Super Metroid is considered to be one of the greatest games ever made. It consistently lands within the top ten on greatest hits lists and is no stranger to the number one spot. What is it about this game, released in 1994 for the SNES, that earns it such universally high praise?

There is no single design element or game play hook that sets Super Metroid so high. Rather, it was a game that achieved the highest levels of quality on all fronts. Detailed graphics and smooth animation supported visually engaging environments. The music drew the player into the game's alien world. The incredibly thoughtful level designs never grew repetitive and were full of new and interesting things. What's more, it has aged beautifully, and I find it a fresh experience even now, playing it for the dozenth time, around 16 years after I first picked it up. However, I didn't always feel that way.

The reign of the SNES was an age of transition for me as far as my video game tastes were concerned. Platformers, brawlers, and the occasional shooter (Contra, not Doom) were mostly what I played—games divided into levels, levels that had a start and a finish. The RPG and the action-adventure genres were foreign and intimidating. Super Metroid was something I had read about in Nintendo Power magazine and thought looked really cool, but it wasn't for me. I had gotten hopelessly, frustratingly lost in Metroid after all. Still, I figured a rental wouldn't hurt.

On that rental I decided that if I could actually beat the game, then maybe I'd buy it... and so my journey began.

The title screen was creepy. The music was ominous. "The last Metroid is in captivity, the galaxy is at peace." It was the first digital voice I'd ever heard in a game. The space colony introduction in Super Metroid might not be nearly as moody as the one in Metroid Prime, but back then I found it just as forbidding. That initial encounter with Ridley was more an episode of panicked shooting than a fight, and I felt I had barely made it off the station alive. Even so, by the time Samus' gunship had drifted down planetside through the pouring rain and flashes of lightning, the game's atmosphere was working on me, steadily drawing me in. As I explored, each beautifully distinct world unveiled itself to me.