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Retro Studios is an American video game developer based in Austin, Texas, USA. It was founded in 1998 by Jeff Spangenberg as a second-party developer to Nintendo. It is currently wholly owned by Nintendo, making it a first-party developer, with over 50 employees.


Retro's unique in the sense that we love being in Texas. Texas is just a cool place, and that really reflects in the culture. We are Nintendo employees. We have a very different perspective on developing games. We really strive to think like our friends in Japan. They've been doing it longer than anybody else, and we appreciate the opportunity of the mentorship that we're given from people like Mr. Sakamoto, Mr. Tanabe, Mr. Miyamoto... no other North American developer is going to get that experience working with that calibre of individual, or individuals, on a project-by-project basis. It's just not going to happen in North America.

Michael Kelbaugh[1]

Retro Studios logo (2002), as seen in Metroid Prime.

Retro Studios struggled in its early years, dealing with several cancelled projects and lay-offs. However, Nintendo came to their aid by offering the company the license to the dormant Metroid franchise, whose last game was Super Metroid, released in 1994.

The first big project that Retro Studios worked on with Nintendo was Metroid Prime, one of the biggest titles for the Nintendo GameCube, receiving both critical and public acclaim. In 2001, then-president Jeff Spangenberg sold his share of stock in the company to Nintendo and left shortly thereafter. In 2003, Michael Kelbaugh was named president of Retro Studios, and the following year released Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, which proved to be just as much of a critical success as the first game.

We're pretty laid back as far as studio life is concerned. We've got a gym, and we've got a nice cafeteria. We've got a lot of assets that we can use for making our day to day life better.

Mike Wikan[1]

In 2007, Retro Studios completed Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii, and subsequently developed and released the Metroid Prime Trilogy, a compilation of Retro's three Prime titles on one disk.

Following Trilogy, Retro Studios decided to take a break from Metroid for a while, wanting to pursue other projects.[2] They were interested in revisiting the Metroid franchise at a later date, however. In 2010, Retro released their first non-Metroid game, Donkey Kong Country Returns. They also codeveloped Mario Kart 7 for the Nintendo 3DS, providing animations and 21 out of 38 tracks, though many of these were remade from earlier versions of 7.[3] Their most recent title is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U and Nintendo Switch.

In 2008, after the release of Corruption, Mark Pacini, Todd Keller, and Jack Mathews broke away from Retro Studios and formed their own company, Armature Studio. According to Bryan Walker, this was jarring for those still employed at Retro, and the studio suffered a further setback with the death of long-time employee Mark Haigh-Hutchinson.[2]

Shigeru Miyamoto said in 2013 that Retro would be considered "very high priority" when choosing who would develop the next Metroid game.[4]

Retro Studios was said to be working on a new game for the Wii U in 2014, shortly after the release of Tropical Freeze. However, the project is believed to have been cancelled.

At E3 2017, Bill Trinen confirmed that Retro was not developing Metroid Prime 4, which would instead be handled by an unknown new development team, led by Kensuke Tanabe.[5] However, it was announced on January 25, 2019 that development of Prime 4 was being restarted, and that Retro Studios would now be developing it with Tanabe once again.[6]

In May 2020, artwork for games based on the Sheikah (from The Legend of Zelda) and Boo (from the Mario series) were discovered in former Retro artist Sammy Hall's ArtStation profile. According to Hall, the games were proposed but never entered pre-production, and were conceived by Mark Pacini, Todd Keller and Kynan Pearson. The projects were shelved when all three left Retro to start their own development studios, Armature Studio and Bluepoint Games, respectively.[7][8] A later interview revealed that the Sheikah game centered on the last surviving member of that race, which had been nearly eradicated through ethnic cleansing.[9]

On October 30, 2020, it was initially reported that Retro was expanding their premises at their current location, investing $530,000 U.S. into 40,000 square feet of new space. The article that stated this listed the company contact as Steve Barcia, who was replaced as Retro's CEO in 2003. The article was updated later in the day to say that Retro was investing $530,362 to remodel 37,335 square feet of their office space.[10] The renovation is to be completed by May 1, 2021.[11][12]

Games developed by Retro Studios[]

Projects cancelled for Metroid Prime[]

  • Metaforce (also known as Action Adventure)
  • Car Combat (also known as Thunder Rally)
  • NFL Retro Football (also known as NFL Fever)[13]
  • Raven Blade (also known as Rune Blade)

Nintendo GameCube[]


Nintendo 3DS[]

  • Mario Kart 7 (2011)

Wii U[]

  • Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (2014, ported to Nintendo Switch in 2018)

Nintendo Switch[]


  • Early on, Retro Studios had a CounterStrike team that would play against other Austin-based game development studios, such as Origin Systems.[14]



  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ a b Reilly, Reece. "#109 - Bryan Walker Interview (Metroid Prime Trilogy, Donkey Kong, Mario Kart 7, Project Management)" (starts at 14:57). KIWI TALKZ. October 2, 2021. Retrieved December 12, 2021.
  3. ^ Interview: Bryan Walker. Shinesparkers. May 6, 2022. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  4. ^ 2013-09-20, Retro Will Be Strongly Considered for the Next Metroid Game. IGN, accessed on 2013-09-21
  5. ^ Goldfarb, Andrew (June 13, 2017). E3 2017: Metroid Prime 4 Is Not Developed By Retro, Still Has Longtime Producer. Retrieved on June 30, 2018.
  6. ^
  7. ^
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  9. ^ DidYouKnowGaming? "Metroid Prime Devs Share Secrets (EXCLUSIVE)". YouTube. April 17, 2022. Retrieved May 7, 2022. (starts at 17:38)
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^ (2022, January 26). Episode 21 – Jack Mathews (Ex Retro Studios) [Podcast]. Shinesparkers. Shinesparkers. Archived from the original on June 18, 2022. (starts at 35:50)
  14. ^ KIWI TALKZ. "#105 - Mike Wikan Interview (Metroid Prime Trilogy, Game Design, Crunch, Booz Allen Hamilton etc.)" YouTube. September 6, 2021. Retrieved March 16, 2022. (starts at 1:03:57)

External links[]