I Can’t Stop Playing 'Metroid Dread'

It’s not perfect and can be frustrating, but it might be my new favorite

Key Takeaways

  • It’s been a long time coming, but Metroid Dread managed to exceed my expectations.
  • Some bosses and other encounters can be frustrating due to their unforgiving nature, but they are satisfying once you finish them.
  • The game does everything else so well the shortcomings can be easily overlooked.
A screenshot from 'Metroid Dread.'

After almost 20 years, we finally have a new Metroid sequel, and despite some glaring flaws, I haven’t been able to put it down—even after beating it.

I’ve been a fan of the series since the days of looking up maps for the NES original in Nintendo Power, but Nintendo hasn’t been making it easy. As beloved as the franchise and most of the spin-offs are (ignoring Other M, obviously), it’s functionally been stuffed into the C-tier catalog for years.

So despite my affection, I tend to just forget about the series for extended periods. Because the only time anyone talks about Samus Aran is when it relates to Super Smash Bros. Until now, that is.

I’m probably halfway through my second playthrough, and I think Metroid Dread might be my new favorite game in the entire series. It’s certainly got a few problems and frustrations, but it does so much right by way of the mechanics and presentation I can overlook them. Plus, I recently replayed Super Metroid, and for as (deservedly) exalted and timeless as that game is, it’s also not perfect.

"It’s imperfect and frustrating at times, yes, but nowhere near enough to drag the experience down..."

Metroid Rage

The bosses in Metroid games tend to be relatively tough fights that function as a kind of action-puzzle hybrid, and Metroid Dread follows the same pattern. This, in itself, is fine, and many of the bosses are memorable—even fun—to figure out. That being said, the margin for error is significantly smaller here than in previous games.

Many of the bosses (or even mini-bosses) can take you out in a handful of hits, which tends to result in pretty speedy failures at first. Thankfully, the checkpoint system is pretty forgiving, but there just isn’t as much wiggle room here. Having to retry a boss a dozen times because you can only take a handful of hits feels like a step backward.

Then there are the E.M.M.I. robots. I love the concept of having specific zones patrolled by nigh-invincible enemies that spell instant Game Over if they catch you (and you miss the counter). Wandering through these sections is legitimately tense—most of the time.

The problem with the E.M.M.I. is that they, much like the boss encounters, offer little room for error. Some of them are downright infuriating to try and circumvent, and while the checkpoint system is somewhat helpful, I still found myself swearing at the screen a lot.

A screenshot from 'Metroid Dread.'

Though as frustrating as some bosses have been and as obnoxious as certain E.M.M.I. are, it’s satisfying to figure them all out. And I mean, once I learned the tricks and patterns, I was mostly able to breeze right through them the second time around. Mostly.

My New Favorite

With all that unpleasantness out of the way, I freaking ADORE Metroid Dread. It might very well be my new favorite Metroid ever (a title previously held by Zero Mission). It has so many smart refinements from the earlier games and cleverly mixes stuff up to keep it from feeling overly familiar.

It reverses the basic setup, so now you start from deep within the planet and have to get back to the surface, rather than the other way around.

Items and abilities are streamlined, so you only have to press and hold certain buttons to activate them instead of stiffly cycling through multiple selections. Pickups you spot (and even blocks that require special items to break) are automatically marked on the map.

The presentation is the best it’s ever been, too. The entire game looks fantastic with stellar visuals and fantastic creature, character, and environment designs.

A screenshot from 'Metroid Dread.'

Though Samus, herself, is the star of the show, of course. Her new look caught me off guard at first in the reveal trailer, but it’s now my favorite design in the entire series. She even gets to display more character this time around, thanks to some fantastic animation during gameplay and in cutscenes.

I could continue to lavish praise on Metroid Dread, but suffice to say, I’m thrilled with what we’ve been given. It’s imperfect and frustrating at times, yes, but nowhere near enough to drag the experience down, nor to convince me this isn’t the best game in the series.

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