Since the original Metroid graced the Famicom in 1986, Samus has explored a load of memorable locales.
I’ve always been drawn to this franchise, ever since I first played Super Metroid as a child. Samus’ adventures are full of wonder, exploration, and discovery. From the pixelated beauty of the SNES to the eye-catching worlds of the Prime series on Gamecube, Metroid has always given the players a feast for the eyes regardless of the generation.
So, I decided to sit down and look back over this storied franchise (while also anticipating its revival with Prime 4!) by putting together a list of what I feel are the 10 best locations in the Metroid franchise.
10Sector 6 (NOC) – Metroid Fusion
Not only is Metroid Fusion a standout among the franchise, it’s home to some wonderful locations to explore. Sector 6 is such a unique world. Basked in darkness and inhabited by fearsome enemies, it’s a memorable excursion in this game. Beautiful colours, great level design, and stunning cavernous backgrounds all aid in creating an environment worth remembering.
Not to mention, Sector 6 is also home to the legendary Varia Suit and Wave Beam, so it holds weight in the game itself, as well. The faint circle of light that surrounds Samus throughout the location adds to the sense of isolation and dread that Sector 6 exudes. One of the best locations in one of the best Metroid titles.
9Sector 1/Biosphere – Metroid: Other M
Metroid: Other M might be the black sheep of the franchise for most, but it isn’t devoid of its charm. Aside from its unique approach to gameplay, it played host to robust environments to explore. Sector 1/Biosphere is a lush, richly detailed jungle-like area housing everything from plant/animal life to big waterfalls and even rain. For being so early in the game, it’s a great introduction to the world in Metroid: Other M and also does well to introduce the player to how aggressive most of the things you encounter in the game will be.
Metroid, as a franchise, doesn’t shy away from vegetation or jungles, but the Biosphere is definitely a standout that not a lot people got to enjoy simply because of how Metroid: Other M was critically received.
8Chozodia – Metroid: Zero Mission
Metroid: Zero Mission is, technically and canonically, the first game of the franchise. By retelling the story of the original Metroid game, you’ll see many locales you’ve seen before, but you also visit a new one: Chozodia. It is one of the most visually unique areas in all of the 2D Metroid games. Ancient symbols and designs are scattered everywhere, flanked by Chozo hieroglyphs and stone carvings. It’s a massive area, that even offers a look at the Wrecked Ship from Super Metroid. Chozodia is stunning.
Featuring remarkable artwork at the forefront and background of the area, it truly stands out if you simply stop and look. As one of the only truly unique environments in Metroid: Zero Mission, it earns its merits beyond that notion.
7Dark Torvus Bog – Metroid Prime 2: Echoes
Metroid Prime 2: Echoes is comprised of Light and Dark variations of the planet Aether. In my opinion, no environment showcases the brooding, unwelcoming nature of Dark Aether more so than the Dark Torvus Bog. The purples and blues of Dark Aether move and pop in the walls and damaging water. Containing the Polluted and Dark Torvus Temple, there’s plenty to love here. Branching trees and vegetation, ominous skies, and foreboding temples all pepper this truly striking landscape. Dark Aether becomes a much more tactile, individualised location after trudging through here. The balance and separation between Light and Dark Aether is drilled into the player after visiting the beautiful, yet dim and eerie, Dark Torvus Bog.
6Area 5 – Metroid: Samus Returns
We were so lucky to be graced with the announcement of two new Metroid titles last year, and Metroid: Samus Returns was a surprisingly good hit.
The remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, this game was a breath of fresh air. Not only did it feature robust gameplay changes and a nod to a forgotten Metroid title, it was aesthetically stunning. That notion is showcased in Area 5 better than anywhere else. In a game where most of the locations are dreary and destroyed, Area 5 is a bustling world full of colour and life.
With a mixture of marsh and caves, it’s a gorgeous showcase of what the 3DS can do. Techno trees and aquatic looking flowers are thrown around the area and offer a sharp contrast to most locations up to that point. Area 5 is a lovely, charming environment worth exploring every nook and cranny of.
5Maridia – Super Metroid
You can’t encompass the true nature of Maridia with just one image.
