Ranking the Metroid Series
What Are the Best Metroid Games?
Deciding what the best Metroid games are, is no easy task when you have dozens of writers on staff who consider it to be one of their favourite video game franchises of all time. The series is among the most influential in the medium and ever since Metroid was released way back in 1986, there have been more than a dozen other Metroid games that followed — some successful and others not so much— but games we love no less. As we eagerly await the highly anticipated Metroid Prime 4, our staff has once again been debating which of the Metroid games is the best and in order to resolve the argument, we decided it was time we rank the entire Metroid series and see how each of the titles stack up when pitted against each other. Without further ado, here is our ranking of the Metroid series.
Talbe of Contents
- Metroid Prime: Federation Force
- Metroid Prime: Hunters
- Metroid: Other M
- Metroid: Prime Pinball
- Metroid II: Return of Samus
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
- Metroid: Samus Returns
- Metroid Fusion
- Metroid: Zero Mission
- Metroid: Dread
- Metroid Prime
- Super Metroid
Ranking the Metroid Series
14. Metroid Prime: Federation Force
Its back against the wall from the initial reveal of the “Blast Ball” side mode, Metroid Prime: Federation Force earned the ire of franchise fans not only by failing to be the new entry in Samus’ adventures that gamers so craved, but also through ill-conceived design, lackluster gameplay, and bland visuals. Did the game work? Sure (mostly), but Metroid players aren’t used to functional mediocrity, and that’s exactly what they got with this multiplayer-focused effort.
Instead of taking control of the universe’s most renowned and deadliest bounty hunter, Federation Force instead tasks players with strapping on the armored uniform of a nondescript Galactic Marine — with a stubby body and oversized head, to boot. Teaming up with other players, they’ll take on an assortment of standard mission types ranging from ordinary enemy exterminations to run-of-the-mill escort duty to uninspired stealth sequences. There’s lots of finger-cramping shooting, some light puzzle solving, a few unmemorable boss fights, some nondescript sci-fi environments, and very little variety in load-outs; nothing to see here, folks.
Additional objectives do add some extra challenge to the 4-player gameplay — though beware of going solo. Federation Force is meant to be experienced in the silence of others (well, outside a few generic prompts), and doesn’t reward those who like to go it alone. You know, like in a regular Metroid game. It’s good to experiment, but there tend to be more misses when swinging outside the zone; in trying to make the Metroid game players never knew they wanted, Nintendo just made Metroid Prime: Federation Force. (Patrick Murphy)
13. Metroid Prime: Hunters
Following up on the Gamecube’s Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, Metroid Prime: Hunters attempted to bring the reinvigorated and reinvented Metroid Prime series to Nintendo’s contemporaneous portable system, the Nintendo DS. In many ways, it is still surprising how well it works, with basic gameplay that somehow translated pretty well to small dual screens, graphics that seemed to push the modest system to its technological limits, a plot that bridges Metroid Primes 1 and 2, (on and offline) multiplayer, and the addition of new bounty hunters such as the villain Sylux, who remains a frequently requested Smash character thirteen years later.
However, Hunters also marked a step away from the contemplative, exploratory adventuring of past Metroid titles and ushered in a more action-orientated form of Metroid which the series would eventually overemphasize. Fans of the original game may also remember that their tendonitis was probably caused by Hunter’s bizarrely painful and painfully bizarre proto-Kid-Icarus-Uprising control scheme. Still, for a spin-off in a series that never lights the sales charts on fire, Metroid Prime: Hunters remains remarkable for its impressive polish and ability to successfully straddle the line between old and new. (Kyle Rentschler)
12: Metroid: Other M
Metroid: Other M is not the game people think of when they look back on the Metroid series and why they love it. Hell, it’s not even in the top 5. However, despite its awful characterization and painfully cliched storyline, Other M is actually a lot of fun.
Devised by Team Ninja, of Ninja Gaiden fame, Other M is a fascinating mix of the classic metroidvania style exploration and the more modern FPS Metroid adventures. Uniting these two disparate gameplay styles, and switching back and forth between them at the simple tilt of the Wii-mote is so satisfying and flawless that it’s a wonder so few games took advantage of it.
