The Metroidvania Genre and 10 Games

Have you heard of 'metroidvania'? It is a subgenre of games that is very popular with gamers. Here in this article you will learn more about metroidvania and know some games in this style.

About Metroidvania

The word metroidvania derives from the fusion of the name of two well-known games: Metroid and Castlevania.

Games of this genre are usually action / adventure (which may have RPG influences), indies, 2D, and offer dynamics in an open world, allowing exploration of the map, and with hidden areas that can unlock new missions and achievements.

The first game of the style dates back to 1985 and is called Xanadu: Dragon Slayer II. Xanadu is an action RPG-style game for computers, with real-time combat, and has also introduced elements that change the character's look.

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It is an innovative game, which broke record sales in Japan and inspired several other games like The Legend of Zelda. All of this, however, did not serve to name the new genre.

In 1986 Metroid came to the NES platform (Nintendo Entertainment System), a game that started the series that is still considered one of the biggest video games.

Metroid follows the protagonist Samus Aran (one of the first female protagonists in games) in a futuristic science fiction setting. As the story progresses, Samus gets stronger, and discovering new places to explore.

But it was only in 1994 with the launch of Super Metroid that the genre revolution was made and the title became a reference for a new style.

The term metroidvania effectively came up in 1997 with the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Although the style has already appeared in other games in the series, it was in SOTN that it was consolidated and better improved, becoming the precursor of a whole genre of its own.

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In 2018, there was a boom in the style, and since then several new metroidvania titles have been launched.

What are the main elements of a Metroidvania

To be considered a metroidvania, the game needs to have the following characteristics:

  • Open world: more than small stages, the game takes place on a larger map;
  • Exploration: it is possible to walk around, creating your own timeline in the game, that is, things happen in the order that the player chooses. In a metroidvania, the focus of the game is exploration, which also generates backtracking, the return to places already visited;
  • 2D game;
  • Character progression: throughout the game, the main character will somehow improve and become stronger, allowing the exploration of new areas and the defeat of other enemies;

Metroidvania Games

Below you can see a list of games in the metroidvania style and a little about each one. Excluding, of course, the originals from the Metroid and Castlevania series.

Hollow Knight

Phase of metroidvania hollow knight
Probably the best known among metroidvanias, Hollow Knight promises hours of fun

Probably the best known on the list, Hollow Knight was released in 2017 by Team Cherry.

In the game, the player controls the Knight, a receptacle born from higher beings. Physically, it is a type of insect with a mask and that uses a sword-shaped stinger as a weapon. In addition, the Knight can also use spells for attacks.

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The game is extremely complex and with a huge map, which will be explored as the game progresses and the story is revealed. There are many hours of gameplay to explore everything and close the game.

In addition to the metroidvania style, inspired by Castlevania and Metroid, Hollow Knight also has Dark Souls influences, in relation to combat.

In 2019 it was announced the continuation of the game with Hollow Knight: Silksong, in which players will be able to play Hornet to follow the story, but to date there is no official release date yet.

The game is available for platforms Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox and for PC on Steam.

Ori and the Blind Forest

Metroidvania ori and the blind forest phase
Ori and the Blind Forest has great sentimental appeal

Ori and the Blind Forest was launched in 2015, developed by Moon Studios. The game has a story inspired by The Lion King and Iron Giant, as well as references to works by Studio Ghibli.

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Ori and the Blind Forest was very well received by critics and became a reference among metroidvanias, being possible to find elements based on him in other games like the aforementioned Hollow Knight.

In the game, the player is Ori, a guardian spirit who sets out on a journey to save Nibel, the forest in which he lives, which is being plagued by a catastrophe that is killing her.

Accompanying Ori is Sein, the “light and eyes” of the Tree Spirit, and through him attacks are made on enemies.

Ori and the Blind Forest has great sentimental appeal, and fairytale air, in a story of love, sacrifice and hope.

The game won several awards after its release, including best art direction at The Game Awards, musical excellence at SXSW, best 2D look at Unity Awards, artistic recognition at BAFTA Choice Awards among others.

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The game was so successful that it won a sequel in 2020 with Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a release that was one of the highlights of the year alongside The Last of Us 2 and Hades.

Ori and the Blind Forest is available for platforms Xbox, Nintendo Switch and for PC by Steam.

