E3: Why It's the Perfect Moment for New 'Metroid' Games

Nintendo's new plans for the female-led series are hot on the heels of the success of 'Wonder Woman.'
Courtesy of Nintendo

Nintendo held its E3 presentation Tuesday morning to announce a number of upcoming titles for its Switch console and handheld family of DS systems. While well-known franchises such as Mario and Kirby made waves, perhaps the biggest bombshell was the tease for an upcoming entry in the Metroid series, Metroid Prime 4.

The most recent numbered title in the cosmic shoot-em-up series came a decade ago (three games under the Metroid banner have been released since then, but no official numbered sequel in the Prime franchise) and fans have been eagerly awaiting an official follow-up since then.

The series puts players in control of Samus Aran, an intergalactic bounty hunter who sports a laser cannon and one of the most recognizable armored suits in gaming. Way back in 1986, when the original Metroid game was released on the Nintendo Entertainment System, fans were shocked by the game's ultimate revelation: the badass, beta ray-blasting hero of the game was, in fact, a woman.

Lauded as the first playable female protagonist in a widely released video game, Samus' gender was only revealed to players who managed to defeat the game in less than five hours. After defeating Mother Brain, the ending sequence of the game would then show Samus' suit blink and dissolve, revealing the woman beneath.

The moment, one of the most iconic in gaming, cemented Samus Aran as a gaming icon and the Metroid series has endured over the ensuing three decades.

Now, after two straight weeks of DC's Wonder Woman film dominating the box office, Nintendo has announced not one, but two Metroid games. In addition to the Switch's title, for which no release date or trailer has yet been released, an upcoming 3DS game was also announced in Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of the 1991 Game Boy title Metroid II: Return of Samus. It will be available on Sept. 15.

Similarly to Metroid, Wonder Woman's success comes in a genre that is largely dominated by male heroes. The film is the first female-led superhero film in over 10 years and, despite the familiarity and massive fan base for the character, the first big-screen leading role for Diana Prince.

For games, though undoubtedly more inclusive in their character designs and marketing strategies than in previous decades, female protagonists are still not the norm, particularly for marquee titles. Samus helped pave the way for the likes of Tomb Raider's Lara Croft and the eponymous witch Bayonetta. Several other AAA games, such as Bioware's Mass Effect, allow players to choose their gender when starting the game.

All it took for Nintendo to cause a major stir in the gaming world was show a poster announcing Metroid Prime 4. The franchise's name alone elicits excitement, as does the fervent fandom for its lead character. In the world of film, Diana Prince enjoys much the same fanfare.

As such, Nintendo's announcement — without any major details, trailers or images from the title — is all the more brilliant. Whether it had planned on announcing the title before the success of Wonder Woman or not is unknown, but the timing could not have been any better.

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