Is Metroid Prime 4 cancelled?

Since Metroid Prime Remastered, which has so far been a great success, everyone has now been turning their attention to Metroid Prime 4. When will Metroid Prime 4 release? When will we even receive a proper trailer? Hard to know.

After being announced at a Nintendo Direct presentation at E3 in 2017 (back when Nintendo was still at E3), things have been pretty quiet. The Metroid series has had great success with Metroid Dread, and the newest remaster of Metroid Prime has been praised by fans. But with all this attention now ramping up on the Metroid series, fans are starting to ask questions. Is the game still happening?

First announcements

After announcing the game in 2017, senior product marketing manager Bill Trinen announced that Metroid Prime 4 would involve Kensuke Tanabe, the esteemed producer of all the classic Metroid games, but explicitly mentioned that the game would not involve Retro Studios. For anyone who is unaware, Retro Studios has been the developer for all the Metroid Prime games and helped to pioneer them into 3D games. It was announced that a different team would be making the game.

“A talented new development team”

The studio that was taking over from Retro Studios was never announced by Nintendo, but several sources from Eurogamer mentioned that Bandai Namco was stepping in instead. Overall, nothing was confirmed. The leading basis of the rumours can be found on the gaming forum ResetEra, the main one leading to a LinkedIn job description from a Bandai Namco developer speaking about a ‘First Person Shooter/Adventure Exclusive to the Nintendo Switch’, suggesting very strongly Namco’s involvement.

LinkedIn job update for Bandai Namco employee
LinkedIn leak

Despite the hype, Nintendo still wouldn’t say who was working on the game, but it was assured by Bill Trinen that it was “a talented new development team”. It was assured that things were underway.

E3 2018

At E3 in 2018, there was no mention of Metroid Prime 4, which was definitely felt by fans of the series. GameInformer’s interview with Bill Trinen gave a short response to the lack of announcement with:

“I think the main thing is, as people have probably realized by now – we show things when we think we’re ready to show them. And when we think we’re ready to show Metroid Prime, we’ll show Metroid Prime.”

Essentially, any inquiries were brushed off.

The U-Turn

Then, in a strange turn of events, it seemed that Nintendo reversed its decision entirely, and announced that Retro Studios was developing the game, as it was always meant to be.

On 25th January 2019, Nintendo released an announcement by Shinya Takahashi, Senior Managing Executive Officer, which stated:

“We must let you know that the current development progress has not reached the standards we seek in a sequel to the Metroid Prime series.
Nintendo always strives for the highest quality in our games and in the development phase – we challenge ourselves and confront whether the game is living up to that quality on a daily basis. If we’re not satisfied with the quality, we aren’t able to deliver it to our customers with confidence and the game will not live up to our fans’ expectations.
From this perspective, we have determined that the current development status of the game is very challenged. We have decided to re-examine the development structure itself and change it.
Specifically, we have decided to have the producer, Kensuke Tanabe work in trust and collaborations with the studio that developed the original Metroid Prime series, Retro Studios in the United States, and restart development from the beginning.”

Whatever happened at Bandai Namco must have been a disaster, considering that they decided to restart development entirely, instead of taking over. This means that essentially, Metroid Prime 4 production began 2019, and we can expect development progress from that point.

Nothing concrete in terms of content or leaks has come out since then, but there have been affirmations that the game is still in development based on various job ads that have been spotted:

  • Dylan Jobe tweeted “Calling all Lighting Artists!” at Retro Studios
  • ArtStation advertised a job featuring an image of Samus
  • Retro Studios’ Twitter account shared that they were looking for Tools and Technology Engineers to join the development of Metroid Prime 4.
Retro Studios banner on job ad
ArtStation image attached to a job posting

The last tweet was in January 2022, and is the most concrete confirmation that Metroid Prime 4 is not cancelled, and is definitely still happening, but still with no confirmation as to when.

A few weeks later, Retro Studios’ Twitter page changed its background to feature a silhouette of Samus, which was another hint that the game is still on its way to completion.

Retro Studios' Twitter Background featuring Samus Aran
Retro Studios’ Twitter Background

So looking back, while it may seem like the game was cancelled, in reality, it made an unplanned restart on its development. A timeline makes things clearer:

  • Announced in 2017
  • Development stopped and changed to Retro Studios in 2019
  • Silence until 2022, with some hints on Twitter

When can we expect Metroid Prime 4?

A release date, or even year, has not been confirmed, which is a sign that the game won’t be out soon. But with Metroid Prime Remastered and Metroid Dread hitting our stores, it could be that Nintendo is going to start ramping up its production of Metroid games. The expectation is so high that even Nintendo spoke about “fans’ expectations”, so they’re going to want to get this one right.