Maridia is so diverse and vibrant across each and every inch of it. There’s a laundry list of reasons why Super Metroid is so highly regarded, and the environments are not the least of which. Undoubtedly, Maridia is the best water level in the franchise. From the sand and vine ridden wastelands (above: right) to the almost mathematical and chilling design of the Metroid-infested section (above: left), it is truly a remarkable world to visit. The colours are varied but each one shines as bright as the last. The enemies are fearsome yet beautiful.
Oh, and the music… THE MUSIC. Every important aspect of game design follows you through this area. If you ask anyone who has ever enjoyed Super Metroid, odds are ‘Maridia’ is one of the first words out of their mouth. A sensational, influential location inside an equally influential game.
4Brinstar – Metroid
Granted this list isn’t arranged in any sort of superiority order, but it’s time to give credit to the true hero: Brinstar. The genesis. The alpha. The dawning of the franchise. This is where Samus was brought to life, this is where Metroid began. Not just that, but this is the location that set the precedent for what Metroid level design would be like for the foreseeable future. Stone statues, bright oranges and dull blues, dangling rocks and floating structures. This is the ingrained image in the brains of all Metroid fans. Its credit is due to more than just its position at the apex of the franchise, it’s also because of its unique look.
Metroid, even on the Famicom and NES, made it evident how alien this world truly was. Brinstar has been revamped and reimagined throughout the history of the franchise, but we all remember where it started. Between these two floating structures, atop the blue blocks, where Samus first touched down in our lives.
3Xenoresearch Labs – Metroid Prime 3: Corruption
Research labs are a common occurrence in the Metroid franchise, but for me personally, none are is visually striking and exciting to explore as the Xenoresearch Labs in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Home to Space Pirate research on Phazon Metroids, it’s a crazy environment. Dazzling walls of sparkling light and Phazon, brilliantly coloured incubation tubes housing Metroids, and Space Pirate tech litter the world.
Full of Space Pirates and Shriekbats, long time Metroid fans will feel at home in the Xenoresearch Labs. Simple but intriguing, this location is filled with many memorable moments. Metroid Prime 3: Corruption is the most unique of the Prime series, and the different approach to design is seen vividly within the Xenoresearch Labs.
2Ridley’s Lair – Super Metroid
While Norfair (or No-fair as me and brother called it when we were young, because of how often we died there) is a location worthy of praise, there’s something truly special about Ridley’s Lair in Super Metroid. Containing quite possibly the best music in all of the game and outstanding detail, it’s such a breathtaking environment on so many levels. Home to the most difficult of enemies, the venerable Screw Attack and the all-mighty Ridley, it bleeds excellence in every possible way. The Chozo statues like line the backdrop and the ones you fight, the lava that dissolves even your Gravity Suit, and the great platforming. So much to love in such a small area.
No matter which iteration of Metroid you play, Ridley’s Lair plays an important role. As the home to Samus’ rival, the importance it holds to the narrative is equal to the importance it holds to those who have braved its harsh and unforgiving landscapes.
1Phendrana Drifts – Metroid Prime
Everyone, everywhere loves a good snowy locale. Metroid isn’t a franchise that often visits a frozen tundra or the first-person view, which makes the Phendrana Drifts and Metroid Prime all the more special. The enemy inhabitants change the ways you must approach encounters. The landscape tests your ability to time jumps and manoeuvre your Morph Ball. Frozen canyons, running rivers, and deep, enemy infested caves are tacked around the rather large area which also contains Chozo ruins/villages.
From dark and gloomy research labs to treacherous, ice-ridden cliffsides the Phendrana Drifts are always testing the player while simultaneously feeding their eyes and ears with a outstanding visual display and a beautifully cold soundtrack. The boss fight of the area, against the stone golem Thardus, is one of the more cinematic of the early-to-mid game in Metroid Prime. The Phendrana Drifts also house a large amount of crucial upgrades for Samus including the Gravity Suit and Spider Ball. Not only is the adventure through the Phendrana Drifts remarkably different and markedly special, it’s also a pivotal moment for Samus’ development in Metroid Prime. When snow falls in Metroid, it’s worth noting.