Admission time: I never played Super Metroid back in the day. Which is weird. I had dabbled in the original Metroid as a kid (and later absolutely LOVED the Zero Mission remake on GBA). I adored Metroid II on Game Boy back in the day (and somewhat ironically, found the Samus Returns remake kind of meh on 3DS). I thought Metroid Fusion ruled. And yet somehow I had managed to never play the one that general consensus calls the best of the 2D series until much later in my life. So this week I was thinking about how Super Metroid was a blind spot in my gaming history, and now that it's on the Switch Online app, I decided it was time to fire it up again.
The first thing that grabbed me was that opening. Not the gameplay opening, I'm talking about the cutscene before you even start playing which briefly retells the story of Metroid and Metroid II. It's just so... cool. The stark red lettering on the black screen simply stating "1994... Metroid 3." Oh and that's another thing - METROID 3. I love that in the opening credits that's what this game is referred to. I don't know why, but I feel like that's a much cooler title than "Super" Metroid. For whatever reason it bugs me when ongoing series had games that just plunked the word "Super" before their new SNES entries. See: Castlevania IV. Anyway, I digress. That opening cutscene is so badass with its reimagining of the Mother Brain encounter or the black and white palette of Metroid II.
Then there's the actual playable intro which is fantastic. And I like how Super Metroid really does kind of pick up where Metroid II left off. There's a brief battle with Ridley before you have to flee the planet before it self-destructs. There's plenty of time, but that countdown clock doesn't let you feel like there is. Great stuff.
I'm enjoying the game proper now. I don't really need to tell anybody that Super Metroid is good. You see it so often near those big lists of best games of all time. A part of me wishes I had played it back in 1994, as back then it must have felt earth-shattering. I mean this was before Symphony Of The Night. In a way it's hard for me to put myself in a mindset where I haven't played SOTN to death; or where I haven't played Zero Mission and Fusion. So as much as I can enjoy and appreciate Super Metroid right now, it's just not going to hit me with the same level of 'wow' as it would have in 1994. That is what it is.
But this is classic Metroid... I'm feeling lost and finding little secret areas and upgrades and stumbling upon unexpected boss battles. The music is excellent, naturally. It does a great job of giving off that isolation feeling - for better or worse. As a thirteen year old in 1994 I would have had so much more time to explore and experiment for hours on end. Obviously the inclusion of a map is helpful, though the game can still feel plenty confusing even with it at times.
Whenever I play Metroid games I get tinges of the Alien franchise - which is incidentally, a huge huge franchise for me. And that's by design of course. There's no denying the nods to Alien in these games. If I had unlimited time and resources, I'd love to try to write a book about the influence the Alien films have had on video games. But I don't. So somebody else should write it so I can read it, haha.
While I can certainly see why Super Metroid is a classic, it's weird but I just don't really get as sucked into it as other entries in the series. I definitely appreciate it and admire it. And I even have the desire to revisit it from time to time (yet, never seem to put the time into beating it). But it's definitely not my favorite Metroid game, which may be an unpopular opinion.