ByAna Valens, writer at
Writer and games critic. As seen at the Daily Dot, Waypoint, Kill Screen, Bitch Media, and ZEAL.
Ana Valens

is Ana Valens’ weekly column introducing new players and non-gamers to essential gaming franchises.

Metroid, from Nintendo, is one of the most recognizable action-adventure series in gaming,. It is both one of the most influential and one of the best-selling franchises released by Nintendo. Originally inspired by Ridley Scott's Alien, the series casts the player as space bounty hunter Samus Aran as she traverses the galaxy to foil the Space Pirates' plans to exploit an alien species, the Metroid.

Metroid has seen many iterations across Nintendo consoles over the years, from side-scrolling platformers on the NES to first-person shooters on the GameCube. Most Metroid games are considered classics, with the Metroid Prime series in particular standing out as one of the most critically acclaimed series in gaming.

With Metroid Prime 4 on the way for Nintendo Switch, there's no better time to try out the series.

Whether you're interested in Samus Aran's world or simply want a quick refresher after E3, don't worry. We've got you covered.

The History Of Samus Aran

'Super Metroid' [Source: Nintendo]
'Super Metroid' [Source: Nintendo]

The original Metroid debuted for the NES back in 1986, produced by Gunpei Yokoi and directed by Satoru Okada and Yoshio Sakamoto. In that game, bounty hunter Samus Aran is sent to the Space Pirate headquarters on Zebes in order to protect the Galactic Federation from the Metroids, an alien species the Space Pirates plan to turn into biological weapons.

Metroid introduced many of the series' 2D platformer staples. Samus Aran explored an open-world cave, defeating enemies, grabbing power-ups, and fighting bosses. The game did incredibly well, and introduced one of the first female action protagonists in the industry.

Five years after the original Metroid, Nintendo released Metroid II: Return of Samus for Game Boy in 1991 on Game Boy, bringing Samus to the planet SR388 in order to kill Metroids there. By and large, Metroid II was received less favorably than the original, but today Metroid II is hailed as a solid title that introduced a non-linear, single level open-world approach that would later influence other games inside the franchise.

Then, Nintendo retooled the franchise with one of the most iconic games in the entire series: Super Metroid. Released for the SNES, Super Metroid fleshed out the Metroid universe with beautiful graphics, refined gameplay, and even stronger replay value. Thanks in part to its breathtaking graphics and enormous open world, Super Metroid is still considered one of the best titles in the series, and is regularly included in Top 10 lists of SNES games.

The series continued its 2D legacy with Metroid Fusion, released on the Game Boy Advance in 2002. It would be another 2002 title, however, that truly brought Metroid to critical acclaim in the 21st century.

Metroid Prime Sets A New Stage For Samus

'Metroid Prime 3: Corruption' [Source: Nintendo]
'Metroid Prime 3: Corruption' [Source: Nintendo]

The Nintendo GameCube came out in 2001, and Nintendo needed a new release to show off the system's capabilities for serious 3D action. So Retro Studios and Nintendo combined forces to create Metroid Prime for the GameCube.

Set on Tallon IV, Prime brought the player from a side-scrolling 2D world into a full-fledged 3D first-person shooter adventure. This not only showed the potential for first-person action games at the time, it opened up a brand new world for Metroid fans. Metroid Prime made Samus feel like a living, breathing character inside an enormous world. Fans loved it.

Fans quickly demanded a sequel, and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was released in 2004, followed by Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Nintendo Wii in 2007. Both games were met with critical acclaim, considered worthy successors to the original Metroid Prime. Some fans consider Prime as the series' peak, truly rounding out Samus Aran's legacy in both platforming and FPS gameplay.

The future of the series looked bright. Then we got Team Ninja's take on the series, Metroid: Other M.

'Metroid: Other M' [Source: Nintendo]
'Metroid: Other M' [Source: Nintendo]

Other M relied on the same world exploration that marked the other Metroid games, but the game was more linear, and used a third-person action perspective with occasional first-person aiming. While not necessarily bad, Other M was hardly a true successor to the Metroid Prime series.

Samus was written to be weak, frail, and dependent on others: a total departure from her role as a strong independent character. And the game's approach to combat and exploration felt watered down compared to previous releases. Sure, melee combat spiced up gameplay, and fans were happy to see a new third-person action game in the Metroid series. But Other M didn't feel like a Metroid title; it felt like a spin-off.

Metroid: Other M was generally well reviewed. But it couldn't hit the high watermark of the Prime games, leaving fans eager for another Prime release. Hence the upcoming Metroid Prime 4.

Where To Start? Well, Pick A Genre

'Metroid Prime' [Source: Neo Encyclopedia Wiki]
'Metroid Prime' [Source: Neo Encyclopedia Wiki]

The Metroid series has stellar releases across a range of consoles and genres. Which is good for new players, because you can essentially start wherever you'd like, from the SNES to the Nintendo GameCube. Most games are available directly from Nintendo, too. If you don't know where to start, the best way to jump into Metroid is to pick a genre that you prefer.

If you enjoy side-scrolling platformers, start with Super Metroid, the most critically acclaimed 2D action game in the entire series. To this day, Super Metroid is still adored by fans, and the game hasn't aged too harshly over the years. It still feels similar to many indie Metroidvania releases floating around on Steam and the Wii U. It's pretty easy to play Super Metroid, as Nintendo hosts the game as part of their Virtual Console service. So feel free to hop on in if you have a Wii, Wii U, or Nintendo 3DS.

When In Doubt, Go Prime

'Metroid Prime' [Source: Metroid Wiki]
'Metroid Prime' [Source: Metroid Wiki]

On the other hand, if your preference is for first-person shooters, stick with the Metroid Prime trilogy. Go in chronological order here: play Metroid Prime, then move onto Metroid Prime 2 and Metroid Prime 3.

Like Super Metroid, the Metroid Prime series has aged pretty well, and it's still fun to return to and explore. Plus, it's pretty easy to pick up the series. Like Super Metroid, you can also grab Metroid Prime: Trilogy for Wii U from Nintendo.

As for the other games? Feel free to pick and choose as you'd like. If you want to experience the series from the start and work your way to the modern releases, then go ahead and start with Metroid for the NES. You can also grab Metroid: Other M for Wii, but we don't recommend playing this one first because the game has some serious rough spots. Explore the series in a bit more detail before grabbing Other M.

In Conclusion, It's All About Genre

'Metroid Prime 4' [Source: Nintendo]
'Metroid Prime 4' [Source: Nintendo]

Eager to fight some Space Pirates? We are too. Here's what we recommend.

Metroid (1986) and Metroid II (1991)

  • Play if: You want to experience the series from its start.
  • But generally: Save these games until later; start with Super Metroid if you want a 2D experience.

Super Metroid (1994)

  • Play if: You want to play the 2D Metroid series at its peak, and you would like to experience one of the best games in the franchise's history.

Metroid Prime: Trilogy (2002 - 2007)

  • Play if: You're eager to experience first-person Metroid in all its glory.
  • Also play if: You want a stellar contemporary Metroid experience.

Metroid: Other M (2010)

  • Play if: You've already played other Metroid games and want to see a different interpretation of Samus.
  • But generally: Pass on this one, as it weakens Samus's character and has flawed gameplay.

Those are our Metroid recommendations. What's your favorite Samus Aran adventure? Share yours in the comments below.


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