After 19 years away, the Metroid series is finally returning to its roots with a brand new entry into its mainline 2D series. Metroid Dread will be the fifth game in the beloved franchise's core lineup when it launches on Switch this October, and if our chat with the game's producer is anything to go by, that 19-year gap will have been more than worth the wait.
It makes us feel painfully old to say it, but we've no doubt there are plenty of you reading this who weren't old enough to be playing games – or perhaps not even old enough to have been born yet – when the series' last entry arrived on store shelves. Metroid celebrates its 35th anniversary this year, too, so even series veterans might be feeling a little rusty on their Chozo lore.
Interestingly, Dread fits in right at the very end of the current Metroid timeline, and it's even been confirmed that the game "concludes the five-part saga focusing on the strange, interconnected fates of bounty hunter Samus and the Metroids".
As such, we thought it'd be helpful to put together an overview of how you can brush up on the story so you're all clued up when Dread arrives later this year. There are two ways you could tackle this: firstly, by playing through the main series' first four games, or secondly (if you have the time, money and effort required), by going through each and every game in timeline order. Let's dive in.
Metroid's Mainline Games In Chronological Order
As we mentioned above, Metroid Dread will be the fifth entry in the franchise's main series of games. Thankfully avoiding Star Wars' new-but-old prequel tactic, all five of these have been released in story order, meaning the oldest game tells the start of the story, with Dread finishing it.
If you're wanting to play through the first four games before jumping into Dread, here's what to expect and how you can get your hands on each one:
– Metroid: NES, Wii Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console, NES Classic Edition console, Nintendo Switch Online
– Metroid: Zero Mission: Game Boy Advance, Wii U Virtual Console
Just like plenty of Nintendo's other iconic franchises, Metroid started life on the NES. Fittingly called Metroid, this first entry is a pretty tough game by today's standards thanks to its mean enemies, its open-ended world design, and the lack of a map – seriously, how did we get by without a map?
The game kicks off Samus' story in spectacular fashion; a highly-regarded bounty hunter, Samus is dispatched to the Planet Zebes in order to wipe out all the Metroids stationed there as well as the devious Space Pirates' leader, Mother Brain. The Metroids are beings that could be used as a biological weapon in the wrong hands, so Samus' mission is of utmost importance.
"Metroids - the most dangerous creatures in the galaxy - have fallen into the hands of Space Pirates! As bounty hunter Samus Aran, battle through the depths of planet Zebes to take out the pirates’ leader Mother Brain and restore peace to the galaxy."
If you fancy a more modern take on this early story, you might want to consider grabbing a copy of Metroid: Zero Mission, an excellent remake of the original game that launched on Game Boy Advance in 2004.
It tells the same story but introduces improved visuals and gameplay, new items, areas, and bosses, and – perhaps most importantly of all – save rooms, helping make the overall experience far less punishing. Zero Mission also featured the debut of Samus in her Zero Suit guise, in an added section available when you complete the game.
It's available on Wii U's Virtual Console.
The only Metroid game on Game Boy, Metroid II: Return of Samus picks things up after the events of the first game (and also after the events of the Metroid Prime series – more on that in our complete timeline below).
After a successful mission on Planet Zebes, it's decided that Metroids should be wiped from extinction entirely to prevent any further threat. Multiple crews are sent to the Metroids' home planet, SR388, but none return; enter Samus, the only one who can get the job done once and for all.
"The Game Boy's exclusive chapter in the Metroid series sees Samus Aran on a mission to rid planet SR388 of the Metroid menace. Battle through a sprawling underworld, seeking out every last Metroid, and build up your arsenal by discovering mysterious artefacts. Enjoy new abilities like the Spider Ball, and powerful new weapons like the Plasma Beam, as you attempt to eradicate the Metroids once and for all."
Just like the first game, Metroid II has also been given the remake treatment. Metroid: Samus Returns reimagines Metroid II for a modern audience on Nintendo 3DS, giving brand new life to a game that was starting to show its age. Samus Returns introduced plenty of new quality of life improvements, as well as expanded and updated locations, and also added the ability to freely fire at any angle and use a melee counter attack.
