The announcement of Metroid Dread was a very welcome surprise for gamers, but what other Metroidvania games can people play while they wait?
By Adam Beach
Published 21 hours ago
”Metroidvania” is a broad term used to describe games that draw inspiration from the classic Metroid and Castlevania titles; the two franchises often credited for pioneering the genre. The common elements of a Metroidvania title are a deep sense of exploration, character upgrades that allow further progression, and a sprawling, labyrinthine game world.
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Needless to say, it’s a pretty good time to be a fan of this genre given the surprise announcement of the upcoming Metroid Dread, a game long thought forgotten, and the first all-new 2D Metroid game in a very long time. Those new to the genre, or old fans looking for a lesser-known title, might want to check out some of these games to get warmed up in time for the release of the new Metroid game.
When it comes to Metroidvanias, it’s difficult to top the reach and influence of the legendary Super Metroid. There are, of course, arguments to be had and personal preferences to negotiate, but it can oftentimes feel like Super Metroid is the platonic ideal of the genre, the ancestor from which all other Metroidvanias spawn.
It also helps that Super Metroid is a truly fantastic game in its own right. Featuring expressive and varied environments, a wide range of exciting power-ups that never fail to shake up the gameplay, and outstanding pacing that makes the game hard to put down, Super Metroid is a classic for the ages that isn’t to be missed. Luckily, Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can play it for free on the Switch’s official SNES emulator.
Dead Cells is a brilliant fusion between the progression and exploration of classic Metroidvanias, with the addictive permadeath mechanics of roguelike favorites like Binding of Isaac and Hades. The genre mashup creates a wonderful synergy; the game leverages that classic Metroidvania exploration to keep a player motivated to start run after run into the labyrinth.
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Combine all that with some well-executed combat and an impressive diversity of character builds and abilities, and Dead Cells becomes a successful celebration of two genres simultaneously, one that’s sure to eat up hours of a player’s time as they die again and again.
It would be difficult to convincingly argue that Ori isn’t one of the best-looking platformers ever produced. This game is absolutely gorgeous, immediately drawing the player into its mystical setting through the atmosphere, art direction, and graphical splendor. It’s not just a pretty face though; Ori features some intense, high-speed platforming that will push the limits of even skilled players.
The game couples that platforming expertise with Metroidvania-style progression, which does wonders for the pacing. The game keeps upping the complexity of its platforming challenges by imbuing the player character with new abilities that allow them to progress further, lending an excellent sense of progression to the experience.
Blasphemous is the goriest, spookiest Metroidvania on the list. Taking clear inspiration from Dark Souls, Blasphemous tasks its endlessly respawning protagonist with ridding the land of a foul curse. The enemies, bosses, and environments all look liked they hopped out of the pages of some gothic nightmare, with a healthy amount of blood and guts to help sell the brutality of the setting.
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This game is a good bit more combat-focused than some of the classics of the genre, making it play more like Hollow Night or a From Software title than Super Metroid, so those looking for a more laid-back exploratory adventure might want to look elsewhere. Those looking for punishing violence in a damned world, however, will feel right at home.
From watching gameplay, it might seem easy to write off Salt and Sanctuary as little more than a “2D Dark Souls”. After all, the game does draw clear inspiration from From Software’s series of moody, punishing action RPGs. From a grim atmosphere to brutal, unforgiving combat, Salt and Sanctuary wears its inspiration proudly.
There is more than meets the eye with this game, though. Beyond the Souls-like combat, limited heals, and fixed respawning, there’s an extremely rich game world that invites Metroidvania-style exploration from the first time a player turns on the game.
A quick glance by the uninitiated at this game’s tags on Steam is sure to draw second glances. It’s a Metroidvania… with pinball gameplay? Yes, Yoku sets out to incorporate the classic Metroidvania design elements, those being platforming, exploration, and gated progression with power-ups and items, into a pinball game.
That might not sound like it would work, but Yoku succeeds against the odds, and the result is one of the most original and purely enjoyable titles to grace the genre in a long time. Anybody looking for something that defies the conventions of the genre is sure to appreciate this joyful dung beetle/package delivery/pinball/ platforming game.
Cave Story is a venerable title among indie gamers and Metroidvania fans alike. Created by only one guy over the course of five years, Cave Story graced screens entirely for free in 2003. The game was also a ton of fun, featuring faced-paced action with tight, responsive controls, and all the exploration and platforming depth that fans loved from the Metroidvanias of old.
The best part is that the game, in its entirety, is still 100% free to download and play. Anybody with access to a PC and an internet connection can enjoy it at the highly reasonable price of zero dollars from the developer’s website. Play Cave Story, there’s no excuse.
Bloodstained is more “Vania” than “Metroid”, but that’s by design. This game is the Kickstarter passion project of one Koji “Iga” Igarashi, a longtime Konami veteran who appears on the credits of some of the most beloved Castlevania titles. With Konami leaving many of its beloved franchises by the wayside, including Castlevania, Iga struck out on his own to produce a spiritual successor that would become Bloodstained.
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Happily, Bloodstained is considered by longtime fans to be a worthy successor to the venerable Castlevania legacy. The game preserves what fans loved about the earlier Castlevanias?while at the same time packing in a ton of content and updated graphics.
Ask any Metroid fan what their favorite thing about the series is, and chances are they’ll start explaining how successfully the games implement an atmospheric sense of total isolation. That feeling of being dropped alone into an alien world, getting totally lost, and wandering down endless corridors trying to find a way out is something few games replicate as well as Metroid.
That is, until Axiom Verge came out. Here is a game that really understands the essence of what made Metroid so special — the mystery, isolation, and sense of wonderous discovery are all present here, alongside a richly detailed and compelling game world and some impressive visual design.
Hollow Knight is indisputably one of the highest regarded indie Metroidvanias on the market, and that’s a very well-deserved reputation. Hollow Knight features fast-paced, challenging combat and a unique setting that’s an absolute joy to explore.
Delving into the depths of Hallownest would be an exciting affair in its own right, but Hollow Knight sweetens the deal by absolutely packing content into its fifteen-dollar price tag. An already expansive base game became even larger with a handful of free expansions, meaning that there is a ton for Metroidvania fans to sink their teeth into throughout the Hollow Knight experience.
NEXT: What Does Metroidvania Mean?
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About The Author
(69 Articles Published)
Adam Beach is a recent university graduate based out of Austin, Texas who has spent the pandemic playing far too many video games and watching entirely too much anime. Now writing for ScreenRant, he has the opportunity to translate those experiences into his own content. In the past he has been a Model UN instructor, intern for the Government of Rwanda, and full-time student, all of which involved producing a wide range of written material. He also enjoys movies, philosophy, and Mongolian throat singing.
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