When it comes to signature Nintendo series and franchises, Metroid is right near the top of the heap. While it has never sold as well as, say, Mario Kart or Pokemon, Metroid is one of the big N’s oldest franchises, going all the way back to the NES.
It also has one of the most die-hard fan bases in Nintendo’s entire stable. Even though Metroid fans are sometimes made to wait 5-7 years for a new entry in the series, they always come out of their moon caves and Martian trenches when another game finally comes along.
With tense dread, atmospheric immersion, and tons of arm cannon action, the Metroid series is one of the most influential, iconic, high quality franchises in all of gaming. It’s with that trailblazing spirit in mind that we’re ranking the Metroid games from worst to best. Who’s going to be the Mother Brain of this lot? Read on to find out.
Metroid Games Ranked
14. Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
The first cardinal sin Metroid Prime: Federation Force commits is sidelining series protagonist Samus Aran. A Metroid game without Samus is like a Zelda game without Link: something that should probably never happen. To make matters worse, Federation Force was designed with co-op in mind, a notion that completely destroys the claustrophobic terror the series is known for.
Making matters worse, a cartoony art style took any air that was left in the balloon swiftly out of it. Keep in mind Metroid fans had been waiting a staggering 5 years for even a whiff of a new entry in the series, and this is what they got. Fans weren’t happy and Metroid Prime: Federation Force remains a black mark on the franchise to this day.
13. Metroid Prime Hunters
Platform: Nintendo DS
After Metroid Prime and its sequel turned out to be surprise hits on the GameCube, Nintendo were eager to capitalize on their success with this Nintendo DS spin-off. Featuring many of the same core concepts that make the Prime series great like first-person exploration and the ability to scan almost anything of interest, Hunters translated the experience to a handheld surprisingly well.
Unfortunately, if you’ve already played the other Prime games, this one just doesn’t quite measure up. The control scheme is cumbersome, the level design is uninspired, and an emphasis on multiplayer takes away from what could have been a much better campaign. While Hunters isn’t downright bad like Federation Force, it’s an easily skippable game in the series.
12. Metroid Prime Pinball
Platform: Nintendo DS
Nintendo really had a thing for pinball on its handhelds and Metroid Prime Pinball benefited greatly from this obsession. A surprisingly robust digital pinball experience, Metroid Prime Pinball makes morph ball Samus into the projectile and tasks you with solving puzzles, battling enemies, and defeating bosses across several Prime-themed pinball boards.
It may not be the most essential game in the Metroid franchise, but MPP is an endlessly fun and replayable game that tries something new with this franchise and succeeds admirably. This is a game we’ll definitely be waiting to show up on Nintendo Switch Online one of these days.
11. Metroid: Other M
Platform: Nintendo Wii
This one could get a little controversial. Few games in the Metroid series got as much flack from fans as Metroid: Other M did. The long-awaited direct sequel to Super Metroid, Other M turned Samus Aran from a strong, silent, intergalactic badass into a petulant child and a whiny malcontent. For those reasons and others, the story of this game is often considered to be the worst in the series.
However, putting the plot aside, Other M is a unique, fast-paced, and action-oriented spin on the 2D Metroid formula. Offering the best of both worlds, Other M also allows players to switch back and forth between the first-person perspective of Prime, a mechanic that gives it a really cool style and interplay. It might not be for everyone, but Metroid: Other M isn’t nearly as bad as you’ve likely heard.
10. Metroid II: Return of Samus
Platform: Game Boy
The sequel to the original adventure, Metroid II: Return of Samus brought its intergalactic heroine to a handheld platform for the first time. Centering around a mission to eradicate the metroid species once and for all, Return of Samus has you searching around SR-388 for every last one of the parasitic organisms before facing off against their queen.
While Metroid II is still worth playing or watching a playthrough of as a curiosity, two vastly superior remakes in the form of AM2R and Metroid: Samus Returns render the game almost entirely superfluous at this point. If you want to experience this adventure, there are definitely better ways to do it.
The gaming landscape would look a whole lot different without the original Metroid. A foundational game that would eventually go on to partly inspire its own subgenre, Metroid is a quintessential entry in the classic canon of NES must-plays. The game introduced many of the most iconic elements of the series, including protagonist Samus Aran, series rival Ridley, and, of course, Mother Brain.
Like with the previous entry, though, there’s just a much better way to experience this adventure in the form of Metroid: Zero Mission. Playing the game with a map, more modern graphics and design, new moves, and a whole extra mission tacked onto the end of the adventure is the by far superior way to play the original Metroid.
8. Metroid: Zero Mission
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Hot off the success of Metroid Fusion, Metroid: Zero Mission gave players the chance to replay the original Metroid with modern graphics and presentation. Also adding in the Gravity Suit, diagonal aiming, and wall-jumping, Zero Mission is infinitely more playable than the original game.
Furthermore, Zero Mission adds in new content, including parts of Crateria from Super Metroid and a nail-biting finale that sees Samus having to battle and explore without her iconic Power Suit. The game may be over in a few short hours, but it’s still well worth playing and easily the best version of Samus’ first adventure.
7. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Retro Studios went in a different direction for its Metroid Prime sequel, focusing on a battle between light and darkness. Set on Aether, a decimated planet with a dimensional flux at its center, Samus must weave back and forth between the two worlds in hopes of restoring order and saving the last of its species from extinction.
More notable, though, this is the first appearance of Dark Samus. Created at the very end of Metroid Prime by the titular parasite, Dark Samus adds a new level of fear and tension to the series that’s similar to Fusion’s SA-X, only in 3D.
Though the campaign is the weakest of the three mainline Prime games, it’s still a lot of fun and using the Screw Attack in 3D for the first time is a total blast.
6. Metroid: Samus Returns
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Nintendo’s answer to AM2R, the unauthorized fan remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, Metroid: Samus Returns was developed by MercurySteam, who also went on to work on Metroid Dread. In its basic campaign layout, it remains largely the same as Metroid II, as Samus must eradicate the entire species of Metroids to extinction on SR-388 and kill their queen.
However, where Samus Returns diverges is where things get really interesting. A new counter-attack mechanic gives battle a melee-heavy, hyper aggressive feeling. There are also a ton of new items and moves not seen in the original game, shiny new 3DS graphics, and all the modern bells and whistles fans could ask for.
5. Metroid Fusion
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Arriving the same year as Metroid Prime, Fusion was the answer for fans who wanted to keep the classic style of Metroid adventures rather than adopting the fancy new first-person perspective. The first game in the series to feature a stalker-type enemy in the form of the SA-X, Fusion set the tone of many Metroid games to come, including 2021 game of the year contender, Dread. It may have taken nearly two decades for that inspiration to reach its modern form but credit where credit is due.
Though some take issue with the computer guiding Samus’ progress so much throughout her adventure, Fusion is still packed with enough secrets to keep fans busy exploring for hours and the way the map grows and changes throughout is a truly inspired bit of level design magic.
4. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Platform: Nintendo Wii
The first Metroid game to hit the Nintendo Wii, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption made some big changes to the franchise. For starters, the motion controls could be used to aim and fire Samus’ arm cannon and, even cooler, could even be used to pilot from the cockpit of Samus’ iconic ship.
Even cooler, the adventure was not confined to a single planet, but several different planets, moons, and nearby space crafts. This design choice led to a ton of level variety and plenty of cool new items and suits to use in terms of exploration. An excellent game that sent the Prime trilogy off in grand style, Corruption is among the best of the first-person Metroid games.
3. Metroid Dread
Platform: Nintendo Switch
The triumphant return to consoles and the first sequel to push ahead the Metroid timeline in nearly 20 years, Metroid Dread arrived with a tonne of fanfare. It was a serious game of the year contender and a game that channeled the hardest titles in the indie scene with blistering combat, intense run-and-gun action and the most dangerous stalker types yet.
The amazing boss fights alone put Metroid Dread in a league of its own. Take the amazing three stage final boss for a new fight and the returning Kraid boss for a legacy battle. Both are amazing in such different ways, and this is a running theme with each incredible encounter.
Balancing stealth, action, exploration, and some of the most intricate design in the series’ history, Metroid Dread is an ever-evolving masterpiece of game design. Finding its secrets is one thing, figuring out how to nab them is another challenge altogether. Owing to that quality and flourish, Metroid Dread is among the best 2D games in this entire franchise.
2. Metroid Prime
Platform(s): GameCube, Switch
Metroid Prime came along when Nintendo was in the midst of making big changes to its three flagship franchises. Mario got a water cannon, Link went cartoony, and Metroid, for its part, went first-person. It was a jarring change for such a beloved 2D figure to be reduced to just a visor view and the occasional ball-rolling section but damned if they didn’t pull it off.
Retro Studios reworked everything that made Super Metroid such a classic experience and molded it out into the 3D realm. Tallon IV is one of the greatest worlds ever created in gaming history and exploring it is as enthralling as it is mysterious. Around every corner are new alien life forms, untold secrets to discover with Samus visors, and all manner of different environments to delve into.
Though Metroid was always known as a 2D franchise, even through the N64 days, its move to 3D was one of the biggest success stories of its generation and a game easily among the best first-person shooters of all time.
1. Super Metroid
When it comes to the absolute best Metroid game in the series, it also comes down to the most influential. With its superb world design, tons of ways to fight and explore, and secrets around every corner, Super Metroid blazed a trail all its own on the SNES.
Super Metroid comes packed with a giant map to explore and tons of upgrades, abilities, and weapons to help you do so. The process of exploring Zebes and finding new stuff with each new item is so incredibly addictive that it helped to launch the metroidvania subgenre.
Packed with epic bosses to tackle, a whole variety of ways to fight enemies, and some of the most atmospheric locations of the 16-bit era, Super Metroid fills players with a haunting sense of foreboding around every corner. You really feel like you’re exploring a dangerous alien planet, while the haunting music and creepy enemy design help to keep you enthralled with each new discovery.
Super Metroid isn’t just the best Metroid game, though, it’s also the most emotionally satisfying. Setting the stage with simple, wordless storytelling and a detached tone, Super Metroid absolutely gut punches you with an ending that’s as sad as it is triumphant. In short: this isn’t just the best Metroid game ever, it’s also one of the greatest games ever made.
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