Metroid: Samus Returns (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Adam Riley 12.09.2017 26

Review for Metroid: Samus Returns on Nintendo 3DS

When Nintendo released Metroid Fusion for Game Boy Advance, it had fans up in arms, as some absolutely adored it, like here at Cubed3, whilst others thought it paled in comparison to the legendary third Metroid entry, Super Metroid. What followed on the GBA, though, was not something to build upon Fusion and appease any detractors, but rather a back-to-basics approach. Nintendo decided, instead, to take Metroid from the NES and give it a modern day lick of paint, for the sublime Metroid: Zero Mission. That was over 13 years ago, though, and Metroid: Other M on Wii was just not what followers of Samus Aran's escapades had been hankering for. Years later, having pitched a remake of Metroid Fusion initially, series producer Sakamoto declined MercurySteam's offer in favour of getting the Spanish-based team - who previously worked on the Castlevania series for Konami - to work with him on resurrecting the oft-forgotten 1992 black-and-white, scaled down Metroid outing, Metroid II: Returns of Samus. The end result is Metroid: Samus Returns, and it is everything you could have hoped for, and more.

Forget trying to draw comparisons between this 2017 release and the old Game Boy release of Metroid II; Metroid: Samus Returns comes across more as a brand-new entry in the series, mixing the core concept of the classic sequel, but adjusting the pacing to make sure the key requirement of the adventure - killing the set number of Metroids around planet SR388, where Samus Aran has been sent to remove the alien scourge once and for all - is no longer as linear as before. The concept of having to unlock new areas by removing a set number of Metroid threats is still present, but being able to travel freely around the planet using teleportation pods means that accessing alternate routes and finding hidden secrets using the tools currently at hand has a greater emphasis to spice up the action and allows for a lot of free roaming.

There are also weapons and moves available to the venerable space bounty hunter that never featured before, some lifted from post-Metroid II releases, as well as an extensive map function to keep track of where key items are (exposed using a very helpful, limited-range pulse that temporarily shows where breakable blocks are in the nearby vicinity, reveals more map area, and even gives hints to where other Metroids are hiding by irritating them into a short roar of anger/distress), and it goes from there, with this being a strong amalgamation of different 2D Metroid adventures. This is, for all intents and purposes, like a successor to Super Metroid, or at least strongly in the vein of Metroid Fusion or Zero Mission.

Screenshot for Metroid: Samus Returns on Nintendo 3DS

Samus starts off her latest mission with not just a basic set of armour and weaponry, but also the new ability to parry against certain enemies when they swoop in for attack, as well as use free aiming. Parrying at the right time then auto-aims at the enemy whilst they lay stunned, and blasting away quickly destroys them, allowing for safe(r) passage, and the free aim makes life far easier than the clunkier, angled shots of the past. Being able to run around, shooting in all directions means that sometimes foes can be cleared from a distance, saving precious health for later battles, but it is still possible to lock Samus' arm-gun in a set position for those more accurate shots required, rather than always loosely shooting and hoping for the best. MercurySteam and Nintendo have tried to make this as flexible as possible to bring in not just old-school Metroid fans, but newcomers to the series, as well.

For those unfamiliar with the Metroid setup, there are differing door types dotted around an intricate maze of a world, all laid out on the touch screen. Certain doors are opened by specific weapons, so even early on it may not be possible to proceed until other avenues have been explored and the correct gear has been claimed. The same goes for all of the areas on the Metroids' home planet, with the Chozo crafting an intricate maze-like network that can only be accessed using Metroid DNA, meaning Ms. Aran must destroy enough Metroid energy on her way to drain the poisonous liquid found the deeper and deeper she delves into the beyond. A current running total of how many Metroids are left on the planet, and how many DNA strains have been collected, are usefully shown on the touch screen.

