Metroid fans have had some ups and downs when it comes to Nintendo's haunting space-based series, but it's been a while since we'd seen everyone's favourite bounty hunter outside Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. The most recent outing for galactic bounty hunter Samus was 2017's excellent remake of the Game Boy's Metroid II: The Return of Samus for the 3DS, and the year before that we had the underwhelming spin-off title Metroid Prime: Federation Force.
Since the announcement of Metroid Prime 4 way back at E3 2017, fans have been salivating at the prospect of jumping into Samus' space suit again, but it's been a bumpy ride so far for the highly anticipated first-person sequel to Retro Studio's celebrated Metroid Prime Trilogy.
Below we've chronicled the ins and outs of Metroid Prime 4's story so far, including the game's announcement, its delay, Retro Studio's return and every detail that's been revealed about the upcoming Switch game to this point. We'll be updating this article as new details are revealed, so be sure to check back for all the latest Metroid Prime 4 information.
So, while we wait for more juicy deets, let's take a look at everything we know about Metroid Prime 4.
Metroid Prime 4 - The story so far...
We start three years ago. In a move that went against Nintendo's general rule of only discussing games releasing in the coming year, the company revealed a logo for Metroid Prime 4 way back at E3 2017, just three months after the release of Switch. Confirming that the game was in development, it soon came to light that Retro Studios, the development company who made the original trilogy of games on GameCube and Wii, was not involved with this new game (at that time).
Regardless of who was involved, the very existence of the game created ripples of excitement among series fans. The following February it was revealed that Bandai Namco Singapore was working with Nintendo on Metroid Prime 4. The company has co-developed (or assisted development of) several Nintendo games in the past including entries in the Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. franchises, so it was hardly a surprise that Nintendo might turn to them for assistance with Metroid.
Come E3 time, Nintendo made it clear that Metroid Prime 4's announcement the previous year was "a departure from [its] usual approach" of focusing on "near-term stuff" and would not be appearing in E3 2018's Nintendo Direct broadcast.
Despite its no-show, Reggie reassured us in July that development of Metroid Prime 4 was "proceeding well" and clarified that its unusually early reveal was intended to reassure Metroid fans that, in addition to Metroid: Samus Returns on 3DS, there was also a Metroid game in development for Switch; the 'new system'.
So, a year after the initial reveal we'd seen absolutely nothing more of Metroid Prime 4 beside a logo, but Reggie assured us all was well. A photo of the Nintendo of America president wearing a Metroid shirt sent the rumour mill into overdrive, but in November 2018 he once again assured fans that the game was well into development. We had nothing to worry about!...
Or so we thought. In a classic 'Please Understand' moment, an official statement and video apology from Nintendo confirmed that the entire project had been scrapped and would be restarted with the involvement of original Metroid Prime development studio, Retro. Shinya Takahashi, Senior Managing Executive Officer at Nintendo thanked fans for their excitement and support and explained that "the current development progress has not reached the standard we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series".
It was very disappointing news, to be sure, although the fact that Retro Studios was back in the frame helped mitigate ire from fans. Soon job listings started cropping up indicating that Retro would be starting from scratch rather than using any work already done by Bandai Namco. In June, Retro was still seeking an Art Director for the project, with ex-Halo character modeller Kyle Hefley reported to have joined the studio by October, and ex-DICE art director Jhony Ljungstedt moved from EA's studio to Retro - potentially working on Metroid Prime 4, although that remains unconfirmed.
A rumour that environmental work on the game might be outsourced to external providers in order to make up for 'lost time', coupled with the trickle of hiring news that leaked over the last couple of years, indicates that there's still a long way to go with development of Metroid Prime 4.
What's been confirmed about Metroid Prime 4?
Very little at present - all we officially know is the name, but obviously that's subject to change (we wouldn't be surprised if a sneaky colon crept in).
