Metroid is one of the first names to come to mind whenever the topic of the best video game series is brought to question. For over three decades, the franchise has captivated gamers with its thrilling blend of exploration, sci-fi ambience, and the iconic bounty hunter, Samus Aran. The series has constantly pushed boundaries since its inception during the NES days. It can undoubtedly be considered the origin of the beloved Metroidvania genre.
The Metroid franchise has transitioned a lot throughout the years, and has never shied from exploring different styles of gameplay. This is one of the reasons why it’s fairly difficult to rank the games of the franchise, because the preference for many of them could simply boil down to what sort of gameplay and genres the players prefer. Regardless, this article will judge the games in terms of their creativity, narrative, and overall gaming experience.
Here are all the Metroid games ranked, including a few that aren’t considered mainline (or canon) in the metroid timeline, from worst to best.
12. Metroid: Other M (2010)
Perhaps the most polarising entry in the entire franchise, Metroid: Other M regrettably tarnished the reputation of the otherwise nearly perfect franchise.
The game attempted to be ambitious, but without any direction. It attempted to blend elements of classic 2D Metroid gameplay with third-person action, which didn’t really work. However, the main reason for its bad reputation is how it mistreated all the years of development Samus had as a character. Many complained that it treated Samus as a subservient and dependent character, which was inconsistent with her otherwise independent and strong portrayal.
It was also far more restrictively paced due to having a more linear progression. There was barely any exploration, and the first-person perspective was often forced. The controls also terribly utilised the Nintendo Wii remote.
It’s far from being one of the worst games of all time, but Metroid: Other M’s misguided narrative choices, restrictive gameplay, and flawed controls ultimately are what make it the worst Metroid game to date.
11. Metroid Prime: Hunters
This spinoff to the Metroid Prime series had a fair amount of potential, but fell short of them, resulting in a mediocre final product. The game attempted to bring the Prime series’ first-person experience to the Nintendo DS, which was quite ballsy on its own due to the hardware’s limitations. Regardless, it did have some narrative nuances, as it introduced other bounty hunters to compete against Samus. It also brought in a competitive multiplayer mode.
The game, however, suffered a lot due to its gameplay mechanics. The controls, particularly the touch-screen aiming, failed to be precise. The single-player mode also felt quite repetitive due to a lack of nuance in gameplay throughout the game’s progression. Even the multiplayer modes were limited.
All of this makes Metroid Prime: Hunters a lost potential. It would’ve been great to have had a decent Metroid game on the DS, but what we have instead is a relatively fun game that eventually gets repetitive.
10. Metroid (1986)
Despite being the debut of the Metroid franchise, the game wasn’t able to form an identity for itself beyond a few iconic mechanics. It may as well be considered a prototype of what the Metroidvania genre has become today.
It may be historically significant, but the premises of such a project may as well be a bit too ambitious for hardware like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). It didn’t have a map, and the controls were fairly limited due to the dated hardware.
When comparing it to the remake, Metroid: Zero Mission, the original Metroid lacked refined gameplay mechanics, improved visuals, and quality of life enhancements. Zero Mission was also narratively richer.
It’s not a stretch to call Metroid even groundbreaking, but its dated design and technical limitations puts it at the bottom of the franchise’s entries, more of a testament to how good the franchise is as a whole.
9. Metroid II: Return of Samus (1991)
Metroid II: Return of Samus was a formative entry in the Metroid series. While its historical significance cannot be overlooked, the limitations of the Game Boy hardware at the time resulted in a weaker experience compared to its remake.
Still, for something released on hardware so limited, Metroid II: Return of Samus had its achievements. Its non-linear exploration was surprisingly good, and the story was engaging too. The monochromatic visuals and limited screen resolution of the Game Boy may have made the game less visually immersive, but they bring a different sort of uniqueness to it, which could’ve been used better.
There’s no doubt that Metroid II: Return of Samus is a classic, but maybe the Nintendo Game Boy wasn’t able to let it achieve its true potential. Either way, it still makes for a great nostalgic experience.
8. Metroid: Samus Returns (2017)
Metroid: Samus Returns is a decent reimagination of the classic Game Boy title, Metroid II: Return of Samus. Released in 2017 for the Nintendo 3DS, it breathed new life into the iconic handheld adventure.
