Now here’s a classic for you 8-bit Nintendo gamers!
I’ll never forget holding this game in my hands for the first time. The shrink-wrapped silver box with a spaceman-of-sorts ready to fire an arm cannon at aliens.
Metroid captured the imagination of the era, which included Sigourney Weaver’s Alien movies. Little did us gamers know that Metroid captured a bit too well, that is, until you saw one of the secret endings or used the infamous “JUSTIN BAILEY” code on the password screen.
Either would reveal that the game’s protagonist, Samus Aran, is a female – a pretty shocking (and cool) revelation at a time when such information was rarely spoiled for gamers.
Metroid (and Konami’s Castlevania) would be so iconic and groundbreaking that the term “Metroidvania” would be coined for a genre of games with a similar premise: unlocking new areas by gaining new items/powers, often which requiring a lot of backtracking throughout the game.
But that wasn’t all that made Metroid unique. Most games of the time scrolled sideways, but Metroid did that and had vertical sprawl to it. You would often have to fall down, or scale, large corridors to get to the next section of the game.
With the exception of requiring certain items to get to certain locations, the game was also open-ended; meaning you could choose to go just about anywhere you wanted. (Though doing so might get you instantly killed if Samus wasn’t adequately equipped!)
The premise of the game is that Space Pirates stole an parasitic organism known as a “Metroid” and planned to replicate them as biological weapons.
Samus is actually a bounty hunter, tasked with hunting down the pirates and their leader, the Mother Brain.
The sci-fi overtones, fleshed out storyline, unique graphical areas, and new open-ended adventure made Metroid stand apart, but that’s not all it was known for. Samus was the first character to “spin jump”, curling into a ball mid-jump, in a video game: something taken for granted now but totally new to gamers in 1987.
There are so many good things I can say about this game, but in summation: combined it made for a helluva action/adventure game that still has a cult following to this day. Not only did it launch an entire series, but it launched an entire gaming genre.
If you haven’t played it, or any of its sequels, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
Even with 8-bit graphics, the original Metroid still stands tall as a game that is as accessible and replayable as any to this day.