Image: Nintendo

Soapbox features enable our individual writers and contributors to voice their opinions on hot topics and random stuff they’ve been chewing over. Today, to celebrate Metroid: Zero Mission’s 20th anniversary on 9th February 2024, Ollie looks back on his initial experience with the game, and why first impressions can’t always be trusted…

As a child in the UK, I had a lot of experience with the Mega Drive and PlayStation. It wasn’t until I was maybe eight or nine years old that I started becoming aware of Nintendo and that’s because I was obsessed with Pokémon after being gifted a stunning teal Game Boy Color for Christmas.

When I entered high school, my gaming life became almost completely dominated by Nintendo to the point where I managed to bag a GameCube at launch with a copy of Luigi’s Mansion. From that point on, I was hooked, and I needed more.

Zero Mission 01Image: Nintendo

Given my relatively late introduction to the world of Nintendo, my first experience with Samus was Metroid Prime. It floored me and quickly became one of my favourite games of all time (it was my number one until Resident Evil 4 supplanted it a couple of years later), though I was only vaguely aware that the shift from 2D to 3D was, at the time, a drastic change for the franchise.

By this point, I’d moved on from the Game Boy Color to the Game Boy Advance and was playing Pokémon Ruby extensively. I knew that Metroid Fusion existed, but given that my access to new games was limited to what my parents were willing to buy me, I was content to stick with Pokémon for the time being and carry on playing Prime on my GameCube. So Fusion completely passed me by.

A little over a year after Prime’s release, Nintendo launched Metroid: Zero Mission on the GBA. By this point, I’d blasted through Prime multiple times and was very much ready for something new. So, pocket money jingling in my back pocket, I raced to the local game store and picked up a copy.

Zero Mission 02Image: Nintendo

Though I feel profoundly embarrassed to reveal this now, especially here of all places, I hated Zero Mission after playing it for a couple of hours or so on launch day. By this point, I knew that the game was a remake of the original Metroid, and I knew that Prime’s first-person perspective was the exception in a series that was primarily focused on 2D exploration. Nevertheless, given my sole experience with Retro’s first-person reworking, Zero Mission just didn’t feel right.

Why couldn’t I scan anything? Why am I moving so fast? Why am I doing a ridiculous somersault when I jump? My young mind simply couldn’t fathom why Zero Mission was so drastically different from Prime, and I couldn’t handle it. I told my mother that I didn’t like the game and I was quite upset about the whole thing, having felt like I’d wasted my hard-earned money.

Knowing that I couldn’t very well return it to the store or really do anything with it, I decided to try and persevere. Overcoming my initial disappointment was difficult, but it wasn’t long before I recognised the true genius of Zero Mission. I raced through Brinstar, Norfair, Kraid, and every other major area in the game in just a handful of hours, and I began to love it. I can’t quite pinpoint what it was that changed my mind, but I think that regardless of how different it was from Prime, it was just a damn good experience in itself, and it’s as simple as that.

Zero Mission 03Image: Nintendo

I love that I don’t have to scan anything. I love that the gameplay is so fast and fluid. And that somersault? So cool. I completed the game multiple times on Normal and Hard difficulty, collected all the optional upgrades, and still went back for more. Eventually, I came to realise that the core DNA of Prime was also a part of Zero Mission and that this was simply a different (and undeniably purer) take on the franchise; one that, after a rocky introduction, I fell in love with.

Zero Mission is easily one of the finest remakes Nintendo has ever produced. My experience with it led me to play every other 2D entry in the franchise, and Metroid now stands as my favourite Nintendo series. The experience taught me to not always trust my gut instinct and to give games a second chance if they don’t initially align with my expectations. I beg you to be kind to me in the comments, folks, for I was young and I have seen the error of my ways.

And I’m begging you, Nintendo, to put Zero Mission on Nintendo Switch Online. Please.

Zero Mission CartridgeImage: Ollie Reynolds / Nintendo Life

What do you make of Metroid: Zero Mission 20 years after its initial release? Do you rank it among your favourites? Let us know your thoughts with a comment down below.

Also, remember that in honour of this stellar remake, we’ll soon be publishing our reader-ranked list of the best Nintendo remakes ever. Check out the candidates here and feel free the rate the ones you’ve played if you haven’t done so — and keep an eye out for the results tomorrow.

Ollie Reynolds

Nintendo Life’s resident horror fanatic, when he’s not knee-deep in Resident Evil and Silent Hill lore, Ollie likes to dive into a good horror book while nursing a lovely cup of tea. He also enjoys long walks and listens to everything from Motorhead to BB King.