Of course, emerging so late in the Wii’s life cycle, it’s no surprise that Other M didn’t inspire a host of followers. After all, most players were too incensed by the iconic Samus’ portrayal as a whiny, rebellious brat, who somehow, conversely, seemed to lack any emotion or nuance whatsoever. Still, even if Other M isn’t a standout of this series, it still offers value, and is worth a playthrough for serious fans of the franchise, if nothing else than for the stellar gameplay alone. (Mike Worby)
11. Metroid: Prime Pinball
In 2008, FUSE Games took two unlikely sources, Pinball, and Metroid Prime, and lived up to their namesake by fusing them together with Metroid Prime Pinball for the Nintendo DS. The conceit is admittedly apt, as so much of every Metroid is spent as a morph ball, and that is indeed how you traverse the six sci-fi-themed tables – albeit via a flipper to send you rolling. The game itself is more fun than it has any right to be, with several smartly designed tables that pull design elements and enemies from the first in the Prime series.
The varied pinball arenas like The Pirate Frigate and Tallon Overworld are engaging and challenging and pay proper homage to their source while not getting bogged down in it. Notably, Prime Pinball was sold packaged with a bulky little rumble pack, the first of its kind to be sold with the GBA, an accessory that didn’t add too much to the gameplay, but at the time felt rather cool. As Metroid games go, it doesn’t exactly add a lot to the mythology or stands toe-to-toe with much of the proper series, but as a pinball simulator in itself, Metroid Prime Pinball is an odd little morph ball of fun. (Marty Allen)
10. Metroid II: Return of Samus
In 1991, Nintendo released Metroid’s first sequel but not on the system gamers were hoping. Instead, Metroid 2: Return of Samus was released on the original Game Boy, and with less horsepower (and fewer colors) Metroid 2: Return of Samus was somewhat of a disappointment for fans of the series.
Metroid II: Return of Samus isn’t a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, but as talented as Nintendo’s R&D1 division was, the creators could only do so much with the technical limitations of the Game Boy. Sure, Samus looks great, but she also takes up a large portion of the screen which crowds the environments making it hard to focus on what’s happening. And compared to other franchise entries, the environments don’t have much variety and the monochrome graphics make the corridors even more confusing to traverse.
That said, Metroid 2: Return of Samus did get a few things right including the plot that laid the foundations for future Metroid games. Yes, it’s a remarkable feat of a Game Boy game, and arguably one of the best games released for the handheld system but it nevertheless stands as one of the weakest of the core Metroid titles if only because the small screen robs it of the brooding atmosphere that makes the best Metroid games so memorable. (Ricky D)
Nostalgia aside, Metroid deserves all and any praise it has received over the years, if only for launching a winning formula and one of Nintendo’s greatest franchises. From the NES debut to the Super Nintendo classic, to the underrated handheld entries, and the 3D debut with the Prime series – the Metroid games have, for the most part, been providing fans with countless hours of high-quality entertainment. Metroid’s tantalizingly slow, repetitious nature is a heartbeat-tripping reminder that many of today’s sped-up triple-A titles owe a lot to the ideas put forward in this 1986 classic. (Ricky D)
8. Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
While the Metroid Prime trilogy is rightly touted as being home to some of the finest games in the franchise, Echoes is often cited as the weakest of the three, and not without reason. The light and dark world mechanic had been used by Nintendo before, most notably in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. On top of the old hat concept, Echoes also deviates heavily from its progenitors by actually punishing exploration for large sections of the game, as any time spent in the dark reality damages Samus outside of safe zones.
Qualms aside, Echoes does still offer a lot to love. Its beam system was completely original, and it came up with more new gadgets and mechanics than either of its Prime siblings. It also introduced one of the franchise’s most popular antagonists in the form of Dark Samus. Though this was another riff on an idea that originated in the Zelda series, Dark Samus is still a great villain, and the encounters with her are tense and memorable. Though not Metroid’s finest moment, Echoes is an astute reminder that even a subpar Metroid game is generally heads and tails above everything else on the market. (Mike Worby)
7. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
The Wii wasn’t exactly a console for hardcore gamers and from the likes of Wii Sports to Cooking Mama and beyond, it didn’t have the cadre of hardcore experiences that gamers typically expect of a new platform. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is an exception to this paradigm. Released in 2007 to excellent reviews, Corruption provided an open opportunity for casual and hardcore gamers alike to accompany Samus on her mission to destroy the Phazon threat once and for all. Packing then-intuitive motion controls and a nice graphical upgrade from the two GameCube titles, Corruption seemed poised to build upon the greatest laid by its predecessors.
Despite being another excellent release by Retro Studios, Corruption’s pivots too intently toward casual gamers in its overall design. With the introduction of “hyper mode,” which enables Samus to power up temporarily at the cost of an energy tank, normal enemies became crippling easy to defeat, dying in just a few hits. Similarly, voiced NPCs, exposition dumps, and an all-to-easy story dampens the Metroid series’ tradition of providing subtextual storytelling supplemented by extreme isolation. Such changes, while making for a much different Prime experience from the first two games, don’t exactly make for a better game.
