A strong classic, if maybe SLIGHTLY overrated
Super Metroid has been called one of the greatest games of all time - and by some critics, *the* greatest. While the game isn't quite *the* greatest, its classic status is well deserved.
Super Metroid is a 2D action/adventure, in the vein of the Castlevania series and previous Metroids - there really is no good term for the subgenre. Rather than a linear left-to-right progression, the player is free to explore different rooms in all directions. Gameplay is free enough to not seem overly constricted, but there still is a distinct linear progression throughout.
The game's visuals stand alongside some of the system's best. Entities in the game are detailed, and the different sects of Planet Zebes are visually appealing and compelling. Animation is smooth, and the game's look doesn't get old.
Few games manage to create a fan favorite character like Samus Aran - who stands alongside Nintendo franchise characters like Mario and Link, despite no dialogue or other such interaction.
The gameplay never gets old - for 5-9 hours, this game will keep your attention solidly (which is more than I can say for many of today's 20+ hour games). It may even inspire you to try a sub-3 hour run afterwards to get a special ending. The focus is balanced between exploration and action. The pacing is very well-balanced between the two. The game rarely drags, and also doesn't deteriorate into an action blast-fest.
The play control, while largely sound, could have used some more work. Certain moves, like the wall jump, are unnecessarily unforgiving. Samus's spinning jumps may continue or stop when you let go of the directional arrows, depending on how quickly you do so. This inconsistency was the source of much frustration in certain parts of the game.
Unlike in Castlevania games (at least the ones I have played), Samus's "health" (her suit's energy, in this case), does not recharge at save points. There are a few areas in the game where one can recharge. However, more often than not, I found myself looking for an area where weak enemies continuously emerge, and would spend a couple of minutes slaughtering them for energy powerups.
The Bottom Line
Super Metroid is a great game - a true classic. I went back and played through it for the first time almost 10 years after the fact, and it captivated me from start to finish. If you missed out on this game during the Super NES's lifespan, as I did, go grab a used copy or fire up an emulator and give it a go.