What could Nintendo have planned for Metroid’s 35th anniversary in 2021?Platforms: Nintendo Switch
Nintendo certainly likes to celebrate the anniversaries of its flagship IPs. Mario has just celebrated his 35th anniversary in style with the launch of Super Mario 3D All Stars, while Super Mario 3D World + Bowser's Fury is coming next February. Speaking of next year, 2021 sees The Legend of Zelda series turn 35, and you can bet Nintendo has something up their sleeves to celebrate another of gaming’s biggest IPs; we’ve even taken a look at what that could be.
However, 2021 also represents the 35th anniversary for one of Nintendo’s other flagship, albeit often ignored, IPs, Metroid! Yes, that’s right, the legendary bounty hunter Samus Aran will have been kicking Space Pirate butt for more than 35 years come August. Metroid may be my favourite IP in gaming, as well as one of the most critically-acclaimed, but it’s never been a massive seller for the company, especially in Japan. As a result, I’m sure every Metroid fan will agree, Nintendo isn’t likely to give it as much attention in 2021, especially if they’re forced to choose between Samus or Zelda.
That being said, let’s not dwell on the negatives and instead focus on what Nintendo could do in 2021 to celebrate Metroid’s 35th anniversary.
Metroid Prime 4
Metroid Prime 4 will not be launching in 2021! As much as I’d love to see it, it’s not going to happen, so let’s just get that out of the way. Announced at E3 2017, Metroid Prime 4’s development has been rocky to say the least, and in January 2019, Nintendo announced that development (rumoured to have been helmed by Bandai Namco) had been scrapped and restarted due to failing to meet Nintendo’s lofty expectations. The development was re-started under the helm of Retro Studios, the Texas-based studio responsible for the previous Metroid Prime titles. Since then, we’ve had little to no information other than job adverts, which most likely indicates development is still in the early phases. It should be noted that given the farce that was Metroid Prime: Federation Force and the less than rosy reception fans gave Metroid: Other M, it’s refreshing to hear that Nintendo is taking the development very seriously and isn’t happy releasing a poor, half-arsed entry into the series.
So what does that mean for Metroid Prime 4 in 2021? Well, a release looks very unlikely, but it’s not impossible to imagine Nintendo showing off the first gameplay trailers in the second half of next year, with a potential Nintendo Direct at the end of 2021 focusing specifically on the game, with a potential release being announced for sometime in 2022. Would that be enough to celebrate Metroid’s 35th anniversary? Probably not, but as a die hard fan used to going console generations without a Metroid title, I’ll take anything at this point.
Metroid Prime Trilogy HD
Ever since Metroid Prime 4 was announced in 2017, rumours have been constantly circulating that Nintendo plans to port to the Switch a HD upgraded version of the Metroid Prime Trilogy collection. A stellar title that bundles together the Gamecube classics Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes with the Wii’s Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. All three games are some of the most critically-acclaimed in gaming, with Metroid Prime often considered to be one of the best games ever made, so it makes complete sense that Nintendo would bring the collection over to the Switch to build awareness and hype ahead of Metroid Prime 4’s launch. However, Nintendo isn’t always known for making logical decisions, so while it makes logical and financial sense to the fans to port it over, Nintendo may not see it that way.
Rumours suggest the Switch version has been ready for months, even years now, but it keeps getting pushed back due to on-going development issues with Prime 4. This is completely understandable, but given the rumours seem to reappear every six months or so, and none have come to fruition yet, the chances of Metroid Prime Trilogy HD arriving on the Switch in 2021 to celebrate Metroid’s 35th anniversary are looking slim, even if it does make complete sense no matter what lens you look through. That being said, of all the possibilities explored in this feature, this seems to be the most credible and easiest to pull off, even if the Wii’s motion controls need to be remapped.
