Gaming’s greatest bounty hunter Samus Aran is back and better than ever in Metroid Dread, an incredible sequel that reminds the world why the franchise deserves its place in the Nintendo hall of fame.
It’s been a long 19 years since the last original 2D Metroid game, Metroid Fusion, was released on Gameboy Advance, but the sequel that fans have been waiting for is finally here, and it’s hard to see how anyone could be disappointed by it.
With a vast and atmospheric world to explore, some of the greatest boss fights we’ve ever played, and a fresh concept with E.M.M.I. that sees the franchise successfully lean further into horror, Metroid Dread is arguably the best Switch-exclusive yet.
Metroid Dread – Key details
- Price: $59.99
- Developer: Nintendo
- Release date: October 8, 2021
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Metroid Dread trailer
Take a trip to Planet ZDR
The setup of Metroid Dread is quite simple: After the deadly X parasite is seemingly discovered on a planet known as ZDR, several E.M.M.I robots are sent to investigate. When their signal is lost, it’s up to Samus Aran to figure out what’s going on. Upon arrival, she’s ambushed, banished to the basement, and – no surprises here – stripped of her powers, which you’ll need to recover as you make your escape.
Metroid Dread retains the classic, non-linear exploration of its former titles, meaning there’s a lot of back-and-forth going on. It never feels tedious, though, and expanding the world of Planet ZDR as Samus finds more upgrades and gadgets to open up previously locked paths is incredibly satisfying.
It can be quite easy to get lost in Dread’s sprawling map, but there are always small clues if you look hard enough, and the lack of hand-holding only makes it more rewarding when you eventually figure out where to go next. Besides, the mystery of what lies behind a closed door is always too good to ignore.
Once you’ve got used to the controls – which did require a little bit of time for us, especially as they can’t be remapped – playing as Samus as she slides, wall jumps, and flash shifts across Planet ZDR is also a joy, with movement feeling incredibly smooth and responsive. Even after spending hours with the game, the small thrill of successfully parrying an enemy attack and blasting it to oblivion never loses its charm.
The E.M.M.I. will fill you with dread
The centerpiece of Metroid Dread is, of course, the E.M.M.I. These (mostly) indestructible robot assassins roam dedicated E.M.M.I Zones, and once they spot Samus, they’ll hunt her down relentlessly. Any objective you had gets put on hold when this happens, as survival becomes your one and only focus. Dread doesn’t do horror in a traditional sense, but it’s truly heart-pounding stuff when one of these death-bringers catches you in its line of sight.
The only way to defeat an E.M.M.I is to locate and absorb a ‘unique energy’ that’s in very short supply on Planet ZDR. This means you’ll have to rely on stealth and traversal to survive until you’re able to source it from the game’s mini-boss fights, who leave this energy behind when defeated. Grab that, and you’ll be able to use your Omega Blaster to destroy the E.M.M.I. and leave the area open to free exploration.
It’s a really rewarding (and addictive) cycle that kept us hooked – especially when the E.M.M.I. you just wiped out has caused a ‘Game Over’ screen to appear far more times than you’d be willing to admit. It also helps keep you in check when Samus gradually approaches full power; other enemies may start to fall with ease, but the E.M.M.I will always be a threat, no matter how many upgrades you get.
Metroid has never looked so good
When you’re not running for your life in E.M.M.I zones, you’ll have time to notice just how gorgeous Metroid Dread is. Gameplay may take the classic 2D format, but grand animated backdrops, creepy enemy designs rendered in 3D, and seamless transitions to exhilarating cutscenes all help bring Planet ZDR to life. This is easily the best Metroid’s ever looked.
We spent most of our time with Metroid Dread on the new OLED Switch, and it really is the perfect launch title for the upgraded console. Playing on a big TV in docked mode never felt quite as impressive, no matter how many times we tried switching between the two. Samus’ latest adventure will no doubt look beautiful on any screen, but it just feels right on the OLED Switch.
Of course, we couldn’t end this review without mentioning Dread’s epic boss fights. These huge, intimidating enemies present some of the hardest challenges we’ve ever faced in gaming, but they’re also some of the best, and while there’s a lot of trial-and-error required to succeed, they’re never unfair. Killing each one off is like solving a great puzzle, and really is the icing on the cake for an already incredible game.
Metroid Dread takes everything that’s good about the franchise and makes it greater. It’s a punishing and often nerve-wracking experience that offers huge rewards for persistence and an inquisitive mind. If you only play one game on Nintendo Switch this year, make sure it’s Metroid Dread.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch.