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The best games to play while you wait for Metroid Prime 4

Fans rejoiced when Metroid Prime 4, the first installment in the series since the GameCube days, was announced with a cryptic teaser at E3 2017. Unfortunately, that teaser, which amounted to little more than a logo reveal on a spacey background, is all that has been officially seen of the project. In 2018, Nintendo of America announced that Metroid Prime 4 would not be seen at that year's E3, explaining, "We show things when we think we're ready to show them."

Unfortunately for fans, it appears that Nintendo was much less than ready, as production on Metroid Prime 4 was scrapped and restarted. The project was taken from its original team and handed over to the creators of the Prime series, Retro Studios. While this could potentially result in a superior product, it certainly leaves a Samus-sized hole in our hearts. 

So while you wait eagerly for Metroid Prime 4, here are some games that will keep you busy in the meantime. These are a healthy mix of action-adventure, first-person shooter, and of course, some good old-fashioned non-linear exploration (a sub-genre oftentimes referred to as "Metroidvania"). Basically, everything a galactic bounty hunter needs to keep them sharp.

Batman: Return to Arkham

While Batman: Arkham Knight is an amazing technical achievement, the constant use of the Batmobile kind of gets away from the kind of "lone warrior" feel of Rocksteady's first two Arkham games. Luckily, those two games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, are available in the handy collection Batman: Return to Arkham. While Asylum is a slightly more linear affair than the open-world City, both games really get into the kind of puzzle-solving and gadget-based progression that fans of the Metroid series can get behind. For example: can't get through the rushing water in that random sewer tunnel? Well, once you defeat Mr. Freeze and use his Freeze Blast tech, you should be all set.

The dark corridors of Arkham Asylum also have a bit more of the claustrophobic feel to them that Metroid Prime pulls off so well. In addition, both games feature the fun mechanic of Batman's Detective Mode, which allows him to scan the surrounding area for clues, much like Samus' visor in the Prime series. If you like Metroidvania games and superheroes, you really can't find a better combination of those sensibilities than here.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

From the exploration of ancient technological ruins to the seemingly impossible metallic creations lurking behind each mountain range, fans of the Metroid Prime series should find quite a bit to love in Horizon: Zero Dawn on an aesthetic level. It's a gorgeous game, filled to the brim with unique and brilliant enemy and weaponry designs. Beyond that, though, the gameplay offers plenty of mechanics reminiscent of the adventures of Samus Aran, including upgradable weaponry and the ability to scan your enemies and learn their weaknesses. 

Not only that, but the game's lead protagonist, Aloy, is every bit as badass as Samus. They share very similar viewpoints, fighting for honor and the respect of their peers. The vast open world of Zero Dawn begs for every canyon to be traversed and every discarded voice memo to be listened to, as Aloy seeks the truth about her past and the fall of the world of man. 

Ori and the Blind Forest

Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautifully animated and lushly orchestrated mix of Metroid-style exploration, platforming, and good old-fashioned dungeon-crawling, with each separate world offering different bizarre challenges and a new host of enemies to contend with. The story follows a guardian spirit known as Ori as it ventures into the unknown in a quest to restore the forest it calls home. Along the way, Ori will unlock strange new abilities that will allow it to progress further and learn more about the history of its forest and the spirits that live there.

As IGN points out, like all good Metroidvania games, Ori and the Blind Forest makes backtracking through the world "actually enjoyable ... your new powers are almost guaranteed to help you discover a few hidden power-ups and secret areas along the way, making the trip feel worthwhile." Not only that, but there are also occasional pulse-pounding escape sequences that should feel excitingly familiar for any gamer who has ever had to outrun a self-destruct sequence in a Metroid game.

Outer Wilds

At first glance, the lack of combat and the immediately open world kind of make Outer Wilds feel nothing like a Metroid Prime game. However, as one Reddit user points out, it eventually sinks in that much of Outer Wilds captures "exactly what made the Prime series so great: exploring ruins of a long lost civilization, figuring out their fate, [and] getting sucked into the mystery."

Outer Wilds is an exploration-based science-fiction game with an interesting twist: every 22 minutes, the sun explodes and engulfs the solar system, killing everything in it. Afterwards, you wake up and discover that you're in a time loop and you have the same amount of time before everything goes up in flames again. It's up to you to explore the planet and figure out how to stop the destruction. Kotaku called it, "meticulously crafted, brilliantly structured ...  a game you have to play."

While it is indeed very different from the Prime games, Outer Wilds still rewards exploration and curiosity in much the same way that the Metroid series often does. 

Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS

Due to the sequel's low sales, the Zone of the Enders series sadly stalled after the PlayStation 2 era. However, the second game in the cult classic mech action series received a new lease on life in 2018 with the release of Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner MARS. In addition to the base game, which has been beautifully updated for 4K resolution, it's one of the more exhilarating experiences out there for PlayStation VR owners.

While it's not quite Samus' Power Suit, the VR version of The 2nd Runner MARS puts players right in the pilot seat of the Jehuty mech. It's hard not to feel like an intergalactic badass as you fly Jehuty through larger-than-life battles. The cel-shaded graphics also make for a very Prime-esque experience, while the anime-style cut scenes are still a whole lot of wacky fun. Best of all, as pointed out in Destructoid's review of The Second Runner MARS, you don't have to be intimately familiar with the story of the first game in order to enjoy this one. With that in mind, hop in your mech and thank us later.

Hollow Knight

Upon its release in 2017, Hollow Knight was a critical darling, and it's easy to see why. Despite its cute hand-drawn graphics and general appearance, Hollow Knight has a surprisingly affecting atmosphere with some occasionally grueling and intense boss battles. As you guide the Knight through the world of Hallownest, you will find and defeat enemies and take their weaponry, which allows you to progress into new areas in your quest. Also, unlike many other similar games that force you to look in every little corner to try to find the next area, there are helpful map salesmen from which to purchase world maps, giving you a little more of an leg up than most Metroidvania titles would in the exploration department.

Not only is the base game enough to tide you over for a bit, but there have been multiple expansions released for Hollow Knight that continue the story and give players plenty of new challenges to put their adorable little blades through.

ReCore

ReCore already has some built-in bona fides that make it suitable for this list, chief among them being that the game was directed by Mark Pacini, who was the lead designer on Metroid Prime and worked as a designer on its sequels. This action-platformer is set in the far-off future and follows the story of Joule Adams, one of the last living humans on the planet Far Eden. Joule must explore the surface of Far Eden and collect all of the resources and mechanical allies she can if she hopes to survive. 

Beyond its satisfying platforming elements, the game is also a beauty to look at. As IGN said in their review, "Exploring ReCore's beautiful world is almost equally gratifying [as the platforming] ... Monstrous terraforming constructs loom constantly in the background, creating a believable sense of scale ... This evocative art style helped maintain a sense of mystery and wonder."

For fans who want that exploratory feel of Metroid Prime with just a bit more worldbuilding and lore, ReCore is definitely worth a look.

SteamWorld Dig 2

Make no mistake: the first SteamWorld Dig is no slouch; it's also a fantastic little game that has the same exploratory spirit of the Metroid series. However, SteamWorld Dig 2 does everything the first game did, but bigger and better and with even more satisfying (and subtle) worldbuilding. Set in the distant future, you take control of Dorothy, a little robot who is searching for her friend who went missing in the mines of the old world. 

Despite the cute graphics, there are some genuinely unsettling moments, especially as Dorothy ventures deeper into the underground. Though it's rarely explained in any blatant way, it begins to become clear that the age of humanity didn't exactly end peacefully. Luckily, Dorothy will find power-ups along the way that allow her to upgrade her abilities and reach even greater depths in her quest. This one should appeal to fans of the earlier Metroid titles that were lighter on story, but big on atmosphere. 

Sundered

This 2D action-platformer follows a character named Eshe as she journeys from the surface of her dead world into the ruins of the people who came before her. Along the way, Eshe battles enemies and uses weapons to move further into the caverns below. Sundered also takes a bit of Dark Souls' approach to the Metroid formula: every time Eshe dies, the player is deposited back at the beginning of the maze, where they can spend magic shards collected from enemies to level up Eshe's stats before returning to battle. In other words, don't be too discouraged if you die a lot; you're definitely expected to regularly meet gruesome ends in Sundered.

Aside from the gorgeous hand-drawn visuals, the easy-to-learn hack-and-slash gameplay, the massive unlockable skill tree, and the gargantuan boss battles, Sundered is a perfect choice for any gamer who enjoys discovering every last secret in the Metroid games. It's a spooky (and occasionally frustrating) good time.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Created after a wildly successful Kickstarter campaignBloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a Metroidvania from one of the folks who knows them best, former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. In many ways, from its gothic tone and character designs to its steep challenge level and non-linear story progression, Bloodstained feels like a true successor to the much-beloved Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

In Bloodstained, players take control of Miriam, a woman inflicted with a strange curse and a knack for killing demons. The plot is your standard "demons and prophecies" fare, but that's beside the point. PlayStation Lifestyle's review praised Bloodstained for the fact that it "isn't afraid to have fun with itself, and uses its scale and fidelity to really let players goof around as little or as much as they want. On top of the critical path, several distractions ... can be found throughout the castle, each giving completionists more and more to stress over." Which, let's be honest, is exactly the kind of experience that Metroid fans go gaga over.

