Usually, when I do these lists I’m talking about genres I’m not a fan of. Whether that’s Tactical games, Story games, or Roguelikes. However, this time I want to talk about a genre that I’m a huge fan of, Metroidvania. It’s got everything I enjoy about games. Exploration, collecting, interesting worlds, and tight controls. So with the recent release of Metroid Dread, I thought I’d throw together a list of some of the best Metroidvania games I’ve played and ones that newcomers to the genre should check out.
These are in no particular order, and If you think I missed one, feel free to comment below and let me know!
5. Hollow Knight
This entry is an award-winning, fan favourite in the genre, and a perfect way to start off this list.
Hollow Knight has players take control of a nameless knight who explores an interconnected world of caverns, ancient cities, wild overgrowths and everything in between. Using a slew of unique abilities, skills, and tightly tuned controls, players explore this beautiful 2D world, find unique characters, and battle challenging bosses.
In truth, Hollow Knight is simply a great game through and through. It’s a great example of a developer truly understanding the Metroidvania genre, and because of that Team Cherry have been able to craft an incredible experience. Exploring the huge and expansive world is a joy, and there are plenty of compasses, maps, and other items to help navigate and explore every corner of it. Combat is tight and rewarding, with just the right amount of challenge to make you work for your victories. There’s plenty of variety with unique quirks and charms to equip and find. And let’s not dismiss how gorgeous the game is, boasting a superb 2D hand-drawn style that is unlike anything else in the genre.
It’s a must-have for fans and a great game for newcomers to the genre.
Metroidvania aren’t all about action, and this entry proves that point.
Set in a fantasy world of clouds, you play as Otus, a young owl who struggles with training to be an owl and the judgement of his peers. After sky pirates attack his village, he begins a journey with his friend Geddy to save the village and their world, involving unexpected encounters and ancient monster-filled ruins to find.
This game’s best features come from its focus on platforming and puzzles. Players get a ton of puzzles to solve whilst flying around carrying Otus’s friends and an array of items, and large dungeons to fly through and explore that are brought to life with some beautifully detailed pixel art. Unlike some of the combat-heavy Metroidvania’s, Owlboy offers a more relaxed experience, and its bright and colourful world makes it a stunning one at that. Plus, it’s got a great cast of characters who help make it all feel more alive.
For anyone who fancies a bit more easy-going gameplay, then Owlboy is made just for you.
3. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Platforms: PC, Switch, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One
Beautiful and brilliant is the only way to describe this next entry.
Following on from 2015’s Ori and the Blind Forest, you play Ori, who after a huge storm is separated from the newest member of his family, Ku. In order to get back and save Ku, you’ll need to explore a vast exotic world, filled with huge monsters, secrets, and challenges to overcome.
There is a tonne to find and discover that lets your exploration feel rewarding. The plot is a bit more detailed and fleshed out compared to some others on this list and in the genre, making for a great narrative experience. Puzzles and bosses are intricate and interesting and showcase some incredible moment to moment gameplay. And let’s not forget the incredible artwork and design on display, boasting some of the best visuals you’ll find in any game in recent memory. Period.
It’s easily one of the best Metroidvania’s on the market, and one you should look into if you fancy a great example of the genre at its best.
2. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Nostalgia can be a great thing, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a prime example of that fact.
Led by former Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a spiritual successor to the Castlevania series. Featuring almost identical gameplay to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Bloodstained is just as over the top as its influences, offering up a story filled with rampant demons, gothic visuals, and big action that are befitting its source material.
Bloodstained doesn’t necessarily do a lot different from a usual Metroidvania (at least in my opinion), but what it does it does brilliantly. All the elements that made the Castlevania games so great are present in this entry, but with slight changes and new additions that help give the game its own identity. Platforming is precise. Exploration is huge and varied. Boss battles challenge you and feel epic. There are loads of abilities and customisation; it’s got it all. Koji Igarashi clearly made sure to give fans the most complete and nostalgic experience, and it shows in every aspect of the game.
It’s a love letter to the genre and one that is more than worthy of your time.
1. Super Metroid / Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Platforms (Metroid): Switch Online, Super Nintendo
Now we get to the big ones.
When it comes to this genre, you can’t get any better than these two classics, and it wouldn’t seem right not to have them share the spotlight together. These games established the blueprint upon which every Metroidvania is based upon. You could play every game on this list, and it’s clear as day that they were inspired or influenced by these classic games.
They boast great combat, brilliant and enthralling atmosphere, excellent level and world design, a ton of cool abilities, weapons, and powers to use, and some of the most rewarding gameplay. They set the bar for everything that’s followed, and to this day they still stand up as incredible games.
These games are a must-play, regardless of your feelings about the genre. Put simply, they are the reason this list even exists. They are the GOAT’s, the top dog, cream of the crop. Enough said.
Think I missed any? Any other games in the genre you should be on this list? Let me know in the comments below!