GameSpite Journal 10 | Super Metroid

Super Metroid | Dev.: Nintendo | Pub: Nintendo | Genre: Platformer | Release: May 1994

Samus Aran’s appearance on the SNES is the stuff of legends. According to the Ancient Forefathers of Gaming, Samus’s arrival on the Super Nintendo went thusly:

One day in Video Game Land, a rare morning when the Burning Sun had taken his medication and decided to chill out instead of swooping down and giving every citizen a third-degree sunburn, Mario, Simon Belmont, and Mega Man X were throwing a large ball between themselves. The game was typical of their playdates: Mario kept exclaiming about spaghetti, Mega Man X wept loudly over the destruction of the Reploid race at his own hands, and every toss that Simon Belmont made would cause a small heart to float above his head and evaporate. As usual, his friends advised that he see a doctor about his condition. As usual, Simon brushed it off as a genetic condition.

X’s nonstop weeping caused oily tears to obstruct his optics, and one of his throws sailed over Simon’s head.

“Fear not, friends!” cried Simon. “I shall retrieve our ball, and our game will proceed with God’s grace!”

Mario rubbed the back of his neck and looked down. “Eh, Belmondo, Nintendo no like-a when we talk like that, eh?”

Simon put his hands on the ball, which suddenly grew warm to the touch. Then, as quickly as a meal of deep-fried zombie runs through a werewolf, the ball unfurled into—

“By the Son’s wounds!” Simon gasped. “A magical space-knight hatched from our plaything!”

“Not a space knight,” X said. “It’s a girl.” He blew his nose.

“Samus Aran,” Mario said. “She was-a one of us, Simon. But I don’t-a blame-a you for not remembering. It’s been a long time. Where have-a you been, Samus? The world, she’s 16 bits now.”

“Can you handle it?” Mega Man X asked her quietly. The warrior looked at him without saying a word. Then she looked at Simon, and at Mario. The sun gleamed wickedly off her gold-and-crimson armor. It was such an attractive sight that the Burning Sun swooped in for a closer look. Mario and Simon were burnt to a crisp and Mega Man X melted down into slag, but Samus was long gone; she was already running, running, running to her ship, which she knew would be waiting for her as steadfastly as a dog waits for her master by a railway station.

“Watch me,” she whispered.

This is where the Big Book of Video Game Lore ends its tale about Samus’s sole 16-bit adventure, but we suspect Michelangelo ripped out the last few pages when he ran out of Zig Zags. Nevertheless, 1994’s Super Metroid is imprinted on the hearts and souls of every SNES owner, and it deserves its spot. Super Metroid is still hailed as one of the best action games ever created, and its genetic material has been passed on down through similarly celebrated titles like 1997’s Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and 2009’s Shadow Complex.

Ask around for reasons why Super Metroid remains on a pedestal, and you’ll receive rich and varied responses. The game’s lonely atmosphere; its emphasis on exploration; its wordless but powerful storytelling. Often, fans will narrow the game’s best traits down to a single moment of impact, like the selfless sacrifice of the metroid hatchling, or having Samus’s best ally—the Chozo statues that cup her power-ups in their talons—suddenly awaken and attack.

Most importantly, Super Metroid boosted Samus from a secondary, forgettable character to one of the heaviest hitters in the Nintendo pantheon. Super Metroid helped secure her place in the generations that followed, and she’ll doubtless run alongside us for as long as Nintendo needs heroines.

By Nadia Oxford? | Jan. 31, 2012 | Previous: Secret of Mana | Next: Breath of Fire