Metroid is something of a contradiction. The Metroid franchise is one of the most influential in all of video games, incorporating a sidescrolling discovery-based design that — alongside Konami-owned Castlevania — created the informal genre known as “Metroidvania.” Even so, the franchise hasn’t been a heavy hitter for Nintendo, far from it, as multiple games struggled to reach over a million copies sold, even with the introduction of the first-person shooter Prime games from Retro Studios.
However, thanks to the launch of MercurySteam’s Metroid Dread, there’s an opportunity for that to change. Metroid Dread is selling faster than any other Metroid game in history, with over 854,000 copies sold in October 2021 alone. It’s also the first game in 19 years to move the series story forward, a prospect that no doubt helped the game find success from not just the franchise faithful but also curious newcomers.
After all these years, there’s a lot of potential here for the Metroid franchise, but it’s going to take some investment and attention from Nintendo. It can’t just be about new games, either.
More focus on moving forward and looking back
Now more than ever is the time for Nintendo to give Metroid more attention.
Nintendo’s first-party is finding stronger success on the Switch across the board than on past consoles, so Nintendo should lean into that for Metroid. Embracing at least part of Metroid’s past and adding the Prime sub-series to the roster of the best Nintendo Switch games available will, in turn, pave the way for stronger success in the previously-announced Metroid Prime 4.
It’s also time for Nintendo to start giving updates on Metroid Prime 4 itself. It’s understandable why the publisher has decided to keep things fairly secret so far. After all, the game, first announced at E3 2017 as being developed by Bandai Namco, essentially restarted development in January 2019, with Nintendo confirming that the game would now be handled by the longtime series veterans at Retro Studios. Losing two years like that no doubt set back plans, and that’s before the COVID-19 pandemic forever changed the gaming industry and caused massive delays. Analysts warn these delays will continue into 2022, so certainly, there are aspects of this that aren’t within Nintendo’s control.
But even with these challenges, even a small update on the game would be appreciated. Even Nintendo is no stranger to early looks at games, sharing snippets or details on gameplay changes. What new ideas is Metroid Prime 4 bringing to the franchise and first-person shooters as a whole, if anything? Exploring this, in tangent with bringing the older Metroid Prime games to the Switch, would go a long way in keeping excitement for the franchise alive.
What’s next for the franchise?
By no means does Nintendo need to do anything. Nintendo Switch sales are showing truly incredible longevity, with well over 90 million units sold and renewed staying power thanks to the new Nintendo Switch OLED. Games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe continue to sell with no signs of slowing down, pulling in impressive numbers even by Nintendo standards.
Metroid at its most successful may be less important than other franchises, financially speaking. Still, Samus Aran is a vital, recognizable character in the Nintendo staple, one who has not always been treated well over the long history of the series. Yet Metroid Dread understands her and it’s on its way to being the most successful game in the franchise by a mile and a half. That’s not a coincidence and that’s not a lesson to be missed. I’m even hoping Retro Studios draws on her portrayal in this latest outing for better defining her character moving forward.
Samus was one of the first major female characters in gaming with any recognizable power or agency. Her games helped define and create entire genres, inspiring countless others of which few have come even close. She’s spoken of in the same tone as the Doom Slayer, Gordon Freeman, Lara Croft, and Master Chief. She deserves more attention than the poor sales of past games, and that opportunity is finally here, if Nintendo will take it.
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