We'd go for the 3DS entry, but with the original also being available on the 3DS' Virtual Console, the choice is yours.
Ah, Super Metroid. Often listed as one of the best games of all time, this third entry in the series first launched on SNES back in 1994.
Taking place immediately after Metroid II in the timeline, Super Metroid picks up on Samus' story after her successful mission on SR388. After destroying the Metroids, Samus brings one remaining infant Metroid to Ceres Space Colony so that it can be studied. Soon after leaving the colony, Samus receives a distress call and returns to investigate – Ridley has entered and snatched the baby Metroid, giving Samus no choice but to pursue the skeletal beast back to Planet Zebes.
"When space pirates snatch the last remaining Metroid, bounty hunter Samus Aran is called back into action! Use new abilities like the Grapple Beam and X-Ray Scope to navigate the massive labyrinths of Planet Zebes, battling enemies and enormous bosses with an arsenal of beams, missiles and bombs."
There's no remake to speak of for Super Metroid, but it really doesn't need one. This is widely regarded as one of the series' best games and it can be played on a variety of modern systems like Nintendo Switch's Online service, the SNES Classic console if you're lucky enough to have one, or the Wii U's Virtual Console.
Finally, the fourth game of the series and the last entry you need to play to truly catch up before Metroid Dread launches is Metroid Fusion, a Game Boy Advance title that launched in 2002.
Fusion technically follows the events of Metroid: Other M, a title that sits between the GBA entry and Super Metroid in the timeline, but is viewed as a spin-off of sorts thanks to its differences from past games and its first-person perspective. Things begin with Samus keeping watch over a research team, where she unfortunately gets infected by a parasitic organism called X.
Doctors manage to destroy the parasite inside her using a vaccine made from Samus' old baby Metroid – you know, the one from past games mentioned above – and this unexpectedly gives her new powers. Using these new powers, she tries to fight off the new parasitic threat once and for all.
"While on a mission to the Metroids’ home planet, bounty hunter Samus Aran is attacked by a deadly parasite. Cured by Metroid DNA, Samus is bestowed with unique new powers from her old adversary, but must face a new enemy: the ‘X’ parasite. Metroid Fusion blends a captivating original story with intense platform action and exploration in the classic Metroid mould."
Another game without a remake, Fusion is available on the Wii U Virtual console – in fact, if you happen to be an early-adopting 3DS 'Ambassador', you should have a copy waiting for you there, too.
The game was overshadowed slightly by Metroid Prime thanks to the two launching in the same year, but it certainly has its fans and some NL staffers claim it to be their favourite of the lot.
Metroid Complete Series Timeline
Ah, we see you've made it to the 'I want to consume every single Metroid product directly into my veins' category. Congratulations.
Below, you'll find a complete list of Metroid games in order of Samus' timeline (with thanks to Wikitroid). You'll notice that the Prime games, released in the 2000s, actually slot in just after the very first game, and before Metroid II.
- Metroid / Metroid: Zero Mission (NES/Game Boy Advance, 1986/2004)
- Metroid Prime (GameCube, 2002)
- Metroid Prime: Hunters (DS, 2006)
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (GameCube, 2004)
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (Wii, 2007)
- Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS, 2016)
- Metroid II: Return of Samus / Metroid: Samus Returns (Game Boy/3DS, 1991/2017)
- Super Metroid (SNES, 1994)
- Metroid: Other M (Wii, 2010)
- Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance, 2002)
- Metroid Dread (Nintendo Switch, 2021)
If I only play one Metroid game, which should I play?
Look, we won't lie, this isn't an easy question to answer. Plenty of the games listed above are fantastic and very worthy of your time, but if you're new to the series and want one quick blast to get you ready for Dread, we'd have to go with Super Metroid.
As we mentioned above, Super Metroid is often regarded as the best of the 2D Metroid games, and therefore the best of the series which Dread will fall into. The original Metroid Prime is also a fan favourite, but we're talking 2D games here so Super Metroid takes it. Do yourself a favour and give it a spin.
We hope you've found this guide to the Metroid series useful. Make sure to let us know if you're planning on picking up Metroid Dread with a comment below, and feel free to share your favourite games of the series, too.
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