Elegant Super Metroid

January 27th, 2013

Super Metroid is one of the most elegant games you could possibly imagine.

I’m willing to admit, that a small portion of Super Metroid Hype is due to nostalgia. But not all of it. Super Metroid is not some magic game which everyone will be deeply enamored with, but it is a game which surpasses the test of time and is even today touted as a well built game.

I can understand how Super Metroid might not meet your expectations if you started with a newer Metroid game. I would blame that on the newer games for deviating from the original direction. (For the worse.)

There is an appreciation for the game that comes only after you have taken the time and energy to give the game multiple plays, and perhaps, do some external research. The beauty of the game (in my mind) is that it is very subtle in the things it does well.

Super Metroid coaxes you along only forcing your hand when it is entirely necessary. But I don’t need to explain these things… because other people already have.

If you have never played Super Metroid, or want to better understand it, then you need to read the following articles. If you want to design amazing games, you should read the following articles. If you don’t like reading, or video games… then I have no idea how you made it 238 words into this blog post.

The Invisible Hand of Super Metroid by Hugo Bille
This is a 21 page article on the game design of Super Metroid. It’s long. But it’s an amazing read. I don’t know how much of the level design was completely thought out by the original Super Metroid Team vs how much was a happy accident, but the game was very well laid out. This article breaks down the game into three acts and gets very specific with level design and gamer psychology. I would count this as a “must read.”

Next on the reading list is a 5 part series on the top 20 reasons that Super Metroid is the best game ever. I probably agree with about half of his points, and while his posts are not quite as deep as Hugo Bille’s tome, he too points out some wonderful aspects of game design. (Thinking specifically of reason #18, #16, #14, #10, #7, and #5.)

20 Reasons why Super Metroid is the Best Game Ever by Nick Kooy
20 Reasons why Super Metroid is the Best Game Ever. #15-11
20 Reasons why Super Metroid is the Best Game Ever. #10-6
20 Reasons why Super Metroid is the Best Game Ever. #5-2
20 Reasons why Super Metroid is the Best Game Ever. #1

In September of 2012, 1UP readers voted Super Metroid #27 in the Essential 100 video games. The article, The Essential 100, No. 27: Super Metroid, by Jeremy Parish, is less detail oriented, but again brings to light the fact that games like this don’t exist anymore.

Super Metroid’s immersive narrative and measured progression were unparalleled in its day, and its show-don’t-tell style has increasingly fallen into disfavor. Even the game’s own sequels arbitrarily lock doors and spew dialogue at the player, despite being the product of much of the key staff behind Super Metroid in the first place. These days, only independent games trust their players as much as Super Metroid did. But Super Metroid wasn’t just a great game because its creators were content to step back and let their audience experience the world for themselves. That respect simply made a great game even better.

And finally, Super Metroid: so good it’s eerie, by Stefan LeBlanc, is yet another completely bias opinion which supports my own.

At this point, I would LOVE to reiterate all the points that the four authors above made, adding my own personal insight. But this is something you really have to experience yourself.

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