Super Metroid – Highway to Hell

I’m losing health every second but I’ve never felt so alive and focused. Here I am facing my greatest challenge with no suit, no credentials, just a handful of missiles and my wits. The only way I can get through this is with consistent movement and execution. Any mistakes I make will cost time and energy to get to the next health refill. I can’t look back, only forward. It’s all or nothing, and I’m all out of nothing.

Whelp, good thing this is a videogame and I saved.

Welcome to one of the many wonderful ways to play Super Metroid, Reverse Boss Order. This is a category where death is just a minor setback. Super Metroid is so well-crafted and open that with the right strategy and item collection, you can actually fight Ridley before any of the other main bosses. This means the Varia suit that allows you to withstand heat damage, is off-limits. Kraid has that locked away in his lair, stroking it with his giant claw while roaring with laughter. The gravity suit that allows you to move freely through water? Nope, Phantoon has that under lockdown. You aren’t getting that until the wrecked ship is powered up. This means you have to play through the heated area taking constant heat damage, and the water area with extremely slow and limited movement options.

The first thing we do is get every possible item we can get without the locked upgrades. Thankfully we can get a lot of energy, and just enough Super Missiles and Power Bombs to make these fights possible. It just might take some, uh, creative use of movement. This is not going to be a tutorial on how to speedrun, but if you want to learn specifics I recommend this tutorial by foosda, and lots of prior knowledge of the game. I’m here to explain what the experience is like and share mine with you.

Weeee! Getting this Energy Tank (we’ll call them etanks from now on) usually requires high jump, but we’re not that far yet so we have to get more creative. You can actually get this by jumping up to this enemy, then damage boosting left so you get flung slightly upwards into the etank. It requires a good amount of control to shoot the block, and jump with the right timing so you are there just as the hopper is coming back to the roof. There’s some kind of lesson here, intentionally damaging yourself upwards to gain more overall health? Making yourself vulnerable can feel scary, but might be necessary for growth.

The first heated rooms come quite quickly. The game would expect you to beat Kraid before coming here, so there’s a good amount of heated rooms even before we get to Ridley’s Lair. Here we need Speed Booster, Wave Beam, and Grapple Beam to make the run possible. We don’t have many etanks just yet, so farming is the way to go. If you thought Farming Simulator 2020 was intense, wait until you try this.

Just like real farming, your life depends on a successful harvest here. If you leave this room for Speed Booster without full health, you won’t make it back. Even this farming room is a heated room where my health is slowly draining, but I’m getting just enough health from the bugs spawning from this pipe to break even and a bit more. It’s a slow but necessary process but gives you a bit of time to think about the upcoming hell run.

After grabbing all the items we can in normal and heated weather, we’re still not ready for the Ridley fight or Lower Norfair. It’s time to go for a swim.

Thanks mate. The fish and crabs native to Maridia are now our best friends, providing platforms when frozen. They still do damage if you touch them, but they’re just shy really. It makes you think about what an “enemy” actually is in a videogame. They just go on their own natural route and only hurt us if we disturb them. Even in a normal situation, creatures can be used to damage boost off, and farm health or ammo. They are pretty helpful, maybe even nice.

This whole suitless water area is an incredibly accomplishment of game design, whether it’s intentional or not. You can still go almost everywhere without the Gravity suit, but just barely. You need to freeze enemies in the right position, sometimes waiting for their patterns to line up. Then some jumps require a crouch jump to gain a little more height, followed by a down-grab to reach some ledges by a pixel. The rest is done by grapple beam and a variety of tricks, but I’m not here to bore you with the technical details. Let’s jump into some lava.

The lava dive is one of the most critical parts of this playthrough. If you thought heated rooms were bad, lava drains your health even faster, and you also have slow water physics to wade through. To get through this enormous room alive, you have to be very precise and calculated with your movements. Everything matters from the way you enter the room, your wall jumps, your acceleration and the timing of the projectiles.

Projectiles? That’s right, this room wasn’t quite dangerous enough so these skeleton lava snakes pop their heads out of the wall to shoot blue balls at you. To make things more intense, the final wall jump is the hardest, most precise one as you cling to the bottom corner of the wall. Dying here means losing minutes because the last save room is quite a trek back. You can do it, Samus. We’ve practiced this.

