Super Mario Maker released nearly six years ago on September 10, 2015. As Nintendo prepared to give its mascot his next 3D sandbox title with Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch, Mario Maker gave fans unprecedented freedom to make their own "official" 2D platformer levels in one of four classic styles: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros. U. The idea was a huge success, even garnering a sequel, and it's one that Nintendo should capitalize on with other properties. The impending release of Metroid Dread may be a good excuse to get started.
While updates to the original Super Mario Maker and Super Mario Maker 2 offered up more tools to play with, the kind of creativity these titles facilitate is evident in their massive fan projects. Probably the biggest of the bunch is the yearly YMM celebration managed by creator Kiavik, which is undergoing its fifth anniversary by releasing a new slew of curated Mario Maker levels as of this writing. Many have asked for a Legend of Zelda dungeon designer equivalent, especially after the Link's Awakening remake included a similar idea, but Metroid has an easier path to mimic Super Mario – even if its mechanics are intrinsically more complex.
Metroid Maker's Potential Aesthetic Variety
If one of the biggest arguments for a Legend of Zelda "Maker" game is giving fans the ability to create dungeons based on multiple classic top-down styles, Metroid has about as many options for its 2D platformers. Like Mario and Zelda, the Metroid series is now 35 years old, and in that time it has gone through a few makeovers while retaining the same gameplay philosophy.
Matching the original lineup of Super Mario Maker style choices, a theoretical Metroid equivalent could include the 1986 NES original, 1994's Super Metroid, 2002's Metroid Fusion (plus the subsequent Game Boy Advance title Zero Mission), and 2021's Metroid Dread as a more three-dimensional spin ala New Super Mario Bros. U. Demake versions of level themes based on locales like Fusion's Biologic Space Laboratories (BSL) research station or Zero Mission's Chozo Ruins could be developed, similar to how Super Mario Maker added the Ghost House for Super Mario Bros. NES.
Following in the footsteps of Super Mario Maker 2, which added an additional style based on Super Mario 3D World with a host of unique mechanics translated into 2D, the Metroid Prime Trilogy could get a similar treatment. Whatever level themes Nintendo decides to go with should have some equivalent in the Prime games, and there would be a lot of potential mechanics or environmental setpieces based on Phazon to shake things up. Metroid: Other M could map onto the Mario Maker formula better given it already has more 2D elements to draw upon, but its infamy among fans means the Prime trilogy is the best way to go.
Metroid Maker's Potential Gameplay
Mechanics and overarching goals are where Metroid becomes a harder sell than Super Mario or The Legend of Zelda in terms of developing a "Maker" game. Classic Mario platformers have short-term levels in which players must reach a goal at the end, meanwhile Zelda dungeons are contained romps with a climactic boss battle. Metroid games have huge interconnected maps for players to explore, and each area has layers of complexity to be unwoven as Samus plumbs the depths of alien worlds to collect various armaments and tools that have multiple uses for combat and traversal.
The development time, processing power, and storage space it would take to allow potentially millions of players to create worlds as big as Zebes on a whim is perhaps unreasonable. Not to mention, this kind of user-generated content would be far more niche than pick-up-and-play Super Mario levels. However, there is an argument to be made for a Metroid-styled "Maker" game that provides a limited scope. Making worlds more linear like Fusion's BSL station would be one way to approach the issue, but even that game has a lot of content to dig through. Perhaps "Metroid Maker" could sell itself under the premise of being a mission simulator, thus giving players the excuse to design shorter, compact levels that still task Samus with exploring, collecting upgrades, and defeating bosses.
Another idea this theoretical game would no doubt have to pull from Super Mario Maker is changing mechanics based on level style. NES Metroid could be barebones like the Super Mario Bros. style, meanwhile items like Ice Missiles would be available starting in Metroid Fusion style. Metroid Dread would likely have the biggest gap, however, pulling the parry attack from both MercurySteam-developed Metroid titles as well as Samus' new Arm Cannon upgrades like Storm Missile. Certain enemies like Dread's E.M.M.I. robots could still be demade in earlier styles, though, so long as enough movesets or equipment are universal to defeat them with.
Capitalizing on Metroid Dread
Given how far fans have been able to push Super Mario Maker levels over the past six years despite their seemingly simple mechanics, the potential for "official" fan-made Metroid levels using old and new content is through the roof. If Nintendo lets players pull off every trick in the book, from clever use of the shinespark to hiding upgrades and hidden pathways in the wall, there's no telling how deep each creation could become.
Now is the perfect time to invest in this idea, as the Metroid series is seeing something of a renaissance. Mario and Link receive adventures regularly, but Samus has always been more of a black sheep; garnering lower sales numbers and thus fewer new titles than her contemporaries. Between Metroid Dread, Retro Studios' Metroid Prime 4, and all of the attention Nintendo has given the series on social media for its 35th anniversary, this may change in the near future. Time will tell whether the Nintendo Switch helps make Metroid a powerhouse franchise again, but even if it doesn't there's still room to let fans have their own fun creating and sharing Metroid missions.
Metroid Dread is currently slated to release on October 8, 2021 for Nintendo Switch.