Despite what some people may tell you in 2022, Metroid II: Return of Samus for the Game Boy is still a very enjoyable game to play. Yes, Metroid: Samus Returns and AM2R both improve on the original game in almost every conceivable way, but between the tension created with the small, tight screens and the great soundtrack and exceptional sprite work, Return of Samus remains enjoyable to this day.
n fact, I would argue that it was a big improvement over the original Metroid for the NES, something I don’t think the sequels to the other big Nintendo franchises at the time (Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, Super Mario Bros. 2) could say. This sequel, however, wasn’t given the same chance for success as those other Nintendo sequels just based on the decision to release it on the Game Boy.
Being a new portable console experiment at the time, Game Boy games had a certain stigma attached to them for a long time, and with Metroid 2 being one of the first titles to release on the handheld, I think many would-be customers took a wait and see approach to the Game Boy. By the time that games like Link’s Awakening and Pokémon Red and Blue had proved the viability of having great games on the handheld, Return of Samus was already made obsolete by the improvements Super Metroid had made.
I’ve always thought that by not releasing on the NES, which had a ginormous install base that was already familiar with the first Metroid title (to the tune of about 2.5 million in sales), that Nintendo prevented the Metroid series from elevating itself into a staple franchise.
What do you think? Would the Metroid franchise be in a better position today had Return of Samus released on the NES versus the Game Boy? Or do you think the handheld was the perfect system to have Samus’s second adventure on? Let us know in the comments below!
Andy Spiteri is the Webmaster of Omega Metroid and Host of the Omega Metroid Podcast. Probably drinking a Tim Horton’s Double Double as you read this.