Retro Studios is a developer founded in 1998 by Jeff Spangenberg. The studio is based in Austin, Texas, making it one of Nintendo's few Western first-party developers. Retro Studios is responsible for Nintendo's Metroid Prime franchise, but have had numerous canceled titles as well.
When the company was founded, it struggled at first with numerous canceled Nintendo GameCube titles, including Raven Blade (an adventure game), Car Combat (a combat racing game), NFL Retro Football, and possibly more. In 2000, they were approached by Nintendo. This was a pivotal time for the company, and they began development on Metroid Prime, a complete reworking of the 2D franchise into the third dimension. Metroid Prime became one of the most well-received titles on the GameCube, both critically and from a sales standpoint.
After the release of Metroid Prime, Jeff Spangenberg left the company, and Michael Kelbaugh became the new president of Retro in 2003. By then, the studio was working on Metroid Prime 2: Echoes, which released in 2004 (and was nearly just as well-received as the first game). Retro then developed the last in the trilogy, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, which was released in 2007 for the Nintendo Wii. In 2009, Retro also released a compilation game containing all three of the Metroid Prime games, titled Metroid Prime Trilogy. Retro told fans that Retro Studios would be "taking a break from Samus" in several 2007 interviews following the release of Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, including one with Mark Pacini, the former design lead at Retro.
In early 2009, a number of key employees left Retro Studios after quarrels between the studio and Nintendo Japan concerning the studio's future direction. Apparently, Retro was not satisfied with Nintendo Japan not giving the studio enough creative freedom and they had to work only on Nintendo titles. Mark Pacini along with Art Director Todd Keller and Principal Technical Engineer Jack Matthews left Retro in 2008 and formed Armature Studio. Mike Wikan, Retro's Senior Game Designer for ten years, left Retro in May 2011 to join id Software.
Following the release of Metroid Prime Trilogy, Retro's next task was the development of a new Donkey Kong Country. The final product, the 2010 release of Donkey Kong Country Returns, takes much of its inspiration from the Rare-developed Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the SNES, modernizing and refining existing elements while also introducing new concepts. Following the release of Donkey Kong Country Returns, Retro assisted in the development of Mario Kart 7. Their work on the game included designing some of the game's tracks, including some inspired by their work on Donkey Kong Country Returns.
In late 2012, Retro Studios moved to new office spaces in a much bigger building as the company had previously been hiring a lot of new talent to support the increasing demands of HD-development for the Wii U. The developer's first Wii U title is Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is currently scheduled for an early 2014 release.
- Raven Blade (GameCube)
- Car Combat (GameCube)
- NFL Retro Football (GameCube)