How to properly prepare for Metroid Dread
Welcome back! We’re going through the entire Metroid franchise in chronological order and determining which ones should be played specifically to prepare for Metroid Dread. But we’re not just making a list, we’re also diving into why they should or shouldn't be played, depending on what you might want out of the Metroid series, as well as how you can play them. If you haven’t checked out the first part, you should totally read that now. If you’re all caught up, let’s get back to work!
Metroid Prime: Federation Force (3DS, 2016)
What is it? Capping off the Metroid Prime side series is Federation Force, a silly chibi-style squad shooter. It’s kind of fun if you have other people to play it with, but it does very little for the overall lore of the franchise, and I’d be shocked beyond shocked if it has anything to do at all whatsoever with Dread.
Should you play it? Nope. The only reason to give this a go is for the sake of curiosity or completionism. It isn’t a bad game, but it’s an incredibly weird one given the series’ fanbase. It was made by Next Level Games, the studio known for the exquisite Super Mario Strikers, Punch-Out!! for Wii, and Luigi’s Mansion 3. It’s nowhere near as good as those games, but it’s still pretty cool, and the multiplayer game Blast Ball is pretty fun if you have someone to play with. In preparation for Dread though, there are much better ways to spend your time.
How can you play it? This one is’t very old, so the only way to play it is on original hardware. Fortunately very few people actually bought this game so it can still be found for relatively cheap. However, it is a Metroid game, so collectors have started hunting it down, so if you want it, sooner is better than later.
Metroid II: Return of Samus (Game Boy, 1991)
What is it? This is the actual second chapter in the story that Dread is apparently concluding, and the second game released following the NES original. It’s got its fair share of issues, being a black and white Game Boy game, but it does a lot of cool stuff too. It sends Samus to the Metroids’ homeworld SR388, where she encounters a series of terrifying Metroid evolutions. Like the NES original, it still doesn’t have a map, and the lack of color means the areas can look quite samey. It’s also way more linear than the first game, but it still works, and it can be pretty fun. More importantly, it tells one of the most pivotal stories in the franchise. Once you finally defeat the Metroid Queen, you encounter the last Metroid, a baby that hatches right in front of you. The Federation tasked you with eradicating the species wholesale, but even Samus couldn’t say no to this adorable little baby who mistook her for its mother. Her decision to spare the little guy changes everything.
Should you play it? Probably not. Like the original Metroid, this game got a remake that fixed a lot of its issues. Now, that remake was a lot more divisive than Zero Mission was, but by and large it’s a much more fleshed out experience. Unlike the original Metroid, there isn’t a whole lot of iconic imagery or music in the original release. Play it if you’re going for that whole completionist thing because it really is a very good game considering the limitations of the hardware, but all in all you could get away with skipping it.
How can you play it? There are some good options out there for this one. The original cart has become absurdly expensive, but only if you’re looking for one complete in box. The loose cart is actually quite reasonable. However, the EverDrive GB exists, and that will do the job quite well. This game is practically what the original Super Game Boy (an accessory that plays Game Boy games with customizable color on your TV via a Super NES) was made for too, so if you have that setup, that’s a great way to get it up and running on television.
It was also re-released on the 3DS eShop, which includes suspend states. Always a plus.
Metroid: Samus Returns (3DS, 2017)
What is it? This is the most recent Metroid release, and a full remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, similar to the way Zero Mission worked. For my money, this is the way to experience this chapter in the Metroid storyline. It introduced a parry mechanic that changed the pacing of the game quite a bit, and it does suffer from making you fight the same enemies and bosses over and over and over, but boy does this game nail pretty much everything else. It looks great, it controls really well, and it has some amazing new bosses like the Diggernaut, and a surprise boss battle at the end which absolutely rules.
Should you play it? Absolutely. This chapter is super important in the overall mythos of Metroid, and it’s told extremely well here. If you’re a Metroid novice, you probably won’t be bothered at all by the parry mechanic because the biggest issue with it I suspect is that it made for a pretty dramatic change to the classic Metroid pacing to this point.
More importantly, this game was developed by MercurySteam, who are also developing Metroid Dread, and that new game seems to be building on the foundation that Samus Returns set, both from a visual and gameplay standpoint.
How can you play it? This one has only been around for a couple of years, so the only way to get it is on 3DS. It still goes for its original retail price, and is well worth it.
Super Metroid (Super NES, 1994)
What is it? This is widely regarded as one of the best games ever made, and for good reason. It’s exquisitely made. It tells a great story full of memorable moments and environments, and it plays like a dream. That said, it’s also an evolution of the gameplay from the original NES and Game Boy games, as it was the third actual release in the series, so Samus is still pretty floaty. Some people like this, myself included, but it might feel a little strange if you’re coming off of Zero Mission and Samus Returns where they gave Samus considerable more weight when she jumps. But no matter how you slice it, this is an amazing game in every respect.
Should you play it? Absolutely. Like I said, it’s one of the best games ever made, and an absolute must for anyone who is even remotely interested in getting into the franchise.
How can you play it? This game has been one of the more expensive SNES games out there for quite some time, so if you want to play it on an original cart, it’s gonna cost you. However, the FXPAK Pro is a product that we sell, and it might be able to help you play this game and many others.
Outside of that though, this one’s super easy to get a hold of digitally. It’s available on the New 3DS eShop (but only the New 3DS, not original 3DS or 2DS), it’s on the Wii U Virtual Console, and it’s on Super NES Nintendo Switch Online, which once again has that sweet rewind feature. Nintendo has made it perfectly easy to play this over the years, which is good because it’s one of their finest efforts. Play this game.
