In the 24 years since its launch, Super Metroid has become one of the most critically-acclaimed games of all time. Super Metroid took the basic formula of the original Metroid and evolved it into a genre-defining experience that has been inspiring countless developers ever since. In the latest episode of Mark Brown’s outstanding Boss Keys series, he explores Super Metroid‘s game design to see what makes it so iconic.
Last month, Boss Keys compared the original Metroid with its remake, Zero Mission, evaluating them in terms of how much freedom they give the player and how good of a job they do at directing the player without holding their hand. A similar breakdown is given for Super Metroid here, and Brown finds that the game can largely be divided up into two phases.
In the first phase, you’re introduced to items, weapons, and game mechanics bit by bit as you explore a largely linear path through small to medium sized chunks of the game world. Dead ends and points of no return keep the game from overwhelming you with too much to do at once, and level design is used as a sort of tutorial that doesn’t require walls of explanatory text. Once you collect the Power Bombs, the game shifts into its second phase and the world of Zebes becomes much more open. This is where exploration really becomes the focus, as the number of newly accessible areas skyrockets.
It’s a fantastic presentation overall with some really helpful visual aids for conceptualizing how the game unfolds. If you enjoy it, there are many other similar breakdowns of game design on Mark Brown’s YouTube channel, and his next video will be looking at Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.