Metroid Prime has consistently been rated one of the best Metroid games of all time, but there has been a long discussion about whether Metroid Prime is canon or not. Some argue that the game has its rightful place alongside the other Prime games, but others suggest that the game is not canon, as the Prime story takes place outside of the traditional Metroid story. With the game having just been remastered to great acclaim, we discuss whether the game is canon.
Metroid Prime story
The Metroid Prime games are set between the events of Metroid and Metroid 2, so there are no plot holes or story-breaking elements. The game is set on the planet Tallon IV, which was inhabited by the now-extinct Chozo race five decades previously. After intercepting a distress signal, Samus finds herself exploring nearby areas of Tallon IV the remains of the Chozo civilization.
The story of Metroid Prime is not a contention point, and many fans agree that Metroid Prime introduces many insights into the Chozo, Space Pirates, Federation, and even the Metroids themselves (such as introducing the Metroid Prime).
Metroid Prime Development
The jump into 3D was the biggest change for fans, and why some could consider the game to be a breakaway title. At the time, 2D games were a lot more common and considered the norm, so taking a beloved title like Metroid and transforming it into a 3D game was considered a big step. Metroid have always been 2D games traditionally – even the incredibly successful Metroid Dread, a 2021 title, has stuck to 2D.
Nintendo approached a number of studios to develop this game, but none could take it on, until they landed on a collaboration with the Austin-based Retro Studios, who managed to create Metroid Prime as we know it today. Check out this article from IGN, posted in 2002, about the release of Metroid Prime. It speaks about the “dying popularity of 2D gaming and the increasing complexity of 3D“, as well as the beginning of “development on Metroid Prime in mid-2000 at newly formed second-party Retro Studios”.
It seems like the fear and doubt over Metroid’s step into 3D has been the basis of most of the debate, as well as the ‘split’ of development studios into 2D and 3D. The comment from Yoshio Sakamoto was what set most of the discussion off though, and what made a lot of news sites ‘confirm’ that the Prime games were not canon.
Yoshio Sakamoto, the designer for Metroid, director for Super Metroid, Metroid Fusion, Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid: Other M, was arguably the one who set of a discussion about Prime’s place in the canon.
The quote that set it all off was from this interview for Nintendo Acción in 2010:
Regarding “the Samuses”, it is a complicated question. Nearly everybody has asked about the Prime series, which are part of the Metroid timeline, but are completely different. It has nothing to do with it, but it could be a way to represent other facets of Samus’s personality. I don’t want to create divisions between the Samus from the east and the Samus from the west; to me, the real Samus is the one you will meet in Metroid: Other M.
After this, there was a tirade of debate about whether this meant that Sakamoto had ‘dismissed’ the Prime series. It should also be noted that this was originally an interview conducted in Spanish, with Sakamoto speaking in Japanese, so his exact words and meaning have gone through several iterations and interpretations. And his comment about the Prime games is vague at best, with the word ‘canon’ never coming up.
Back in 2003, Sakamoto said the following, proving his fondness for the Prime series.
The story takes place between the first one on the Famicom Disk System and is followed by Metroid 2. I had the idea to make it separately as a gaiden [side story], but wouldn’t it be a cop-out to call it a gaiden? Because of that, I consulted with Tanabe, and things fell into place very naturally. The local staff worked on it really hard, it serves as part of the series, and I think they completed it very well.
So it’s clear that Sakamoto never made a stance against the Metroid Prime games. The Prime games are a highly respected and integral part of the Metroid universe, and have shaped Metroid into what it has become today.
The debate about its place in the canon was triggered by the difference in style (2D/3D) and the different development studios. But these factors are not strong enough to separate Prime, so it can be said with a fair amount of confidence that the Metroid Prime games are canon.
Is Metroid Prime Hunters canon?
Metroid Prime Hunters was developed by Nintendo Software Technology, and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS in 2006. While Metroid Prime might be canon, is the DS addition to the series included in that? And is Hunters even included in the discussion about Prime games?
Is it a spin-off?
For those who aren’t aware, Metroid Prime Hunters is set in the Metroid universe, and centres around the Alimbic Cluster in the Tetra Galaxy, which was one ruled by the Alimbic Race. After the Alimbic race was mysteriously destroyed, they left artefacts across the solar system. A telepathic message is intercepted by the Galactic Federation, speaking of an ‘ultimate power’. It is Samus’ mission to either destroy or conceal such power, however, several other hunters have also received the transmission, and have their own agenda.
While the game does seem part of Metroid, as discussed in this Reddit post, it can certainly be considered that the game is a spin-off, as it does not follow a lot of the components of the main story, and was not developed by Retro Studios.
So is it canon?
Metroid Prime Hunters has been a beloved game since its release, and despite some dismay at the control system and the pushing of multiplayer elements, the game has stood the test of time. The question of whether the game is canon or not has been a hot topic for years.
There are some fans who believe that Metroid Prime Hunters should be considered canon. They point out that the game features several elements that are integral to the Metroid universe and that it fits nicely between the events of Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes. Additionally, the game takes place in the Alimbic Cluster, which is a central region of space for the series.
However, it has to be said that while the game is favourable, a majority of Metroid fans will argue that the game is not canon. This is due to the fact that the game was made by an outside developer, and there are certain inconsistencies and differences between it and the other games in the series. A large part of the game’s appeal was also its multiplayer, which many Metroid fans agree is not central to the spirit of the series. Therefore, it could be argued that the game is not canon.
Ultimately, Metroid Prime Hunters is one of many great games under the Metroid banner and deserves its place there. Canon comes down to opinion, and a game not being canon does not reflect on the quality of the game. There are some who still don’t count Metroid Prime as canon, so arguably there can be no definitive answer.
What about Metroid Prime 4?
It’s been very quiet since Nintendo’s developer change-up in 2019, and since then it’s just been rumours and discussion. Once more is released about the game and its development, then we will be able to see where the game fits into the Prime storyline.
We go into further detail about Metroid Prime 4 here.