The enhanced visuals apart, Metroid: Samus Returns brought nuance to the table, compared to the original game. We follow Samus Aran on her journey to eradicate the Metroid menace on the planet SR388.
The new gameplay additions featured new abilities, weapons, and a free-aiming system. More strategic options were provided with the addition of Aeion abilities and counterattacks too.
While it’s not as much of an improvement over the original as Metroid: Zero Mission was over the first Metroid, Metroid: Samus Returns is still the definitive experience of the franchise’s second chapter.
7. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007)
It may be a relatively divisive finale to an otherwise great trilogy, but the innovation cannot be denied. Released in 2007 for the Nintendo Wii, it continued the first-person adventure with a new level of immersion.
The addition of the Wii’s motion control mechanics added a new layer of engagement and precision to Samus Aran’s actions. It was environmentally quite different to the first two games, but still had stunning visuals. It featured epic boss battles, exhilarating action sequences, and a gripping narrative that tied up loose ends in the Prime storyline.
It’s also more linear in progression than both of its predecessors, which is what brought forth some naysayers. Regardless, it finds a reasonable balance between linearity and exploration.
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption may not be as great as its predecessors, but it’s still a worthy concluding chapter for the Prime saga.
6. Metroid Fusion (2002)
Metroid Fusion is hands-down one of the most creative games of the franchise. Released in 2002 for the Game Boy Advance, it offered a unique twist to the traditional Metroid gameplay style.
The story is compelling from the get-go, as Samus’ life is threatened by a parasitic organism. The player traverses through the Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) station, progressing further into the story and battling against powerful X Parasites.
The game was more linear than entries like Super Metroid, but it still maintained aspects of exploration and discovery. Samus’ fusion suit also gains new abilities and skills throughout the gameplay, which enhances the overall experience.
There’s more of a sense of urgency in Metroid Fusion due to Samus’ ailing condition, which also makes the gameplay intense. It may not be a top contender, but it still remains one of the standout entries in the series. hey
5. Metroid: Zero Mission (2004)
Metroid: Zero Mission is a reimagining of the original Metroid game. Besides the game’s obvious technological advantages, it achieves many potentials that the original game missed. Released in 2004 for the Game Boy Advance, it breathed new life into Samus Aran’s iconic debut adventure.
It recaptured the original’s essence but not without incorporating modern enhancements. The revamped graphics, improved controls, and expanded gameplay mechanics make it much more than a good remake of the original. The lore is pretty much the same, as the player encounters the treacherous planet Zebes, where many secrets are unravelled.
A lot of newer abilities and areas were also introduced, which provided a breath of fresh air even for those who played the original. The addition of stealth sections and intense boss battles are just cherry-on-top.
Metroid: Zero Mission is the definitive first chapter experience for the Metroid saga. The original may still be fun, but if the quality is to be valued, Metroid: Zero Mission makes for a much better introduction.
4. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004)
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is an outstanding sequel to the game that reinvented the franchise. Released in 2004 for the Nintendo GameCube, Echoes introduced the parallel dimension of Aether and brought the franchise to places darker than it ventured before.
The game’s most iconic feature was its dual-realm mechanics, which allowed players to navigate between the Dark and Light realms of Aether. This added more nuance and depth to the overall experience, as both realms had unique puzzles and enemies. Samus’ new weapons and skills also make the gameplay more fun. The themes of light and dark also play a massive part in the narrative. And while treating these themes in a binary manner makes the game narratively weak compared to its predecessor, it’s handled with much more nuance than the usual depictions of this duality.
The game’s higher difficulty and complex puzzles may have been challenging to some, but Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is still one of the most ambitious games in the franchise, as it pushed the franchise’s lore and gameplay in many complex directions.
3. Metroid Dread (2021)
A few may consider this recency bias, but we believe Metroid Dread really does deserve this place. Not to take any credit away from Metroid Prime 2: Echoes or Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion, but the franchise’s most recent entry is undoubtedly one of the very best. The topic of the best Metroid game may mostly boil down to Super Metroid and Metroid Prime, but the franchise is so rich in quality that there’s enough competition among even the other titles.
