Ranking the top 10 Metroid games requires looking at the game’s history and how gameplay evolved within the series. We’ll compare the gameplay of each game and how it made a difference in the series. With such a storied history, we’ll also rank the games based on the important stories and vivid worlds they created, which helped propel the series forward.
Metroid is one of the few games named after the antagonist instead of the hero. As a result, some people unfamiliar with the game (and trolls, of course) confuse Samus with Metroid. Samus Aran is the hero, and Metroids are the life-sucking organisms Samus tries to eradicate. Now that that’s all cleared up let’s get on with the list.
As always, our list is entirely based on our own opinion, and this time, we’ve lumped all of the games together while noting which Nintendo system they were released on.
10. Metroid Prime Hunters – DS
Metroid Prime Hunters wasn’t a great game, but it wasn’t terrible. The worst part about Hunters was the control scheme. You had to hold the Nintendo DS in one hand and control Samus while also using the stylus as a secondary control stick to point where she’s looking. It was a terrible design choice and the cause of many hand cramps.
The story takes place between Metroid Prime 1 and Prime 2. Samus and six other bounty hunters receive a telepathic message that the key to “ultimate power” resides in the Alimbic Cluster. Samus is tasked with retrieving the ultimate power before it falls into the wrong hands. This was the first time in the Metroid series that Samus encountered other bounty hunters.
Hunters also featured a multiplayer mode. Each match could have up to 4 players (or computers if necessary). It even utilized the DS’s wi-fi to play with others worldwide. Players could be Samus or the other six bounty hunters from the single-player campaign. While Samus has her morph ball mode, each bounty hunter also has its own unique ability.
Overall, the game was fun, and with a bit of tweaking of the controls, it would’ve been a much higher-rated game.
9. Metroid – NES
The beginning of Metroid had many players questioning who or what they were playing as. Is it a robot or a guy in a suit? Nobody knew. If the game was completed under a certain amount of hours, players discovered that Samus was, in fact, a female.
After a Galactic Federation lab is robbed of the Metroid samples it was storing, Samus is dispatched to track down the space pirates that stole them. Samus follows them to Zebes, a planet controlled by a bio-mechanical lifeform called Mother Brain. On her quest to find Mother Brain, she encounters Kraid, an ally to the space pirates, and their commander Ridley. After dispatching both of them and killing the Metroids, she finds and eliminates Mother Brain, which sets off a timer to destroy the fortress.
Metroid was Nintendo’s first real “action game.” They had great success with games like Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and Legend of Zelda. So they thought they would try something new, and it paid off as Metroid continues to grow and remain one of their biggest franchises.
8. Metroid: Samus Returns – 3DS
One of the final games ever made for the Nintendo 3DS, Samus Returns is a remake of the 1991 Gameboy version, Metroid II: Return of Samus. This version, however, has updated graphics, a new user interface, and better controls. It also introduced free-aim and a melee attack.
Taking place after the events of Metroid, Samus is informed of more Metroids on planet SR388. The Galactic Federation had sent a squadron of soldiers to eliminate the Metroid, but the entire squadron went missing. Samus goes to investigate and discovers several different types of Metroid. She encounters the Queen Metroid, destroys her, and finds one last remaining Metroid egg. The Metroid hatches and thinks Samus is its mother. Samus refuses to kill the infant and takes it with her when she leaves the planet.
The game was nominated and won several awards, including Best Mobile Game, Best Handheld Game, and Best 3DS Game. Nintendo EPD won Studio of the Year as well.
7. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – Wii
This was the first Metroid game on the Wii, which included the first time using motion controls in a Metroid game. The controls actually felt quite natural. Move Samus around with the left hand and use the Wii remote in the right to shoot and perform other actions.
Metroid Prime 3 takes place six months after the ending of Metroid Prime 2, and it was (supposed to be) the finale of the Prime series. This was the second time Samus shared the spotlight with other Bounty Hunters. The four of them are tasked with ridding the galaxy of a virus infecting Aurora Units, a type of supercomputer. Unfortunately, they’re ambushed by Space Pirates and Dark Samus before they can begin their mission. Dark Samus’ Phazon-based attacks infected and corrupted each of the Bounty Hunters. It is now up to Samus to find and eradicate all Phazon and stop Dark Samus.
While Metroid Prime 3 was a great game with the most significant world(s) with tons to explore, it wasn’t as good as its predecessors. Still, it gained critical acclaim as an excellent title for Nintendo Wii.
6. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes – Gamecube
Retro Studios took a different approach with the sequel to Metroid Prime. They made Prime 2 more story-driven and insanely challenging. The game also featured the first-ever multiplayer mode in a Metroid game which was met with a resounding… meh. It also had two parallel worlds, which hadn’t been done in a Metroid game before. Doing something in one would affect the other, hence an echo world.
Once again, Samus is tasked with rescuing Marines that have gone missing. This time on the planet Aether. Formerly inhabited by the Luminoth, they have since gone nearly extinct after a Phazon meteor crashed into the planet. The meteor left a scar that split the planet into two dimensions. In the Dark Aether dimension, the Ing species has overrun the planet. Samus meets U-Mos, one of the last remaining Luminoth. He informs Samus that the Ing are stealing the “Light of Aether,” and she must get it back to destroy Dark Aether and return peace to the planet.
