Metroid (NES)

Game Review

Metroid Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

The classic that inspired so many still holds up today

The NES section of the 3DS's Virtual Console expands by another notch with the addition of Metroid, regarded by many as one of the best entries that amazing series has to offer. The great news is that it's every bit as wonderful as you remember; the bad news is that it's no more interested in holding your hand now than it was in 1986. Of course, for many, that's a huge part of its charm.

Metroid sees intergalactic bounty hunter Samus Aran exploring the treacherous Planet Zebes (or Zebeth, for those Engrish speakers among us) in search of the evil Mother Brain, who plans on breeding and weaponising the eponymous energy-sapping creatures. Unfortunately the path ahead is a winding and complicated one, and Samus is ill-equipped to even find Mother Brain, let alone defeat her. Enter the upgrades.

Upgrades gave the first Metroid game its identity. With various creative weapons and utilities scattered around Zebes, Samus uses them in ways that gradually allow her access to areas that were previously inaccessible. These include Hi-Jump Boots, the Morph Ball and the endlessly enjoyable Screw Attack. There are also weapon upgrades that allow her to change the type of projectiles she fires, in order to better suit her needs for any given area. While the game at first seems stuffy and claustrophobic, the periodic expansion of Samus's arsenal allows her increasing access to the world around her, and also thrusts her into even more dangerous situations.

Along the way Samus will battle an extraordinarily large number of unique enemy types. There are also an enormous variety of environments, so many so that it remains impressive today; transport yourself back to its original release and it's easy to see why Metroid stood out so quickly. From cool blue stone to mossy undergrowth to an industrial nightmare, the game does a fantastic job of establishing mood just by swapping out its tile sets. This is resourcefulness at its absolute best.

In addition to Mother Brain, Samus will also have to battle her two minions, Kraid and Ridley. Defeating each of them will grant access to the final area, and doing so — and making it back out alive — won't be easy. Fortunately there's an absolutely brilliant (and often gorgeous) soundtrack to keep you company, with compositions that will alternately thrill and disorient you. It's one of gaming's most enduring musical accompaniments, and it's just as effective now as it ever was.

There's a lot of great things to say about Metroid, but there are also a few issues. Firstly, the lack of overt in-game guidance can be troublesome for gamers, particularly younger players who might not remember a time when this was the standard. The game teaches you literally nothing: you are always on your own to figure out what upgrade you've found, what it does, how to use it, and why you need it. This feeling of disorientation suits the game quite well (Samus is also discovering this stuff for the first time, after all), but it can intimidate players pretty easily.

The similarity of many corridors and towers can also catch unsuspecting players off guard. Whereas the separate areas of Zebes are thankfully identifiable by sight, rooms within those areas often have their layouts duplicated several times over, and that can cause a great deal of confusion. While this approach does have its uses (hint: if you found a bombable wall in one room that led nowhere, it's worth bombing that same wall when you find a similar room elsewhere...) it's bound to frustrate many newcomers, and they may not bother coming back.

This lack of guidance, though, also gives the game one of its most legendary aspects: sequence breaking. Without mandatory tutorials and a forced progression through the game, players can discover new and varied ways to make their ways forward... or backward. The ability to discover unintended uses for items and creative ways of bypassing obstacles without first obtaining certain upgrades has given Metroid a versatility unlike many other games, and that's why it's still one of the most popular speed-running games to date. No two players will find their same way through Zebes; every attempt is a unique adventure.

Metroid does, however, suffer from its own largesse. Slowdown is common, as rooms are often flooded with enemies that the game struggles to process. There's also a number of glitches that can make it impossible to progress, or to escape from a death trap, and many of these are so easily triggered that even a casual player is likely to find at least a few of them. This is what makes the 3DS Virtual Console's restore points worth their weight in gold; constant saving can allow you to undo a glitch that has otherwise barred you from progressing further, and it saves you the hassle of having to reset and start fresh. Of course, if you use those restore points for anything else, you're officially cheating.

