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Cat's Cradle: Nothing dreadful About 'Metroid Dread'

Metroid Dread is the most recent title in the Metroid series — marking a strong return of the acclaimed series. After wide success with 2017’s Metroid Returns, Yoshio Sakamoto remained on the development team to tackle his next project: Metroid Dread.

Delayed since its original conception, the game slowly moved into development limbo before its surprise announcement in mid-2021. Games caught in development limbo have often been the subject of user’s suspicion. 

Delays and missed deadlines pointed to greater inner turmoil with the game. The biggest example being the long delayed, and critically panned, Duke Nukem Forever. These eventual products are usually relics of a prior era and lack any sense of innovation. Dread is the exception. Metroid Dread not only moves the series forward but also shows the potential of studio-backed metroidvanias.

Metroidvania is a video game genre characterized by exploration and back-tracking. The genre consists of finding doors that require specific items, keys or devices that can only be found in separate portions of a game's world. Classic examples of the genre are Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

Released three years apart, Super Metroid and Castlevania established the rules and conventions of the metroidvania. Super Metroid is the predecessor that created the elements of the formula, and Castlevania perfected it three years later. 

Though the initial titles were simple, side-scrolling adventure games, they changed with fourth- and fifth-generation consoles. Using new hardware, these titles formed the basis for a new genre of video game. 

In the following years, the genre maintained a niche status with titles like Shadow Complex, Metroid Fusion, Guacamelee! and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate being standouts from a period of nearly 20 years. This changed the work of one creator: Thomas Happ.

Happ is the sole creator of Axiom Verge, down to music, art, programming and every other element of game design. A passion project that took him years to complete, the game was released to wide success. 

What followed was a resurgence of the genre. Titles like Hollow Knight and Blasphemous adapted, and the metroidvania genre resurfaced with an added element: difficulty. The newest wave of metroidvanias, particularly Hollow Knight and Ori and the Blind Forest, inject the classic metroidvania with higher difficulty thresholds. 

Inspired by games like Dark Souls, new metroidvanias embrace a higher skill ceiling and ask players to be observant in their exploration. This leads to challenging adventures with rewarding conclusions. While horror has been put at the forefront in the design of the games, drawing from H.R. Giger and Kentaro Miura in some cases. 

This leads to Metroid Dread — the most recent game in the Metroid series — and possibly one of the best since the original Super Metroid. It embraces the horror of the original game, with tense EMMI sections and amps up difficulty with speed puzzles. Metroid Dread is a welcome sequel and evolution of the series. 

While the main story of the series continues, a logical evolution of the video games lore introduces elements to the series that feel in tone with the game series. Metroid Dread brings the Metroid series back to the forefront of discourse with a balance of adaptation and innovation. 

It shows ways in which Metroid games have inspired and been inspired by decades of metroidvanias, and the subsequent deeper theme to an art. There is a constant recycling and re-evaluation of themes and elements that elevates some art. In this case, it shows why Metroid Dread is a must-play Nintendo title, if for one reason alone being the nostalgic sound effects.

Benjamin Ervin is a senior studying English literature and writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Benjamin know by emailing him

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