One of Nintendo’s lesser-known, yet still beloved, franchises is Metroid — a series that originally began on the NES, putting us in the shoes of bounty hunter Samus Aran. Now, nearly 35 years later, fans are eagerly awaiting the next entry in the series, Metroid Prime 4. The Prime series takes the formula introduced in the 2D games and turns it into a 3D, first-person adventure that still very much feels like Metroid, despite the perspective shift.
While there isn’t much we know about Metroid Prime 4, there are some small tidbits of information around the internet here and there. We’ve scoured as much as we could find to bring you everything we know about Metroid Prime 4.
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Originally revealed during E3 2017, Metroid Prime 4 was shown in the most minuscule capacity possible. Since it was still very early in development at that time, Nintendo only had a logo ready, revealing that the game was in development and pretty much nothing else via its announcement trailer. The trailer had some fancy space-themed “beep boops,” but aside from that, only the title was shown.
While this was an excellent announcement, it was tough to get too overly excited for a game that we knew nothing about. Nonetheless, you can check out its initial E3 2017 announcement trailer above.
Metroid Prime 4 has had a rocky history since its original announcement in 2017. At the time, there were rumors that Bandai Namco was working on the game, with Nintendo overseeing its development. It was never confirmed which developer was working on it initially, only that Retro Studios — the team behind the other Prime games — would not be involved for some reason (likely due to other projects).
After its announcement, the game went radio silent for a while. Fast forward to January 2019, and Nintendo announced that development on Metroid Prime 4 had been restarted due to a lack of quality in what had been created up to that point. “Ever since the announcement [of Metroid Prime 4], we have not been able to give you an update, but as a result of the continuing development since that time, although this is very regrettable — we must let you know that the current development progress has not reached the standards we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series,” Shinya Takahashi of Nintendo said during an update video (which you can watch above).
“Nintendo always strives for the highest quality in our games; and in the development phase, we challenge ourselves and confront whether the game is living up to that quality on a daily basis,” Takahashi continued. “If we’re not satisfied with the quality, we aren’t able to deliver it to our customers with confidence, and the game will not live up to our fans’ expectations.”
Nintendo finally announced that Retro Studios would be handling the development of Metroid Prime 4, headed by longtime series producer Kensuke Tanabe. In the video, Takahashi said, “It will be a long road until the next time we will be able to update you on the development progress,” and since then, we haven’t heard anything else about the game from Nintendo.
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— Retro Studios (@RetroStudios) December 14, 2020
As of December 2020, Retro Studios was still in the midst of hiring for the project. In fact, it was looking for a boss/artificial intelligence (A.I.) designer, which proves development is still early. Retro Studios is still looking to fill a number of vacancies, including lead animator, lead lighting artist, and more.
All of this is to say that Metroid Prime 4 won’t be ready any time soon. Even if Retro hit the ground running right away in January 2019, that only puts it two years deep into development, and considering the production hurdles and the fact that the team is still hiring for major roles, you shouldn’t expect to play until fall 2021 at the earliest. A more realistic estimate places its release sometime in 2022 or later, given the high expectations from fans and Nintendo’s focus on quality. Ultimately, this is a good thing, but the wait will no doubt be excruciating.
As far as we know, Metroid Prime 4 is still in the works for Nintendo Switch, though it wouldn’t be surprising if it turned into a cross-platform release like The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess for the GameCube and Wii or Breath of the Wild for the Wii U and Nintendo Switch. Considering Prime 4 won’t be out for a while, it’s logical that Nintendo might opt to publish it on a more powerful machine.
Typically, Nintendo releases a new system every five to six years. The Nintendo Switch came out in 2017, so if Metroid Prime 4 doesn’t launch until 2022, it could very well release for a separate platform altogether (or across both). Perhaps Retro and Nintendo would want to take advantage of a system with more power than the Nintendo Switch to realize their vision. All we can say is that Prime 4 will be exclusive to a Nintendo platform when it does come out. Sorry, PlayStation and Xbox players.
The Metroid Prime series is no stranger to multiplayer. Whether it’s Prime 2’s local couch play or even the online multiplayer of the critically-panned Federation Force for 3DS, it’s a series that lends itself to playing with others — for better or worse. While there’s been no confirmation of whether Prime 4 will feature multiplayer, some fans have been vocal about wanting some sort of online cooperative play. Online functionality has never been Nintendo’s area of expertise, but perhaps if the game launches for the company’s next system, online integration will work much better.
It could feature both co-op and competitive modes to round out the package, reminiscent of previous entries in the series. At this point, though, the main focus seems to be on the core game itself, as that is arguably the most important aspect. It’s unclear if Prime 4 will allow you to play with others, but it’s a safe bet it will feature some sort of multiplayer mode, whether it be offline or online via the internet.
Even further off is the idea of DLC. Nintendo typically doesn’t include DLC in its games, though it has been experimenting with add-on content more recently with Nintendo Switch. Of note, its Breath of the Wild DLC was critically acclaimed, featuring additional story content and a slew of cosmetic and functional items to unlock for $20 as part of The Master Trials and The Champions’ Ballad packs. Likewise, the Splatoon 2 Octo Expansion is a fan-favorite.
The point is that Metroid Prime 4 could absolutely have DLC that either focuses on extra story missions or even features a return to previous areas from other games for nostalgia’s sake. Or, perhaps the possible multiplayer component could be available as DLC, whether it be free or paid. There could be some sort of additional ending or even a segment that allows you to play as a different character. The possibilities are practically endless.
At this point, it’s tough to say since we barely know anything about the main game at all. Either way, if Nintendo does implement DLC, it will likely be great.
Despite the game’s major developmental troubles, Metroid Prime 4 is actually available to preorder through Amazon right now. Though we wouldn’t make much of this, as it’s been available to preorder for quite some time with no signs of release any time soon. Still, it can be mildly satisfying to put money down on it, even if it won’t make the wait go by any faster.
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