16 Best Metroidvania Games Ever
We selected 16 games, from good old classics to modern titles, both hardcore and relatively easy to play, which we believe are the best representatives of the genre
Metroidvania is a very popular subgenre of action-adventure games, but many of us still have no clue what games deserve the right to be called Metroidvanias. It is a certain style or a certain gimmick? What makes one game a good Metroidvania, and another – a great one? We’ll try to answer this question since today this genre is as popular as ever, and we have Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night to look forward too.
Will it join the ranks of the best of the best? Here’s hoping: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, developed by ArtPlay, DICO and WayForward Technologies, is a game from the iconic Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. It’s set to release on June 18, 2019.
If you think that we got something wrong or forgot your favorite title, don’t hesitate to chastise us in the comments.
Release year: 1994
It doesn’t get classier than that – the legendary Super Metroid. It’s so good, it has ‘’super’’ in the title. Super Metroid was developed and published by Nintendo, and it’s a direct sequel to Metroid 2: Return of Samus for the GameBoy. In many ways, it might be called one the founders of the genre, with many of its inventions being used even by the modern developers.
In Metroid, players must constantly explore the treacherous planet Zebes. The game features a sizable world, a new inventory screen, and more freedom than ever. Many regard this game as the best ever, and it’s fair to say that it holds up fairly well. Suspenseful atmosphere, masterful game design, and nice visuals make it a must-play, but don’t expect a walk in the park.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Release year: 1997
Platforms: PlayStation, Sega Saturn
We talked about Metroid, and now it’s time for Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Without Castlevania, there wouldn’t be a genre at all, and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is easily one of the best games ever made.
Symphony of the Night tells a usual gothic story about vampires and vampire killers. You play as Alucard, Dracula’s son, and explore his vast castle. The game introduced non-linear design and RPG elements. It bombed initially, but after the critics had started singing their praises, the players went on a buying spree. Unlike Super Metroid, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is available on many modern platforms, like Xbox 360 and PlayStation 4.
Release year: 2017
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Let’s not forget the new kids on the block, these young whippersnappers who think they can challenge the ‘’big guys’’. But what if they can? Hollow Knight was only released in 2017, but the gamers have such reverence for it that it seems like it’s been here forever. It’s easy to see why so many critics were eager to give it a perfect score – it really is a great game, embodying perfectly everything that made us fall in love with the genre.
A gothic and stylish title, Hollow Knight tells a story of a mysterious knight on a mission. He explores Hallownest, the dangerous and somewhat whimsical insect kingdom, and fights numerous bosses. As per usual, some areas are inaccessible in the beginning – in many ways, it’s a traditional Metroidvania. Unlike many similar games, Hollow Knight doesn’t try to copy SNES pixel style and boasts clean graphics with fluid animation.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Release year: 2015
Platforms: PC, Xbox One
I don’t quite understand why so many people seem to forget Ori’s existence. Even when discussing Xbox One exclusives, people usually leave out Ori and the Blind Forest – one of the best games on the platform! This beautiful title from Moon Studios has every trait of a great Metroidvania: huge world, tons of collectibles and even more closed doors. It’s an incredibly fluid platformer that controls fantastically. Now is the perfect time to complete it before Ori and the Will of the Wisps releases on February 11th, 2020.
As is true with most of Metroidvanias, Ori and the Blind Forest is hard – really hard. It doesn’t look it at first but after 3 hours the difficulty levels spikes like crazy – my only gripe with the game. But there’s a quite innovative and much-appreciated feature that allows players to save the game at any time.
Why you should try it: One of the few representatives of the genre with a heartfelt story.
Release year: 2013
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PS Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Guacamelee! is one of the most colorful and funny games on the list. It proves that ‘’Metroidvania’’ doesn’t mean ‘’gritty Metroid-lookalike’’. Indeed, it’s very vibrant in many ways thanks to traditional Mexican culture and folklore from which it borrows.
In the game, we control luchador Juan Aguacate on a mission to rescue his bellowed Lupita and… the world, probably.
Guacamelee! is a fun game, much less unforgivable than the ones we discussed previously. The geography here can be a bit too confusing, but overall it’s a great modern take on the genre, which was stagnating a bit by the time Guacamelee! came out.
Why you should try it: It’s charming, colorful and genuinely funny.
Mega Man ZX
Release year: 2006
Platforms: Nintendo DS
Among tons of games about Mega Man, it’s easy to forget about one the best Mega… Men around, Mega Man ZX. Indeed, this title is a bit different from many others games from Inti Creates (although it borrows a lot from Mega Man X and Mega Man Zero): it features a big interconnected world that just begs to be thoroughly explored.
Mega Man ZX was an interesting new territory for the famous franchise, and its sequel Mega Man ZX Advent, released in 2007, is as good, if not better. Unfortunately, it is the last of the sub-series.
Release year: 2018
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Mobile
Strictly speaking, Dead Cells is far from being a ‘’pure’’ Metroidvania, but it’s close. It definitely has lots of roguelike traits, which make it stand out even more. It’s mostly randomly generated, and after you die, you start all over again. Thankfully (and that’s where Metroidvania genre kicks in) your upgrades carry on, and you get to access previously closed off areas. You become stronger with every new run, and that’s what makes Dead Cells so damn addicting. It’s one of the best indie games of 2018, and we can’t recommend it enough.
Yoku’s Island Express
Release year: 2018
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch
Yoku's Island Express is a relatively new game that many people have sadly missed. Don’t repeat this mistake: Yoku's Island Express is one of the oddest Metroidvania games out there! It’s very unique thanks to the fact that it adds pinball to the formula. The resulting weird hybrid is a fantastic mix of gameplay elements. Add to that fantastic OST, cute graphics and fluid animation, and you get a genuine masterpiece not many people know about. Villa Gorilla have definitely put themselves on a map with this one.
