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Metroid Dread: How to play every 2D Metroid game in order

Want to buy every 2D Metroid game before playing Metroid Dread? You still can, but it's trickier than you think! Here's how.

For years it was little more than a rumor, but Metroid Dread is finally here -- and it's worth the wait. Metroid Dread is one of the best action games of 2021, and the final chapter in a story that stretches all the way back to 1986.

If you want to celebrate Metroid's 35th anniversary by playing all the games that lead up to Metroid Dread, you might be in for a challenge. 

Nintendo used Metroid Dread as an opportunity to take to Twitter and celebrate the franchise's long history, ticking off a list of each 2D Metroid game. It was a nice walk through video game's history, but it was also a little weird. Some of the titles, like Super Metroid and the NES original, were accompanied by links to Nintendo's website, where fans could find out how to play the classics that take place before Metroid Dread. Other games were included in the list but Nintendo offered no hints on how to play them, or if they're even available to purchase.

It quickly became apparent that if the game wasn't available on the Nintendo Switch, the company wasn't going to tell fans how to play it. And that's strange, because every single 2D Metroid game is available for purchase on Nintendo's digital storefront in some form. 

That's why we're here. We've put together a list of every 2D Metroid game, in story-order, along with info on where you can play them across Nintendo Switch, Wii, Wii U, 3DS and Classic Edition mini consoles.

Metroid and Metroid: Zero Mission

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The GBA remake of Metroid is one of the all-time best in the series.

Nintendo

When it comes to long-running video game franchises, starting at the beginning isn't always the best idea. Samus' original 1986 adventure might be a classic, but like most games from the NES era, it's a bit rough around the edges by modern standards. Fortunately, Nintendo revisited the first Metroid game in 2004 with Metroid: Zero Mission for the Game Boy Advance. The remake offers a more dynamic retelling of the first game's story, complete with quality-of-life updates like save points and mini-maps and other features standard in modern Metroid titles. 

The only downside? You'll need older hardware to play it. Currently, Nintendo only sells Metroid: Zero Mission on the Wii U eShop's virtual console library. If you don't have Nintendo's last-gen console, your only option is to track down an original GBA cartridge.

The original NES version of Metroid may be showing its age, but at least it's easy to access: Samus' first game can be found on the Nintendo Switch Online NES library, the Nintendo 3DS eShop, the Wii U eShop and the NES Classic mini console. It also unlocks after you beat Metroid: Zero Mission on regular difficulty, or on the GameCube version of Metroid Prime, provided you have Metroid Fusion, a GBA and a special link cable. 

Metroid II and Metroid: Samus Returns

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Metroid Dread is made by the same team that took on Samus Returns.

Nintendo

The original Metroid may have been the first game in the series to get an overhaul for modern audiences, but it wasn't the last. Nintendo reimagined Metroid II: Return of Samus into the similarly-named Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS. Like Zero Mission, it's more than a straight remake of the original game, offering players updated gameplay, new abilities and areas to explore and plenty of new and challenging boss fights to take on. Also like Zero Mission, you'll need to pick up some old hardware to play it: Metroid: Samus Returns is only available on the Nintendo 3DS

Rather play the original Game Boy version of Metroid II? You'll face the same limitations. At present, Nintendo only sells a digital version of the game on the Nintendo 3DS eShop. Your only other option is tracking down the original cartridge. If you choose that route, make sure to pick up a Super Game Boy while you're at it -- the Super Nintendo Accessory's custom color palette is absolutely the best way to play the original version of Metroid II. 

Super Metroid

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Super Metroid originally came out on SNES in 1994.

Nintendo

Age wasn't kind to the first two Metroid games, but the same can't be said about Super Metroid. The third game in the franchise is widely regarded as not only one of the best Metroid games, but among the best Super Nintendo games ever released. This is the gold standard of 2D Metroid games, and it introduced gameplay elements, UI elements and weapon upgrades that would become standards for every Metroid game released afterward.

Super Metroid is available in the Nintendo Switch Online SNES library. It can also be found on the Nintendo 3DS eShop (although it's only compatible with "New" Nintendo 3DS consoles), the Wii U eShop and the SNES Classic mini console. The game is playable on the original Wii if you happened to buy it before the Wii Shop was shut down in 2019, but is no longer available for purchase on the platform.

Metroid: Other M

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Metroid: Other M is a 2D/3D hybrid game separate from the Metroid Prime series. 

Nintendo

It's not as beloved as the series' other 2D games, but Metroid: Other M still has a lot to offer. In addition to being the first game to give Samus Aran a voice, it takes the novel approach of mixing the side-scrolling aesthetic of classic Metroid games with the first-person shooter action of the Metroid Prime series, actively switching between the two modes whenever the player points the Wii remote at the screen. Fans are split on the way the story puts the heroine in a somewhat subservient role, but the game is still a blast. 

It serves as a prequel to Metroid Fusion (despite being released eight years later) but doesn't count as one of the series "numbered games," as Metroid Fusion calls itself "Metroid 4," and the Metroid Dread has claimed number 5.

Metroid: Other M is only available on the Wii, if you have the original disc, and on the Wii U virtual console. 

Metroid Fusion

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This one is hard to get.

Nintendo

Wondering why Samus' armor looks a little different in trailers for Metroid Dread? You might want to play Metroid Fusion. This 2002 Game Boy Advance game billed itself as Metroid 4, and though it was much more linear than previous Metroid games, it quickly became a fan favorite for combining the best of Super Metroid's gameplay philosophy with a story-driven experience. It's absolutely one of Samus' best adventures, which is why it's a shame that it's so hard to find a copy to play.

Metroid Fusion is only available on its original GBA cartridge and as a virtual console game on the Wii U eShop. If you purchased a Nintendo 3DS when the console launched, you might also have access to it through the 3DS Ambassador program, which gave early adopters a small collection of exclusive Game Boy Advance games as a "thank you" for buying the console before Nintendo dropped the price. But Metroid Fusion isn't available to purchase for newer 3DS owners by any means.  

Metroid Dread

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Metroid Dread is Nintendo's first truly new 2D Metroid since 2002.

Nintendo

That brings us to Metroid Dread, a sequel 15 years in the making. This game was originally intended to be a Nintendo DS sequel to Metroid Fusion, with a focus on "fear-based gameplay," but it was shelved when the handheld's console couldn't match series creator Yoshio Sakamoto's vision. Now the game is available on the Nintendo Switch, developed by the same team that reimagined Metroid II into Samus Returns. 

Getting your hands on this Metroid game is easy. Nintendo released Metroid Dread for the Switch on Oct. 8.