Metroid: Other M (Nintendo Wii)
What is it? Whoo boy, where does one begin with this one? This game is a bizarre side story that acts as an unnecessary bridge between Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion, aka Metroid 3 and Metroid 4. They made a lot of… choices with this one. For example, it’s a 3D game, but you can’t control it with an analog stick. It does have some really cool things in it though, and it is on more than a few occasions pretty fun to play and rather awesome to look at, but overall it really is a mess.
Should you play it? Absolutely not. This one gets a hard no. The only reason to play this game is if you really want to be able to say you’ve played every Metroid game, or if you’re super curious to see just how deep the insanity goes.
In terms of gameplay, it does have its moments, and those moments are frequent and honestly pretty darn great. IT also features one of the best Ridley battles in the franchise, outstanding 3D representations of some of Samus's coolest powers like the Speed Booster, Power Bombs, and Screw Attack, and is genuinely fun to play more often than not. However, the game forces you to play it with a Wii Remote held sideways, which is a terrible idea for a 3D game. Without an analog stick, movement feels painfully stiff, and there’s a serious lack of buttons for making Samus’s moveset manageable. They even marked all the items on the map so there’s very little in the way of exploration, the main point of Metroid games. And then there’s the story...
Not only is it a bad story, but it’s told incredibly poorly. I won’t go into the details here, but it’s chock full of contradictions with previous entries, it's absurdly melodramatic, and it portrays Samus as a whiny, weak willed, petulant child. But only in the story segments, because this game's presentation is crazy uneven. During gameplay, Samus is every bit as awesome as you’d expect her to be, but when the overly-talky story gets going, she’s constantly waxing poetic about her every thought and feeling. It’s honestly a fascinating game, but it can be really hard to get through. In service to Dread, it should be avoided, especially since a lot of the character work it set up seems to have been undone.
How can you play it? Well, if you MUST, the game disc itself isn’t hard or expensive to find because really, nobody wanted it then, and nobody wants it now. That will run on a Wii or a Wii U. It’s also available for download on the Wii U eShop. But again, play at your own risk. It's almost really good, emphasis on the almost.
Metroid Fusion (Game Boy Advance)
What is it? A direct sequel to Super Metroid, and the direct prequel to Metroid Dread, Fusion is an excellent game. It moves really well and introduces a new spin on the Metroid formula. Following the events of Super Metroid, the Galactic Federation contracted Samus to accompany some troopers to SR388 since she’s pretty well versed in that planet’s terrain. The trouble is, since she went there and killed all the Metroids in Metroid 2, she inadvertently wreaked serious havoc on the planet’s ecosystem, and the Metrod’s primary food source, the X Parasite, has since grown wildly out of control. An X parasite infects Samus, and she loses consciousness while flying back to the GF base.
She is rescued, and healed using a makeshift Metroid vaccine created out of the remaining DNA the federation scientists had on hand from the baby Metroid Samus saved in Metroid 2. This meant that Samus was now actually part Meroid, and as such gained some interesting Metroid like qualities. She could now absorb X parasites, which now serves as the primary way she does things like restore her health and ammo in the game, but she also gained a weakness to cold, like the Metroids themselves.
Overall, the game is a bit too talky for its own good, and it’s pretty guided, so there isn’t quite as much exploration as you’d expect from a Metroid game, but it makes up for it by just being really fun and interesting to play. This is also where you first hear about Adam Malkovich, Samus’s previous commanding officer from her days serving in the Galactic Federation army, and we get some hints of their relationship. It’s fine in this game, if a little much, but it gets expanded on to a disturbing degree in Other M, so you know, continue to stay away from that one.
Fusion really is an excellent game, and a very important chapter to have played in order to properly understand what’s going on in Dread, presumably.
Should you play it? Absolutely. This game is not to be missed, especially in preparation for Metroid Dread. One of the big things they showed off in the Dread trailer is hiding from these crazy robots that are hunting you, and that seems to be an expansion of a mechanic introduced in this game. See, those X parasites get around by mimicking whatever creatures they come in contact with. For the most part, they’re mimicking monsters native to SR388, but the X that infected Samus actually start mimicking her at the height of her power in Super Metroid.
Being hunted by a fully powered Samus would be terrifying enough on its own, but since you’ve been weakened by the Metroid vaccine, the SA-X as it's called can and will absolutely obliterate you if it sees you. Hiding from this thing is one of the most memorable experiences in the entire franchise, and worth the price of admission alone, especially after having played the previous games so you have a full grasp on just how powerful Samus can get.
How can you play it? Fusion has also gotten pretty darn expensive, especially if you want it complete. This is another case where an EverDrive-GBA is an excellent idea if you want to play this on original hardware.
On the emulation front, if you were lucky enough to be part of the 3DS Ambassador program, you can play this on your 3DS no problem. But the best way to play this one is once again on the Wii U eShop. Like Zero Mission, it looks great blown up on the TV, and it’s pretty inexpensive considering the amount of fun you’ll probably have with it.
And that about sums it up. To recap, here’s the list of games I think you should absolutely play if you want to prepare yourself for Metroid Dread, in this order.
- Metroid: Zero Mission
- Metroid Prime
- Metroid: Samus Returns
- Super Metroid
- Metroid Fusion
The thing about the Metroid franchise is, there really are no overwhelmingly bad games. Even something as dramatically flawed as Metroid: Other M still has something to offer, which is more than can be said for the low points in the Zelda franchise (I’m looking at you, CD-i games). But if you want to be prepped for Dread and really see why Metroid fans love the series as much as they do, those games are the ones to see. The only amendment I’d make is to also spend some time with the NES original, but you can use codes or even just watch a playthrough for that one.
And there you have it. Now go out there and play some Metroid!
Oh, and play Metroid Prime Pinball. It’s awesome.