Glitches and slowdown aside, Metroid's main barrier to enjoyment is simply its own layout: Zebes is a confusing and too-similar maze of featureless hallways and repeating layouts. It's worth pressing through, but it's also worth cautioning newcomers. Those without the patience to follow long corridors into dead-ends that they've already found and forgot about will be quickly frustrated. For those who know that this is just the price to pay for a game that believes so heavily in the thrill of exploration that it doesn't want to give you even one word of guidance, there's no better playground than the original Metroid.


A desolate atmosphere, innovative upgrades and a perfect soundtrack all come together to cement Metroid as one of gaming's true masterpieces. If a lack of in-game guidance of any kind bothers you, then this is probably not going to be a very welcome addition to your collection. But for those who can engage the game on its own terms, and who don't mind stumbling now and again as they seek the correct path, Metroid offers an experience like no other.

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User Comments (80)



bezerker99 said:

I personally love this game. It brought exploration in a videogame to an entire new level. The soundtrack is fantastic - pure 8-bit creepiness! Suffers from some slowdown at times - thus making it a GREAT candidate for a 3D Classics version!!! (C'mon, Nintendo!)



chewytapeworm said:

Metroid games are so difficult, but perseverence always reaps rewards. Hooked on Fusion atm. The joys of being an ambassador!



Late said:

I don't mind the fact that there's no map but I hate to start with 30 health (was it 30?) every time I die. Getting energy back without losing any is time-taking. Getting health back in later games is so much easier.
I think I'd enjoy this game much more if this problem wouldn't be there.



Play_It_Loud said:

I think 8 out of10 is right on the money.My parents got me Metroid when I was little 4 or 5, and I remember always going back to it. Great game and my favourite in the series.



Tethers said:

For me this score is too high. I would give the game at most a 7, today it's easily not that fun to play...



Kid_A said:

Great review. For me, this is still one of the most atmospheric, unique and engaging gaming experiences out there. I played it for the first time a few years ago and was just totally engrossed in it. But the slowdown really is just crippling at times, and as a result, the final boss is pretty much unplayable. If restore points and suspend saves are what it takes to get modern audiences to play through the game, though, I'm all for it!



Punny said:

I should come back to play this very soon, especially since I gave it the update. Metroid should be much more enjoyable with the Suspend feature.



CanisWolfred said:

Oh yeah, this Metroid. Yeah, it's a great, albeit incredibly frustrating and even tedious, game. But I am glad the new features make it even better.



Undead_terror said:

@Order-Sol i wouldnt mind having it,i mustly played the multiplayer on the MPH
because it was so fun,but if they make a another one i hope it would be somewhat they same in multiplayer if not then more and add a survival mode of some sort!



Linky_97 said:

I hated it... I bought Metroid Zero Mission insted when i tried it on my 3DS.



Spagem said:

I will get this game when i get another point card. I already have the GBA port that came with my game boy SP. I could never beat this though even trying for years so i stopped playing it after that mostly cause i was sick of restoring my Energy for hours when i died. But with the restore point thingy that will change everything. Also now i can do the NARPAS SWORD 000000 cheat and save! (Yes, i couldnt even beat the game with the cheat due to not nowing where to go and the password not working with the cheat so i never could beat it in 1 sitting) So this will be great! (Yes, i know im cheating. but once i first beat it cheating a coulple times then I will be ready to play it for real. Im thinking of it more like a practice mode.)



Nintendi said:

Bring on Super Metroid, and btw, these 8-bit retro classics should be 99 cents- $1.99 tops.



Stargazer said:


Well, I started the series with Super Metroid and absolutely loved it. It's still my favorite Metroid to this day (Metroid Prime a close 2nd). I have tried to go back and play Metroid 2 (GB) and the original, and IMO they just don't hold up well today.

Then again, I prefer a little hand-holding and guidance. If you like exploring and figuring out stuff on your own I can see the appeal here.



Dodger said:

I have been enjoying this game since I got it but grinding up my health just to lose it all 10 seconds after I walk through a door tends to make me annoyed.



Burning_Spear said:

I'm a bit perplexed by the "no hand-holding" thing. The instruction manual explains what each weapon upgrade does. I played the GBA version, with the password system. Was there no password system in the original? It sounds like oldtimers had to go back to start every time they lost all their energy.



