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SYFY WIRE opinion

Metroid Dread is the old-school sequel Nintendo fans have craved for (almost) 20 years

By Benjamin Bullard

Samus Aran had to wait almost two decades for a chance to bring her morph ball-boosted skills back to Nintendo’s side-scrolling roots. But with the release of Metroid Dread, she’s back on the hunt at last — and it’s no exaggeration to say that she may have just landed in her toughest fight yet.

If nothing else, it’s definitely one of her most thrilling ones.

Catching fans totally by surprise when Nintendo announced its development earlier this summer, Metroid Dread sounded at the time like an olive branch to fans who’ve long been pining for the awaited next installment in the 3D Metroid Prime series. After all, Metroid Prime and its sequels set a new bar for what Metroid games could be, and other 2D games have come along since the franchise’s early days; games that’ve helped define the Metroid half of the “Metroidvania” map-crawling genre that old-school classics like Super Metroid made famous. 

Not only that, but it’s been 19 years since Nintendo released Metroid Fusion, the last proper 2D Metroid game, for the Game Boy Advance. With so much time passed, can a new 2D Metroid really teach modern-day greats like Ori and the Blind Forest and Hollow Knight any new tricks?

Can it ever. Not only does Metroid Dread serve up some jaw-dropping story moments that expand on what fans think they know about the iconic series; it also shows just how much life is still left in the retro, run-dodge-shoot 2D formula that its NES predecessors pioneered. Imagine if Nintendo had made a game like Super Metroid for the Switch (instead of its 16-bit, early-1990s Super NES ancestor) — and then boosted the challenge factor with awesome new alien environments and unrelenting enemies that never, and we mean never, let Samus stand still. 

Add to that a truly wild new wrinkle in Samus’ backstory; one that gives fans their first true glimpse at the mysterious, birdlike Chozo race that only appeared in ghostly form in Metroid Prime. This is the game that shows you what those Chozo were actually like in the past, and it lets fans in on the secret that they’re not all as friendly as the ones that greeted Samus with open arms on the GameCube.

Critics are power-bombing Metroid Dread with praise all around, with the game sitting at a sweet 89 overall metascore at Metacritic — including several perfect review scores. “While Samus' latest adventure delivers the classic exploration-based platforming/action we've come to expect, I never shook the all-encompassing anxiety that gives this adventure its name…” wrote Game Informer’s Ben Reeves in just one of the site’s 66 aggregated reviews, “and I loved every minute of it.”

Though Nintendo’s trailers have made it seem like a game that has you mostly fighting those (admittedly fearsome) E.M.M.I. robots, the E.M.M.I.s don’t begin to scratch the surface of the huge variety of killer baddies you’ll have to blast through in Metroid Dread. And without spoiling anything, the boss fights eventually become absolute murder, making for some of the toughest battles you’ve ever faced from behind Samus Aran’s visor — and that includes the Metroid Prime trilogy. 

You’ll be relentlessly chased by near-indestructible search-and-destroy robots, you’ll face some of hardest boss fights of your Metroid life, and you’ll be rewarded with mind-bending new power-ups — some brand new to the series — pretty much every time you make it past a challenging baddie. By the end, you’ll even see Samus in a way you’ve never seen her before…if, that is, you can fight your way to the finish line. 

Yep, Metroid Dread is that tough — but it’s also that rewarding. If Metroid Prime 4 ends up being anywhere close to this much fun, we can wait as long as Nintendo needs for a game so crammed with head-scratching puzzles, fight-or-flight sci-fi surprises, and tons of cool suit boosts that raise the endgame action to a frantically fevered pitch. 

Developed by Mercury Steam and Nintendo EPD, Metroid Dread is available now for the Nintendo Switch.