If you know me or digitaleidoscope at all, you may be surprised that not a single Metroid game has appeared on this list yet. Metroid is my favorite videogame franchise, and by the 2000s a good portion of the series was already released. The first game hit in 1986, followed by Metroid II in 1991 and what most people would consider Metroid’s peak, Super Metroid, in 1994.
Truth is that I almost completely missed out on all the Metroid games during my childhood, and didn’t get into the series until Other M was already on the horizon. An old friend finally convinced me around 2010 that I’d love the series, and she was right. Metroid Prime turned out to be my favorite of all of them, but it’s also vital as something of a counterpoint to the disaster that Other M turned out to be.
I wrote the thesis for my bachelor’s degree about sexism in the Metroid games, so I won’t retread all that ground here. Suffice to say that the series is a feminist’s nightmare, and given that feminist theory was a major focus of many of the classes I was taking in college, I had an angle to approach game criticism that I’d never considered before. For a long time I’d been growing more serious about game criticism, but that never seemed like a legitimate pursuit outside of gaming circles. So while my passion was videogames, I was stuck studying literary criticism because that seemed like an okay substitute.
Metroid showed me that I could combine the two. If we’re going to accept the premise that games are a form of art, then they should be open to all the forms of analysis that other art is. This was the endpoint of a journey that had started with games like Unreal and Diablo II. I was always a critic at heart, but the Metroid games — and especially the college professors who supported me — made me realize that all this could be something that deserves to be taken seriously.
The people who made Metroid: Other M didn’t pause for a second to consider what their game was putting out there into the world. Maybe the folks behind Prime didn’t either; I don’t know. But all games have things to say, whether the creators intended them to or not. As creators, we need to think more about that if we want to call what we do an art form, and we can’t shy away from looking critically at the games we love.