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It is time for us to declare the ranking of 2D Metroids! Now that the dust has settled from the recent release of Metroid Dread, I thought it would be fun to go down the line of 2D games in the original storyline that just recently came to a close and rank them from fifth to first. I cannot say “worst to best”, because the Metroid pentalogy is one of the best and most satisfying in gaming history. Metroid Dread did not just solidify that reality, but it cemented it.
This list will simply rank the 2D Metroids, and I will talk about what makes each of them special in their own way, while naturally elevating to the best of the best, in my opinion.
Enough with the introductions, though. Let’s talk about Metroid!
#5 – Metroid II: Return of Samus
On the bottom end of the list is Metroid II: Return of Samus. This Game Boy title came out in 1991, and it was a follow up to the incredibly successful NES title. Return of Samus, as well as its 3DS remake Samus Returns, follows the story of Samus after she foiled the plans of space pirates to use metroids as a weapon. The Galactic Federation comes to the conclusion that the space pirates will never settle until they harness this power, which means Samus is asked to eliminate all of the metroids on their home planet of SR388.
In terms of story, Metroid II probably has one of the most pivotal and powerful moments in the entire series, as the (SPOILER ALERT) ending sees a metroid hatchling come to be right after Samus kills the last one. The baby sees Samus and immediately bonds with her, and the two share a meaningful connection that will eventually create one of the most powerful scenes in the series.
The gameplay is decent, and it is definitely on the shorter side compared to the others, but its biggest problem happens to be its shallow nature. For a Game Boy title, this was impressive, but as a Metroid title, it left much to be desired. The 3DS’s Samus Returns did a great job reviving the 2nd title in the pentalogy, but it still finds itself behind the others.
#4 Metroid Fusion
Metroid Fusion was the last original 2D Metroid before the release of Dread, and this was a continuation from the metroid-focused storyline that migrated towards a new, hostile entity known as the X parasite. Being the sequel to Super Metroid, this one had some very large shoes to fill, but Fusion does a lovely job of sprinkling in its narrative and giving us a better glimpse of Samus through its wonderful storytelling.
One of the critiques of Fusion is that it focuses more on the story and gameplay, which indirectly made the title quite linear. That means that the title lacks the exploration of its predecessors and that feeling of isolation that the series is known for, but that does not mean that this is a poorly made Metroid game. It just means that the focus in story and gameplay went a different direction, and what we got is one of the most unique titles in the 2D Metroids.
Metroid Fusion is kind of the black sheep of the 2D series, because it is the only one that brings the notch down on exploration and ramps up the character development, storytelling, and combat. The boss battles in Fusion alone are worth the ticket of admission, but those who find joy in looking through every corner of the map may be a bit disappointed with this entry.
The title that started it all, Metroid landed on the Nintendo Entertainment System 35 years ago and set the gaming world on fire with its massive map, varied enemies, tough boss fights, and progressive powerups. There was nothing like it at the time, and gaining the morph ball ability right out of the gate is one of the most satisfactory moments in gaming history.
The iconic title is the catalyst for the Metroidvania genre, and it set the standard for everything to come after it. In 2021, it is a bit sluggish and finicky, but despite how it aged, it is still one of the most important games of all time. The introduction to classic villains like Kraid, Ridley, and Mother Brain, as well as the surprise reveal that Samus is indeed a woman, gave us so much to be proud of as gamers and even more to look forward to with future entries. It even has a great remake in the form of Metroid: Zero Mission that came out on the Game Boy Advance in 2004 that improved on the original in so many ways.
It may not be the best-aged title in the list, but this is where everything started. This is the beginning of our strong protagonist, and this is definitely a title that everyone, regardless of age, needs to experience.
#2 Metroid Dread
The newest title in this list and immediately inserted into the number 2 spot is none other than the final chapter in the 2D Metroids story, Metroid Dread. Fans of the series waited nearly 20 years for this chapter to drop, and we are so glad we waited, because this is arguably one of best Metroids ever. The story moments, the E.M.M.I. areas, the stunning visuals, and the haunting soundtrack brought us back to an era we all fell in love with while also bringing in new elements to make Dread feel fresh.
Dread can be described as a beautiful blend of Metroid Fusion and Super Metroid, two excellent titles hailed for different reasons. This is because Dread does an excellent job of sprinkling in its narrative while still valuing exploration highly. The title also boasts the best-controlled Samus to date, but that can easily be assigned to the fact that it released in 2021 compared to its older siblings.
Metroid Dread is a love letter of sorts and the perfect way to conclude one of the best lore builders in video game history. It does so much right that it is hard to even say that another title in the series does it better, but there can only be one true queen and that is…
#1 Super Metroid
When it comes to games aging well, very few can raise their hand as high as Super Metroid. The 1994 Super NES classic is still held by many as one of the best games of all time, and the perfect representation of the appropriately named Metroidvania genre. Samus here gets word that Mother Brain is still alive and trying to harness the power of the last metroid, the one that bonded with Samus.
Super Metroid basically feels like the flawless sequel to the original title. Everything that the original Metroid introduced, Super Metroid perfected it. You want exploration? No game in the series does it better than Super Metroid. You want emotional storytelling? No game in the series has as impactful moments as Super Metroid. You want a haunting, atmospheric soundtrack? No game in the series did it quite like Super Metroid (Although Dread is right behind it). The powerups, the boss fights, the map layout, and so much more is spectacular here, and it is mind-boggling to remember that this game came out 27 years ago.
It is rare for a title this old to still be this good, but you know the old expression, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”? Well, I feel like a lot of the newer Metroidvania games we have seen lately, like the Ori titles, Hollow Knight, SteamWorld Dig, Axiom Verge, and many others have all drawn inspiration directly from Super Metroid. If Metroid set the standard, then Super Metroid set the bar. A timeless game that will still be praised 35 years from now, and hopefully we will get a faithful remake of this one some time in the future.
Thank you for stopping by Nintendo Link for all of your gaming news and updates! What did you think of this 2D Metroids ranking list? Do you agree or disagree? What are your favorite 2D Metroids? Let us know in the comments below! Happy gaming, everyone.
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.