CanisWolfred said:

@Burning_Spear No, there was password saving in the original. It was more the lack of a map and not telling your where to go or what order to do things in that he's talking about. And no matter what, you'll always be down to 30 health every time you game over.



Burning_Spear said:

So the restore point that has been added lets you max out your power, save a restore point, and keep going back to it, rather than restarting with only 30 energy units. Now I get it.



CanisWolfred said:

It's fantabulous, I gotta tell ya. Can't wait to upgrade the two best games I couldn't beat because of one aspect of the entire game. (the other being Super Mario Bros.)



Geonjaha said:

Honestly this game has not aged well and if newcomers see it as tedious and unguided then it shouldn't score well just for nostalgias sake. Honestly the game has horrible conveyance, repetitive rooms, a large grinding requirement that makes it mind numbingly boring and swaying difficulty.

It was great in its time yes, but right now a lot of problems show up. I would personally give it a 6/10 for what it is now. I'm not disputing the greatness of the series - I'd give Zero Mission 9/10 for fixing loads of the issues it had that brought it down, but I think 8/10 is pushing it - it may apply to people who already owned the game back in the day, but they'll be buying it anyway - the review should be for the unsure (therefore newcomers).



Corbs said:

This was one of those games that absolutely blew me away back when it was first released on the NES. And it stayed sold out in stores for weeks. Still fun as hell.



Malkeor said:

Hit the nail on the head.

It really hasn't aged too well, but nostalgia will cover up the faults...but nostalgia alone won't make a score to me. Not when you're a newcomer to the series or the game. Or if you're not old enough and might not appreciate archaic and repetitive aspects.
But to each his or her own, I respect it.

At least I have it for free, maybe i'll try to get into it again. There's always something about playing a beloved series origin game that makes you want to appreciate and experience how it all started. I'll look at it in a positive light with the save point features and such this time



Ryno said:

Definitely one of my favorite games of all time if that wasn't obvious from my avatar!. This was a very good review of this game. It was very fair and pointed out some of its shortcomings like the slowdown and cautioned those who are more familiar with the tutorials and hand holding of today's games but overall focused on what makes this game truly an amazing classic and such a trailblazer!



The_Ink_Pit_Ox said:

Metroid: Great game, but it needed the save function
Super Metroid: a classic
Metroid Fusion: Good game
Metroid Other M: great game, but I got to an unfair boss



Chris720 said:

Don't particularly like this Metroid... however, it is one superb series I'll give it that. But this game never tickled my fancy. And it's not because of the graphics or anything, but it just doesn't "engage" me into the game.



TheGreenSpiny said:

@geonjaha: I don't agree. I think this game holds up great except for two things: the slowdown in the game, and the fact that your health resets to 30 every time you die, which makes a hard game painfully difficult. The gameplay remains largely unchanged in all the sequels.



Chrono_Cross said:

A great game that started one of the best franchises in gaming history. And there's nothing wrong with that.



RR529 said:

@Nintendi, never gonna' happen. Nintendo has to charge more for their downloadable games, because the ESRB charges them an $800.00 fee to rate each game (even if it's an old game, they have to get it re-rated every time they release it).

It's not so much that Nintendo (Sony & MS) is overcharging for downloadable software, as it is Apple (and other smartphones) undercutting the gaming companies by not playing by the same rules (ESRB doesn't rate their apps, Apple doesn't pay a hefty fee, so Apple can undercut it's rivals by releasing $.99-&1.99, "games", if you want to consider crApp Store offerings as such).



Haywired said:

I could never get into this game in its original form. It seems completely impenetrable. I enjoyed the Zero Mission remake though, it made it a lot more playable.



BulbasaurusRex said:

Well, now I can finally get past that ridiculous vertical block section after beating Kraid thanks to the Restore Point.



RR529 said:

@Order-Sol, I guess that attack against smartphone games at the end of my post was unwarranted, I've just been burned to many times by iOS, it left a bad taste in my mouth. All I was really trying to do is explain why eShop doesn't (and can't) have games that inexpensive.



