I’ve decided to take note of great games, along with what the game does to make it stand out as the gem it is. This time, I’m writing about Super Metroid and it’s introduction.

In the previous blog post, I wrote about the introduction to Super Metroid, and how it involved the player in the introductory story to immerse the player deeply in the game. This blog post with be about the introduction to Zebes, and how it makes the player really feel the sense of isolation.

Picture this, you’ve arrived on a alien planet after fighting and running for your life, and you’re ready to kick alien butt.

image from NeoGAF. All rights Nintendo.

However, apart from acid rain and an ominous music track, there’s no one else to be seen. You’re all set to start blasting everything in sight, but the game has completely slowed the pace down. Now it’s time to explore.

With nothing else around as you explore, you can’t help but feel alone. With each door you open, you hope to see something, anything! With each passing moment, it dawns on you how isolated Samus is.

Image from screwattack. All rights Nintendo.

When you get deeper into Zebes, you’ll see the original lair of Mother Brain, Tourian. Everything has become rusted and decrepit, as years of neglect has brought the area into disrepair. Little alien bugs react to your movements and watch and run away. Samus jumps through the base, and players that have played the first game will likely remember their final fight with Mother Brain.

All rights Nintendo.

Eventually, you arrive at the starting area for the first game. It’s still very quiet. Dark. You’re waiting for something, anything to shoot. Eventually you come across your first item, the Morph Ball. You quickly pick it up, and an alien security camera lights up and spots you! But still… Nothing is attacking you? Maybe the base is empty? The eerie high pitched noise of the scanner works together with the menacing music and the faces that track your movements to increase your unease and your immersion in the game. You continue further, still keeping an eye out for anything to shoot. You’re really being pulled into the game now, just expecting anything to jump out and attack you.

Eventually, you find some missiles, and another alien security camera lights up and spots you. By now you know it doesn’t do anything, but still surprises you. You can’t help but wonder if something is operating the camera. Portal does something similar in it’s test chambers that never have anyone in them. You expect there to be someone watching, at least once.

So now you’ve been playing for around 2-5 minutes without any thing trying to kill you. The sense of Samus being alone is truly felt by now. With no way to head forward, you trek back, not expecting to see any enemies, since there weren’t any previously.

Image from MetroidWiki. All Rights Nintendo.

When you get back to Mother Brain’s base, you are surprised by the lights all being turned on, and Space Pirates attacking you. You finally have something to attack, but it dawns on you that you have been watched the entire time.

I’ve heard stories of players being so affected by this introduction that they thought they could skip the Space Pirates appearance by staying out of the security cameras.

Isolation has worked to bring players into the game, because while the game doesn’t provide much interaction, the little interaction it does provide reacts to everything the player does. This amplifies the player’s immersion. By providing a deep descent into the planet without an enemy to fight, the player feels Samus’ isolation. The trick is used to similar effect in Silent Hill 2, where James has a 5 minute walk before he enters Silent Hill.

Hopefully this covers how to do an interesting introduction to a game, and how to make your players feel isolation. Thanks for reading!