Screenshot for Metroid: Samus Returns on Nintendo 3DS

In fact, the touch screen is used to great effect in other ways, as well, showing the map of the current area, giving access to special functions like the map-revealing pulse mentioned earlier, a special body shield, multi-fire ability and others gained along the way, as well as being able to quickly change between beam types for Samus' firepower (again, once other options are gained), and even tapping on the centre of the screen swiftly morphs her into a ball. The whole control system is extremely smooth and so intuitive, taking the basic Game Boy system and transforming it into something that feels like it was naturally made for 3DS from the ground up. Long-term fans will be bowled over by the love and attention that has gone into this, from the internal team that has clearly been desperate to do a proper 2D Metroid again, in tandem with an external team that obviously has a deep affection for the series in general.

On her travels, Samus does not simply face the same Metroid type every time, and the same goes for general enemies, with stronger colour variants of the latter appearing, alongside new monsters, whereas the former come in different forms, as well. There are Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and even Omega Metroids, each with new attack patterns, dangerous firepower, and little tricks to catch gamers out, sometimes even scurrying away to another location when hurt. There are also intense chase scenes that will occur seemingly out of nowhere, showing that there is a hidden threat in addition to the Metroid beings.

Screenshot for Metroid: Samus Returns on Nintendo 3DS

A lot of the game can be taken at a slow pace, with the varied sections of SR388 being a true pleasure to navigate - even when having to overcome the numerous hazards along the way - so when something fast and non-stop kicks in, get ready for adrenaline levels to start pumping like crazy. Thankfully, in addition to the regular save pods and energy/ammunition replenishing stations, there are auto-save checkpoints, meaning that dying during a Metroid fight, for instance, regenerates Samus just outside of the battle area, complete with whatever energy and firepower she had before death.

Almost everything has been considered, with any omissions really not springing to mind, as this features all the classic elements that made the series so loved, whilst adding in new ways to combat alien critters and help to make world exploration less frustrating. This is right up there with the best of the Metroid series, and a must for fans new and old alike.

Screenshot for Metroid: Samus Returns on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

This is right up there with Super Metroid in terms of sheer class, taking the spirit of Metroid II: Return of Samus and transforming it so wondrously for the modern day that it is barely recognisable, with a plethora of brand-new extras thrown in. Metroid: Samus Returns is no mere remake of a Game Boy classic; it is a love letter to the Metroid series, and a thorough reimagining of the core concept, adding in some favourite elements from later releases, and new content that fits hand in glove. Lay any concerns down, as this is top notch entertainment through and through.


Mercury Steam




2D Platformer



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


Suppose my one concern is the counterattack melee move that I thought looked unnecessary to Samus' arsenal. Hope it doesn't detract from the combat too much.

Few days to go before my special edition arrives Smilie Looking forward to it.

You end up not using it too much as the adventure goes on and Samus' weapons get stronger / more energy tanks are gained. At first, though, it is most definitely needed or else death becomes you very quickly! (or maybe I'm just not as good as I used to be... Smilie )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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im surprise there is no mention or comparisons to AM2R.

There's no point as I've played all of 5 minutes of that, so I'd be totally winging it and easily get called out.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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If you've played it extensively, I'd normally say feel free to review it, but it's a bit of a dodgy one since it's been officially taken down at Nintendo's insistence.

Were you a big fan of the original GB version? I actually never liked it very much, so was bowled over by this.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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i have quite a bit experience with AM2R. Like you, my opinion on the original game is not too great. i find AM2R is an exceptionally made metroid game that addresses all the flaws of the original and even improved on the metorid formula as we know it in ways even Nintendo hasnt thought of.

Unlike you guys I really liked Metroid II, the game definitely suffers from the Game Boy's restrictions in the sound department but the game itself introduced new ways to traverse the map and personally I think it's better than the original NES Metroid, (especially if you can play it in colour on the GBplayer, GBC or Superboy). 

