This article is written from the Real Life point of view Globe

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 wholly owned by Nintendo, making it a first-party developer, with over 50 employees. Retro Studios developed the original mainline Metroid Prime series and is currently developing Metroid Prime 4: Beyond.


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)

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. Following the release of Prime, employees were given a royalty bonus as a result of its success. However, a document breaking down the distribution of royalties circulated among staff, showing that their residuals were not evenly split between producers, art directors and mid-to low level employees. This had an effect on trust within Retro Studios, with Android Jones suggesting the bleaker and more oppressive atmosphere of the sequel Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was reflective of the company culture at the time.[2]

In 2003, Michael Kelbaugh was named president of Retro Studios, and Metroid Prime 2: Echoes was released the following year. It proved to be just as much of a critical success as the first game. In 2007, Retro Studios completed Metroid Prime 3: Corruption for the Wii, and ported Metroid Prime and Echoes to the Wii for Japanese markets. In 2009, Retro released the Metroid Prime Trilogy, a compilation of all three Prime titles on one disk.

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]

Following Trilogy, Retro Studios decided to take a break from Metroid for a while, wanting to pursue other projects.[3] 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.[4] Their most recent title is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze for the Wii U and Nintendo Switch.

Soon after the failure of a prototype called Project X (see below), studio leads Mark Pacini, Todd Keller and Jack Mathews departed from Retro 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.[3]

Shigeru Miyamoto said in 2013 that Retro would be considered "very high priority" when choosing who would develop the next Metroid game.[5]

Retro 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 Studios was not developing Metroid Prime 4: Beyond, which would instead be handled by an unknown new development team, led by Kensuke Tanabe.[6] However, it was announced on January 25, 2019 that development of Prime 4 was being restarted, and that Retro would now be developing it with Tanabe once again.[7]

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.[8] The renovation was set for completion by May 1, 2021.[9][10]

Retro Studios remastered Metroid Prime for Nintendo Switch, and it was released on February 8, 2023.[11]

Project X[]

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 Pacini, 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.[12][13] 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.[14] Later interviews revealed that the Sheikah game took place within the bad ending of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and served as an origin story for the Master Sword, into which the male Sheikah survivor would transform.[15]

In 2022, Paul Tozour revealed that a game referred to as Project X was in development at Retro Studios in 2008. It was Retro's attempt to show Nintendo that they could work independently on a game in an existing franchise. Tozour did not say which franchise it was part of for confidentiality reasons. Project X, which he said existed as a five page design document, failed in part because resources were being diverted to Trilogy at the time. Tozour and Rhys Lewis were the only engineers assigned to Project X, and Tozour found that the design document's ideas did not form a decent game. His warnings of this were ignored and the game was ultimately cancelled.[16] Later the same year, a leaked internal document from Nintendo revealed that Project X was in fact the Sheikah game. Tozour revealed the game was also known as Sheik, Sheik herself was the playable protagonist rather than the male Sheikah, and the game also had some JRPG-like combat prototyping done.[15]

The plot of a character evolving into the Master Sword was realized in the story of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, in which the character Fi transforms into it.

Games developed by Retro Studios[]

Nintendo GameCube[]


Nintendo 3DS[]

  • Mario Kart 7 (2011)

Wii U[]

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

Nintendo Switch[]

Cancelled projects[]

  • Metaforce (also known as Action Adventure)
  • Car Combat (also known as Thunder Rally)
  • NFL Retro Football (also known as NFL Fever)[17]
  • Raven Blade (also known as Rune Blade)
  • Adept
  • Project X (also known as Sheik)
  • Heroes of Hyrule[15]
  • The Blob Game[15]
  • Untitled Boo game


  • Early on, Retro Studios had a CounterStrike team that would play against other Austin-based game development studios, such as Origin Systems.[18]
  • Retro Studios had a "white board of regret", on which staff would write things each other had said in the present, that they would likely regret in the future. For example, when Ryan Powell suggested they had plenty of time to develop Donkey Kong Country Returns during pre-production, that quote went up on the white board. Sharpie was used instead of erasable marker to ensure it was not erased.[19]



  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ Murphy, L.D. The Story Of Retro Studios' Secret Weapon In The Development Of Metroid Prime. Time Extension. November 18, 2022. Retrieved December 5, 2022.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Interview: Bryan Walker. Shinesparkers. May 6, 2022. Retrieved May 6, 2022.
  5. ^ 2013-09-20, Retro Will Be Strongly Considered for the Next Metroid Game. IGN, accessed on 2013-09-21
  6. ^ Goldfarb, Andrew (June 13, 2017). E3 2017: Metroid Prime 4 Is Not Developed By Retro, Still Has Longtime Producer. Retrieved on June 30, 2018.
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Retro Studios (RetroStudios). [link to buy Metroid Prime Remastered]. 8 February 2023 9:14 p.m. Tweet.
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ DidYouKnowGaming? "Metroid Prime Devs Share Secrets (EXCLUSIVE)". YouTube. April 17, 2022. Retrieved May 7, 2022. (starts at 17:38)
  15. ^ a b c d DidYouKnowGaming? "Retro Studios' 2 Cancelled Zelda Games (Exclusive)" YouTube. September 3, 2022.
  16. ^ Kiwi Talkz. "#138 - Paul Tozour Interview (Metroid Prime 2 & 3, Boss Design, A.I., Leadership, Four Swords etc.)". YouTube. June 25, 2022. Retrieved July 6, 2022. (starts at 10:10)
  17. ^ (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)
  18. ^ 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)
  19. ^ a b (2023, January 27). Episode 26 - Bryan Walker [Podcast]. Shinesparkers. Shinesparkers. Archived from the original on January 27, 2023. (starts at 6:02 and 8:53)

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