Metroid – The Top Ten Coolest Power-Ups
Like seemingly all sci-fi franchises with an armoured protagonist, Metroid is littered with some truly awesome upgrades to our heroines power suit and weaponry, and has a myriad of gadgets that makes every single entry unique and fun to play. We’ve run through the entire franchise back-catalogue and chosen the top ten coolest power-ups that not only make Samus a certified badass, but also highlight how the little-by-little upgrade style came to spawn an entire genre that is still much beloved today.
10. Spider Ball (Metroid II: Return of Samus)
Introduced to the franchise from the second installment and a regular feature since, the Spider Ball is an upgrade that significantly opens up the world of Metroid and doubles down on the exploration element of the genre. Originally allowing Samus to cling to any surface in Return of Samus things needed to be toned down a little to keep things manageable for the FPS installments, but it doesn’t dampen how cool it is to magnetise Samus to Spider Ball Tracks, defy gravity and allow players to explore the world of Metroid in all three dimensions.
9. Light / Dark Beams (Metroid Prime 2: Echoes)
The Light and Dark Beams form central elements to Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, and the game would be entirely different without their introduction. Allowing Samus to fight off the Ing horde using polarising energies is a simple but very cool idea, and the portals between the Light and Dark worlds of planet Aether might be a little old-hat but it’s implemented perfectly. The Luminoth weapons bring a real duality to the world of Echoes that underpins the entire experience and makes Prime 2 a much loved sequel that stands the test of time.
8. Charge Beam (Super Metroid)
The Charge Beam isn’t the flashiest of power-ups but its inclusion in every game since Super Metroid has set it up as a franchise staple with an impressive breadth of use. Offering Samus the ability to inflict some higher damage on an infinite-ammo basis, the Charge Beam really comes into its own from Metroid Prime onwards where the tractor beam function and introduction of specific effects for each beam weapon adds a lot of character to the weaponry. A significant weapon in the much maligned Other M, the Charge Beam deserves more love than it gets, we think.
7. Grapple Beam (Super Metroid)
Another entry that is all about adding depth to the exploration element of the series, the Grapple Beam is dripping with coolness. While the implementation in its debut (Super Metroid) is incredibly clunky and often infuriating, it cannot be denied how much scope the Grapple Beam added for designers to block areas off for later discovery. For anyone aged 30 or older it also conjures up Indiana Jones vibes that are just too strong to ignore, and swinging over great cravasses in the Prime series gives the enclosed areas a sense of grandeur and scale that would otherwise be missing from the games entirely.
6. X-Ray Scope / Visor (Super Metroid)
In a series riddled with secrets, being able to pierce the veil and highlight hidden passages, items and destructible walls is an invaluable asset. The introduction of the X-Ray Scope in Super Metroid is a game changer, encouraging players to backtrack over previously ‘completed’ areas with a fine tooth comb and discover countless secrets that they’d unknowingly trekked over hundreds of times. The X-Ray Visor in Metroid Prime deserves a special shout out too; adding the ability to track invisible enemies is awesome, and seeing the bones in Samus’ arm through the cannon adds a layer of realism that continues to be incredibly cool even 20 years later.
5. Command Visor (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption)
While the Command Visor only makes a single appearance in the series, it’s undoubtedly one of the cooler entries in the franchise, and one that feels entirely overdue. Samus’ gunship has long been a silent ‘character’ in the franchise, and it was about time that it took a more active role in the gameplay when the Command Visor was brought in for Corruption. Let’s keep this one simple – being able to summon your ship to rain missiles down on enemies is quite simply badass and something that should be expanded upon in future. (We’re predicting a Jarvis-type AI assistant within the next few releases to give another character for Samus to interact with. It would offer Nintendo the opportunity to ‘redeem’ Samus’ character after the fan backlash from her depiction Other M.)
4. Missile Launcher (Metroid)
Are Dr Martens boots rare? Absolutely not – they’re everywhere, but them being all pervasive does nothing to dampen just how cool they are – and it’s the same for the Missile Launcher. Available in every franchise entry to date, the Missile Launcher is a faithful companion that carries Samus through some tough times and opened up the opportunity to add some tougher enemies with specific weaknesses. Nothing is more memorable than spamming 150 missiles into the mouth of Mother Brain in Super Metroid and wondering how it still wasn’t enough to kill the damned thing – it’s truly a classic boss fight. The final thing the Missile Launcher has going for it? Shooting rockets out of your hand makes you feel like Iron Man and the coolness factor of that cannot be over exaggerated.
3. Varia Suit (Metroid)
The Varia Suit isn’t the best power suit in any of the games but by God, we’ll fist fight anyone who says it isn’t the most iconic. Almost always depicted in this orange beauty with the red breastplate and helmet, it’s the look for which Samus is most well known. The delicate waist hints at a femininity beneath the armour but the hulking shoulder pads give off an aura of pure power, and that contrasting green visor gives a cold, unwavering look that summarises Samus Aran’s character perfectly. Undoubtedly the coolest suit in the series thus far, but that white Dread power suit may just give the Varia Suit a run for its money…
2. Morph Ball (Metroid)
The Morph Ball is an upgrade that showed up back in 1986 and hasn’t missed a beat since. Another absolutely iconic piece of equipment that defines Samus Aran and the Metroid series, being able to collapse to half your size and roll through pipes or destroy an enemy from the inside will never not be enjoyable. Surely introduced due to the sprite size limitations of the NES, the Morph Ball was added in lieu of a crouch/crawl, much to the confusion of some fans. It is a little ridiculous that Nintendo has stuck with it all these years but it injects a wonderful bit of whimsy in an otherwise bleak universe watching enemies chase a spherical Samus around like giddy puppies after a tennis ball. (There are some fun fan theories about exactly how it works out there too which are definitely worth a read if you get the fancy.)
1. Scan Visor (Metroid Prime)
“How can a standard piece of equipment be crowned the coolest power-up in franchise history?” I hear you cry. Frankly it’s because the Scan Visor changed absolutely everything about the Metroid series; it levelled up Prime from just another sci-fi FPS into a deeply atmospheric shooter that is positively dripping with lore and countless incredible details. In the earlier 2D entries in the series atmosphere was added with creepy music and some rather grisly sprites, animations and sound effects, but it was mostly left to the player to conjure up ideas in their own mind about what had happened to leave the world in such a frightful state. But the Scan Visor changed all that by offering the player detailed descriptions of exactly how a Space Pirate had died or specifically what malfunction had caused an explosion and sealed the doors closed – ON TOP of a stellar soundtrack and visuals. It added a cold analysis that put Samus’ technology front-and-centre and opened a real opportunity for Metroid to evolve from a simple platform-shooter into a deep adventure with a meaningful plotline.