In its defense, Corruption introduced the Prime series’ best control scheme, integrating the Wii Remote so vitally into the overall Prime experience that when the entire series was ported over they all utilized Corruption’s control scheme. Similarly, despite lacking ambiance in most of its environments, several key moments in the game’s story, such as trips to the G.F.S. Valhalla and Pirate Homeworld, establishes areas that were as good, if not better, than those found in Prime and Echoes.
In the end, Corruption is a good game. If not as memorable as its predecessors, it blends together an innovative control scheme and an interesting set of locales to create an engaging experience that is among the best the series has to offer. (Izsak Barnette)
6. Metroid: Samus Returns
After years of waiting with baited breath for a new Metroid game, fans were finally met with Metroid: Samus Returns, and while calling the game entirely “new” might be a bit of a stretch, Nintendo and Mercury Steam have done enough new things with Samus Returns to justify its existence. As a remake of the Game Boy game, Metroid: Return of Samus, Samus Returns has seen a huge and favorable upgrade in the looks department first and foremost.
Another new addition comes in the fast and frenetic combat which the game boasts, thanks to its new counter-attack system. Though the mechanic feels a bit over-used toward the beginning of the adventure, the gameplay grows more and more balanced as Samus Returns marches onward to the extinction of Metroid-kind. Though it takes some effort to adjust to this new playstyle, by the time your super-powered Samus is approaching the end game, you’ll be right at home with this latest iteration of Metroid, and truly sad to see those credits roll.
With a few new surprises for even series veterans who have played the original and the unsanctioned AM2R remake, Samus Returns is one more reason to hold onto Nintendo’s fledgling handheld, and its success may even lead to a remake of another classic Metroid title if fans are lucky. (Mike Worby)
5. Metroid Fusion
It had been nearly eight years since the last side-scrolling Metroid game, Super Metroid, had been released on the SNES, and expectations were high for the release of not one, but two new Metroid games in one year. The first, Metroid Prime, became one of the greatest games of all time, a masterpiece and a testament to the excellence of the medium. The other, Metroid Fusion, had something of a different reaction. Initially loved by critics, it has become something of a black sheep within the series, derived by some for its linear pace and unoriginal setting.
Far from that, Metroid Fusion is a testament to how an excellent atmosphere can create an engaging gameplay experience. Ratcheting up the tension is the SA-X, Fusion’s primary antagonist and Samus’ doppelganger, who is easily one of the series’ most threatening villains. Metroid Fusion is an excellent Metroid game, and one that is still worth playing, even fifteen years after its initial release. (Izsak Barnette)
4. Metroid: Zero Mission
The idea to remake Metroid was a truly brilliant one, and with its pedigree for bringing back retro gaming, the GBA was the perfect place for it. Made with the same engine as Metroid Fusion, the first thing you will notice about Zero Mission is how dramatically different it looks and plays in comparison to the original Metroid. The additional use of a map system and extra buttons were godsends, serving as much-needed add-ons that make Zero Mission far more playable than the endless trial and error experience of the original title.
Though much of ZM is a deliberate retread of Metroid (and even Super Metroid to a certain extent), where it really shines is in expanding the Metroid mythology, particularly through an extended epilogue sequence in which Samus’s gunship is shot down by space pirates, and she must use a stealth-based strategy to survive outside of her iconic power suit. Though the experience of Metroid: Zero Mission is a short one, it lives on as a game with tons of secrets to find, and a lot of replayability. (Mike Worby)
3. Metroid: Dread
Metroid: Dread feels like Metroid, and this Metroid feels great.
Metroid: Dread was unexpectedly announced at this year’s E3. Samus fans had been busy anticipating the oft-delayed first-person follow-up, Metroid Prime 4, or at the least a collection of the original Prime trilogy. The first true 2d Metroid sequel in over nineteen years, we didn’t know we needed this game, but we most certainly did.
Metroid: Dread returns the oft-overlooked cornerstone Nintendo franchise to its side-scrolling origins, pitting bounty hunter Samus Aran against yet another unwelcoming (yet stunning) alien world. You start with few tools at your disposal, and in classic form, you battle and explore to uncover more upgrades and pathways. And after years of being absent from the sub-genre it created, Metroid: Dread shows up and shows us how it’s done.
Adding some tense robot-evasion to the formula with the new E.M.M.I.-encounters, Metroid mostly sticks to its roots while evolving the blueprint. At its core, Metroid has always been about exploration, and Dread delivers an awesome new map to explore and uncover.
