By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
In addition to our longest longest quiz ever about the franchise, the 30th anniversary celebration of Metroid here at the Chi-Scroller is being celebrated with a ranking of the games in the series in order of quality. Unlike the worst-to-best list we did for Castlevania awhile back, where the bottom parts of the list had games that were definitely classifiable as “bad,” I personally don’t believe that any of the Metroid games have been truly bad games. So even the worst games on this list are still decent games, by my estimation.
11 – Metroid Prime Hunters
Hunters gets a bad rap for its cramp-inducing control scheme and repeating boss battles. And some of that flak is fair. But those that were willing to have achy hands were treated to one of the franchise’s most underappreciated games, one that has the look and feel of some kind of lost Prime game for N64 that never got released. It’s definitely more worth sore hands that Kid Icarus Uprising. Also: voice chat in an online Nintendo shooter! Remember when they were doing crazy things like that?
10 – Metroid II: Return of Samus
Nintendo did the best it could with bringing a series of such an ambitious scope to the under-powered Game Boy, especially so early in that system’s life. Waiting a few more years to get a better grip on the hardware, like they did with Zelda, probably would’ve made for a much better game. Still, for its time, Metroid II was as close as anybody could’ve gotten to successfully bringing Samus to the small screen. Bonus points for its fantastic built-in Super Game Boy color palette.
9 – Metroid: Other M
No, the story and voice acting aren’t great, and the damage that this game did to Samus as a character will be tough to repair. Looking past all that, the actual game to be found in Other M is a respectable attempt at bridging the gap between Metroid‘s 2D and 3D legacies into a single package. Sure, trying to do both at once means that the mechanics and gameplay aren’t as polished as we’ve come to expect from a Metroid game. But the unorthodox 2.5D gameplay still has moments where it feels as thrilling as any game in the series (see screenshot).
8 – Metroid Prime Pinball
It just missed our list of best pinball video games, but that isn’t to say that Prime Pinball doesn’t deserve its due. Samus already rolls up into ball in the main Metroid games, so dropping her into a pinball game isn’t really all that big of a stretch. It doesn’t quite have the polish and fun factor of the better Nintendo pinball games, but Prime Pinball is still a worthy addition to both Nintendo’s pinball game legacy and the Metroid franchise.
7 – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
While it was great to finally get full control over Samus’ arm cannon after having to settle on the lock-on system of the previous two Prime games, that also meant that they decided to put a little too much shooting into Corruption. The chatty NPCs didn’t do the game any favors, either. All that aside, a lot of the motion stuff was really interesting, and the game was still a worthy final installment in the fantastic Prime trilogy and probably the best shooter on the Wii.
6 – Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Taking everything that was great about the first Prime and adding new elements like a dual light/dark world and doing interesting stuff with Samus’ Phazon infection shoud’ve made Prime 2 an even better game than its predecessor. Well, they made the game just a little too (artificially) long and difficult for it to usurp Prime. That said, a game that is merely almost as good as one of the greatest games ever made is a game that shouldn’t feel that badly about itself.
5 – Metroid
Zero Mission basically makes the original Metroid obsolete, and its old-school obtuseness and blind exploration are really hard to go back to, especially after Super Metroid. Still, Metroid was and still is a classic, and nothing can take away from how ridiculously innovative and groundbreaking it is and how well it still plays for those that have the time and patience for it (or just know it by heart). If nothing else, putting in the “Justin Bailey” code and plowing through the final stretch of the game in Samus’ crude 8-bit leotard is never a bad way to spend an hour.
4 – Metroid Fusion
The first 2D Metroid game after Super Metroid had a lot riding on it, especially after a nearly decade-long wait. Even stacked up against those kind of impossible odds, Fusion not only met every expectation but did so not by simply being Super Metroid 1.5–which most of us would’ve been content with–but by being one of the most unique games in the series. We all thought that the Metroids themselves were the scariest things we’d ever encounter in the series until we had to hide in air ducts from the powerful–and terrifying–SA-X.
3 – Metroid Prime
Speaking of expectations, the collective groan when it was announced that there’d be a first-person Metroid game signaled a gaming community that didn’t have high hopes for the franchise’s return to consoles. I can’t think of a time when we’ve ever been more wrong. Simply put, Metroid Prime is one of the best video games ever made, a nearly flawless action/adventure game that proved that having a game be first-person could be about isolation and atmosphere, and not just about sniping and head shots.
2 – Metroid: Zero Mission
Take the already-solid foundation of the original Metroid and add nearly 20 years of technology and experience and you have exactly what a remake should be: an improvement on the original in every way, and more. It seems like a cliche, but Zero Mission really does feel like the game that the Metroid team truly had in mind all those years ago and would’ve made if the hardware of the time allowed it. While #1’s place as the best Metroid of all time is pretty secure, Zero Mission is so good that, for the first time ever, a new #1 was actually even debatable.
1 – Super Metroid
People like to say that no video game could ever be truly perfect. Well screw(attack) that: I’m calling Super Metroid a perfect game and I don’t care who has a problem with that. Every second and every pixel of this game just bleeds with fanatical craftsmanship, and it’s amazing that it only took two years to complete. If you had told me they started workshopping Super Metroid in 1980 and it truly took that long to finish it, I’d totally believe it. This is one of those games that you play through again every single year, year after year, and enjoy it every bit as much as you did every previous time. It’ll be disappointing if they never make another true Metroid game, and more specifically a 2D one, but to have Super Metroid to play again and again is hardly a consolation prize to be all that sad about.
And a fitting parting shot. Rank these however you choose…
Like this list? Like shots of sexy digital women? Then you should check out the ranking I did of another franchise that’s just as famous for its curvy female protagonist as the games themselves: Tomb Raider.