Super Metroid stands alone, 25 years later
Celebrating Nintendo's obfuscating, disorienting masterpiece
I never liked Super Metroid. It frustrated me. Too expansive, I thought. Too difficult. The level design is too creative and clever, the connections between areas too subtle, the challenge too cerebral. Whither Metroid Fusion, younger me wailed. Give me Zero Mission. A nagging artifical intelligence. Glowing dots on the map. I am a stupid boy, video game. For the love of god, tell me where to go.
Then, of course, time marched on. Super Metroid came out on New 3DS. I figured I ought to purchase it; after all, it's effectively against the law not to. So, yes, I dropped the cash and downloaded it via the Virtual Console, ready to give it a real shot. And I started it, but couldn't finish. Couldn't push through. It wasn't right! Multiple missiles to open a door? A seperate run button? Don't even get me started on the default controls.
And I'd travel the internet, friends. I'd visit the message boards and I'd tell all who'd listen; Super Metroid isn't that good, really, now is it? Super Metroid is over-rated, isn't it, hmm? Like a sleeper cell within otherwise positive communities, waiting to be activated. It's a bad game, my dears. Just admit it.
But it was a ruse. I was tricked. It isn't a bad game at all, obviously. Like all popular games – even that one you really hate - it's beloved for a reason. For twenty-five years it's been cited as one of the most revelatory games ever made. It codified an entire genre. Of course it’s great. It’s a masterpiece. I'd simply been spoiled by the conveniences of its Game Boy Advance follow-ups. Fusion, Zero Mission. They dampened the impact of isolation, held my hand, made me feel safe. Like I had nothing to fear. Super Metroid embraces the cold, alienating atmosphere of the NES original, without the bland, repetitive graphics. It's a beautiful, frightening experience. You're lost and alone. Danger everywhere. No respite. No friends. That's why its ending - in its wordless portrayal of sacrifice, of regret and anger - is as powerful today as it must have been in 1994.
The ultimate beauty of Super Metroid is, in another quarter-century's time, it will still be Super Metroid.