Earlier today, Nintendo unfolded a trailer for Paper Mario: The Origami King, a Paper Mario game for the Nintendo Switch. The reveal caused a mighty rustling on social media, a sound akin to a strong breeze blowing discarded newspapers down the street. In one group, there are the usual Paper Mario arguments about whether Origami King plays closest to the beloved Thousand Year Door or the maligned Sticker Star. In the other group, excited fans are wondering if the blatant Metroid reference at the end of the trailer means anything for Nintendo's popular space shooter series.
There's good reason to believe Nintendo might be up to something. In the last few seconds of the trailer (exactly the position for a good tease, of course), we see a paper mache Samus helmet fall on Mario's head. He walks around making shooty noises while his companions—an origami princess named Olivia and a Bob-Omb—look on. Olivia notes Mario looks intimidating, and wonders if he's "battling something."
The paper mache Samus helmet is making fans itchy because there's a fifty-fifty chance it's a hint that something is stirring in the Metroid universe. Metroid is currently in disarray after years of neglect, but there are very strong hints Nintendo's taking the franchise more seriously. Metroid Prime 4 is coming, though it's been ages since we've heard anything about the game since Retro effectively took over the project. Maybe Nintendo's finally getting ready to show us something as the (scattered, largely digital) E3 season looms closer. There have also been rumors Nintendo is working on a 2D Metroid game, and there's been buzz about a Metroid Prime Trilogy for Switch since the beginning of time. Optimistic Nintendo fans understandably want to take Mario's brief Samus cosplay as a sign the bounty hunter is going to zip back into our lives soon.
Of course, I'd lay equal odds Nintendo just wanted to treat us to a fun little in-joke. It's extremely common for other Nintendo series to cameo in the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi RPGs; even the room where Mario dons his Samus mask contains a paper mache head of Donkey Kong. Its presence hardly indicates a new Donkey Kong game is on the way, even though I think most of us would kill for a Donkey Kong '94 update for the Switch.
I'm 95% prepared to dismiss the Samus cameo as a joke, but that last 5% just won't settle in my gut. Usually, a trailer cameo that's supposed to be of little consequence is a "blink and you'll miss it affair" that's meant to make you point and laugh. That doesn't describe the Samus cameo in the trailer for The Origami King. The stinger is over 10 seconds long. No other event in the trailer gets that kind of focus, barring Origami Peach's attempt to convert Mario to the Church of Origami or whatever's going on. Peach's change is obviously a big part of The Origami King; for me, the Samus cameo carries the same weight. While I can't say I'm ready to pull my "SAMUS #1" foam finger out of storage, I can't say there's nothing going on here, either.
Paper Mario: The Origami King comes out on July 17. COVID-19 has nixed E3, and it's also messed around with Nintendo Direct schedules. We don't know what Nintendo will show, or when. That means we don't know if Nintendo had Metroid plans for E3 2020 that are being shuffled elsewhere. Be confident that the second Metroid news hits, USgamer will lift its collective voice in song and praise. (We'll probably also write something about the news.)