Nintendo announced Metroid Dread out of the blue in June 2021, stunning the series’ fans and setting off a shockwave of hype.
This is the first proper 2D Metroid game since Metroid Fusion in 2002. This being Nintendo, you have to expect the very best out of a project like this. And, by cripes, does it deliver.
Metroid Dread is Dead (good)
First up, a brief history of one of Nintendo’s lesser-known series.
Inspired by Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979), the series hit total perfection with Super Metroid. It’s still one of the best games of all time.
Since then the Metroid name has only grown in stature, helped further when Retro Studios took over the IP for Metroid Prime (2002) and its eventual trilogy.
Fantastic stuff! Except Nintendo has neglected the series since 2007, that’s when Metroid Prime 3: Corruption launched.
Ever since, there’s been a mishmash of remakes of the first game and Metroid: Other M (which proved highly divisive).
Metroid Prime 4 is on the way, of course, but the arrival of Metroid Dread was a glorious acknowledgment from Nintendo it appreciates its series.
Super Metroid is the mother of the fantastic Metroidvania genre (see best 2D modern platformers), so it’s curious its influence has been missing from modern games.
But with Metroid Dread, and after only a four month wait, we have another title in the venerated series. And it’s bloody fantastic.
The Metroid Dread Experience
Th beating heart of Metroid Dread is the classic formula.
And that’s exploration through claustrophobic corridors (note the Alien influence) across a seemingly endless tight, twisting, maze-like map.
As you take control of Samus Aran, you get power-ups to help bolster your skill set.
These new abilities also help you to open up previously blocked areas on the map. That’s the absolute genius of the Metroidvania genre.
It’s massively rewarding as you skill up and unlock new areas, revelling in your newfound powers. It’s been done to fantastic effect in the likes of Ori and the Will of the Wisps (2020) and Dead Cells (2017).
But whilst this title goes out of its way to deliver on its roots, there’s also a new concept thrown into the mix. Stealth.
This involves sections with robots called E.M.M.I. And these sections are very nerve wracking and will give you the jitters.
The robots respond to soundwaves and will hunt Samus down rapidly, with your best bet being to leg it and try to escape to a safe zone.
And this is the dread aspect of the game. And it’s genuinely quite scary, as you’re so vulnerable to the E.M.M.I. This is how it works.
Yeah, so those sections we found very freaky and panic inducing. But you soon learn the skills to deal with them more effectively.
And the rest of the game becomes about dealing with just how enormous Metroid Dread is.
The scale of the adventure is difficult to wrap your head around. The map you’re fully presented with is vast and almost overwhelming.
It tests your abilities as a gamer, often leaving you to think cannily to try and move beyond certain areas.
Some gamers may find this frustrating. If you’re not used to this type of game, you will become lost and struggle quite a lot. It often takes one tiny little thing you’ve missed to progress.
However, we found this level of exploration quite exhilarating.
Over the last decade, Nintendo has been oddly absent from the 2D gaming arena it defined to such earth shattering extent in the 1980s and 1990s.
This is, largely, due to its focus on 3D adventures such as Breath of the Wild. The Japanese gaming giant simply hasn’t made that many 2D adventures in recent years, beyond the excellent Super Mario Maker 2.
And there just haven’t been many Metroid games. Not from Nintendo itself—again, almost 20 years since it worked on this series!
Metroid Dread delivers a quite stunning return.
A Dreadful Conclusion
We’ve seen the glowing critical feedback elsewhere online, with rave reviews. Although some reviewers see hellbent on describing the game as “solid”.
One of them from Kotaku in a piece about why PC emulation is brilliant and improves on graphical performance.
There’s a sect of gamers who hate having to admit Nintendo’s games are exceptionalism, in pursuit of personal elitism.
Well, sod that. Metroid Dread isn’t solid. It’s a fantastic video game.
Whether you think it doesn’t quite match the heights of Super Metroid or not, this is a video game that reminds you why you have this hobby.
For us, this is 10/10 and very possibly the best Metroid game there’s ever been.
Again, not everyone will agree.
Regardless, no one will deny Metroid Dread is a vital purchase for Switch owners. And anyone who wants to play a fantastic video game.
It’s colossal scale and inventiveness is a joy to take on and, well, all we can say is this is Nintendo at its very best.