Regardless, the reason why Metroid Dread is placed here is due to the game’s willingness to be creative despite going back to the traditional Metroidvania style of gameplay. Much like the SNES, NES, and GBA Metroid games, it features a 2D, side-scrolling action-adventure gameplay, and relies a lot on exploration and backtracking. A bunch of new moves are also introduced, including Omega Cannon, Spider Magnet (which allows Samus to stick to walls), Phantom Cloak (which provides invisibility), and Dash Melee (which allows Samus to dash into enemies). In addition to these new gameplay features, Metroid Dread also features a number of quality-of-life improvements, such as a map that shows the player’s current location and a scanner that can be used to identify enemies and objects.
The story is a much-desired continuation of Metroid Fusion, and is incredibly well-paced and compelling. It features arguably the most suspenseful story in the whole franchise, full of twists and turns. The boss battles are also engaging, and the ability to upgrade one’s skills adds even more to the experience. Every boss has a unique style of fighting, which compels the user to strategise uniquely. Often newer games can become more casual, but this is a hard title and proves a challenge for even seasoned Metroid fans.
It’s kind of surreal that this iconic franchise is producing excellent entries even decades after its creation. Metroid Dread may have been released on the Nintendo Switch less than two years ago, but it has already cemented its place as one of the franchise’s greatest games already.
2. Metroid Prime (2002)
Arguably an equally popular choice for the question of the best Metroid game. Released in 2002 for the Nintendo GameCube, the game pushed the boundaries of the series and introduced a fresh perspective to the Metroid universe.
The most significant change brought forth by Metroid Prime was the first-person viewpoint. It reimagined the Metroid saga with a first-person perspective, which, despite the differences, immersed players even more into the tale of Samus Aran in its own way. It seamlessly blended exploration, atmospheric storytelling, and intense combat, elevating the Metroid experience to new heights.
The game’s combat still doesn’t feel dated, and has so many enjoyable features. It also had extremely beautiful visuals. From the hauntingly atmospheric ruins to the treacherous jungles, each environment was meticulously designed to evoke a sense of wonder and danger. Just like Super Metroid, Metroid Prime played a major role in introducing innovative gameplay mechanics that would become staples of the series.
Metroid Prime arguably also had the best exploration in the whole franchise. The game is far more fast-paced than the previous entries, and that makes it a perfect alternative Metroid experience. The story, too, feels more fast-paced, but the game actually uses that to its advantage.
The game was recently remastered too, to great acclaim, so you can enjoy this classic title with a huge upgrade to graphics and gameplay quality.
1. Super Metroid (1994)
Choosing the best Metroid game is not an easy decision at all. The Metroid Prime games and even Metroid Dread and the GBA entries (Metroid: Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission) make great candidates.
Regardless, Super Metroid is arguably the series’ most iconic game. Metroid already had a fanbase during the NES days but it was Super Metroid that brought the franchise to the big leagues. Released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), it has rightfully earned its place as a timeless masterpiece and the epitome of the Metroid series.
The best aspects of Super Metroid would be its reliance on non-linear gameplay, creative mechanics, and beautiful level design. It brought players the freedom to traverse throughout the entirety of Zebes, which added an aspect of exploration for a game of this genre. The game captivates you from the very first moment. The franchise may have progressed a lot through all these years but the tensions and cinematic excellence of Super Metroid are still unrivaled.
Super Metroid’s level design is a masterclass in game design. It’s a seamless ensemble of diverse environments, from the eerie depths of Brinstar to the technological marvels of Tourian. There’s a lot of uniqueness attributed to every area in terms of both the aesthetic and the gameplay.
The game also brought forth a bunch of iconic actions, like Morph Ball and Screw Attack, to the series. Not to forget the game’s tremendous and highly cinematic boss battles.
The Metroid franchise has had a number of excellent games, but Super Metroid is arguably the best example of all the creative values that the franchise stands for.
So, this sums up our thoughts on all the major Metroid games. It’s obvious that any sort of a ranking for a franchise this iconic would result in a lot of debate, but we made sure to weigh-in on certain consensuses, as well as our own judgments on every game’s authenticity and timelessness.
Looking forward, it seems like Metroid Prime 4’s release date is still unknown, and Metroid Dread still remains the most recent title. Where the series will head next is unknown, but we’re optimistic that there are future Metroid entries that will add to and improve the series.
Do you agree with our list? Let us know in the comments.