The Metroid series is one of the oldest in modern gaming, having debuted in 1986 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Despite his age, however, he has arguably never been more relevant to games than he is today. The series helped define âmetroidvania,â and the influence of this genre can be felt in various other games that encourage exploration as a central mechanism. It is also perhaps one of Nintendo’s less iterated series, having received fewer games than others like Mario or The Legend of Zelda. This cautious approach has led each entry to add something unique to the series. We’ve put together a list of the best Metroid games – not counting spin-offs like Metroid Prime Pinball and Hunters – ranked from worst to best.
10. Metroid: Other M
The Metroid series is incredibly small – just four side-scrolling main games and three first-person Metroid Prime games, plus a handful of remakes – and many of them are solid showcases of Nintendo’s prowess. This flawless, filler-less approach means a game that’s just good enough, like Metroid: Other M, at the bottom of the list. The project was led by Team Ninja, best known at the time for the Ninja Gaiden series, and therefore Other M was a very different type of Metroid game. It was the first to feature melee combat, and the perspective was a mix of traditional 2D and Prime-type 3D.
It was a daring mix of ideas, and not all of them worked. While Other M was still a decent game, scoring an average of 79 reviews on GameSpot’s sister site, Metacritic, it received reviews for its uneven difficulty, and especially for its moan-worthy story and voiceover. Perhaps worst of all, it took one of video game’s most iconic heroines and drove her insane and immature, and pulled her agency away in favor of a commander. We can only assume that the mixed reception is the reason why there was no other M2.
9. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
The third and final game in the Metroid Prime trilogy – at least until the release of Metroid Prime 4 – has been widely hailed as a highlight for a series that has already had several highlights. While fans differ on which ranking is highest, this one or Prime 2, he’s unmistakably Retro at the top of his game and having learned lessons from his previous Metroid releases. Corruption was slightly more action-oriented than previous Prime games, and it relied on the Wii’s motion controls for precise aiming. It has also been hailed as one of the most beautiful Wii games, at a time not particularly known for high-level graphics. On the contrary, Corruption only suffers from slightly diminishing returns as we already had two fantastic Prime games to play.
8. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Metroid Prime has received critical acclaim, paving the way for high expectations from its follow-up, Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Surprisingly, Retro has managed to live up to this high standard, creating a sequel that builds on the foundations of Prime and broadens it with a new light and dark mechanic that has had an impact on the story as well. Much like the 2D Metroid games and the first Prime, Echoes sported a tightly designed environment full of secrets to uncover and explore as you expand Samus’ suite of abilities. It even introduced a moderately well-received multiplayer, which may have influenced the decision to release the much less praised Metroid Prime Hunters on Nintendo DS two years later. While some critics sounded the hunt for the late-game keys, which many saw as artificial padding, he was generally considered a great successor to Prime.
The original Metroid on NES is certainly an artifact of its day, and coming back to it today probably isn’t as fun as many of the others on the list. But he ranks for pure influence. Every piece we recognize in Metroid today, from the sprawling map to the weird tone, was present in this original sci-fi incarnation. It was Nintendo among its most experimental, creating a whole new subgenre of action games. It’s proto-metroidvania, and while not quite as polished as some of its follow-ups, it helped create the blueprint for everything that followed. In the process, Nintendo has created one of the video game’s most enduring icons.
6. Metroid II: The Return of Samus
How do you make a sequel to one of the most influential games of the 8-bit era? With portable play that improves almost every aspect, of course. Samus’ return drew the prospect of a closer look at Samus as she explored SR388, the home planet of the Metroids. Its mission was to eradicate the creatures before the dreaded space pirates could exploit them for their own nefarious ends, resulting in an excellent fusion of story and gameplay. Rather than just discovering the planet, you actually had to hunt down each Metroid as it was tracked by an in-game meter. As the home of the Metroids, SR388 introduced new species and variants of Metroids. All of this led to an ultimate conclusion in which Samus showed mercy towards a newborn Metroid – the last of its kind – a decision that rippled through the history of every subsequent Metroid game.
5. Metroid Fusion
The last timeline game before Metroid Dread, Fusion for Game Boy Advance represents a later era of Metroid 2D that is both influenced by previous games and chart its own course. This time, Samus is seriously injured by a parasite known as Organism X, and scientists give him an experimental vaccine made from Metroid DNA to save his life. Functionally, this makes Samus partially metroroid and able to absorb X parasites in the same way that metrooids would absorb life energy from their prey. (The DNA fusion also gave Samus an awesome new costume.)
Although Fusion included elements of exploration like its predecessors, it was slightly more linear than other games. Rather than free exploration, you have been guided through missions with specific objectives to achieve. This sanded down some of the edges that could be both exciting and frustrating in other games, creating a modernized version of the Metroid experience.
4. Metroid: Samus Returns
This remake of the classic Game Boy was a swansong for the Nintendo 3DS. While keeping the structure of the original Samus’ Return intact, developer MercurySteam introduced new elements like a melee counterattack and free aim ability, along with a suite of new Aeion abilities. This was a remake at its best, taking the basic structure of a classic game and making it more accessible to modern audiences without sacrificing what made it so special to begin with. And Nintendo apparently agrees, as series producer Yoshio Sakamoto has continued to partner with MercurySteam for the upcoming Metroid Dread.
3. Metroid: Zero mission
Similar to Samus Returns, Zero Mission was a remake that re-introduced some of Metroid’s early concepts to a new generation of gamers. This time, however, it was a new version of the very first Metroid game. The new version retained many of the same power-ups and structure as the original, but introduced new mini-bosses and an expanded environment for you to explore. It was also more storytelling focused, incorporating a story point that completely removed Samus from his Power Suit. During this part, Samus had to make do with her wits and a relatively weak pistol as she retrieved her costume. This memorable part then defined one of the character’s iconic looks, the âZero Suit Samusâ seen in games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.
2. Metroid Prime
Like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time before it, Metroid Prime has taken one of Nintendo’s most revered franchises and brought it into the 3D era. And in the journey to the third dimension, the player also got a whole new perspective: Samus. The first-person perspective was previously reserved primarily for first-person shooters, but Retro Studios has applied it to the otherworldly tone and atmosphere of a Metroid game. Even the small touches were stunned, like seeing Samus’ face reflected in his visor as the light just hit him. The transition has been flawless, creating a truly innovative masterpiece that has created something new while respecting its roots.
1. Super Metroid
Widely hailed as one of the best games of all time and a major model for many modern games to follow, Super Metroid is a timeless masterpiece. Set immediately after the events of Metroid 2, Samus delivers the newborn Metroid to researchers. Moments later, however, the facility is attacked by space pirates, returning Samus to the planet Zebes. The 1994 classic is known for its sense of seclusion and exploration. The map was huge and multifaceted, full of passages blocked by impassable elements that made the player wonder when he would return to open new passages. There was a perfectly paced sense of empowerment as Samus regularly gained new abilities and even upgrades to his iconic costume. And the finale, which sees baby Metroid sacrificing himself to save his life-saving woman, is a resonant, wordless storytelling feature.
The genre called “metroidvania” takes its name from a coat rack of two of its most influential ancestors: the Metroid series, and more precisely Super Metroid, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While it’s true that the two have been incredibly influential for the genre, Super Metroid has beaten Symphony of the Night by three years, and SotN itself has undoubtedly been influenced by Super Metroid. This makes Super Metroid the heart of one of the most popular and enduring game genres of all time, and it is still one of the best examples of it. Super Metroid is playable on Nintendo Switch with a Switch Online subscription.