Let me get something out of the way right off the bat, while my colleagues argued with me over whether Metroid is essential or not, I firmly believe this is the game that challenged me to think of what an Essential NES game should be. I’m not perfect when it comes to my own votes on the Essential Games List, but I definitely think I made the right call not putting Metroid on there. Metroid is an incredibly atmospheric game for 1987 and it brings about a compelling feature length adventure that requires saving (a first for the system). Combat isn’t perfect, but it’s so much more refined than what we have seen on the system. Exploration is incredible and well beyond what Rygar was trying to accomplish it. The game does an amazing job of telling a story without ever having dialogue in the game. So why isn’t it essential? I think I covered it pretty well on the episode, but the fact of the matter is that while the game made many breakthroughs and clearly innovated, it’s very clunky to play today and I think that Super Metroid is the Essential experience for Metroid (a game made in 1994, but plays better than most games today).
Some people will attack me for saying a game like Kid Icarus is essential, but Metroid is not. In my opinion, I think I made the right call. Kid Icarus is much smaller in scope, but it felt very concise and well put together over thirty years later. Even more people are going to hate that Slalom and Mach Rider are on the list, but Metroid is not. I can understand that and even though the games are very different genres and play styles from Metroid it has made me reconsider what an Essential Game is in the present day.
I think that boils down to the following: A game that while limited to the scope and constraints of the system it was designed for still brings great gameplay, tight controls, and pushes the medium forward.
So do I still think a game like Mach Rider or Slalom is an essential game? Not really. Am I the only one who decides what an essential game is? Absolutely not. Should you still love Metroid? Yes! And I do too!