SteamWorld Dig 2
Release year: 2017
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4,PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS
A brilliant sequel to the already awesome original, SteamWorld Dig 2 is everything we wanted from the series. The same unique steampunk world, sentient robo-cowboys and addictive gameplay make it a must-play for everyone looking for a good modern Metroidvania title.
In SteamWorld Dig 2, players control of Dorothy in search for Rusty, the previous protagonist who’s gone missing. To find him, we must dig underground, smash resources and upgrade. SteamWorld Dig is a franchise unlike any other, and SteamWorld Dig 2 definitely warrants a playthrough. Don’t worry if you missed the first one.
Release year: 2015
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Wii U, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
Axiom Verge is so universally loved it’s easy to forget it’s not an age-old classic from the SNES era. Indeed, this legendary title from 2015 looks and feels a lot like its predecessors: a bit of Contra, a pinch of Bionic Commando and a lot of Metroid.
Axiom Verge is great because it respects the classics but doesn’t try to shamelessly copy them, although it does look a lot like Metroid with its Gigeresque environment design. It’s also cold, bleak and hard as nails. In many ways, it’s the Metroidvania of our times. Be prepared: it’s not gonna be easy, but it will be glorious.
Salt & Sanctuary
Release year: 2016
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Switch
Most of the games in the genre look a lot more like Metroid than Castlevania, but not Salt & Sanctuary. It borrows a lot from a couple of games, namely Dark Souls and yes, Symphony of the Night. But it will surprise you again and again. The gastronomical adventure tells a story of kings, princesses, and monsters of the deep. It can be breathtakingly beautiful thanks to 2D hand-drawn visuals and it’s surprisingly rich in content. It’s a very hard game, but the one you just have to try to complete. Don’t judge it by its cover – Salt & Sanctuary is a lot more than just a parody of universally beloved games.
Release year: 2018
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch
The development history of Iconoclasts is probably as interesting as the game itself. Solely developed by Joakim ‘’Konjak’’ Sandberg, it was in the works for 8 years. Everything was created by Sandberg, including the (brilliant) soundtrack. The game itself is a fantastic love letter to Metroidvanias of old, including Super Metroid and especially Metroid Fusion. Iconoclasts is a smart game, and you’ll need fast reflexes, patience, and wit to see it though. But it’s a very rewarding experience: the protagonist Robin is a darling, and the plot is surprisingly robust, with many memorable characters and good dialogue. It’s not an easy game – you’ll die will get stuck a lot – but it’s worth the trouble.
It’s easy to forget about Iconoclasts’ existence – there are just too many fantastic games around. But try to find time for it, it might be the hidden gem you were looking for.
Release year: 2017
Platforms: PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
We’ve heard tons about games inspired by Metroid and Castlevania, but that seemed a bit too obvious for Nigoro. Instead, the studio strived to replicate the charm of the older, more obscure 8-bit titles from Japan – like Maze of Galious. In a lot of ways La-Mulana 2 is a continuation of these old ideas, but with the modern twist. It reminds us of the classics, but it looks and plays better than was possible at the time.
La-Mulana 2 always tries to trick you, so never celebrate a solved puzzle prematurely. Playing it can be a grueling task, as it often happens with this genre. It has it all: mind-numbing puzzles, petrifying bosses, interesting secrets.
Release year: 2009
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
For some strange reason, not many people still discuss Shadow Complex by Chair Entertainment. This 2.5D Metroidvania-style game reminds me a lot of the best Metroids, and for good reason. This is a fantastic title, still brimming with good ideas and gameplay elements. In 2009, Gamespot called it ‘’Super Metroid for a new generation’’, and in many ways they were right. Great combat, exploration elements, a plot written by the award-winning comic book writer Peter David – no wonder the game has received so many Game of the Year awards. Since 2015, you can check out the remastered version on the modern gaming consoles, and we strongly advise that you do so.
Dust: An Elysian Tail
Release year: 2012
Platforms: PC, Xbox 360, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch
Released in 2012, Dust: An Elysian Tail never went out of style. Its distinguishing visual style, memorable world of Falana, and story separate it from the others, and rightly so. The game is pretty short, but there’s a lot of content for completionists. Dust: An Elysian Tail focuses on combat and has a story worth exploring.
Dust: An Elysian Tail still looks good thanks to its hand-drawn style. It’s also available on Nintendo Switch – a perfect platform for it.
Release year: 2015
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4
We’ve seen tons of alien monsters and medieval baddies, but what about Ancient Greek mythology? Now that is interesting. That was Alientrap thinking – at least I think it was. Anyway, it’s a good game – great even. Original setting, pleasant graphics inspired by black-figure pottery style, good voice acting, tons of authentic weapons and atmospheric music by Marios Aristopoulos – it’s genuinely one of the best Metroidvanias of this generation, but it remains largely forgotten.
Apotheon also manages to tell a gripping story about deities and common men, namely Nikandreos, who follows in the steps of Kratos and decides to destroy the gods before they wipe out humanity. On this quest, he can count only on himself and Hera, wife of Zeus.
There you have it, 16 of the best Metroidvanias. At least,16 great ones, since ‘’best’’ is subjective. We’ve missed lots of fantastic games, maybe even some of your favorites. It’s only natural – after all, Metroidvania is one of the most popular subgenres. People like to talk about it and argue what makes this genre. You might even say that some of our choices stray too far from the ‘’pure’’ formula. Everyone has their own recipe for a perfect game, and we tried to single out the widest range of games with different art styles and gameplay elements.