This post is part of a ten day series on my top ten games of 2021. You can find previous entries here.
7. Metroid Dread
If you had asked me this time one year ago, I would’ve told you that I don’t like Metroidvania games. Aside from Shadow Complex, I don’t recall ever completing one. After Metroid Dread was revealed I took it upon myself to finally play Super Metroid – a game which is consistently lauded as one of the best ever made. I tend to have an issue when it comes to things that are supposed to be “best of all time” – I don’t like Skyrim; I thought The Godfather was just okay. Typically when I go in with that level of expectation, it’s hard for anything to live up to it… Except Super Metroid did.
Super Metroid lit a fire under my ass and suddenly I was aware of what I was missing in Metroidvanias. Over the course of the next few months I played through every Metroid game; as well as Symphony of the Night – a game that would be number one on this list if I allowed old games – all in preparation for Dread.
I’ll admit that I was a little hesitant going into Dread; out of the four Metroid games I played; Samus Returns was by far my least favorite. I found Mercury Steam’s effort at remaking Metroid 2 to be clunky and way more of a slog than the fast pace of Super and Zero Mission. Not only did Dread almost immediately shatter that hesitation, it completely exceeded my expectations, joining Super Metroid at the top of the food chain.
Dread’s gameplay sheds the clunkiness of Samus Returns while iterating on the good ideas put forth in that remake. Samus moves lightning fast; the parry and the360 degree aiming from Returns both feel a lot better than they did in the past. Mercury Steam has transformed Metroid from a slow-paced horror to feel more like a fast-paced action game.
Mercury Steam probably realized that Dread felt less like a horror game because the game’s major new antagonists are the E.M.M.I. robots, a group of near-unbeatable death machines that stalk Samus and can kill her in one hit. Metroid is no stranger to stalker characters; even the last entry, Fusion had the SA-X. I don’t know if it’s because of the new pace set in Dread but the E.M.M.I sections of the game were my least favorite part of the game. They kill the momentum of the game. Sure, there is tension in these segments, but I felt like most of it was from the frustration of having to replay the segments. While they are weak, thankfully the rest of the boss encounters in the game are generally great, intense affairs; with the final boss of the game being arguably the best fight in the series.
Story-wise, Dread places you in the shoes of Samus, almost directly after the events of Metroid Fusion to investigate sightings of the X parasite – which were thought to be extinct after the events of that game – on planet ZDR. In typical Metroid fare Samus arrives on the planet; immediately gets smacked about, and loses all of her abilities.
I was shocked by how much I actually enjoyed the storyline of Dread, Nintendo games obviously aren’t known for their elaborate plotlines; but after playing all of them in a short time, I grew to really appreciate the world-building in the series. Another thing that took me by surprise in Dread was how much of a direct sequel to Fusion it was. I mean obviously it’s a sequel to Fusion; however, usually when a series takes a long hiatus, the return typically opts to take a more soft-reboot approach. Personally, I loved that the Metroid team was willing to put out a direct story sequel to a game from 2002. Granted I can see how this would be a detriment to a lot of players considering that currently, the only way to buy Fusion from Nintendo is on the Wii-U Eshop… and in a year’s time we won’t even have that.
If this really is the end of the core Metroid series – so be it, at least they went out on a high note. Plus, a whole genre of games I was averse to was opened up to me by Metroid Dread, and that’s worth more than any sequel.