A screen shot from the video game Metroid Prime Remastered
Image courtesy of Nintendo

‘Metroid Prime Remastered’ Is a Proud Celebration of Letting Older Games Stay Feeling Old

What is Metroid, if not asking the player to take a leap of faith on themselves? A game about tension and isolation has maintained that feeling.

Daddy’s Day Off is an ongoing streaming series where Patrick Klepek plays through the entirety of a game that he doesn’t have time for off the clock. Last year, he played through (the second half of) Elden Ring and Cyberpunk 2077. Starting in 2023, following each playthrough, he’ll file a brief essay about the experience. The latest game is Metroid Prime Remastered.

“It's not a first-person shooter” reads a line from a 2002 review of Nintendo’s seminal Metroid Prime by former GameSpot editor, now Supergiant Games (Hades, Pyre) creative director, Greg Kasavin. “Metroid Prime doesn't play like any other game that's come before it.”


That was true in 2002 and remains true in 2023, when Nintendo validated years of rumors that it was sitting on an updated version of Samus’ revered 3D debut, presenting an opportunity for me to revisit a game that left a huge impression when I played it on my cute purple GameCube more than 20 years ago, in the final years of my high school experience.

A huge reason people clamored for Nintendo to revisit Metroid Prime, whether through a re-release or a new game, is because to this day, Metroid Prime feels wholly unique. Metroid Prime is broadly recognized as a masterpiece, but in its wake, we have not been flooded with dozens of imitators. Instead, Metroid Prime, with its focus on patient and sometimes purposely frustrating exploration over all else, stands alone. There is nothing else to scratch the itch of Metroid Prime except more Metroid Prime, and it’s what makes revisiting the game curious and rewarding, because it feels like playing it for the first time all over again. 

Nintendo labeled this a “remaster,” not a “remake.” The terms are arbitrary but important. When I interviewed several developers working on Capcom’s update to Resident Evil 4, which launches later this week, they specifically told me the project was a “remake.” The terms set expectations. A “remaster” is likely a visual update with some quality-of-life improvements to reduce friction from playing it in a modern context. A “remake” is likely more ambitious, and may alter existing levels and systems, or introduce brand-new ones.


The visuals of Metroid Prime have been given a facelift that doesn’t betray its origins: it’s GameCube aesthetic in 2023. That’s true of the design, too. The most important change comes from new control schemes. In 2002, Metroid Prime was released on a controller that had a second (yellow!) analog stick, dubbed the “C stick,” but Metroid Prime did not take advantage of it in the way you might expect. Most first-person-shooters have the player controlling movement on the left stick and aiming on the right stick. Metroid Prime, on the other hand, assigned changing beam weapons, Samus’ primary mode of attack, to that stick. 

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Metroid Prime followed in the footsteps of Ocarina of Time, ditching aiming for lock-on. It was possible to hold a button and look around, but this also made Samus’ feet turn into cement, as players could not freely move and look around simultaneously. It’s possible to play this version with the original controls, but most people, myself included, will find that feels too awkward and play with the greater liberation of movement with the updated options. 

It’s reflectively tempting to call what happens next a “problem,” because what the modern controls expose is what Metroid Prime is at its core: an adventure game. Like Kasavin noted, Metroid Prime is not a shooter, and its controls were a choice made to reflect its design ethos. Playing the original Resident Evil without “tank controls” feels freeing and “normal,” but exposes how the game was balanced around players being slow, too, and is less itself in the process. Shambling zombies are terrifying when you, the player, are also shambling. 


In this same way, Metroid Prime is now exposed to be a boring shooter, because being able to use both analog sticks was never part of the original plan. The enemies, who to be fair were not exactly the center of attention in the original game anyway, make even less sense when you can run circles around them now. Their logic, the way they dance with the player as they move between locations for the upteenth time, falls apart. In the remaster, enemies are stuck in a time warp, mounting an assault against a player with unfair advantages.

Nintendo, however, was faced with the same conundrum as Capcom: players in 2023 would have certain expectations about how a first-person game, shooter or not, would control. It might strip away some of the identity of both Resident Evil and Metroid Prime in the process, but the focus then moves to what’s left. Can it still stand up? When I watched my colleague, Rob Zacny, play the 2002 Resident Evil remake, he did not use tank controls, and still found incredible joy because the gunplay, atmosphere, and broader design is still incredibly strong.

So too is Metroid Prime. And crucially, while Nintendo might have bent towards modernity with the remaster’s controls schemes, it offers no such solace when it comes to the rest of the game. The game still only offers a light hint system that frequently only gestures at what the player should do next, instead of tossing a brightly colored arrow. And even there, the game is incredibly restrained, because the hints do not arrive immediately after completing the current objective. Instead, the game forces the player to linger in the world for what can feel like an uncomfortable amount of time, compared to the rapidfire pace today’s games stumble over themselves to make sure players know exactly what to do next and how to get there. 


Metroid Prime, on the other hand, is happy to watch players squirm and scrutinize a map. There are many times where you’ll mutter to yourself “am I doing something wrong?” In the process, you’re likely to find a door you forgot about earlier that hey, you can now access with a new upgrade! That door might not lead to linear progress, towards seeing the game’s end credits, but it creates further investment in the world and the environment, adding new layers of understanding to the way the geometry is laid out—the key to any Metroid game. 

There is an element of boredom to Metroid Prime that is, it turns out, crucial. 

Even when you do know where to “go,” Metroid Prime doesn’t set waypoints. You’re still relying on a combination of data, memory, intuition, and creativity to move forward, a sensation that feels alien compared to most games today. (It would be really nice to know how the elevators connect, though. Lost a lot of time to that.) Metroid Prime isn’t what we could call an “open world” necessarily, but it feels like an utterly open world by comparison.

And usually, by the time you’ve finished exhausting the possibilities, the game will pop up with a gentle hint at where you start exploring next. It’s a beautifully weird system, one I’m not entirely convinced Nintendo and Retro Studios will have the confidence to adopt with the upcoming Metroid Prime 4. It’s one thing to ask players to marinate in the tension of a video game whose design is from several decades ago, will they have the courage to do so today?

I hope so. What is Metroid, if not asking the player to take a leap of faith on themselves?

The future is unknown, but the past is present here. And it’s a reminder that not all change is good when it comes to re-releases. Metroid Prime feels awkward—and it’s better for it.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. His email is patrick.klepek@vice.com, and available privately on Signal (224-707-1561).