In addition to being excellent on its own, Metroid Dread also serves to hold us over until the release of Metroid Prime 4, which was first announced in 2017. Prime 4’s development was essentially restarted in 2019, so it’s clear Nintendo won’t be able to release the sequel anytime soon. Given Metroid Dread’s explosive ending, it’s possible these two games could be more closely related than previously thought. In fact, Prime 4 could feature one dramatic change to Samus, turning the series on its head.
Spoilers for Metroid Dread and the Prime series lie ahead.
Since we know next to nothing about Prime 4, it’s a perfect time to speculate about it and how Samus’ role could fit into the story.
What if Samus wasn’t the protagonist this time around?
Samus is a Metroid
The Prime series canonically takes place shortly after the very first Metroid game, but before the second mainline installment, Metroid II: Return of Samus. A lot happens between those two points, and since it’s unclear when Prime 4 will actually take place, we can’t assume it will pick up right after the events of the third Prime game.
With that in mind, it’s perfectly reasonable that Prime 4 could take place after the events of Dread, which is the newest game in the timeline. This would be an unexpected twist, but could certainly make sense.
Metroid Dread ends with Samus unleashing her true Metroid powers. That’s right, she not only has Metroid DNA in her body, but she is a Metroid. So what if that Metroid power overtakes Samus, turning her into the antagonist in Prime 4 at a point in time after the events of Dread?
Interestingly, Nintendo toyed with this idea briefly in Metroid Prime: Federation Force. It’s one of the worst games in the series, so many players skipped it. But in this game, space pirates temporarily turn Samus into the villain by using mind control. There’s obviously also Dark Samus and SA-X, both of which are evil doppelgängers of the character.
It’s possible Nintendo could revisit this general idea in the next Prime game.
But with Samus as the villain, who would you play as? What if you could take on the role of another bounty hunter whose goal is to defeat Samus? This would be a switcheroo on the same level as Metal Gear Solid 2, subverting expectations and putting us into the shoes of another protagonist. Better yet, the big twist could be something like we get in NieR Replicant ver.1.22474487139… where the villain and hero are essentially the same characters reincarnated. Or perhaps you play as a “good” clone of Samus sent by the Galactic Federation Army.
It wouldn’t be the first time a Metroid game surprised us with some sort of big character reveal. In fact, the original Metroid game ended with Samus taking her helmet off, revealing you were playing as a woman the whole time (gasp). Nowadays, that twist probably wouldn’t fly, but in 1986, this was groundbreaking and novel.
A new bounty hunter
What better way to refresh the series than to let you play as another character while Samus becomes the villain in Prime 4? She’s a Metroid, after all. There is a slew of ways this could be handled, but we imagine the game could pit you against Samus numerous times before you finally defeat her towards the end. Then, in typical Metroid fashion, another enemy would show up, and Samus could use her powers to help you take it down, proving she still has some good left in her.
To build suspense, Nintendo could hide the new bounty hunter’s identity until the end of Prime 4. Perhaps, you’d play as this new protagonist knowing they aren’t Samus, without knowing their true identity. Nintendo could go for the low-hanging fruit and make the new protagonist Samus’ daughter or something similar — or, this could be an entirely new, unrelated character.
What if the person takes off their helmet at the end of the game and it’s a man? Perhaps it could be Commander Adam, who apparently died in Metroid: Other M. There are so many ways it could unfold and it’s exciting to think about the possibilities, especially if Prime 4 takes place after Dread.
Since we already know what happens after Prime 3, Nintendo would be limited in what it could do with Prime 4 if it takes place directly afterward. The developer would have more freedom if Prime 4 were a continuation of Dread, and that’s how Nintendo could get away with making Samus the villain.
We won’t find out for quite some time, as Metroid Prime 4 is still in development with an unannounced release date. Until then, perhaps Nintendo will port the Prime trilogy to Switch.