Nintendo Switch saved Metroid


Has any Nintendo hardware done more for Metroid than the Nintendo Switch? Sure, the SNES has the best Metroid game of all time, and the GameCube ushered in a revolutionary shift in perspective. But now, with Metroid Prime 4: Beyond coming to Nintendo Switch in 2025 and almost every other great Metroid game available to play on mobile devices, it’s time to ask the question: Did Nintendo Switch save Metroid?

It’s possible that Metroid was at high risk of being shelved at some point. The Metroid never moved sedate numbers and according to all available datatotal sales for everyone The total number of Metroid games is approximately 22 million units. For comparison: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild itself sold 32 million copies.

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But what Metroid and Samus lacked in sales success were more than made up for in brand recognition. Nintendo fans who don’t like Metroid games at least know that, and Super Smash Bros. kept Samus in front of players for years, even when there were no fresh Metroid games to play. Now on Nintendo Switch, Samus is always present, although that wasn’t always the case.

Metroid Prime 4 is real and will appear on Switch. Source: Nintendo

Of Nintendo’s many beloved characters, perhaps none is as fascinating as the enigmatic bounty hunter, Samus Aran. When Metroid was released in 1986, it launched a sci-fi-inspired exploration-action game that created a genre of its own.

For older Nintendo gamers looking for something fresh, Metroid was a revelation. While Zelda and Mario placed players in wide, open worlds with radiant colors, Metroid was gloomy and tight. The creature designs were downright terrifying, and Metroid’s main plot was a direct reference to one of the scariest face-hugging aliens in cinema.

Metroid filled a more mature niche in the Nintendo stable, but as a result it was never as financially successful as all-ages games.

In 2010, Nintendo released Metroid: Other M to low sales and perhaps poorer critical reception. The commercial disaster and inability to regain the magic of Metroid Prime could have spelled the end for Samus. That didn’t happen, but six years passed before another Metroid game was released, the much-forgotten Metroid Prime: Federation Force (coincidentally, a minor character from that 3DS game is apparently the main villain in Metroid Prime 4). Apart from the well-received 3DS remake of Metroid 2 a year later, Samus was largely absent from the Wii U and early years of the Switch.

It seems a long time ago now, but this was the period when Metroid fans began to become seriously concerned about the future of the series. Outside of various re-releases of older Metroid games, the only real project that was seemingly in development was Metroid Dread, a game that was first hinted at during the Nintendo DS era and entered twenty years of development hell.

However, Metroid Dread has finally made its way to Nintendo Switch, almost 20 years after development began. Even more surprisingly, Dread – a throwback to the vintage style of 2D Metroid games – is the best-selling game in the series, with sales exceeding 3 million copies. Sure, not Zelda’s numbers, but the numbers were heading in the right direction.

Combining the old-school 2D style of Metroid with a persistent Resident Evil 2-like enemy that takes the game into borderline horror territory, Metroid Dread was an adrenaline shot for the series and quickly became one of the best games to play on the Nintendo Switch. But it’s not just because Nintendo released one of the best Metroid games of all time on the Switch that I think the handheld console saved Metroid – it’s because Nintendo released All of the best Metroid games on the system.

Consider the Metroid library currently available on Switch. There’s the previously mentioned Dread, a truly amazing remake of Metroid Prime, Metroid Fusion, Super Metroid, the original Metroid, and now Metroid: Zero Mission, all available to play on Switch as long as you have a digital copy of the game or a subscription to the Nintendo Switch Online library.

Almost overnight, Nintendo Switch became the best place for vintage – but more importantly – fresh – fans to discover Metroid. In the digital age, especially vintage games are incredibly difficult to come by, and while Nintendo may not have fans in some sectors of the digital preservation community, the Metroid series is at least flourishing on the Switch.

Some of these games, like Metroid: Zero Mission and Metroid Fusion on the Game Boy Advance, are still relatively exorbitant on the used market, while others, like the full Metroid Prime Trilogy, still remain trapped on dated consoles like the Wii. But for curious fans who want to experience the full Metroid offering, they can’t do better than picking up a Nintendo Switch.

Nintendo has hardly peppered any console with more Metroid than the Nintendo Switch. Given the Switch’s massive install base, making Metroid easier to access will hopefully continue to grow its fan base in the future.

Now, with Metroid Prime 4: Beyond on the horizon and still confirmed to be a Nintendo Switch game rather than a Switch successor, the Metroid parade on Nintendo’s hybrid system continues. And while individual consoles like the SNES, GameCube, and GameBoy Advance can boast of releasing the best Metroid games of their generation, only one system – the Nintendo Switch – has them all ready to play at a moment’s notice.

Matt TM Kim is senior features editor at IGN. You can reach it @lawoftd.

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