Phew, we made it. Now that we’re safe we can take a nap. This move is called a Crystal Flash, performed by dropping a power bomb, then pressing L, R, down and shoot as you’re under 50 HP. This extremely situational combo is the only thing that actually allows us to travel through Lower Norfair suitless. You sacrifice 10 missiles, 10 supers, and 10 power bombs to completely restore your health and fill up your reserves. This is the reason we collect so many extra items before coming here. It’s an amazing ability that is actually showcased in the intro demo movie of the game, but rarely has a use outside extreme situations.

Before this elevator is a save room, then the whole first phase in Lower Norfair might be the longest time period in the entire game without a save point. All your actions have big consequences and it’s a mental battle to keep it together through 10 minutes of intense heat. When you have a lot to lose it’s easy to feel extremely scared and vulnerable. This whole speedrun is a very good test of character.

There’s so much to say about Lower Norfair, every room requires a specific strat I can’t explain without doing a full walkthrough. Because you’re meant to have suits here, enemies do a full etank of damage or more. This section requires lots of wall jumps and precise platforming. You have to balance this precision with speed, since your health is draining. It’s a fine balance that honestly feels a bit like driving a fast race car. You need to be on the limit, but can’t go over. There’s also some extreme farming with the grapple beam. If you can get through it, Ridley is waiting.

From the moment Ridley spawns you want to be on the attack. Since we don’t have Plasma Beam, Super Missiles are our best source of damage. Exactly 30 will kill Ridley, so you have to be careful not to miss. Health is constantly draining through this fight, so there is pressure to be fast and careful at the same time. This has to be the most intense boss fight scenario I’ve ever played in a videogame, and took a ton of practice attempts before I even felt like this was possible. Thankfully Screw Attack makes you invincible when you jump, so if you can start to predict when Ridley will swoop or swipe at you, you can jump to avoid damage. It is also critical to have a good farming session just before entering the room.

When Ridley is dead, you still need to get grabbed with enough health to survive the death animation. Then you need to grab the health immediately, and escape back to the save room. This part is a little bit easier than the first trek, but the stakes are higher with a long time between saves. So we’re almost done right? The hardest boss is down! Well… let’s try a suitless underwater boss fight now.

Wait sorry, wrong prawn. Shoutout to Marcus Prawn though, because nobody tells it like it is more than this man.

Prawny’s speedrun advice:“If you’re anxious during a difficult time, try listening to my smooth calming voice on 2SM. 5am every weekday.

Anyway, moving on. You do need a bit of humour to get through a 2 hour speedrun though.

Getting grabbed is okay, you can wiggle free with the dpad. Draygon just wants to adopt you as her new child. This is quite an intimidating fight to learn suitless. It feels less intense than Ridley because you can avoid damage, but requires quite a bit more creativity and execution. You can kill Prawny with missiles or the grapple beam, but then what? You can’t escape, and you’re left at the bottom of the ocean thinking about what you’ve done. You need to find a way to kill Draygon in a certain way where you can retain a shinespark. This means getting grabbed while doing a Crystal Flash, then killing Draygon with that shinespark to get a stored one for use in the next room. Then you need to grapple into the electricity, constantly damaging yourself to escape. Getting out of the boss room is almost part of the fight itself now. Short version; it’s complicated. Instead of one super difficult thing like the Ridley fight, there’s about ten regular difficult things you need to string together consecutively.

After this, it’s smooth sailing as you can grab the Plasma Beam to decimate the remaining bosses. Phantoon, the ghost elephant who is normally the worst boss in other playthroughs, is now an easy two-round fight. Kraid is pretty much the same, but it feels extra satisfying after he’s been laughing all this time. The bittersweet part is after finishing these bosses, you don’t even need the suits anymore. You can just leave and head to Tourian with tons of energy. It might be worth saving at the last save point just because you’ve come so far.

If you want to see my own playthrough or “speedrun” of Reverse Boss Order, here’s a link to my Twitch vod. I’ll update this with a better run if it happens. It took a while for me to wrap my head around this challenge, but I got unexpectedly obsessed with it until I completed a run. You can argue it has no value, but to me personally it meant a lot. I’m in the top 100 people in the world who have done it, and that’s a good confidence booster. If you can beat Super Metroid’s bosses in reverse order, you can do anything. The composure required for a challenge like this is a very handy tool to have for any of life’s challenges. You never know when you might need to eat a handful of bugs while burning to death.

Now there’s one more thing I must do.

See you soon, friends.

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