Dead Cells

Phase of metroidvania dead cells
Dead Cells mixes metroidvania and roguelite genres

Launched in 2018, Dead Cells is a game developed and published by Motion Twin and divides opinions on whether or not it is a metroidvania, because it also has roguelite elements. There are those who call the style of roguevania.

Regardless of the genre you want to classify, the truth is that the metroidvania elements of Dead Cells are undeniable.

In the game, the player explores a castle “constantly changing”. The objective of the game is to escape. Not many details of the story are given, with more focus on gameplay.

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Dead Cells also won some awards such as best indie game at the Golden Joystick Awards and best action game at The Game Awards, among others.

It is one of the few metroidvania available on mobile phones, having been launched in 2019 for IOS and 2020 for Android.

It is also available for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox and PC through Steam e epic Games.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Bloodstained metroidvania phase: ritual of the night
Don't confuse Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night with its precursor Curse of the Moon

You remember that at the beginning of this text I mentioned the game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as a great influencer of the metroidvania genre, right? Well, the Japanese producer Koji Igarashi was the big name behind this work.

In 2014, Igarashi left Konami to launch his own game, still inspired by the same style as SOTN, and this is exactly Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.

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Launched in 2019, Ritual of the Night is set in the XNUMXth century in England during the Industrial Revolution. Miriam, the main character, is part of an experiment by alchemists to summon demons from hell.

She fights to save humanity and herself before a new invasion of demons takes place.

There is no way to talk about Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night without mentioning SOTN, since he is considered a "spiritual successor" to the former, including several references during gameplay.

Ritual of the Night was a highly anticipated game for Castlevania fans, which was demonstrated in the campaign launched on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter: in just one day of the campaign, more than one million dollars was raised. In one month, the value increased to 5,5 million, making it the most successful game on the platform.

The game is available on platforms PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Android, IOS and PC through Steam.

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Guacamelee!

Phase of metroidvania guacamelee!
Guacamelee! insert elements of Mexican culture into the game

Guacamelee is a metroidvania based on Mexican culture and folklore. It is, in fact, a hybrid between metroidvania and brawler (games based on hand-to-hand combat).

The player controls the fighter Juan, who was killed and sent to the world of the dead. There, he meets a mysterious fighter who transforms him, making him more powerful, and sending him back to the world of the living.

Juan then goes in search of the joint that killed him and kidnapped his beloved, to rescue her at once and avenge her death.   

The game was first released on the PlayStation platform in 2013, and expanded to Windows the same year.

A feature of Guacamelee is the cooperation mode, which can be played with more than one player.

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The response to the game was so good, that a sequel, Guacamelee! 2 was launched in 2018.

Guacamelee! is available on platforms PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and PC through Steam.

Axiom Verge

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Axiom Verge has a breathtaking story

Axiom Verge is also one of the classic metroidvania launched in 2015 by Thomas Happ Games.

The player controls Trace, a scientist who ends up passed out after an explosion. He then wakes up in an alien world, called Sudra. He then gains a weapon, the Axiom Disruptor and goes out to face his enemies.

In his adventure, Trace ends up discovering more about the world he finds himself in as he seeks to defeat the villain Athetos.

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Like the other games on the list, Axiom Verge received critical acclaim and was named best independent game at The Game Awards.

A sequel to the game, Axiom Verge 2, was scheduled to launch in 2020. However, the launch was postponed to the first half of 2021.

The game is available on platforms PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, Wii U and PC via Steam e epic Games.  

Dandara: Trials of Fear

Dandara metroidvania phase
Classic reference to Metroid game mixed with Brazilian culture

Dandara: Trials of Fear is the Brazilian launch of this list, created by the studio Long Hat House. It was inspired by the historical black warrior figure Dandara dos Palmares, wife of the well-known Zumbi dos Palmares.  

In the story of the game, Dandara is a warrior tasked with freeing the people of Sal from an oppressive regime.

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A particularity of the game is the movement of Dandara that does not normally occur as in other games, she jumps between platforms. It takes time to adapt to the new style of play, which is very interesting.

In the game there are also some references, both to the classic metroidvanias and to Brazilian culture, as is the example of the statues of Chozo, Metroid's already stamped reference in games of the genre, but the difference is that Tarsila's Abapuru is exactly in its place do Amaral.

This mix of classic and Brazilian culture makes the game experience very pleasant and nostalgic.

Dandara: Trials of Fear is available on platforms PS4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox, Android, IOS and PC through Steam e epic Games.

