Metroid Dread was officially released on October 8, but copies got out into the wild a few days before that. After such a short time, the game is now fully playable in 4K via various Nintendo Switch emulators.
Released yesterday, Mercurysteam-developed Metroid Dread is the long-awaited 2D return of the Metroid series. You can read our full review here, but the short answer: It’s a solid game with some nice-looking visuals and surprisingly tricky boss fights. It is a Switch exclusive, as you might expect. But because of readily available Switch emulators, people are already able to play Dread on powerful enough PCs.
Via the popular Yuzu open-source emulator, Dread is already possible to play with custom controls and unlimited FPS settings, which is to say, more powerfully than it runs on its native Switch. Some players have reported minor issues with cutscenes and black screens, but according to the Yuzu devs, this is fixed by updating to the latest version of the free emulator.
Another popular Switch emulator, Ryujinx, is able to run the game at similarly high framerates, but can also play it at a much higher 4K resolution. Compared to the native 720/900p resolution available on the Switch in handheld or TV mode, this is a massive increase. It certainly seems a shame that the legitimate versions of the game, its art style, and visuals, don’t look as good as when it’s running in 4K.
Of course, it’s possible that certain areas of the game perform worse on certain PC setups, and depending on your computer’s specs and software setup, Dread via emulation could be a total shitshow. But it seems that for most folks with moderately powerful GPUs, this isn’t an issue.
This raises huge issues for Nintendo, who are in the very unusual position of having a current-gen console that’s already so readily emulated on PC. Normally console emulation is a generation or two behind, meaning it’s a scene that rarely infringes on release-day sales. Of course, for those wanting to feel a more legitimate approach to such an action, purchasing the Switch game before doing any such emulation — while legally very dubious — at least feels more morally clear.
Thanks to Nintendo’s rather poor approach to supporting older games, especially those on the Game Boy Advance and DS, emulation is often the only viable means to play through their collection, and this is the case for much of the Metroid franchise.
There are so many good reasons to be grateful for pirates, emulators, modders, and hackers for doing what so many big publishers won’t: keeping old games alive. Clearly, that’s not the case for Metroid Dread, a brand new game, but this is an enormous issue Nintendo has to face given the relative technical inferiority of its current console.
Update 11/10: An earlier version of this story was understood by many readers to be a direct suggestion to illegally download this just-released game. We regret this interpretation.
Kotaku believes emulation is a vital part of the world of gaming, not least when it comes to game preservation, while not directly encouraging anyone to break the law and download games they have not purchased. We believe our readers are intelligent adults capable of making such choices for themselves, independently of us.