Farpoint

While exploring an alien world and plundering the depths of an ancient crypt for new weaponry and armor is all well and fun, sometimes it's even more fun to just blast away at wave after wave of ghoulish monsters. If you're a big fan of the more action-oriented moments of the Metroid Prime series, then you may really get a kick out of Farpoint, a sci-fi FPS for the PlayStation 4 VR.

There's no real exploration to be done here, as Farpoint is as on-the-rails as a shooter can get. The only time you'll end up backtracking is if you accidentally get turned around during a firefight. For the most part, Farpoint is just an excuse to have some truly fun arcade-style gunfights with tons of alien enemies. As Polygon's review said, "Farpoint isn't perfect, but it nails [the] basics." It's also the closest you'll get to feeling like you're in Samus' Power Armor until a real Metroid VR game happens.

Prey (2017)

Developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Software, 2017's sci-fi horror-fest Prey takes place in a timeline separate from our own, one in which President John F. Kennedy survived his assassination and the world's governments harvested technology from alien crash sites. The main story concerns the struggle of a man named Morgan Yu, who has been trapped on a space station with all manner of extraterrestrial monsters. The tight corridors bring to mind the claustrophobic environments of some of the early Metroid entries, while the many fantastical weapons and upgrades make this FPS feel like the gory cousin of the Metroid Prime series. 

Due to the many different obstacles throughout the game, backtracking is sometimes a necessity, something else that should sound comfortably familiar for Metroid fans. Adding to the replay value is the fact that, much like Bethesda's Dishonored series, the choices made by the player will impact the story in different ways. There are three different endings and two different post-credits scenes, depending on how you play. 

Axiom Verge

As if the graphics weren't a dead giveaway, Axiom Verge is about as old-school as a Metroidvania game can get. With a color palette and design aesthetics that are clearly inspired by the original Metroid, Axiom Verge ends up feeling very much like the shooter lovechild of Metroid and Contra. Players take control of the lone warrior named Trace as he battles waves of bio-mechanical enemies in a desperate bid to return home.

Besides the graphical comparisons, much of the gameplay feels reminiscent of Super Metroid. The many, many power-ups throughout the game will upgrade Trace's abilities, allowing him to shoot more, run faster, and even grapple over long distances. In addition, an interesting password system can unlock new information and lore or new skins for your character. All in all, Axiom Verge is a game that not only expects exploration, but often rewards it in bizarre and wonderful ways.

Castlevania: Requiem

Honestly, if you're hankering for a solid Metroidvania game, then you can't do much better than to seek out one of the games that originally coined that term. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of those ubiquitous games that everyone accepts as a masterpiece, even folks who are only peripherally aware of it. Symphony of the Night famously took the exploratory template of Metroid and Super Metroid and applied a gothic RPG filter to it. The game's intricate dungeon design, which can be explored in a wonderfully non-linear fashion, has spawned countless imitators even within its own franchise. 

Best of all, Symphony of the Night has received a high-profile rerelease on the PlayStation 4 in the form of Castlevania: RequiemIn addition to Symphony of the Night, Requiem also includes the under-played Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, to which Symphony serves as a sequel. Both get a graphical facelift and some fun extras, including Easter eggs. If you've never played either of these games and you love the Metroidvania genre, there's never been a better time to check these out.

Metroid: Samus Returns

While you patiently wait for Metroid Prime 4 to come out, why not give the most recent Metroid game a shot? Metroid: Samus Returns takes the series back to its side-scrolling roots and retells the story of Metroid 2: Return of Samus, while also adding a few things to the plot that help tie it closer to the events of Super Metroid and Metroid Fusion.

In addition to the usual alien-blasting and cavern-exploring, Samus Returns utilizes a new combat mechanic called the Melee Counter. Though dodging and jumping around enemies is still on the menu, the Melee Counter allows Samus to knock back an enemy right before they hit her, which then grants Samus a quick energy boost and an opening to stun the enemy with her Charge Beam. The Melee Counter can also trigger more cinematic attacks in some boss encounters, adding a bit more variation to the how Samus deals out damage. 

Even on the handheld 3DS, Samus Returns feels, in many ways, like a bigger and bolder version of the classic Metroid formula. This means it should hopefully scratch that itch for gamers who are still patiently waiting for the continuing adventures of Samus Aran.