Metroid Prime 4 is yet another example of how Metroid often feels like the redheaded stepchild among beloved Nintendo franchises. The Big N would never leave us hanging when it comes to news about Zelda, Mario or Pokémon, but whole console generations can go by without a new Metroid title, and it’s just business as usual.
While Metroid Prime 4 for the Nintendo Switch is indeed on its way, Nintendo has handled the situation with its traditional Metroid caginess. We’ve gathered what information we can about when the game might come out, and how it might play when it does. Hopefully, fans will be able to dive into a brand-new Samus Aran adventure soon. And if not, there’s always Super Metroid on Switch Online.
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Metroid Prime 4 release date
Metroid Prime 4 has been in development for a long time, which might lead you to think that it’s coming out soon. But you’ll have to temper those expectations, as Metroid Prime 4’s long development cycle is partially due to a significant retooling. On January 25, 2019, the game’s producer, Shinya Takahashi, explained that the original studio developing Metroid Prime 4 (possibly Bandai Namco, but it’s anyone’s guess) didn’t deliver a satisfactory product, and that the game was restarting development from scratch under Retro Studios.
This is good news for longtime fans, as Retro Studios developed the first three Metroid Prime games, all of which fell somewhere between “well-received” and “beloved.” But it’s also potentially bad news, since it means that a game with at least three years of development time had to jettison all progress and start again.
Where does that leave Metroid Prime 4’s release date? The series timeline up until this point doesn’t necessarily help that much. There’s no pattern to Metroid release times. Sometimes the series goes eight years without an entry; sometimes it gets two entries in a single year.
If Metroid Prime 4 had been in development since 2017 and Nintendo pulled the plug in early 2020, that may suggest that the company had a three-year development cycle in mind. Perhaps, then, we’ll see Metroid Prime 4 in 2023 — although 2024 is more likely. And by then, who knows if the Nintendo Switch will even be Nintendo’s go-to platform?
In short, Metroid Prime 4 is likely a long way out.
Metroid Prime 4 trailer
We do actually have a short teaser trailer for Metroid Prime 4, although it’s basically just the “Metroid Prime 4” logo materializing out of space. You can watch it yourself if you’ve got 42 seconds to spare:
Since the trailer debuted in 2017, it’s technically referring to a different Metroid Prime 4 experience than the one we’ll eventually get. After all, the game is now in the hands of a totally different studio. On the other hand, simply stating that the game exists, and that it’s in development for the Nintendo Switch, should still be accurate.
Metroid Prime 4 gameplay
It’s difficult to say anything concrete about Metroid Prime 4’s gameplay, since we don’t have any screenshots or footage to work from. Even if we did, though, it would likely be material from the first studio’s build, and would therefore have no bearing on the Metroid Prime 4 that fans eventually get to play. Perhaps the original studio was trying something different, and Retro has something more traditional in mind; maybe the reverse is true. We may not know for years, although it’ll make an interesting postmortem someday.
At the very least, we can say that Metroid Prime 4 will probably have gameplay similar to the first three Metroid Prime games. That means it will be a first-person shooter with the same exploration and gear upgrade elements that you’d expect from any Metroid game. (The first-person perspective is a hallmark of the Metroid Prime subseries; if Retro wanted to make a side-scroller, then it wouldn’t include “Prime” in the title.) Whether Samus will explore one big planet, as in the first game, a planet with light and dark halves, as in the second game, or multiple smaller planets, as in the third game, is anyone’s guess.
Metroid Prime 4 latest news
There hasn't been much solid information from Nintendo on Metroid Prime 4 since January 2019. However, we've heard dribs and drabs from the development team, and will include whatever new information we learn here.
Kensuke Tanabe, a veteran developer at Nintendo, spoke a little bit about Metroid Prime during an interview about Paper Mario: The Origami King with VGC. He revealed the following about Metroid Prime's design philosophy:
"First, Nintendo’s philosophy on game creation is that we don’t ignore casual players in creating our games," Tanabe said. "This is also true for games such as those in the Metroid Prime series; games that at first glance look like they are only aimed at core gamers."
This means that Metroid Prime 4 will likely be accessible for a wide variety of gamers — at least, to the same extent that the first three games were.
More recently, Jon Marcella, a level designer from God of War: Ascension and God of War III has joined Metroid Prime 4's team as an environment designer. There's not too much else to say about that. Both God of War III and Ascension had cleverly designed levels with lots of hidden secrets and optional puzzles, not unlike a Metroid game. It's easy to see how he might lend his expertise to Nintendo's latest project.
Retro Studios is currently hiring a storyboard artist who can "Help define emotional scenes that will resonate with audiences" as well as "Explore interesting and innovative scenes that elevate the narrative." This seems to be a posting for Metroid Prime 4, since it involves working on a Nintendo franchise — although it's arguably a little late in the game for a storyboard artist to join up for the first time.
Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch remaster
It’s also worth at least mentioning the Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch remaster here, since it’s been a subject of fevered anticipation for at least as long as the Switch has been around. Basically, fans really, really want the first three Metroid Prime games to be remastered and bundled as a Switch release. The Metroid Prime series originally came out on GameCube and Wii, and while you can buy a digital bundle on the Wii U, there’s no such option on Switch.
Every few months, there’s some kind of “confirmed leak” that the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Switch is about to get announced. Some retailer or other will accidentally list it, or Nintendo will make an oblique Metroid reference, or someone whose uncle totally works at Nintendo, you guys, will claim that it’ll be up for pre-order any day now.
The only trouble is, every rumor, no matter how reliable it sounded, has proven to be pure bunkum. As of right now, the Metroid Prime Trilogy Switch remaster isn’t a thing that exists. It would be nice to have, and it’s completely believable that Nintendo is working on it. But there’s no hard evidence, so hope at your own risk.