You needn’t spend more than a minute browsing the Nintendo eShop to discover that it’s absolutely brimming with opportunities to revisit older games from the company’s revered history. The online storefront’s deep library of fan favorites and cult classics runs the gamut from direct ports and ambitious remakes to prettied-up remasters, many mined from Nintendo’s previous handheld and home console libraries.
Its latest callback, Metroid Prime Remastered — now available for the Nintendo Switch — lands in the latter category, spit shining the 2002 GameCube first-person adventure/shooter for a new generation of intergalactic bounty hunters. But categorizing this graphically enhanced version of Samus Aran’s 3D debut as just another remaster doesn’t do it justice. In fact, whether you’re a seasoned Space Pirate slayer or you’re donning the Varia Suit for the very first time, you’ll be continually floored by how modern this 20-year-old game looks and feels.
Metroid Prime Remastered retains the innovative gameplay and haunting atmosphere of Samus Aran's 3D first-person GameCube adventure but brings it up to contemporary standards with a stunning visual makeover and modernized control scheme.
What we liked about it
Sporting smoother textures, sharper details and a more vibrant overall presentation, Metroid Prime checks all the requisite “remaster” boxes. But it also goes far above and way beyond the usual fresh coat of paint and filing down of rough edges to deliver an eye-popping showcase on par with its current-gen peers.
The moody, alien world of Tallon IV was always a looker, packed with inspired environments and imaginative extraterrestrials. But bathed in better lightning, fresh effects, improved physics and abundant new details, its existing fauna and flora now make the planet an even more engrossing, immersive playground just begging to be explored. Where many remasters shed some of their source material’s artistic magic in an effort to look shinier, Metroid Prime’s enhancements never stifle its original creative vision but consistently complement it.
Foliage previously represented by nondescript forms of green and brown now look like actual branches, leaves and grass with distinct detail and definition. Enemy bosses and other character models once defined by menacing, surface ugliness now sport musculature and other creepy touches beneath their skin.
Overhauled effects, such as the more prominent, pulsing beams on Samus’ arm cannon, pop off the Switch’s screen — especially the OLED model’s crisp display — while entirely new elements like the barely contained crackling bolts bouncing within the weapon’s spherical Charge Beam don’t simply stand out as minor improvements but striking inclusions any modern triple-A game would proudly call their own.
Whether spying the subtle glow of a flying Plazmite reflecting off a cave wall or stopping dead in your tracks to fully appreciate the droplets of rain running down the barrel of Samus’ blaster, you’ll need to regularly remind yourself this is an update of a game originally released the same year as Grand Theft Auto: Vice City — whose 2021 remaster still hurts our eyes.
And while the aforementioned examples ably convey the presentation’s scope, they’re merely appetizers to the visual feast that awaits. Everything you lay your eyes on — from weather and elemental effects to cutscenes and the incredibly cool visual tricks that play off Samus’ visor — doesn’t just raise the remaster bar but blasts it like a Phazon Beam through our previously established expectations.
The game’s audio work deserves plenty of praise as well. The haunting score and atmospheric ambient effects envelop you in the harsh alien world, organically supporting the isolated, unsettling vibe of Samus’ solitary journey. And while it’s a bit more difficult to decipher how drastically the sound work has benefited from the remaster — and how much of the heavy lifting is done by our modern headphones — the audio has clearly received its own coat of polish.
The original Metroid Prime mixed first-person combat with exploration, platforming and puzzle-solving elements. Despite not being a dedicated shooter, fans raised on Halo: Combat Evolved — established as the defining console first-person shooter a year prior — expected it to control similarly to Master Chief’s debut. But navigating Samus from behind the GameCube’s unconventional gamepad presented obstacles that only became more cumbersome with the passage of time and prevalence of standard dual-analog controls.
While the game’s subsequent availability on the Wii and Wii U did little to make the mechanics more accessible, Metroid Prime Remastered finally addresses the issue. Modern dual-stick controls are now the default, offering an incredibly smooth, fluid experience that’ll feel immediately comfortable to anyone who’s ever shouldered a shotgun from a first-person perspective.
Of course, the ability to move wherever you want while freely swiveling Samus’ head in any direction doesn’t come at the cost of the game’s signature lock-on targeting and strafing maneuver. In fact, coupled with the updated shooter-style controls — and solid 60 frames-per-second performance — these existing staples now feel more organically implemented.
The game does include the option to brave its inhospitable planet from behind the original inputs, though we can’t imagine anyone but the most stubborn Nintendo purists kicking it old school. That said, the inclusion of motion controls — first introduced in the Wii rerelease — is a nice touch for the curious player looking to up the immersion, albeit at the cost of some precision.
What we didn’t like about it
Some dated design returns
Thanks to its ambitious visual overhaul and updated controls, Metroid Prime now represents the gold standard by which future remasters should be measured. But while it more than delivers in these specific areas, the rest of the experience remains largely as it did two decades ago. This is mostly good news, though some holdovers can feel as ancient as a Chozo artifact.
Its somewhat archaic save system returns, requiring players to locate specific, sparsely placed rooms before locking in their progress. This will probably be a relief for purists, but newcomers might become frustrated the first time they’re forced to replay a large chunk or repeat a thumb-blistering boss battle. That said, fans of games like Elden Ring and Dark Souls might appreciate the fact Samus was losing valuable progress long before the concept was cool.
The original’s excessive backtracking also remains intact. Revisiting previously explored areas with new abilities and powers is one of the franchise’s defining elements and part of its appeal. Still, Metroid Prime sees you treading plenty of familiar ground even when not nudged by your curiosity or need to unleash a new skill. It’s a minor gripe, but those spoiled by fast travel might be wondering why Samus is forced to burn so many calories. The map is also an acquired taste that could’ve used a little love. The slightly clunky, somewhat confusing 3D interface gets the job done, but it shows its age more than anything else in the game.
Finally, while the visual overhaul is the game’s best feature, some areas are still cloaked in too much darkness. A number of display options — including a welcome accessibility mode for color blindness — are available, but there’s no dedicated brightness slider. Don’t be surprised if you wind up hunting for the display settings on your TV or Switch the first time you find yourself lost in a low-lit cave.
Metroid Prime Remastered’s dramatically enhanced visual presentation puts it more in line with a full-on remake — like the recently released Dead Space — than a by-the-numbers remaster. Coupled with modernized controls and stellar sound work, its groundbreaking graphical upgrade delivers the definitive version of the GameCube classic, and one of the best Switch games you can buy.
More than that, though, it establishes a new quality standard for remasters, a subgenre that’s prevalence has been increasingly matched by its complacency. The “fresh coat of paint” requisite previously applied to most remasters simply won’t cut it following this age-defying effort. If Nintendo and its studio partners can make a 20-year-old game — remastered on a six-year-old console — feel like a brand-new title, we can’t wait to see what the future holds for our other old favorites.