly, they haven’t exactly left us wanting for more.
But what if there was a franchise on the level of the greats that has kept us wanting more? Is there a franchise that has left fans ravenous for content while also maintaining its status as an influential legend?
Yes, there is.
Metroid is, without a doubt, one of the most important games in the history of the industry. This is probably not news to you. But while you may be steeped in Metroidvanias, how well do you know the OG? Plenty of gamers cut their teeth on Super Metroid (a highly-recommended game in its own right) and others hold soft spots for Metroid Prime, so it’s likely been a while since you took a spin (literally) as Samus. Especially since the last non-remake of a Metroid game, the multiplayer-focused Metroid Prime: Federation Force, released in 2016.
That changes in October though, when Metroid Dread comes to the Nintendo Switch. This new 2D title harkens back to the series’ roots as an innovator in sidescrolling action (and loads of backtracking, so much backtracking).
Fans are already dusting off their Wii Us to revisit the franchise ahead of the release, pushing Metroid: Zero Mission, Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime: Trilogy to the top three spots in the Wii U shop. Sure must be nice to have a Wii U sitting around, but that doesn’t mean Switch owners are without options. Metroid: Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid which is available in the NES archive for Switch Online users. And while Metroid: Zero Mission does add some modern quality of life updates like save rooms and an expanded list of items, there’s just something delightfully authentic about the bare-bones challenge the original Metroid offers.
A lot of gamers complain about its difficulty due to some dated mechanics, which is valid, but none of us are gaming in a vacuum either. You can easily find the map of the game online, as well as numerous resources revealing the many passwords and hidden secrets. The current speedrun record of the game is less than 10 minutes, so you can rightly ignore the whinging about how hard it is.
Odds are you aren’t interested in diving into Metroid so you can experience it start to finish. You want to drop in and poke around and get a sense of the magic that launched a franchise that still creates loads of hype 30+ years after its release.
Look past the rough edges and you’ll see vibrant level design, deeply satisfying moments of triumph, white-knuckle platforming action and some truly ambitious writing. Don’t forget about that famous twist ending, either.
Metroid is available now on NES Online.