Players and reviewers alike loved the story of Echoes. It won several GameCube Game of the Year awards in 2004 and was runner-up in Best Action-Adventure Game overall.
5. Metroid: Zero Mission – Gameboy Advance
Zero Mission was a remake of the original Metroid from 1986. It was essentially the same game, but it had updated graphics, added items, additional areas, new mini-bosses, and a retold story of Samus’ origins. It is available on the GameBoy Advance.
This time after destroying Mother Brain, Samus’ ship is shot down by space pirates and crash lands on planet Zebes, destroying her ship and power suit. Samus finds and infiltrates the Space Pirate Mothership, which leads her to a new area called Chozodia. There she meets a Chozo who offers her a trial to earn a new power suit. After acquiring her fully upgraded power suit, she encounters a robotic version of Ridley. When she defeats him, a self-destruct sequence begins, and Samus must escape again in a Space Pirate Shuttle.
The game mostly received favorable reviews. The only issue that most reviewers had was that it was too short. Most of them loved that they could now take the original Metroid with them on the go.
4. Metroid Dread – Switch
For the first time in almost 20 years, Nintendo returned to its roots and released an original side-scroller version of Metroid. Metroid Dread was also the franchise’s first game available on the Switch. It was a surprise for most players during E3 in 2021 as not many expected a new side-scrolling Metroid game.
The story is quite captivating and one of the best in the series. Samus is called to planet ZDR where the Galactic Federation had sent EMMI robots to exterminate the X parasite. However, the Galactic Federation lost contact with the EMMIs and wants Samus to investigate. Upon landing on ZDR, Samus gets more than she bargained for, as the EMMIs have been reprogrammed to see Samus as hostile.
Metroid Dread is one of the best-selling Metroid games in history. The reception was also great, as most reviewers gave it high ratings for its boss fights, sense of exploration, and beautiful visuals.
3. Metroid Fusion – Gameboy Advance
The prequel to Metroid Dread, Metroid Fusion, came out in 2002 for the Gameboy Advance. This was where the X Parasite was first introduced to the series. It was also a more user-friendly Metroid as it introduced a mission-based direction to help the player through the game.
At the start of Fusion, Samus and a research team return to the Metroid homeworld, planet SR388 to investigate a shape-shifting parasite known only as ‘X.’ Unfortunately, Samus gets infected by X Parasite, which creates a copy of her (SA-X). The SA-X and other X Parasites have reached the research lab Samus is now on and she must investigate without her power suit as it was infected and sent for research. The game requires a good amount of stealth as Samus is no match for the fully powered SA-X and must sneak around the ship undetected. Samus’ only option for victory is to crash the lab into planet SR388 to rid the universe of the X Parasite once and for all.
Aside from the critics claiming that Fusion was too short, the game was hailed as one of the best Metroid games in the series. Adding a stealth element to a Metroid game hadn’t been done before, and the reviewers loved it. The story was original, and the visuals made it a pleasure to play.
2. Metroid Prime – Gamecube
Nintendo and Retro Studios took us inside Samus’ helmet for the first time in Metroid history. This was Retro Studios’ first game, and they didn’t disappoint. They created something extraordinary.
The story of Metroid Prime takes us back to almost the beginning chronologically. The new planet of Talon IV and its several biomes is introduced for the first time. From the lava-covered landscape of Magmoor Caverns to the cold snowfields of Phendrana Drifts, Samus battles space pirates attempting to stop their mining process of Phazon.
A meteor crashed into the planet bringing with it Phazon and Metroid Prime. The entrance to the impact crater was locked behind twelve keys that the Chozo had hidden to keep Metroid Prime locked away. Once Samus finds all twelve keys, she infiltrates the crater and must defeat Metroid Prime.
Metroid Prime won several Game of the Year Awards and has been mentioned as one of the greatest video games ever. It set a new standard for the Metroid franchise and has spawned several sequels. In addition, a remaster for Nintendo Switch was released in 2023.
1. Super Metroid – Super Nintendo
Super Metroid has not only been called the best Metroid game but one of the greatest games of all time overall. Super Metroid introduced new staples to the Metroid franchise that would be used in all future games. An auto-map that stays on the screen as the player moves through the levels, the ability to fire in any direction, and a better inventory menu. This was also the first time Samus could jump in morph ball mode and wall jump to reach greater heights.
Samus returns to planet Zebes in search of Ridley after he stole the Metroid larvae that Samus rescued in Metroid II. Throughout the planet, she encounters many Metroids that now can reproduce and is nearly killed by one very large Metroid, but it stops as it realizes Samus is its “mother.” Samus reencounters Mother Brain but is overpowered and is nearly killed until the Metroid larvae intervene and attack Mother Brain giving its life to save Samus. Now back at full power, Samus can destroy Mother Brain once and for all.
With so many new and exciting features in Super Metroid, it laid the groundwork for all future Metroid games. But, unfortunately, another Metroid game wasn’t released for another eight years.