Edit the Frog is still taking a break from covering romhacks, there’s thousands to sift through on romhacking.net, but in the meantime, here’s a fan-made, browser-playable version of Metroid! Although it looks a lot like the NES game, it’s no hack, but a from-the-ground-up reimplementation.
It was made specifically to help overcome the limitations of the NES platform, so Samus animates much more smoothly, there’s particle effects, multi-directional scrolling areas, built-in mapping, and the music uses later, more orchestral versions of the original’s music, although with an option to switch to the 8-bit originals. (I find that the music is a bit reluctant to play in the current version, though.) There’s other interesting features new features to find as well.
Most interesting is a built-in randomizer mode, and a second, alternate planet to explore! It’s designed along the lines of the original Zebes (here called “Zebeth,” a nod to the on-screen Romanization of Zebes in the NES game), but has some new elements, including areas that scroll in all directions, and new bosses!
Metroid is approaching 37 years old, and it was looking a bit long in the tooth three decades ago. Yet it’s still remarkably atmospheric for its age, and I find there’s something evocative about how the game’s world doesn’t feel designed like a challenging obstacle course for the player, like it just exists on its own and doesn’t particularly show any care for the player. There are some item gates, but like the original NES Legend of Zelda, many fewer than you’d expect, especially compared to their SNES sequels.
Screed time! Will Metroid still be played 20 years from now? I think so, although I find that most of the internet energy around these classic NES games now is focused on speedrunning, randomization and romhacks, and two of these three things Nintendo is actively fighting against. It’s a good example of how copyright law and corporate control has the potential to hold back both fan interest and property longevity. The rights to these games should be released to the public, while there is still a public that cares about them. Nintendo would probably get more money out of it, in the long run, from making sequels anyway.