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Every time I remember Metroid Dread exists, I have to pinch myself. Not only was the first brand-new 2D Metroid title in nearly two decades a damn good game - it was the best Nintendo Switch title of 2021 by some distance.
What co-developers MercurySteam and Nintendo EPD achieved this year was nothing short of a miracle, given just how daunting a task they were faced with. Metroid Dread had to bring the oft-neglected franchise back in a way that pleased old-school fans. But it couldn’t just be a rehash of Super Metroid; It needed its own ideas, and it needed to find a way to combine old formulas with fresh innovations to entice new players and ensure that there wouldn’t be another 19-year wait between games. Oh, and it had to do all of this while neatly wrapping up an ambitious story that started 35 years ago.
Watch a trailer for Metroid Dread, below...
MercurySteam - in close collaboration with Nintendo itself - ticks off this daunting list of tall orders with the deftness and confidence of a studio that has been making Metroid games for decades. That this is the team’s first original game in the universe (its last effort being a relatively solid, if safe, remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus) is remarkable.
Metroid Dread is a triumph. I can’t really put it in simpler terms than that. It’s a slick, hyper-focused action-adventure that borrows the best ideas from the last three decades of Metroid games and tweaks - or completely does away with - the bits that never quite worked.
Our hero Samus Aran cuts through gorgeous 2.5D environments with an amazing sense of physicality and momentum. Old moves like the morph ball and grapple beam have been polished up to compliment new techniques like free aim and a physical counter to ensure that navigating the many labyrinthian biomes of planet ZDR is a constant joy. Backtracking is rarely a pleasure in any video game, but the joy of simply moving through Metroid Dread makes it so.
It’s also a game that doesn’t pull its punches. Screen-filling boss battles make the best possible use of the Switch’s hardware in some of the most punishing and inventive encounters ever seen in a series known for its challenging bosses. By the final hours of Metroid Dread, you’ll have learned to string together abilities to move like you never imagined you could, and take down powerful enemies that at first seemed overwhelming - if not outright impossible.
“We are honoured to accept the ‘Nintendo Game of the Year’ award for Metroid Dread from GAMINGbible,” Nintendo wrote in a statement to us. “We’d like to deliver a big ‘thank you’ to all the players on behalf of all the staff that worked on bringing the development vision to reality. And we hope that players continue to enjoy the exciting adventure of Samus Aran.”
Metroid Dread is by turns empowering, maddening, downright terrifying. The speed with which it can pivot from bullet hell platformer to open-world adventure to full-on survival horror is awe-inspiring. It’s everything a Metroid game in 2021 should be, and that’s why it’s the best Nintendo Switch game you’ll play this year.
Find our top 40 games of 2021 - featuring Metroid Dread - here. You can also check out our PlayStation Game of the Year, our PC Game of the Year, and our Xbox Game of the Year.
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