Looking at the comings and goings of talent to the studio gives us an indication as to the staff involved on the project, but nothing has been confirmed. Approximately half of the development team who worked on the last entry in the proper Prime series are reportedly still at Retro Studios, with fewer than 10 of those having worked on the first Metroid Prime game - the main creatives and project leads left years ago (or have sadly passed away).
Of course, the delay has severely impacted the roll out of information. Nintendo is reluctant to discuss any project until it can deliver concrete details, footage and other information to its audience, and while the reveal of the in-development game was intended to placate Metroid fans wondering why Metroid: Samus Returns was on 3DS rather than Switch, that plan backfired somewhat with the delay resulting in radio silence. We know Metroid Prime 4 is coming, but the lack of information creates room for increased fan speculation.
So, what are people speculating about Metroid Prime 4?
Well, arguably there's more speculation around what Nintendo will do to plug this Metroid 'gap' until Prime 4 arrives. With Retro quite rightfully taking its time with the Switch sequel, Nintendo has a couple of excellent options to help fans pass the time.
Leak group LeakyPandy believed that both a Super Metroid remake and an HD update of Wii's Metroid Prime Trilogy are in development, in addition to Metroid Prime 4, although LeakyPanda's track record is patchy.
What do we think? Well, a Super Metroid remake would be brilliant — it is, after all, one of the greatest video games ever made — but the existence of Metroid Dread makes it perhaps less likely in the short term. And if we're honest, we can't think of a game that requires a remake less than Super Metroid. The SNES original is a classic which holds up marvellously in 2021, and it's already available on Switch as part of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Don't get us wrong — we'd love to see it, but a Switch port of 3DS' Metroid: Samus Returns arguably makes more sense.
If Nintendo wants to whet the appetite of Metroid fans and potentially onboard new fans who may have missed the original trilogy across GameCube and Wii, Metroid Prime Trilogy HD is the most obvious and plausible option. Originally released on Wii and combining all three Metroid Prime games in one handy package, it introduced motion controls from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption into the two previous entries and, a few missing graphical effects aside, is arguably the best way to play the games today.
Having the entire series on Switch would be a dream come true for many fans, and alongside Metroid Dread it would act as a perfect apology to desperate fans following the delay of Metroid Prime 4. Metroid Prime Trilogy HD on Switch seems like an open goal, but will Nintendo tap it in? Fingers crossed.
When will Metroid Prime 4 be released?
Well, video games take a long time to gestate. For a game of Metroid Prime 4's stature, three years would seem to be the minimum amount of time required to get it off the ground and released, although it could easily take much longer. It appears that very little if anything was salvaged from Bandai Namco's time on the game, so assuming Retro started from scratch, 2022 or even 2023 would seem to be a relatively realistic release window at this point.
That's not to say Nintendo and Retro won't be doing their utmost to get the game finished as soon as possible, and rumours that they're outsourcing environmental art would support the idea that they're eager to speed things along. Still, assuming the size and scope of the game will be in line with the previous entries in the series (at least), there's not much more to be done than let the talented folks at Retro get on with the work — a job made more challenging recently thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected developers across the planet (along with everyone else).
Of course, who can say what the console hardware landscape will look like when the game eventually launches. Could Metroid Prime 4 launch alongside some sort of updated Switch hardware or 'Switch Pro'? It's certainly not beyond the realms of possibility that it becomes a cross-generational title bridging two consoles similar to how The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did with Wii U and Switch. It really depends on how long development takes.
Ultimately, despite our disappointment and impatience to continue Samus' first-personadventures on Switch, most Metroid fans will console themselves with that famous quote from Shigeru Miyamoto: "a delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad". Far better that Samus arrives a little late to the party in fine form than bursting in half-ready with a boot missing and her hair caught in her visor, no? We'll be keeping a close eye on developments.
Remember, we'll update this page with more information as and when it arrives. If you're eager for more marvellous Metroid content, feel free to check out our ranking of the best Metroid games of all time.