E3 2021 wrapped up earlier this week and the star of the show — for me, anyway — was the surprise announcement of Metroid Dread. Fifteen years in the making, this fifth installment in the mainline Metroid series (which doesn't include the Prime trilogy) sparked a joy in me that I haven’t felt in, well, a really long time.
Despite loving many games in the last decade, such as Dark Souls and Bloodborne, I’ve become jaded. Sure, I’m interested in something like Elden Ring, but my general cynicism sours a lot of potential excitement about new games. In fact, I barely remember the release schedule for new games — something I used to be extremely good at tracking. Perhaps that’s just a sign of age, but I think it boils down to a sense of boredom with the industry.
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It’s been a few days since Nintendo's E3 presentation, and I’m still floored by Metroid Dread. I’ve been trying to buy the game's special edition, but it keeps selling out everywhere. That implies that I’m not alone in my joy, and I think the fervor I see on social media attests to that. A lot of people are excited for this game.
Metroid Dread: What it means to me
Personally, Metroid Dread means more to me than just getting another 2D Metroid. Dread was the codename all the way back in the early 2000s for a sequel to the grim Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance. It was supposed to take the series further into sci-fi/horror territory, pitting Samus against some nameless fear, thus the name.
But Nintendo apparently canceled the project, and Metroid Dread seemingly died. In the time since then, we got Metroid Prime 3, Metroid: Other M, and Samus Returns (a remake of Metroid II on the Game Boy). Even after the announcement of Metroid Prime 4 in 2017, we were left wondering what was next for Samus following her battle with the X Parasites. That experience had changed her, but then Nintendo left us hanging.
Metroid Dread means the return of something from my childhood. We’re always chasing nostalgia as adults, desperate to feel some of the same things we did as kids. I remember my sense of foreboding as I played Metroid Fusion. I had nightmares about, well, the Nightmare boss. The melting face you see as you whittle down its health still haunts me, and few games leave with that sense of terror anymore.
Nintendo knew it would have a lot riding on Metroid Dread, and I can’t believe that nothing leaked in advance. I had heard rumors of a 2D Metroid announcement, but I honestly expected a Super Metroid remake, or something to do with Fusion or Zero Mission. I don’t think anyone expected Metroid Dread to come back to life a decade-and-a-half later. I certainly didn’t.
Metroid Dread: Leaning into nostalgia
Nintendo is like Disney: a master of playing off our nostalgia. I got suckered into buying a 3DS for the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and I fought tooth and nail to find a copy of Samus Returns. Nostalgia is partly why Nintendo still sells loads of Mario and Zelda games. Those of us who grew up with these franchises constantly seek the same feelings we felt when we played those games as kids. Now, we want to share those feelings with others (possibly with our own children).
The power of the past is why I could barely contain my excitement when I saw a new Metroid game at E3 2021. I was so overwhelmed that I didn’t know what to do. I yelled for joy, told my friends in Discord about it and even let that enthusiasm boil over into the Tom’s Guide Slack channel. Not even my wife could escape my ravings when she came home from work several hours later.
Metroid Dread’s announcement made me realize that I missed that feeling. As a boy, I religiously watched and read anything to do with video games. E3 was my favorite time of year. It never occurred to me that, in adulthood, I could lose that passion. I still loved, and continue to love, video games. But something has been missing for years, and only now can I put my finger on it.
Seeing that reveal trailer for Metroid Dread, I was suddenly a kid again. Years of memories came flooding back, and something stirred in me that I haven’t felt in a very long time. Maybe that’s just what I needed. Metroid Dread means more to me than a mere sequel to a beloved franchise — it’s a chance to relive those feelings from childhood.