It could be possible to top Metroid 3.
Zero Mission came damn close, by going double meta (referencing Super Metroid’s referencing of Metroid 1… if you played the series in release order it was truly genius) it hit many of the same brilliant notes as Super. And it was in a slick fast new package, probably the best looking 2D game, super stylised and had an insanely good soundtrack. Really the only thing that stopped it was technology (dinky GBA resolution and worse sound) and game length. If only Zero Mission had been saved for the DS, and been lengthened with a few more new ideas (maybe hard being a remake that already expanded the scope so much), it could have been right there with Super.
Prime also came damn close. Beautiful world, and peak technology for the time. Some great new ideas (scanning) and so great on many design levels (the map alone was brilliant). The only thing stopping it from taking the crown is being a bit of a re-tread (understandable as a first step into 3D) and the first person view, while making it more atmospheric, also made it a bit slower and clunkier.
I think it can be done. But Super Metroid is just so brilliantly designed, almost no design flaws, AND was brilliantly intertextual in the way it worked in Metroid 1 elements, it would need both genius and a bit of luck to top.
Both GBA games are fantastic (they really went nuts with some of the secrets!), but even with relatively similar lengths to Super, they feel more like handheld games. Maybe a factor of the lower resolution and faster pace. Not really a criticism either. It’s the same with Samus Returns for obvious (GB remake) reasons. A DS Metroid might (a bit like the GBA/DS Castlevania games) have felt more console-like. So i’m really hoping that console angle can elevate Dread!
Story theory time! They’ve said Samus is starting from the middle of the planet which makes me think she might have been captured on approach. I’m guessing perhaps by the Evil Chozo guy? Maybe he’s after Samus’ Metroid DNA?
Her new armor somewhat resembles that of the E.M.MI. in the white parts, and the blue cabling almost looks like internal components. I wonder if she’d been stripped of armor after being captured, but managed to escape and slapped some E.M.MI. parts on which were lying around? Good way to explain off having to collect everything again!
Although they’ve said the E.M.M.I are federation robots, why are they’re hunting Samus? Evil Chozo must have done something. Does it have to do with the X parasite? Their “heads” are in the shape of X at times… has he modified them? An army of these indestructable robot clones seems fitting. Not sure the X shape is enough for a connection but maybe if Samus can eventually defeat some of these things, they’ll again upgrade her armor.
Their eyes are also very Mother Brain esque despite being robotic. I’m not sure she’ll return as the big bad, given that it seems to be Evil Chozo, but it would beat another revived Ridley imo!
Looking back at the Chozo Memories gallery in Samus Returns, why was that last one labeled 2d/10? Maybe a double meaning, as in 2 dimensional and saying Samus Returns connects “to Dread”. A stretch? Hope we find out!
Looks real good but Wario Land 4 was probably peak Intelligent Systems on the GBA
Funnily enough I was revisiting Zero Mission and Fusion last weekend on my Game Boy Micro, as well as Wario Land 4, and found myself slightly underwhelmed at the presentation of both of those Metroids coming from that last game. The background art in particular in Wario Land 4 is often as stunning as its character and enemy sprites - probably also helps that everything is designed larger than what would have been required of Metroid titles that released after Metroid 3!
I think an issue with all the post Super 2d games in the series is how the map/gameworld seems a bit over designed/too clean. Some of them also feel too straight forward as well, but mainly meaning how I can’t shake the feeling of it being a designed video game level instead of a world because of how they are designed. I can generally look at an area and know what spots are there to come back later, what items are there to show you you need a different powerup and what the intended path is to progression. There are times you can break out of that but it generally feels like if you do you are working against the systems put in place instead of cleverly using the systems to gain a different form of progress.
One of the things i dislike about Prime 2 was that games central elevator hub, leading conveniently to each of the areas.
It’s really minor in the grand scheme of things, but that always struck me as so very game-like when contrasted with the rest of the world being a brilliant, confusing labyrinth. Prime 1’s world felt much more natural by virtue of not having that obvious hub.
The BSL station in Fusion was similar but even on repeat playthroughs I’ll forget all the clever ways they intertwined the areas and forced you to find alternate routes!