Metroid Fusion Remake
Nintendo actually announced two Metroid games during E3 2017, Metroid Prime 4, and Metroid: Samus Returns. The latter - a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus - was developed by MercurySteam and released later that year on the 3DS to strong reviews and represented the first new 2D Metroid title in over a decade. What you may not know is that MercurySteam originally pitched a remake of 2002’s Metroid Fusion on the GBA to Nintendo, leaving Yoshio Sakamoto impressed. However, they were told they couldn’t remake Fusion and were instead given the Samus Returns project instead. Now, it’s been three years since Samus Returns launched on the 3DS, and bar Spacelords, MercurySteam have been very quiet, so what have they been working on these past three years? Could Nintendo and MercurySteam be plotting a Metroid Fusion remake for the Switch in 2021? It’s not beyond the realms of possibility to imagine, especially considering Samus Returns contains a post-credit scene that leans heavily towards the opening of Fusion!
That being said, MercurySteam could just as easily be working on porting Samus Returns to the Switch, especially now that Nintendo has discontinued 3DS production. I wouldn’t complain either way, but a Fusion remake feels more likely.
Super Metroid Remake
I feel fairly confident that a new 2D Metroid will eventually arrive on the Nintendo Switch, and yes I know Super Metroid is technically available via the SNES online service, but while the original is arguably the best Metroid game ever made and is just as playable today, it doesn’t really take advantage of the Switch’s new hardware. So would Nintendo remake Super Metroid? Well, rumours that surfaced earlier in the year would suggest so. Back in January, rumours started to surface that Nintendo was planning to launch a new Paper Mario and 2D Metroid, with the former coming true when Paper Mario: The Origami King launched on the Switch in the summer. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s any truth to the Super Metroid remake rumours, but given the success MercurySteam had with Samus Returns, there’s every possibility Nintendo tasked them with modernising Super Metroid for the Switch as part of Metroid’s 35th anniversary. No small feat when you consider the impact Super Metroid has had on the gaming landscape since its launch in 1994, but it certainly feels like the perfect way to celebrate. Personally, I feel a Metroid Fusion remake is more likely given MecurySteam originally pitched that idea to Nintendo. I could be wrong though and perhaps we’ll end up with both in 2021.
Switch Online GBA Service - Zero Mission/Fusion
Given the success of SNES and NES titles on the Switch, fans have been eagerly awaiting Nintendo’s next move. Should Nintendo decide to release Game Boy Advance titles as part of its online service in 2021, perhaps we could see the original GBA versions of Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Zero Mission added to the roster to celebrate Metroid’s 35th anniversary? It is looking unlikely right now, but it’s worth remembering that Zelda boasts some spectacular GBA titles that fans would love to play again on the Switch. Should Nintendo open that door, it makes sense to think Nintendo would include the two Metroid GBA titles.
Metroid Fusion Sequel - Metroid Dread
Despite being 35, Metroid doesn’t boast the largest back catalogue of titles, especially next to Nintendo’s other classic IPs Mario and Zelda. To date, only 14 games have been released in the series, of which Metroid Fusion represents the most recent chronological entry, and that was released nearly 20 years ago on its own. So, will Metroid’s 35th anniversary see Nintendo finally release the heavily rumoured sequel to Metroid Fusion, originally code-named Metroid Dread, on the Switch? I would have to say that it looks very unlikely, we know that Nintendo is keen to drop game announcements relatively close to their release window, but if Metroid Dread - or whatever it’s called now - was coming in 2021, surely we’d have had some kind of news, or even rumours by now? I’d love to be wrong, but given Nintendo’s big focus is on Metroid Prime 4 right now, a remake of Metroid Fusion or Super Metroid is looking like the most likely way of getting your 2D Metroid fix in 2021, as opposed to a brand new, fully-fledged, entry in the series.
Metroid is a hard series to judge for Nintendo, yes the majority of the titles are critically-acclaimed, but it’s never been a massive seller, even in Europe and North America, where the majority of the fan base reside. That being said, in order to improve sales, Nintendo needs to actually release titles; you can’t expect a series that missed the N64, missed the Wii U, and could potentially miss the Switch to sell as well as Mario and Zelda. So will Nintendo finally give Metroid the love it deserves and more importantly needs for its 35th anniversary next year? Only time will tell, but Metroid fans will know that it's best to keep expectations low, as despite the opportunities open to Nintendo to celebrate the anniversary in 2021, it could just as easily pass by without any official acknowledgement.