Metroid is a series that’s well-respected as a major influence in the video game industry, and many of its entries are critically acclaimed. However, it’s never enjoyed the same level of sales success as other Nintendo greats. As a result, Nintendo hasn’t always prioritized it as a franchise, and there have been dark times for the Metroid faithful. The dark times are over now! Metroid Dread is a smash hit, and it’s just the jumpstart the series needs to enter a new golden age.
Metroid Dread’s success
The impressiveness of Metroid Dread’s early success cannot be overstated. It easily smashed opening month sales records in both the US and Japan. With over 2.7 million copies shipped and downloaded as of December 31, Dread is already the second-highest selling game in franchise history. Only Prime has sold more, and by such a small margin that Dread may have already passed it in the last five weeks. Not bad for a sequel to Fusion, a game that came out 19 years ago. It also achieved high review scores, averaging an 88/100 and winning Best Action Adventure Game at The Game Awards. It was a triumphant return for the series.
Beyond its standalone success, Metroid Dread has helped to grow the popularity of the franchise as a whole. It was the first Metroid game for many new players, sparking interest in the series as a whole. Data from Nintendo’s various eShops shows that past games like Fusion, Zero Mission, Prime Trilogy, Super Metroid, and Samus Returns all shot up the charts in the week after Dread launched. Fans new and old alike are hungry for whatever Metroid content they can get their hands on.
Coming back to life
Metroid is a series that’s no stranger to long droughts, and it’s also no stranger to bouncing back strong. After Super Metroid launched to critical acclaim in 1994, the series was dormant for over 8 years. However, when it returned, Metroid entered a golden age.
Nintendo revived the brand with the 2D Metroid Fusion on Game Boy Advance and the 3D Metroid Prime on GameCube. Both games were well-received, and Nintendo took notice. In the following years Nintendo released an unprecedented number of Metroid games in rapid succession:
- Metroid Fusion (2002)
- Metroid Prime (2002)
- Metroid: Zero Mission (2004)
- Metroid Prime 2: Echoes (2004)
- Metroid Prime Pinball (2005)
- Metroid Prime Hunters (2006)
- Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2007)
- Metroid Prime Trilogy (2009)
- Metroid: Other M (2010)
It’s hard to believe that Metroid was practically a yearly franchise in the early 2000s, but it’s true! Unfortunately, Other M was a commercial and critical failure, causing Nintendo to pull back from the series. When they finally launched Federation Force six years later, it flopped even harder. Samus Returns was received much more positively, but it launched so late in the life cycle of 3DS that it was doomed to modest sales. Thankfully, it was just enough to convince Nintendo to give MercurySteam another crack at it.
A Prime time for momentum
The last golden age of Metroid was sparked by reviving the 2D series from a long hiatus and pairing it with Metroid Prime. I think history is poised to repeat. If you trust the rumor mill, then Nintendo is planning to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Metroid Prime this year by launching an upgraded version of the game. You can bet that fans of the original will buy that up in a heartbeat, and it should also prove appealing to new fans of the series.
Beyond the possibility of a Metroid Prime remaster or remake, we know that Retro Studios is hard at work on Metroid Prime 4. Unfortunately, we have virtually no information about the game, but it’s clear that Nintendo is taking its quality extremely seriously. Two years into development, they completely scrapped it and started over with a new team because they weren’t happy with the results they were seeing. Since then, Retro Studios has been recruiting top talent, including a longtime producer at Rockstar, a senior game designer on the latest God of War, the character modeler for Master Chief and many other Halo characters, and a designer on Crysis 3.
A new golden age
The last decade was rough for Metroid fans, but now is the time for optimism! Given Metroid Dread’s success, I think it’s fair to say we won’t have to wait 19 years for Metroid 6. In fact, producer Yoshio Sakamoto has already hinted that he knows where the story will go next. He hasn’t given any specifics, but we’ve got some guesses. The growing popularity of the Metroidvania genre in the indie space should also incentivize Nintendo to keep investing in 2D Metroid. Toss in the revival of the Metroid Prime brand, and the series should be back stronger than ever. Hell, Sakamoto has even indicated that he’d love to see a Metroid movie. Let’s just hope the script isn’t based on Other M.