I actually think I would have preferred a 16bit graphical sprite based style but otherwise this is quite an anticipated release for me. I have the Legacy Edition and the two amiibo coming! Wooohoo....although the Legacy edition is going to my home address in the UK and I'm in Australia ....Boooohoooo

Flynnie said:

I actually think I would have preferred a 16bit graphical sprite based style 

youd love AM2R

Now it's out, I'm intrigued to hear more people's thoughts.

I'm going through again, collecting all the hidden items I haven't yet managed to get. I prefer the harder ways of getting stuff, rather than always waiting until power-ups are gained before getting things (e.g. I used a lot of bomb jumping early on to access other areas, etc).

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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my biggest gripe with this game mostly comes down to the fact its a remake of 2 and in turn inherited all of its fundamental flaws. AM2R has the same issues.

What would you say some of the biggest flaws are? The linearity of having to kill a set amount of Metroids per area, maybe?

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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Our member of the week

Got to Area 3 and liking it so far, though I feel it has a lot of the Castlevania Mirror of Fate DNA in that the level design doesn't always make it clearly visible how you're supposed to reach certain ledges and stuff. Sometimes the view is so close to the action that you can't see the exact way around to reach some areas. It's good that the game doesn't help you too much, but in other cases it can be just a bit frustrating. The action itself as well feels a bit like Mirror of Fate at times. I'm pretty sure I've seen actions in Castlevania bring in the exact same camera zoom in as the melee counter in Metroid. I'd bet money that both games use the exact same engine, or at least that the one in Metroid is in great part based on what was used in Mirror of Fate.

Other than that, playing through it, I could locate some stuff I knew would be in it simply from having played the original.

Although having said that, the visual uplift of course makes it harder to recognise each area for what it was in the original, but that's exactly what you expect to see in a full on remake of a game from that vintage, and in that regard I'm not disappointed, cause it feels more like an original game than otherwise thanks to that.

Lastly, I want to say that I'm glad the game plays well on an OG 3DS, even with the 3D turned on. But if it's running on the same engine as Mirror of Fate like I suspect it to, then this is not surprising at all.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

I've been playing on 2DS XL, so without 3D... What's the 3D effect like? Am I missing out on much?

I've only encountered one bit of slowdown, and it was in one of the later parts when jump-spinning through a load of blocks as others below were regenerating, and several bombs were going off at once, and a few enemies had crept onto the screen. It's the most chaotic part of the game I've encountered so far, so I can't knock it for that one touch of going slow.

I've been looking back at Metroid II and that was surprisingly close-up in terms of viewpoint, so perhaps that I've not felt that too much here, and the melee/combo move just doesn't get used once Samus gets a bit more powerful. I don't think I've used it beyond late Area 2 / Area 3. Armour upgrades, better missiles, stronger weapons, and forcefield all help to negate the need for combo moves.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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Adam Riley said:
What would you say some of the biggest flaws are? The linearity of having to kill a set amount of Metroids per area, maybe?

thats part of it, but not really what hurts it per say, but they do severly limit players from straying from any path other than the designer's intention.

samus having an arbitrary checklist she must fufill before further venturing deeper just doesnt feel natural to exploration at all.

fact is, Metroid games had some pretty epic boss battles in the past except for metroid 2. the metroids just are not really interesting fights.

Adam Riley said:
I've been playing on 2DS XL, so without 3D... What's the 3D effect like? Am I missing out on much?

the 3D is top notch in this. looks like playing with metroid toys on a diorama.

i like this design of samus alot. she has much more pronounced hips than usual and it really makes it more obvious that there is a woman inside the armor.

It's a shame I've missed out on the 3D, but there are some intense fights towards the end that I think I'd have to switch off 3D for, anyway.

How is this shaping up compared to AM2R overall? I've still not bothered to invest much time into that, but surely it's not as polished as Samus Returns?

Have you tried the new SteamWorld Dig, by the way? Other than barely any battles, it really felt extremely close to the Metroid style of exploration.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

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Adam Riley said:

How is this shaping up compared to AM2R overall? I've still not bothered to invest much time into that, but surely it's not as polished as Samus Returns?

id say they are both equally great in there own ways.
Samus Returns is very polished game, but AM2R is a far bolder remake with a much more interesting map layout that connects with more non metorid bosses. Samus Retruns does make the metroid bosses more interesting to battle though.