Metroid Dread’s greatest accomplishment is the very feel of the thing. Even before the pile of expected upgrades pour in, the gameplay feels better than ever. Nintendo’s greatest bounty hunter is fluid and thrilling to control, and as the complex upgrades pile on, their mastery is deeply satisfying.
Moreover, Metroid: Dread is not easy, and that is great. The difficulty curve is perfectly rewarding with enemy and boss encounters that feel impossible, only to reveal themselves with patience and practice. Getting lost in a confounding corridor transforms into a satisfying revelation of how best to push forward. It all adds up.
It feels fresh and new and yet remains true to its roots. In the end, Metroid Dread is the greatest 2-d Metroid since Super Metroid. Mood, movement, and combat combine to bring us back to Samus. (Marty Allen)
2. Metroid Prime
When Metroid Prime was first announced, amid several reinventions of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, it was met with an understandable level of backlash and skepticism. The notion that one of the most beloved side-scrolling series of all time would be forcibly morphed into a first-person shooter was not a popular one. Luckily for fans, they turned out to be dead wrong. With a little help from Texas-based Retro Studios, Nintendo was able to deliver arguably the best Metroid game yet, while simultaneously changing the game on what people could expect from the FPS genre.
All of the key mechanics from the series made the jump from 2D to 3D without missing a beat, and new ideas like alternate visors and physics-based morph ball puzzles make the game a unique challenge, even for longtime fans. Without a doubt the finest game on the GameCube, and one that still sits in my personal Top 10, Metroid Prime was the best reason to pick up Nintendo’s little purple box and remains an undisputed classic that still holds up today. (Mike Worby)
1. Super Metroid
One of the things most notable about Super Metroid is its profound and effective sense of atmosphere. Few games have managed to make an alien world feel so strange and surreal as the planet Zebes does here. Though the evocative music goes a long way to establishing the sad and decaying world, points must be given to the design team, who really nails the deliberate strangeness of the creature and area layouts. What makes Super Metroid such a strong experience is its uninhibited use of wordless story-telling to craft an emotionally engaging narrative that casts two characters as mothers and creates an intense dichotomy and rivalry between them, culminating in an unforgettable battle over a savage, yet innocent, child.
In the nuts and bolts department, the gameplay is wildly inventive, utilizing the power-up-based exploration mechanics that were introduced in previous installments. Super Metroid takes an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach to grow your character, wherein you start off as a pellet-firing weakling and end the game as an invincible, hyper-driven, flashing, super-speedy, infinite-jumping juggernaut. Add to that the fact that you’re playing as the most badass bounty hunter in the galaxy, and Super Metroid equals pure gaming bliss. If you want a game that absolutely lives up to all of its hype and more then you need to play Super Metroid. (Mike Worby)
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October 4, 2019 at 12:09 pm
Metroid prime 2 is so underrated. Definitely better than #3
October 4, 2019 at 2:43 pm
2 is a little more difficult, so maybe less people remember it as fondly. For my money, I’d have both of them above Samus Returns. Otherwise I’m pretty lockstep with this list.
October 17, 2019 at 9:05 pm
I take issue with the how 2 was described here. Exploration is never punished in 2, but encouraged just like all the others. I would even say that it encourages it more than 1. The Dark World is nearly completely open for exploring after getting the Dark suit, which is literally the first major boss drop. And the light/dark mechanic, while done before, was done better than in Link to the Past.
Personally, I find it the best of the Prime games, as 1 relied way too heavily on nostalgia, and 3 was gimmicky and ridiculously easy.
October 18, 2019 at 2:20 pm
I think sometimes those opening hours make Prime 2 seem more constricting than it really is. I know I didn’t like the Dark Aether areas at all when I first played it; I wanted to be able to ease into this new world with a little less stress in getting from safe zone to safe zone. Regardless, while I’ll still go with Prime 1 as the best of that trilogy, you have me curious to go back to 2. I haven’t played it in a while.
October 14, 2019 at 9:59 am
I am glad Zero Mission got some love. It is hard for me to get why so many rank Fusion above it when it is clearly the superior Metroid game. I am playing Samus Returns now and I’m not sure how much I like it.
October 23, 2019 at 10:40 am
What a joke of a list, metroid pinball better than other m, super metroid still the best of all time ad why is metroid 2 so high on the list, that game was playable at best.
October 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm
The votes decide the order, sorry amigo, that’s how democracy works.
July 2, 2020 at 6:11 pm
This list is almost completely wrong. There is no way Prime 3 isnt higher on the list. Federation was allot more fun than you make out. Pinball and Hunters were ok. Fusion deserved to beat Zero Mission. I feel SM and Prime are right where they need to be and could be interchangeable.