MetroidMasher17 said:

This is truly a great game. Back in the time period that this was released, Metroid was a welcome change from Mario and Zelda's happy, sunny atmospheres. It also provided a huge world to explore. Good thing I'm an Ambassador; it got me this and Fusion for free!



hendie001 said:

is it just me or is this game harder than it was when i was 13. took me more times than i would like to admit : <



RevolverLink said:

The original Metroid is much more interesting to me as a concept and an artifact of game design history than as an actual game nowadays. Unless we're talking Zero Mission; that game was everything a great remake should be (and the original game was an unlockable, which is something I wish more remakes did).



Nintendi said:

Too many politics with this gaming industry. That's why Apple wanted Nintendo to join them, I suppose. .

Nintendo 8-bit classics should sell for .99 cents-$1.99 without all the ERSB trying to capitalize on Nintendo and try to re-rate games that weren't rated in the past... it's all political BS.



WaxxyOne said:

I like how the Wii VC version of this got 6 stars (3 out of 5 with the old rating system) and this review got 8 despite being the same game.



alLabouTandroiD said:

I wouldn't need a map that tells me me where to go or even anything in advance, just one that shows me where i am and what i've already seen. (Which colors do doors have, where did i see an upgrade that i couldn't reach yet). Maybe even allow you to give rooms symbols that remind you there's something suspicious 'bout 'em and you should return there later.

As it stands now i think i'll never have the patience to play through this fine NES gem.



kyuubikid213 said:

No, no, no. You NEED a map in this game. There are so many spots where you get stuck that requires you to just randomly shoot the ceiling or bomb the floor. If I could "fix" this game, I would put in a map that shows the entire planet and where you are in it. This option would work by pressing START which would both pause the game and bring up the map screen. Not to mention, you'd need the map to get the special ending. I mean really, 2 hours?! It took me 19!!



XDalleX said:

I don´t think this game is really that hard. It´s not even that big that you would need an ingame map.
I remember it being hard the first time playing. But dude thats for me some twenty years ago. Without internet... Without any password tricks... Just me and my dad. Oh yeah we had a noteblock and pencils too... But after the third time beating the game... you just know where to go... where to get the power ups... and then it´s not so hard.
I guess that was the way video games were played back then.



Dreadjaws said:


Yeah, what's up with that? I get the reviews are made by two different people, but there's practically no difference between both versions besides portability. And quicksaving. And I guess graphics, since they look better on a small screen. And the ability to suspend the game and take notes, which allows you to make your own map.

OK, I honestly started this post agreeing with you, but now that I actually think about it, this is clearly the superior version. You know what? I'm going to buy it right now. I'm already playing Super Metroid on my Wii and Metroid II on my 3DS, but this series is just great.



rogue_agent said:

I don't know if this is on 3DS, but I highly recommend that people get Zero Mission - not only is it a wonderful remake, but it also contains an unlockable version of this game too - talk about value for money. IMO, this game is a waste of money.



Nintendawg said:

I don't think the abscence of a map and a tutorial in this game was just to make it more "hardcore". That would be plain silly, in my humble opinion. All of the game's hidden features were a very clever way (on Nintendo's part) to create much needed hype about the game. There was no internet back then, for anyone to browse through endless walkthroughs. Word of mouth was all there was.
All this build-up of hype (for this and many other NES games), was working in Nintendo's favour acting as some sort of advertisement. Very clever indeed.
And of course, there was...
Nintendo Power.
Back then, there was no other way to be in the know about all those (absurd) secrets in NES games, but to own the magazine. Which is kind of ridiculous if you ask me, but that's life.
I have yet to finish Metroid (I do not endorse the use of walkthroughs in games), but I simply cannot be ar$ed to take the time to draw a huge map when I've got so many other wonderful games waiting to be played...

"Of course, if you use those restore points for anything else, you're officially cheating."

nerd alert



CanisWolfred said:

@Dreadjaws Put it way better than I would've, haha.
@kyuubikid213 Modern gamer alert. You're not supposed to get the special ending on your first try. It's for masters only, who have gotten the game down to a T (and probably drew their own maps).