Salt and Sanctuary

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The game Salt and Sanctuary mixes metroidvania elements with Dark Souls style

Salt and Sanctuary is yet another hybrid on the list. It has elements of metroidvania mixed in the style of Dark Souls, what some call "Souls-like". There are those who frame it also among the action RPGs, but the metroidvania elements are undeniable in the title.

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The game was released in 2016 by Ska Studios, which has other titles including the best-known The Dishwasher: Dead Samurai. Salt and Sanctuary follows the style already characteristic of the developer, which matches well with the game itself.

The game begins with the main character on a ship, who is taking a princess to marry the king of another kingdom in order to end a war. The ship is then attacked by looters and wrecked, and the survivors end up on a mysterious island.

This island is where your adventure begins. The main character begins his search for the lost princess. You will be able to choose your belief, a very important part of the game (that's why Sanctuary in the name, sanctuaries will be very important during your journey).

Sanctuaries serve to save your progress in the game, in addition to receiving items, leveling up and improving skills. It is possible to change your belief as the game progresses, but this can have some unpleasant consequences.

The other part of the game's title, salt, is due to the fact that the humans of this world are known as “saltborn” (in literal translation, born from salt), and are therefore composed mostly of this material. . The main character will need to collect salt to become stronger.

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There are eight classes available to choose from: knight, wizard, paladin, thief, cook, cleric, poor and hunter. There are also more than 600 pieces of equipment available including weapons, armor, spells and other items. With so much variety, it is possible to customize the gameplay well to your own style.

An interesting feature in Salt and Sanctuary is that you can leave messages on the map for other players, or see messages from other players, when playing online. It is possible to play locally with more than one player as well, being able to call a friend to share the adventure.

The gaming experience is quite challenging, so it’s worth checking the title.

Salt and Sanctuary is available for PS4, where it was originally released, Xbox Live, Nintendo Switch and PC, through Steam.

Blasphemous

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Blasphemous has strong references to the Roman Catholic religion

Blasphemous is more of a hybrid of metroidvania and Souls-like. The game was released in 2019, developed by the Spanish studio The Game Kitchen and distributed by Team17. It started in 2017 as a campaign on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding site.

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Blasphemous takes place in the fictional region of Cvstodia, a place infested by a curse known as The Miracle. The player will be The Penitent, survivor of the massacre of Silent Suffering, he has as his weapon a sword called Mea Culpa.

The Penitent then begins a pilgrimage to save himself and his land from the terrible curse.

Just as the name implies (Blasphemous comes from blasphemy, which according to the dictionary is a word or action that insults a deity or religion), the game is heavily supported on religious issues, a full plate for anyone interested in the subject.

The game is very supported in its history, which is very immersive and addictive.

Blasphemous is available for PS4 and Playstation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X | S and One and PC, through Steam.

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La Mulana

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La Mulana has an Indiana Jones air, and is known for its extreme difficulty.

If you found the other games on this list easy, get ready because La Mulana is a challenge for you. Known for its insane difficulty, this game is only for the really strong and who like suffering.

The game was initially released in Japan in 2005, but it did not have much popularity and disappeared quickly. However, a remake of the original was made to be released worldwide in 2012.

Let's go to the story. Lemeza, an archeology teacher who will explore La Mulana, birthplace of all civilizations, and which contains the secret treasure of life. It's a very simple story, Lemeza is an explorer a la Indiana Jones, and will explore the ruins of the place. That simple.

What draws attention in La Mulana, as already mentioned in this text, is the difficulty of its puzzles. Despite being an older game and with simpler graphics, it does not lag behind the other newer games on this list. It is known by the internet as one of the best metroidvanias to be played, an indispensable figure in the list of an admirer of the genre.

In 2018, four years after the opening of a project on Kickstarter, a crowdfunding platform, La Mulana 2 was launched, bringing a little more modernity to the already known scenario of the first game. And it kept the difficulty exacerbated, so if you played the first launch and managed to reach the end, be sure to check out La Mulana 2, with new and great challenges.

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La Mulana is available for PS4 and Playstation Vita, Nintendo Switch, Wii and PC, through Steam.

Did you like the list? You can check out more games of the style available for computer through the metroidvania tag on Steam.

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Journalist, 26 years old. He loves to read and write and dreams one day of being able to change people with his words. This, of course, with a really cool BG song!