A new Metroid Prime game is on the way! Confirmed at E3 2017, Metroid Prime 4 is a new entry in the classic series of Metroid games for the GameCube and Wii, and it’s being developed by Retro Studios. But Metroid‘s legacy goes far beyond the Prime series.
More than thirty years ago, players thought the badass character they were playing as was a man, only to have Samus Aran surprise everyone when she took the helmet off, a major moment in gaming history that paved the way for more female protagonists in the ’90s and ’00s.
Metroid has never been afraid to try something new. This is the series that transitioned from 2D to first-person without a hitch, but then followed that up with a pinball game. While some experiments have proved more successful than others, there’s no question that the series as a whole is one of the greatest video game franchises of all-time.
Here’s our ranking of all 13 games in the Metroid series:
13. Metroid Prime: Federation Force
2016 | Next Level Games | 3DS
This article began by giving Nintendo credit for being willing to experiment, but we’re sorry to say that this particular Metroid game is a mess that only makes the wait for a more traditional entry in the franchise that much harder. Instead of playing as Samus, players take on the role of a random soldier.
Federation Force feels like some random developer’s game demo that Nintendo decided to attach the Metroid name to after the fact. Sure, there are some cameos and references for longtime franchise fans, but the core gameplay just doesn’t hold up. And now the wait for Metroid Prime 4 on the Nintendo Switch begins.
12. Metroid: Other M
2010 | Nintendo, Team Ninja, D-Rockets | Wii
With only a few exceptions, Samus Aran has spent most of the series concealed by her body armor, and Metroid as a whole has always had a strong focus on mystery and exploration. Nintendo intentionally deviated from this formula for Other M, and attempted to give Samus a more fleshed-out backstory. She even spent an extended amount of time out of her iconic suit.
Some hardcore fans appreciated the unique approach. Other M even pulled in some positive reviews upon release, but the game just hasn’t held up well over the last six years. The game’s poor writing, cringe-worthy voice acting, and linear nature are the leading reasons why Other M ends up towards the bottom of our list. At times, the greater focus on combat over exploration makes this title feel like it’s not even a Metroid game.
11. Metroid Prime Pinball
2005 | Fuse Games | DS
Much like Federation Force, Metroid Prime Pinball feels more like a game demo with a Metroid skin than a full-fledged proper entry in the series. That said, we can’t really knock the gameplay here: It’s pretty hard to screw up pinball. Making use of Samus’s iconic ball ability for a game like this is pretty clever, and there are other nice references throughout.
10. Metroid Prime Hunters
2006 | Nintendo | DS
Metroid Prime Hunters was Nintendo’s attempt to bring the first-person gameplay perfected on the GameCube to the Nintendo DS. The game has its moments, but trying to shoehorn the console experience onto a handheld created some awkward controls and other difficulties. The game made heavy use of the DS touchscreen, but with no analog sticks, movement was sometimes a struggle. Still, the title was graphically impressive for a handheld at the time and maintained most of the atmosphere that Metroid games are known for.
9. Metroid II: Return of Samus
1991 | Nintendo | GB
The second game in the franchise was also the first released on a handheld, the original Game Boy. The game didn’t reinvent the wheel, sticking largely to the formula created by the original NES game, although there were some adjustments made due to the obvious limitations that came with the Game Boy hardware. Metroid II even recycled much of the original’s graphics and music. But as far as “more of the same” goes, this was a worthy sequel to the original. The game’s story was also particularly well-written and had some serious implications for other games in the series.
8. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
2004 | Retro Studios | GC
The entire Metroid Prime trilogy is an epic masterpiece, but if you had to pick out one game that is technically the “worst” of the three, it would be Echoes. The game is just as good-looking and fun to play as the other two in the series, but Echoes loses points due to certain sections that felt a bit like padding. You could also argue that the switching between a “light” and “dark” world to solve puzzles felt a little too Zelda-inspired. The game’s multiplayer was also a drag. Overall, Echoes‘ single-player campaign is excellent, though.
7. Metroid: Zero Mission
2004 | Nintendo | GBA
Metroid: Zero Mission was a 2004 remake of the original Metroid, designed from scratch for the Game Boy Advance. The game introduced a new stealth section that didn’t really hit the mark, but it is still a faithful recreation of the original with some sensible adjustments made for the modern era. The game drew rave reviews at the time of release for its colorful graphics, which brought the ambiance of Zebes to life for a new generation.
6. Metroid: Samus Returns
Metroid: Samus Returns is a reimagining of the second Metroid game, which was released for Game Boy in 1991. While the original game was a worthy sophomore outing for Samus, as she travels to the Metroid home planet of SR388 to destroy the rest of the titular alien life forms. Playing much like the first game, Return of Samus wasn’t quite the jump forward that Super Metroid would be three years later.
That said, it’s great to relive this oft-forgotten adventure with updated graphics and modern controls on the 3DS. Samus Returns is a smooth platformer that showcases the series’ side-scrolling golden age in the years before the franchise became better associated with the first-person shooter genre. This is nostalgia at its finest.
5. Metroid Fusion
2002 | Nintendo | GBA
Metroid Fusion was overlooked by some at launch because it was released the same day as Metroid Prime in 2002. But for fans of the 2D version of Metroid, Metroid Fusion has a lot to love. The story, in particular, is especially intriguing. It introduces the X-parasite, which is a result of Samus’s act of genocide in Metroid II. Fusion also boasted unique connectivity between the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube. Connecting a copy of Fusion to a copy of Metroid Prime unlocks new features in both games.
1986 | Nintendo | NES
Metroid is one of the most innovative games ever made. It didn’t just set up the formula that’s been followed by most other Metroid titles. This game, along with Castlevania, also created an entire subgenre of action-adventure games. Since their introduction in 1986, Metroidvania games have been a staple of the gaming world.
It’s no secret why so many developers have emulated Metroid‘s formula over the years. The game’s gigantic world is impressive. Its non-linear gameplay, combined with a pretty stout degree of difficulty, makes this game one of the great classics from the 8-bit era. Sure, it wasn’t perfect, but it introduced many new concepts to the typical adventure game, especially the collection of powerups and backtracking. Lots and lots of backtracking.
3. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
2007 | Retro Studios | Wii
Metroid Prime 3 continued the great gameplay of the first two GameCube games on the Nintendo Wii. The introduction of motion controls was a perfect fit that further immersed the player in the world. The game’s story and level design also returned to near-perfect form after the mistakes made by Echoes. In fact, the motion controls were such a hit that Nintendo saw fit to re-release the first two GameCube games on the Wii in the form of Metroid Prime Trilogy.
2. Metroid Prime
2002 | Retro Studios & Nintendo | GC
When Metroid Prime was first announced, long-time fans of the franchise were taken aback. Metroid had always been a 2D side-scroller. The move to a first-person shooter seemed to betray everything that fans loved about the series. Fortunately, all of those fears evaporated as soon as fans actually played the game. The game faithfully maintains the exploration and weapon-upgrading that the series is known for. It could even be argued that the FPS angle made the game feel even more atmospheric and immersive.
1. Super Metroid
1994 | Nintendo | SNES
Metroid II: Return of Samus may have technically been a continuation of the NES game but Super Metroid was the real sequel that fans had been waiting for. It’s honestly hard to pick between this game and Metroid Prime for the top spot, but Super Metroid gets the nod thanks to the introduction of so many iconic abilities that would shape the future of the franchise, such as “the Moon Walk” and a navigational map.
Super Metroid stands neck to neck with The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past as the best game on the Super Nintendo. And it’s not just the best Metroid game ever, it’s quite possibly the best video game of all-time.
Jason Gallagher is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.