My top ten favorite games of the year, presented in ascending order each day leading into the holidays. Look for my full Top Ten list with categories and awards on December 24!
#9 Metroid: Samus Returns
Old school Metroid fans like me have been clamoring for a 2D Metroid game for years – the last proper entry was 2002’s Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance. Metroid: Samus Returns isn’t technically an all-new 2D adventure but a remake of the second game, 1991’s Metroid II: Return of Samus. And it’s pretty damn good.
Metroid: Samus Returns completely rebuilds the ancient monochrome adventure into a beautiful 2D world of 3D models and art. The result is a stunning example of what a fully funded 2D adventure can produce, while still keeping the same dungeon-crawling, screen-to-screen exploration that made the series so compelling to begin with.
The remake doesn’t just stop at visual and audio improvements. Samus has a new melee counterattack that looks and feels great, letting me do more than just wildly jump around when enemies close in. The expanded 3DS controls also let me transform into a mobile turret by snapping into a free aim mode, and several abilities have been changed or added along with a new energy meter – including the ability to scan for the numerous hidden paths and blocks that are scattered throughout the cavernous planet of SR388.
And it wouldn’t be a Metroid game without a giant in-game map. Once again the 3DS translates the mapping experience perfectly by using the dual screen to constantly feed you that critical map information.
The simplistic plot doesn’t quite hold up. It boils down to going through each level and defeating a series of mini-bosses as Samus purges the Metroid DNA from the planet. The new mini-cinematic bits add some nice levels of immersion, however, especially when the camera zooms in and breaks the 2D plane.
The level designs themselves aren’t quite as interesting, expansive, or varied as the more seminal entry in the series, Super Metroid, which was later released for the Super Nintendo in 1994 (and I’ve totally revisited via the SNES Classic Edition).
Super Metroid is one of my all time favorite games (I still own my original boxed SNES copy), and while I lack that nostalgic passion for Metroid: Samus Returns, I hope that its success motivates Nintendo to gives us more stellar 2D games in a series that practically invented an entire subgenre of gaming.