Adam Riley said:

Have you tried the new SteamWorld Dig, by the way? Other than barely any battles, it really felt extremely close to the Metroid style of exploration.

i loved the first and the new one looks great... but i really hate spending on money on digital purchases.

its very rare if ever spend money on digital download only titles.

i intend to buy it the moment it gets a physical release.

Finally finished this, and was very pleased overall. Given the game it was based on, there was only so much they could do, and it is indeed felt in the linearity of it all. There doesn't seem to be a reason to return to previous areas once you've got all the main power-ups and killed the necessary Metroid quota to move on to the next area. The only reason to go back it seems is when re-exploring for 100% items.

That's part of what lets it down as a Metroid game. It plays excellently, tho I agree with Al in the lack of quality in the boss fights, since it's mostly just the same type of fight, with only a handful of bosses late-game that mix it up slightly. Again, that's more due to what they had to work with from the GB original.

The new twists late-game, and the fleshing out of the lore and environments really was pleasing. Still almighty pissed that they locked shit behind amiibo, but guess I'll live.

So not the best 2D Metroid, but it definitely got better as it went on for me, and the twists were especially great, including the music remixes. A necessary remake that did its job well, and I hope this kicks the series back into life again now.

Oh yeah, and playing on an OG 3DS, the 3D effect is awesome. Couldn't play with it off!

The most shocking thing in this thread is that you are playing on an OG 3DS! 

Even with the New 3DS XL I still can't stand to look at things in 3D, I don't know how you do it on the OG! 

I am not a fan of the art style to be honest and I probably would have preferred to be able to move with the D-pad instead, although I guess that might have made the free-aiming element difficult. 

Good to hear there are some plot twists, means it gives me something to play for!

I think it depends on the game with regards to 3D for me. Some games I prefer it off, but it is done so well in Metroid, bringing areas to life, that I couldn't not use it.

And I still rock an OG 3DS because I've never really been one for spending the same amount of money, if not more, on the same console just with a few extra design features. Better off putting that cash into games or a brand new console Smilie

HD sprite Metroid is something I still really wish for, and I hope even 2D Mario goes that route again some day, but 3D graphics really is not bad at all in this. It does allow for more elaborate and dynamic cutscenes too.

And normally I'm always for d-pad movement, but the circle pad on the 3DS is a really good compensator. Can't always say the same for control sticks in 2D games, but the circle pad is probably a much better option than the tiny shitty d-pad on my 3DS.

( Edited 08.12.2017 14:35 by Azuardo )

Ah i definitely think it's worth the upgrade, even now! That OG 3DS must be ageing a little bit by now Smilie


Yeah, but with it on its way out, not really any reason to spend £100 on the same console for a slightly bigger screen or anything. Plus I actually like knowing I'm playing 3DS games in their intended original resolution. It's small compared to other handheld screens now, but it still looks great and is perfectly fine for my eyes. Perhaps in a few years I'll be saying otherwise tho!

Very good analysis here by Mark Brown of the two Metroid 2 remakes - Samus Returns and AM2R:



He makes some excellent comparisons and points that I would never have thought about, especially with it being probably two decades since I even touched Metroid 2 on Game Boy. Well worth a watch if you get 20 mins to spare (put it on 1.25 speed, or 1.5 if you can handle it, for a quicker run time).

i suspect that Nintendo might do a HD port of the 3ds samus returns remake on switch.
it would be so easy to do cost efficient . 

Possible. If it does indeed use a modified Mirror of Fate engine, at least Mercury has got the know-how on that end too, having ported MoF to HD consoles.

That said, I believe they developed MoF in HD first, then ported it down onto 3DS. Perhaps they also did that for Samus Returns.

( Edited 11.12.2017 20:53 by Azuardo )

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