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Metroid Fusion is the most satisfying survival horror I've ever played

Metroid Fusion is the most satisfying survival horror I've ever played

Fusion Frenzy

When you hear the term "survival horror" I would imagine your mind conjures up images of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Amnesia... maybe Parasite Eve if you're particularly awesome.

I would also very much doubt that you think of the Game Boy Advance when you think of survival horror. Hell, if we're being honest how many people really think of Nintendo when they think of horror games, let alone a console best known for brightly coloured pixel-art RPGs?

And yet, it just so happens that the Game Boy Advance is home to one of the greatest survival horror games of all time. Oh, and you can play it for free on Nintendo Switch if you have a subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online service.

The game? Metroid Fusion. I'll pause here to let you scream about how Metroid Fusion isn't a survival horror and I've probably never played a real horror game in my life and I'm ugly and have bad hair. In fact only that last part is true. And even then, my hair is decent at worst.

I love a good survival horror game. I'd put Resident Evil 4 in my top 10 favourite games of all time, I think Alien: Isolation is a masterpiece, and every day we exist without a new Dino Crisis is a day I wish I hadn't gotten out of bed.

Maybe Metroid Fusion isn't a survival horror in the absolute strictest terms. But to me, it's also felt like a representation of all the genres best elements.

For those who might not be aware, Metroid Fusion follows galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran as she attempts to survive aboard a space station on which she is the sole survivor. Everyone else has been killed or infected by a parasitic virus capable of taking on the properties of its host.

As far as premises go, that's survival horror 101. The meat of the gameplay is, of course, focused on exploration and item collecting, like some kind of hybrid of classic Metroid and Castlevania. I wish there was a snappier name for games like that.

But while Metroid Fusion is largely structured like your standard Metroid, it captures the essence of survival horror better than a lot of the actual survival horror games I've played. Specifically, it makes you feel completely and utterly helpless for an alarmingly long time.

Here's how most Metroid games go: you touch down on a planet with what amounts to a pea-shooter strapped to your arm and leave as a mobile weapon of mass destruction. If a planet Samus visits doesn't blow up on her way out the door, consider yourself lucky.

Metroid Fusion follows this formula, while constantly finding new ways to make you feel threatened and balance out the ratio of terror to confidence. You start the game in a much weaker state than in any other Metroid, for one thing. The boss battles are also among the toughest you'll face in any game in the series, always ready to cut you down to size if a new upgrade or weapon has you feeling even slightly complacent about your survivability. Hell, if that wasn't enough even your own personal computer spends most of the game telling you you have about a 15% chance of surviving the ordeal, and that's after you manage to find missiles to fire into the gooey faces of your enemies.

As if that wasn't enough, there's also the constant terror of the SA-X.

The vast majority of gamers playing Metroid Fusion know what a full-strength Samus is like because they've played as her. Which makes it absolutely horrifying when you learn there's a twisted clone of a full-strength Samus - the SA-X -trapped on the space station with you, and it wants you dead.

You will, on occasion, bump into the SA-X in Metroid Fusion, at which point your only option is to run for your life before it kills you dead with one or two well-placed shots. I've played this game more than a dozen times, know exactly when the SA-X is going to appear, and still find my heart in my throat every time I see it sprinting after me down some dimly lit corridor.

But what makes Metroid Fusion a satisfying survival horror? For me, it's the simple fact that you can gradually build your arsenal back up and make yourself a formidable presence again.

I have no issue with survival horror games that keep you scrabbling around in bins looking for whatever ammo you can find right up until the very end, but what I really love is a horror game that gradually takes you from terrified and outgunned to an absolute powerhouse. Resident Evil 4 is, I think, a great example of that kind of survival horror, and Metroid Fusion is another.

Like I said earlier, you can still meet bosses that will absolutely body you if you're not careful, but eventually getting to the point where you can guide Samus down corridors firing off white hot lasers of death and dropping power bombs like there's no tomorrow is such a far cry from the Samus who spends large chunks of the early game hiding in vents from the SA-X. And when you do finally confront your clone in a fight you can't run away from? Well, it's one of the best boss battles in gaming.

Basically, go and play Metroid Fusion if you like survival horror. Or classic games. Or Metroid games. Or good games. Just play it, okay?

Featured Image Credit: Nintendo

Topics: Nintendo, Nintendo Switch, Free Games