Metroid Dread (lost early Nintendo DS build of Switch action-adventure game; mid-2000s)
Metroid Dread is an action-adventure game for the Nintendo Switch, released on October 8th, 2021. It's a part of the long-running Metroid franchise, and is a direct follow-up to 2002's Metroid Fusion. It's famous for its development hell, having been originally developed for the Nintendo DS, and it's been teased and rumored about numerous times over the years.
This early version of the game has never been publicly shown off, but some things can be pieced together from the bits of info and insider testimony that exist.
The game was first conceptualized for the Nintendo DS around 2005. It would've been a 2D side-scroller game and continued directly after the events of Metroid Fusion, just like the final game. The development team's main idea for the game was to instill "dread" in the player by having them constantly be chased by an unstoppable enemy, which was a follow-up to Metroid Fusion’s SA-X. However, they wanted to go further with the concept.
Later, an E3 2005 document from Nintendo got leaked, showing off some of their upcoming DS titles, including Metroid Dread. Gaming magazines and websites reported on this, setting off a wildfire of speculation and hype. However, Metroid Dread was a no-show at the event.
In 2006, the game was officially announced in the Official Nintendo Magazine, given a release date of November that same year. As the issues progressed, this release date turned into a "To be confirmed", and it urged readers to stay tuned for E3 for more info. Nothing came of this.
In 2007, attention was brought to a potential easter egg in Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The player can scan a terminal in the Metroid Processing room, which will give them logs referencing "Metroid project Dread" and how it was a failure.
The public believed this was referring to Metroid Dread, and that the game had been cancelled. Later that September, Nintendo denied these rumors. The director of the game also stated it was a coincidence.
Right before E3 2009, Nintendo R&D1 had readied a prototype to be presented to Nintendo's other divisions. Ultimately, Sakamoto was not satisfied with it, so it was decided not to show it off at E3 and development was put on hold.  Another big reason for this was that the team had difficulty getting the EMMI enemy to work on the Nintendo DS's limited hardware while still maintaining its feeling of fear and intimidation.
This early version has the same basic premise as the final one, with Samus trapped on an alien world, trying to survive against an unstoppable foe. And as it's a sequel to Metroid Fusion, it presumably would have carried the plot point of Samus being on the run from the Galactic Federation.
The E3 2009 prototype had dropped the Metroid Dread title and was simply codenamed Metroid. It had a map with interactable elements on the bottom screen and gameplay on the top. The graphics were sprite-based and described as "Literally like a port of Metroid Fusion to the DS".
The developers were working on a version of the EMMI enemy at the time, although it was not as advanced as the final.
No prototype builds or ROMs have ever surfaced for this DS version, and it is unlikely Nintendo will release any. It's a possibility that concept art or screenshots of this early version will be revealed in the upcoming art book, as Nintendo is open to talking about Metroid Dread's development history.
Liam Robertson of Unseen64 claims that a synopsis of the game was given out to select members of the press. And in 2010, IGN's Craig Harris said in a podcast that he had seen a complete script for Metroid Dread, and that "Nintendo could use it anytime they wanted." It's possible that this was the synopsis that Liam Robertson was referring to. After the 2021 announcement of the game, Harris was asked on Twitter if he remembered anything from this script. He said he didn't.
Mentions in Magazines
- The Verge article on Metroid Dread's development history. Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Inside Metroid Dread's Development With Producer Yoshio Sakamoto - IGN Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Nintendo DS Mailbag - IGN Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Metroid Dread cancelled? - 1UP.com Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Metroid Dread nearing completion - IGN Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Nintendo denies Metroid Dread - Computer and Video Games Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Retro Studios answers the dreaded Metroid Dread question and other prime exclusives - MTV Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Unseen64 Digs Up Development Insights Into Metroid Prime: Hunters, Dread and Federation Force - NintendoLife Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Metroid Dread: What Happened to the Nintendo DS Game? - Switch On: A Nintendo Podcast Retrieved 30 Jun '21
- Craig Harris's Twitter response on the game's Switch announcement. Retrieved 30 Jun '21