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, over 35 years later, fans are eagerly awaiting the next entry in the series, Metroid Prime 4, which has been in the works for several years now.
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 will 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.
— 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/AI designer, which proved development was still early at that time. Even in July 2022, Retro Studios is still looking to fill a number of vacancies, including an environment designer, gameplay engineer, and lead concept artist.
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 three 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 2023 at the earliest. A more realistic estimate places its release sometime in 2024, 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.
In February 2022, Retro Studios updated its Twitter page with new art featuring Samus, serving as the first new piece of information about the game since the 2019 video announcing the project had been restarted.
Sure, it’s not much, but at this point, any news about Metroid Prime 4 is worth discussing. Retro Studios and Nintendo no doubt knew the community would notice this subtle update, so perhaps this is an indication of a developmental milestone, hopefully meaning it’ll be ready to show soon.
One thing to consider is that a remaster of the first Metroid Prime game is reportedly in the works according to GamesBeat reporter Jeff Grubb (via GameSpot). Grubb says he’s been told “pretty definitively” that all three games in the trilogy will be remastered but that Nintendo will release them individually to draw out the build to Prime 4. If true, this could indicate that Prime 4 is further away than we had hoped.
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 Nintendo might opt to publish it on whatever device comes out after the Switch.
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 2023, it could very well release for a separate platform altogether (or across both). Perhaps Retro and Nintendo 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.
Despite the game’s major developmental troubles, Metroid Prime 4 is actually available to preorder through Amazon right now. However, 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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