Philip_J_Reed said:

Yeah, what's up with that? I get the reviews are made by two different people, but there's practically no difference between both versions besides portability. And quicksaving. And I guess graphics, since they look better on a small screen. And the ability to suspend the game and take notes, which allows you to make your own map.

OK, I honestly started this post agreeing with you, but now that I actually think about it, this is clearly the superior version. You know what? I'm going to buy it right now.

I nominate this post for Hall of Fame status.



PixelatedPixie said:

As much as I love the series I find it very hard to go back to this game and the gameboy follow up. It's probably because I played Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion and Metroid Prime prior to playing the NES original, but personally I don't think it holds up.



misswliu81 said:

a really good game, letdown by the lack of a map. other than that, this is the first game of the series and the first one that made me fall in love with the metroid franchise.

the remake zero mission however is a much bigger improvement in many respects- from the character, level design and it's arguably less- if not too less linear than the original game.



Dreadjaws said:

Hey, thanks. It's the honest truth, I was on the fence about getting it, but as I started thinking while writing, I got myself more and more interested for it, and I ended up purchasing it after posting the message.

Hey, it's cool how many of us have the same metroid avatar with different effects applied to it.



ecco6t9 said:

Maybe a 3D classics version of this with a map and slowdown removed? And possibly the ability to shoot downwards.

Although I love the game as is.



Geonjaha said:

Wouldnt be much point in making a 3D-Classics version if its being set up to fix faults in the game - Zero Mission did that fine.



CanisWolfred said:

I'd imagine those wouldn't been too hard, though. I could see them at least fixing the slow down.



TromaDogg said:

I don't mind the lack of in game guidance, but the fact that many of the environments look identical, even the style of the platforms and walls, confuses the hell out of me and I just don't fine it fun to play.....it's the only Metroid game in the entire franchise I don't really enjoy much.

If it was remade as a 3D Classics game and had backgroud graphics that differentiated areas from each other (like the recent Kid Icarus 3D Classics update) however, then I'd be more than prepared to spend a lot more time with it.

In the meantime, I'll just stick to Metroid Zero Mission for my original Metroid kicks....it's vastly superior to this.



Urbanhispanic said:

@ToxieDogg This is still considered a classic title that made an impact on video games in general. I too love Metroid Zero Mission but it was MEANT to be a remake so of course it's superior to the source material.



Cia said:

Metroid games should have more Tutorial, and something like Fi who would constantly explain you what to do and where to go. It's a waste of time for having to think the correct way to progress in the game. Just tell us everything. This is the future of video games. Also, some sort of Win button against enemies would be nice. And immortality, because dying in games is tedious.



WAM2 said:

I think this review is a bit old-school biased. Sure, it was fantastic back in the day, but I've tried playing this game repeatedly and can't even come close to winning it (even if I cheat for everything and invincibility! I get lost!). I know some of you will probably just say I'm a wuss, but really, I need to find better things to do with my life then let some 20+ year old video game kick my butt. Repeatedly.

And really, I think if this were some other game, the reviewer wouldn't have been as forgiving of its faults. I think this is an important game, historically, but by today's standards, it has been improved upon by its sequels in every way and aged horribly.



Mok said:

When I played this on my NES all those years ago I didn't have the patience and I very much doubt I'll have it today. Sorry, this is a miss for me.



scrubbyscum999 said:

I tried to play this the other day and the lack of a map and low health made it ridiculous. Hell, have those two things and the game would be a little more playable. This was obviously a Nintendo Power sort of game. I might try it again but if not than its Super Metroid for me.



scrubbyscum999 said:

I tried to play this the other day and the lack of a map and low health made it ridiculous. Hell, have those two things and the game would be a little more playable. This was obviously a Nintendo Power sort of game. I might try it again but if not than its Super Metroid for me.



Socar said:

First time playing Metroid. The only problem with this is that the first time, you're really weak and can't even defend yourself from those overpowered enemies but once you get atleast the power ranger, Missiles and proto bomb, then you'll be fine. So far I have yet to get the most fun out of it but its good so far.



jackman5647 said:

hey, i just got this game on my nintendo 3ds and i dont know how to shoot a missile. can someone please help

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