Super Metroid begins with some exposition that leads into a suspenseful action scene. Following the events of Metroid II: Return of Samus, Samus leaves the Metroid hatchling from the end of the last story with a group of scientists at the Ceres Space Colony who believed they could use the Metroid’s power.
Upon receiving a distress signal from the planet, Samus returns to find all of the scientists dead and the Metroid missing. Ridley, leader of the Space Pirates reveals itself to be the thief behind the crime, and attacks Samus upon her arrival. The player controls Samus as she initiates an unbeatable battle against Ridley, until at one point Ridley triggers the planet’s self-destruct sequence. The player then must escape the planet, as all great Metroid stories require them to do so.
Super Metroid is as much sequel as it is remake of the original NES game. You follow a familiar pattern as in Metroid, requiring the player to explore the limits of an expansive map and battle creatures and monsters along the way. This time, instead of the two, Kraid and Ridley, Samus faces four bosses before reaching the end of the story. Once each of the four have been defeated, Samus can approach Mother Brain, but not before meeting the Metroid hatchling once again. It at first attacks Samus, but will later return during the final battle as Samus’ ultimate savior.
What makes Super Metroid great is not easy to place into a collection of words. I first played Super Metroid years after my deep infatuation with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night set in place, and it was my first Metroid experience. Like many are forced to recognize Metroid today, I really only knew the games as “the ones with that girl from Super Smash Bros.” Super Smash Bros. on Nintendo 64 was my first exposure to Samus, and it wouldn’t be until I bought a Wii that I played Super Metroid and later Metroid.
I remember wandering through the dripping halls of Zebes for the first time and feeling that I was inside of this world. What still strikes me today when I play Super Metroid is the level of immersion that the developers were able to create and sustain throughout the duration of playing the game. While exploring through the map, I felt like Samus- a little scared to find what was waiting for me next, but confident in myself enough to brave forward and see how far I could go.
Perhaps it took eight years to follow up Super Metroid because it was so difficult to follow up a masterpiece. I’ve now played through the game many times on several different platforms and it continues to feel great. Nintendo perfectly weighted Samus, and find balance between the platforming of Mario and the exploration and wonder of The Legend of Zelda once again. Unlike its NES predecessor, Super Metroid varies its locations with a bit more contrast, giving weight to the world that Samus has found herself exploring.
The final fight with Mother Brain is incredibly iconic and remains in my head one of my greatest gaming achievements, as well as one of the most invigorating and provocative. While it is largely the same as when Samus takes on Mother Brain in Metroid, experiencing that fight for the first time leaves an impression. Here, with the aforementioned scene playing out the way it does, and feeling the impact of the Metroid hatchling attaching itself to Samus in a childlike way, a certain gravity is added to the story that would otherwise be lost. The fury of avoidance that you endure as a player while seemingly thousands of projectiles come hurling your way and you feel like there is no end to the fight still vibrates through me like a cold memory.
I’ve often said that I would play and love a game like Super Metroid if Nintendo just randomly generated a map and tossed in some new weapons, releasing a game like this once a year. Looking back, I know how silly that would be and how quickly it could ruin a great thing. Super Metroid is one of the highpoints of not only the 16-bit era and the Super Nintendo, but of gaming history. Many games have pulled from it as a source of inspiration and many will continue to. If you’ve yet to experience this game, find it on one of Nintendo’s current Virtual Console platforms or track down the original cart. It is something incredible to be seen.