Metroid is one of the few games that is actually named after the antagonist instead of the hero. Some people unfamiliar with the game (and trolls of course) confuse Samus with Metroid. Samus Aran is the hero, Metroids are the life-sucking organisms Samus is trying to eradicate. Now that that’s all cleared up, let’s get on with the list.
Ranking the top 10 Metroid games requires taking a look 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.
As always, our list is completely based on our own opinion and this time around 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 a terrible game either. The worst part about Hunters was the control scheme. Trying to hold the 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 ever 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 from around the world. Players could be Samus or any of the other six bounty hunters from the single-player campaign. While Samus has her morph ball mode, each bounty hunter has its own unique ability as well.
Overall, the game was fun, and with a little 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 it was 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 tons of success with their platformers (Mario, Donkey Kong), and adventure games (The 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 3DS, Samus Returns is actually 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 and 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. It was a mixed-bag for reviewers’ opinions of the controls, but most were positive.
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. Before they can begin their mission they’re ambushed by Space Pirates and Dark Samus. 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 Prime 3 was a great game and had the largest world(s) with tons to explore, it just wasn’t as good as its predecessors. Still, it gained critical acclaim and was featured in top lists from many gaming websites.
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 difficult. 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 going to rescue 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 planet has been overrun by the Ing species. 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 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 exact same game, but it did have updated graphics, added items, additional areas, new mini-bosses, and a retold story of Samus’ origins.
This time around after destroying Mother Brain, Samus’ ship is shot down by space pirates and crash lands back 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 is that it was too short. Most of them, however, loved the fact 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 went back to their roots and released an original side scroller version of Metroid. Metroid Dread was also the first game of the franchise available on the Switch. It was a surprise for most players during E3 in 2021 as not many were expecting a new side-scrolling Metroid game.
We won’t go too much into the story here, as at the time of this posting some players may not have completed the game yet. That being said though, the story was quite captivating. Samus is called to planet ZDR where the Galactic Federation had sent EMMI robots to exterminate the X parasite. The Galactic Federation lost contact with the EMMIs and would like Samus to investigate. Upon landing on ZDR Samus gets more than she bargained for as the EMMIs have been reprogrammed to see Samus as a hostile.
Metroid Dread is [currently] the best-selling Metroid game 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 go back to the Metroid homeworld, planet SR388 to investigate a shape-shifting parasite known only as ‘X’. Samus gets infected by X Parasite, which in the process created 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
For the first time in Metroid history, Nintendo and Retro Studios took us inside Samus’ helmet. This was Retro Studios’ first game, and they didn’t disappoint, they created something wonderful.
The story of Metroid Prime takes us back to almost the very beginning chronologically. A new planet in the story is introduced, Talon IV, which has several different environments. 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 made. It set a new standard for the Metroid franchise and has spawned 3 sequels.
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 while 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 have the ability to reproduce, and is nearly killed by one very large Metroid, but it stops as it realizes Samus is its “mother”. Samus encounters Mother Brain again but is overpowered and is nearly killed until the Metroid larvae intervene and attack Mother Brain giving its life to save Samus. Samus now back at full power is able to 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. Unfortunately, another Metroid game wasn’t released for another eight years as Nintendo and other companies they approached didn’t think they could match up to a game with the same quality as Super Metroid.