Nintendo as a developer has a reputation for crafting relatively easy and accessible games in order to reach as wide of an audience as possible. The Metroid series has always been one to not fall into that category, the first game essentially required players to create their own map of the world in order to get arouund. Later games included maps and had to increase the difficulty in less artificial ways, such as designing tougher enemies and bosses. The most recent entry in the series, Metroid Dread, faithfully sticks to its roots while increasing the difficulty in a way that doesn’t feel unfair.
Despite advertising and the game’s title promising the most difficult and dangerous mission for Samus yet, some fans still had doubts it would be that difficult. This all changed days before release when previews and reviews were published with one thing being consistent, for better or worse: Metroid Dread is not easy. While this has ignited some familiar discussions around difficulty and accessibility. What’s different in Metroid Dread’s case compared to something like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is that Dread doesn’t punish the player for failure. It’s actually the most forgiving game in the 2D series with regards to dying.
Difficulty and Accessibility in Metroid Dread
The Metroid games have always been revered for their atmosphere and creepy sci-fi worlds that make the player feel truly isolated as they deal with insurmountable odds. Before her arrival on the planet ZDR, the Galactic Federation sent seven E.M.M.I. robots, but they have gone haywire and will attempt to hunt Samus down. If captured, the player has a small window to escape certain death, which requires precision timing. Each capture event is random, sometimes the player will have to parry right away, others a little later. Most of the time a player will die when captured, which makes entering every E.M.M.I. zone nerve-wracking.
The bosses in Metroid Dread are also a step-up for the series’ previous formula, which largely came down to spamming super missiles and tanking damage. Most of Dread’s bosses and mini-bosses can kill Samus in just a few hits, regardless of how many energy tanks the player has stocked up. This means players will have to learn and master each boss’ move patterns in order to prevail. Most bosses can be parried as well, which is crucial as a successful parry will allow Samus to deal extra damage in an action movie-style interactive cutscene.
However, Metroid Dread never punishes the player for dying to the E.M.M.I. or a boss like Dark Souls might. Dread is the most forgiving of any Metroid game, many of which have players respawn at the closest save station – which could make some sequence-breaking actions even more difficult. Dread simply puts Samus right outside the E.M.M.I. zone or boss arena so they can quickly make another attempt. It’s encouraging the player to not give up, because these fights get exponentially easier with each attempt.
Despite coming after a nearly two-decade hiatus, Metroid Dread never misses a beat when setting up its unique and scary atmosphere. This allows players to feel truly alone and desperate to survive, completely nailing the themes of the title. Furthermore, the difficult boss and E.M.M.I. encounters are always tough at first but get easier with each attempt. Yet, despite these changes in difficulty, Metroid Dread is still arguably the most accessible entry in the series thanks to forgiving respawn points and quality-of-life additions such as map markers. Metroid Dread’s difficulty should be celebrated because it isn’t artificial, unlike some of the series’ past.
Metroid Dread is available now for the Nintendo Switch.
MORE: Metroid Dread’s Seamless Cutscenes are a Cut Above