Thanks to the immensely successful launch of Dread, 2D Metroid is back stronger than ever! It was a strong showing from developer MercurySteam, and they landed the job by impressing Nintendo with the remake Samus Returns. This has many players imagining other classic Metroid games in the MercurySteam style, and we’ve previously speculated about a Fusion remake. But today I’m coming from a different angle. I’m here to argue that Nintendo and MercurySteam should not remake SNES classic Super Metroid.
Super Metroid doesn’t need a remake
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that Super Metroid is perfect or that it couldn’t possibly benefit from a remake. It most certainly shows its age in some places, and there are some simple tweaks that could go a long way. A slightly more detailed map system and easier item selection options are simple changes that could go a long way. But as we’ve seen from Zero Mission and Samus Returns, that’s not how Nintendo typically approaches Metroid remakes.
When Nintendo remade the first two games, they massively overhauled the graphics, controls, physics, and level design. While these were (for the most part) necessary changes to make the games more accessible to a more modern audience, I don’t believe a Super Metroid remake is needed in the same way. And changing too much could detract from what made the game so iconic in the first place.
A timeless atmosphere
Most video games made in the 80s didn’t age particularly gracefully when it comes to graphics. A fresh coat of paint made the first two Metroid games more appealing to modern audiences, but there was more to it than that. The limited color palette of the first game led to level design issues, as players could easily confuse its many similar-looking rooms. Areas in the sequel are even less distinct thanks to Game Boy’s black and white graphics. But Super Metroid still looks absolutely gorgeous, and the 16-bit graphic style is incredibly popular to this day.
MercurySteam’s engine could reinvent Zebes, but I don’t necessarily think it would be for the better. Metroid Dread’s 2.5D visuals allowed for backgrounds with an incredible amount of depth and detail. At many points I found myself stopping to soak in the environment and the stories it told. It made ZDR an interesting planet to explore. But it wasn’t the same sensation I get from playing Super Metroid.
The SNES graphics were far more adept at cultivating a sense of isolation. Zebes just feels like a lonely planet. And the simpler style meant that when you stumble upon something more detailed, it’s burned into your brain as a place of significance. The monstrous door that leads to Kraid’s lair is just out of reach, so you’re excited to return to it when you find Hi-Jump Boots a few minutes later. It’s the kind of organic level design that doesn’t necessitate map markers or speeches from an AI guide.
Super Metroid’s more subtle approach also proves effective in its storytelling. Aside from an introductory bit of exposition, Super Metroid tells the tragic tale of the baby Metroid without cutscenes, flashbacks, or long-winded speeches. There’s not really any need to expand further on the lore of Zebes, and Zero Mission already did that with an accompanying manga.
In the same way, the original score for Super Metroid is a timeless masterpiece. Modern video game hardware allows for better music quality and even fully orchestrated soundtracks, but that doesn’t guarantee a more memorable experience. Dread’s soundtrack was seen by many as underwhelming, while Super’s music remains iconic. Each track perfectly sets the mood for the environment, and many are so memorable that Nintendo has remixed them time and time again. That’s not to say that Nintendo can’t create good original music anymore, or even that Metroid music has peaked. But they’re never going to be able to create a soundtrack that’s a better fit for Super Metroid than the one they made in 1994.
A control scheme worth mastering
The original Metroid on NES is severely lacking in control options. You can’t shoot downward or at an angle. You can’t wall jump. You can’t even duck. Return of Samus made a few improvements, but it still feels primitive. The remakes feel so much better to control, and they’re far more accessible as a result. Super Metroid certainly has a few archaic controls (item selection comes to mind), but most of the familiar movement options are present.
While Super’s controls and physics are a turn-off for some, they’re not limiting like the first two games. Instead, players struggle with just how much control Super gives you. New players often feel that Samus is too floaty, but that gives you the ability to make precise mid-air adjustments on the fly. Wall jumps are tricky for many new players to learn, but mastering them gives you a level of control over your vertical movement that’s unheard of in most Metroid games. The dedicated sprint button is unintuitive to many, but it allows you to leverage momentum to your advantage with calculated timing.
Sure, Nintendo could remake Super Metroid with simpler and snappier controls, but that game pretty much already exists, and it’s Zero Mission. Mastering the complex control scheme and turning Zebes into your personal parkour course is one of the core elements that make Super so special.
King of speedruns
It’s impossible to talk about the long-lasting impact of Super Metroid without mentioning the speedrunning community. The in-game timer encourages players to commit the game world to memory, map out the fastest path, and race to the finish for ever-improving record times. It was a brilliant feature, and Super Metroid remains one of the most popular speedrun games in the world to this day. It’s so impactful that viewers of the game routinely donate hundreds of thousands of dollars just to decide whether or not speedrunners should take an extra 30 seconds or so to rescue some animals during the end-game escape sequence.
Although the developers certainly intended for players to improve their times, top runners have learned to exploit the physics in ways that the developers clearly did not anticipate. You can maintain sprinting momentum while rolling with Mockball, Shinespark in unintended locations with Short Charge, or fall at blinding speeds with Moonfall. As fantastic as the level design and controls are, some of the most beloved parts of the speedrun are happy accidents. It’s hard to imagine a Super Metroid remake that keeps many (or any) of these techniques in play.
More Metroid content
Super Metroid isn’t perfect, but it’s a masterpiece that still holds up today. While a few small QOL updates could go a long way, too much tampering would diminish the qualities that made it unique and memorable. And while I think Metroid Dread is an equally impressive game in many respects, the two games don’t necessarily thrive for the same reasons. I hope to see Dread‘s ideas iterated in future entries, but there’s no need to apply them to the past. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.
If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more about mastering Metroid Dread, check out some of our speedrun and sequence break guides:
- Metroid Dread guide: How to Water Bomb Jump and get early Ice Missiles
- Unlock all Metroid Dread Ending Rewards and Chozo Archives on one file
- Metroid Dread: How to get Grapple and Bombs early + Kraid Quick Kill
- Metroid Dread speedrun guide: How to skip the Drogyga Boss Fight
- Metroid Dread speedrun guide: Getting the Phantom Cloak early
- Metroid Dread speedrun tricks: How to skip the first EMMI
- How to Shinespark almost every boss in Metroid Dread
- Metroid Dread guide: How to get early Gravity Suit