Even though it came out in the early nineties, Super Metroid remains one of the most atmospheric, well designed and beautiful adventures ever created.
As a youngster, I remember being overwhelmed by the sheer scale and complexity of the environment. It’s sandbox design means you’re encouraged to explore and blast your way through Planet Thebes and reveal its secrets. My first version on the SNES included a guide within the box, but even this didn’t stop 10 year old Rob getting stumped and having to call the Nintendo Helpline! Those were the days…
Like most classic Nintendo games from this period, the game controls beautifully with pin point accuracy, meaning that you're fully in charge of Samus Aran's destiny and no death feels like you’ve been cheated.
What really sets this adventure apart from all its competition is how the level design, game mechanics and audio design directly impact the atmosphere of this epic mission. Samus’ journey is moody, unsettling and drenched in a deep sense of isolation.
When you arrive on Thebes, it’s you versus the planet. The environment feels like a character in itself. The early stages provide no enemies at all, but you get the sense that you are not alone. Tiny creatures scatter when you arrive in new rooms, there’s movement in the walls and you even get scanned by unknown forces as you explore deeper into the world. The music is sparse, with low and rumbling, ambient chords sitting under strange, otherworldly effects.
Once the threat of the planet reveals itself, action is immediate, chaotic and immensely satisfying. It’s fun to jump. shoot and roll your way through the different sections. What elevates this experience further is how you slowly power up your character to reach new sections. Exploring the world consistently presents hurdles and locked areas that inhibit your progress. Luckily, every upgrade presents you with the keys to unlock them. When you collect the Hi-Jump Boots, your mind will frantically try and scan your memory of Thebes for all the places you couldn’t reach before. Collecting super missiles will make you high tail it through the different sections looking for every green door that you couldn’t previously open.
I remember getting lost and running backwards and forwards through an inconspicuous glass tunnel for what seemed like hours until I finally paused and thought “I wonder…” One power bomb later and I found myself shattering the tunnel and unlocking an entire underwater section. Super Metroid consistently rewards your curiosity like this.
From an audio perspective, Super Metroid will provide me with a constant source of inspiration. Thebes is a dangerous, dreamlike alien world, and Samus must best this on her own. For the music to reflect this on such limited sound cards is quite frankly astonishing, and I will explore this future posts.
This is one of the few games I have finished over 20 times. Not only is it fun to 100% complete, but it proved to be one of the catalysts that ignited the burgeoning speedrunning scene. It took me about 40 hours to complete initially, but there are players that can complete this in under an hour! As I become more active in the streaming sphere, getting my time down will certainly be something I look to achieve.
It’s hard to think of a favourite game of all time, but on balance I will always be happy to play Super Metroid at any time, more so than anything else I’ve played. If you’ve yet to play it, get a Nintendo console and download it immediately. You won’t be disappointed!
Do you love Super Metroid as much me? Let me know what you think!