Rarely does a title completely nail every aspect of game design, from sound to controls to story to visual aesthetic. But the incredibly well-crafted, damn-near-perfect Super Metroid somehow does it.
This shining achievement stands above most of the games that have come out since then, and a majority of the ones that came before. The pacing is pitch-perfect. The rewards for exploration and trial and error gameplay were savory and satisfying.
Figuring out how to eventually get that one missile reserve that has bugged you since the outset of the game — coming upon it through some mysterious back entry — was a punch of an “aha” moment.
Mastering the skillset as it broadens — sometimes with nothing more than an animal giving you hints, or a row of barriers that once x-rayed reveals the correct path to break through — while running at blistering speeds creates a perfect sense of pacing.
This was the first game that I felt truly spoke to me, both literally (via the opening spoken dialogue portion) and figuratively (encouraging imaginative troubleshooting and problem-solving).
Collecting every power-up available was just as much my main goal as was bringing down Mother Brain. It was — and still is — a masterpiece of gaming, a gem that is as perfect as a video game has any right to be.
The one standout moment for me was when, just by a whim, I set off a super bomb and destroyed the glass tube-like tunnel that revealed the underwater world. Before this, I was completely stuck.
Man, did the quicksand and shelled creatures within that world suck. Until, of course, you got the deadly spin attack.
For the record, yes, I did save the animals at the end, so I got to see their spaceship safely avoid the calamitous destruction of Zebes.