The purpose of this thread is to discuss how to blow up Metroid's popularity to 20+ million. By extension, appeal to 17 million or more gamers that WEREN'T fans of the old Metroid Prime games. Those who don't find FPS dungeon crawler type games appealing.
I'm not sure how many players are like me, but I can only speak from my knowledge. Where I stand: a person who likes the old early 80s/90s Metroid and Zelda games, but didn't particularly enjoy the 3D era. Yet, fell in love with the Zelda franchise all over again with Breath of the Wild. I'm of the sort who has an interest in the Samus character, and likes the premise of the Metroid universe, but one who has little interest in playing the sort of game that Metroid Prime 1-3 happen to be.
So, this isn't necessarily what Metroid Prime 4 should be. It's also not whether or not Metroid should stick to the Metroid Prime 1 formula for all time. Consider it a hypothetical about what can be done with the Metroid franchise to give it Breath of the Wild levels of appeal.
In short, I think Metroid and Zelda have a lot of similarities, and can go down some very similar paths.
1. Remove the linearity, and make it an open world.
Recently, I played through the very first Metroid game, and enjoyed it quite a lot. One thing that really stood out to me was how open the game felt compared to other Metroid games I've played. You basically have your little opening area, and then BOOM, most of the Metroid 1 world is open. I spent a lot of time lost, exploring, figuring out my head map. I enjoyed the game DESPITE its terrible flaws - recovering energy is a nightmare, so much that I had to abuse the hell out of save states, redoing portions multiple times and avoiding damage unless it was necessary. So having fun, despite that nightmarish flaw, says something about the game design. Also, there was a lot of cut and paste sections - surprisingly, I hardly ever got lost, although it did happen a few times that I thought I was one place, but actually in another. Anyway, the freedom of moving around all over the place, really made the game feel fun. Zelda 1 and Metroid 1 had this openness in common, the ability to explore most of the world almost right away.
2. The Desolation is off-putting, make it much more lively.
One element, and I can't put my finger on it as to why, ALL the Metroid games are Samus alone in a maze. Something about Metroid Prime felt so much more empty than Metroid 1 or 2. Maybe the darker tones, the music. Either way, Breath of the Wild added a lot of towns. This isn't new to the franchise, but to have such distinct and important feeling towns, is new. Skyward Sword had a hub, Twilight Princess had more towns, but they felt very empty. I think Metroid Prime adding some kind of life to the world might fix the desolation problem, something beyond just flora and monsters. People with day to day activities, stuff they need Samus for. Breath of the Wild was FULL of this.
3. Emergent gameplay is an important element in Nintendo games these days.
Animal Crossing and Breath of the Wild have these two things in common, emergent gameplay. That is, gameplay that the players kind of invent themselves, but doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the goals of the game. This made Breath of the Wild a viral video sensation on youtube. The physics stuff in Breath of the Wild would fit in a Metroid game, using Samus's gun like magnesis, pull stuff around. Set traps for enemies. Give Samus the ability to take a bunch of pieces of stuff to make boats, flying devices, and that sort of stuff. Metroid 2 had a bit of this going on, and it was one of the best things about the game - not that Samus could build things, but that players could easily "break" the rules of the game with bombs and the spiderball, and fly around areas you normally shouldn't - Breath of the Wild did this way way way better. In short, give the player enough tools to do all sorts of fun goofy stuff to post to youtube.
Speaking of Emergent storytelling, it's a big part of Minecraft; and Minecraft is a vertical slice of the infamously inaccessible Dwarf Fortress (it's actually nowhere near as bad as its rep). Emergent storytelling is VASTLY more developed in Dwarf Fortress than Minecraft, and maybe any other game. If the concept appeals to you, it's getting an accessible Steam release soon.
4. Give Samus a real home that can be personalized.
A bit of a sandboxy element. This is the one thing Breath of the Wild can do better. I think many people felt that "I wanna do more with Link's House" or "I wanna live here instead" feeling. Animal Crossing already allows this. Turning Samus's ship into a home, altering the landscape around it. Maybe allow Samus to set up a homestead in many different areas of the map. I think this will create a TON of video fodder for youtube. Although, this is probably less necessary, it might be just a place to display certain trophies is enough. But imagine a place to store pieces of her suit, weapons, and other trophies. But if there was one thing I wanted more of in Breath of the Wild, it was stuff to build up, or the flexibility of where I could live.
5. Emergent Storytelling can make the game feel much more meaningful to players in different ways.
This is one of the elements that made Breath of the Wild Great. Basically, instead of having a linear narrative, players pick up bits of a cutsenes, gameplay, objectives/dialogue, and gameplay experiences and routines to shape their own story - basically, a story that isn't forged by the game for the player to experience, but a story forged by the player using what's in the game. Now, Metroid has never been a story based game before, but the 2020s is a good time to start. Emergent style storytelling will probably work a lot better for Metroid than a typical linear RPG style narrative, especially since games typically do the dialogue and such in much smaller chunks - even Crusader Kings 2, which is very dialogue heavy, has fairly minimal chunks of dialogue to add flavour to what you're doing with the gameplay. I think this sort of thing would help eliminate the desolation issue that players like me have with the Prime titles.
Of course, you'll have the "Why should I enjoy this when I have the engrossing blah blah blah of the Witcher series? Answer: Sure, I don't disagree, I'd LOVE to see a Witcher 3 style game. But that would be a different game than the one I'm describing above. Nintendo has one team that could make that: Monolithsoft. That said, I'd rather see a Xenoblade game in the Witcher 3 style. I'd still probably really like a Witcher 3 style Metroid too, I just don't think it'd have nearly as easy of a time selling 20+ million units on Switch/Nintendo consoles as a Breath of the Wild style Metroid/Samus game would.
What does the world look like? Metroid games are traditionally mainly set in maxes underground. One of the big changes that Breath of the Wild took was taking Zelda very heavily into the overworld with briefer stays in the underground... actually, only when compared to the 3D Zeldas, the average Shrine/dungeons are fairly close to the dungeon lengths of the 2D Zelda games, at least 1-3. Maybe Metroid's "overworld" is mostly in the "underworld." Metroid 1 was kind of like that, while there was a big underworld to travel through, there were smaller side-paths that led to the various objectives to make Samus more powerful with the minibosses being a somewhat bigger part. Underground can be fairly open too:
And the Kingdom of Uraya is really just the beginning of how big it can be be.
It's just a thought.
I describe myself as a little dose of toxic masculinity.