Who knew all the way back in 1987 that a little game called Metroid would pretty much singlehandedly create an entire genre of videogaming that would still be thriving over 30 years later? As one of the first open world games, it challenged players to memorize its labyranthine caverns and methodically eliminate dead ends, cataloguing specific areas and rooms for exploration at a later time when equipped with the right upgrade. If Mario with his straightforward run and jumping was like checkers, then Metroid was like Chess, requiring from players more than just pushing right on the d-pad until you reached the flagpole.
I wouldn't necessarily say the first Metroid singlehandedly created the genre, as the game was more of an experiment at the time and for a long time there was nothing else like it. It wasn't until Super Metroid came out that the genre began to solidify itself and eventually spread out to other developers in the industry. Also, as an avid Metroid 1 hater and mild enthusiast of Chess, that comparison kinda hurt.
My first experience with Metroidvania... I don't think I played a single one in all of my childhood or teenage years. I think my first experience was in 2013, as an 18-year-old, when I downloaded Super Metroid to play it on an emulator and see what the hype was all about. Got stuck early on (running room in Brinstar, obviously), wasn't enjoying myself, gave up on it. I then tried it again a few months later, started over, beat Kraid and got stuck again with no idea where to go, wasn't enjoying myself, gave up on it again (yeah, I guess "In defence of piracy" didn't do wonders here).
In June 2014, though, Super Metroid was among the rather large selection of games I'd gotten for free for buying Mario Kart 8 (RIP Club Nintendo), and so I decided to give it another go, convinced that, on the actual hardware, I would get into it this time, and I wasn't wrong. I had a great time, and was amazed that I could almost beat the game without looking anything up online (unfortunately the glass bridge broke my pride). Finished it in about 10 hours, and, while I did think it was a very good game, I couldn't quite see what was so special about it the moment I beat it. That's because I was dumb. But fast-forward a few hours, and later that night, when thinking about the game, my below-par little brain finally realized that the Metroid at the end was *spoilers spoilers*, and then I was like, whoa!! Ended up replaying the game shortly after, and from the 2nd time onwards it was just sheer love.
Funny enough, the next two Metroidvanias I played (Primes 1 and 2) had a similar story where I couldn't get into them early on and took me several attempts until I finally started appreciating them. Well, Prime 1 at least, with Prime 2 I didn't enjoy that game at all until my 2nd playthrough came along.
After finishing the Prime Trilogy, I went back to the 2D games, beating Fusion, Zero Mission, AM2R, Metroid, Metroid 2, and Samus Returns in that order. Found Metroid 1 to be a horribly outdated mess I never wanna touch again, Metroid 2 to be an alright game for its hardware and time, and all the other ones were pretty awesome. Somewhere between these, I also played Ori and the Blind Forest, my first non-Metroid Metroidvania, and also really enjoyed it. In early 2018, I finally touched the other side of the genre's name by playing Symphony of the Night, which I found to be a great but flawed game, and at that point I think I concluded that no other Metroidvania would ever come close to Super Metroid for me.
Then, E3 2018 happened, and Nintendo went like "hey, we're releasing Hollow Knight on the Switch TODAY", and it was like $8 on the Mexican eShop, so, I mean, yeah, that was a pretty fast purchase. And it didn't disappoint, absolutely amazing game. I wrote about it here, and I still feel mostly this way about it today.
That said, Super Metroid is still probably my favorite. Over the years, I've actually gotten pretty decent at speedrunning it (at an amateur level, of course - my record was somewhere around 65 minutes), and it's just so much fun to break that game... it has that BotW-esque vibe, where you feel like the developers actively want you to try and break it, and that just makes any game a lot of fun. And no matter what bullshit you try to pull off, it's amazing how the game always remains fully functional and never gets you soft locked or anything. Add to that the great world design, artstyle, soundtrack and sound effects, awesome bosses, great opening and ending, and just the whole atmosphere in general, and yeah, it's kind of a near perfect masterpiece. Good stuff, that game.
Looking forward to Ritual of the Night later this month.