If you haven’t heard of the term Metroidvania yet, it simply refers to a sub-genre of games that use similar mechanics from two popular game series – Metroid and Castlevania. These games are typically platforming games with a strong emphasis on progression and upgrades as you make your way through the story.
Oftentimes, these upgrades will take the shape of new character abilities such as a double jump or a new method to traverse the terrain, which in turn will unlock new areas for the player to explore.
The great thing about Metroidvania games is the feeling of satisfaction from starting off with almost nothing and working your way up to being a powerhouse of a character. Some of the more popular Metroidvania games at the moment are indie titles rather than blockbuster AAA releases, this also makes these games pretty affordable and charming.
We’ll be covering some of our top picks for the best Metroidvania games to pick up this year, whether you’re new to the genre or just looking for your next game to play.
Release Date: 24 February 2017
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One,
As Metroidvania games go, Hollow Knight is one that crops up on a lot of lists like this and for good reason. Hollow Knight is a highly-rated 2D action-adventure game with classic side-scrolling action.
Set beneath the town of Dirtmouth, an ancient, ruined kingdom lies with plenty of secrets to uncover and bosses to fight. As you journey through the engrossing lost civilization, you’ll get to meet the bugs that inhabited it in its glory days. Some you’ll want to befriend and receive help from, others you’re best steering clear of.
Along your journey, you’ll have to dodge, dash, and slash your way through enemies, learn new skills and abilities, and use spells to improve your fighting chances.
Hollow Knight introduces you to a moody and atmospheric world filled with fantastic visuals, strange passages, twisting caverns, and ancient cities. The hand-crafted world and brilliant art style make Hollow Knight a standout in the genre. It’s a great pick for those who love classic side-scrolling adventures and appreciate great visual style.
Release Date: November 2011
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch
One of the oldest Metroidvanias that we have on our list today is actually a remastering of the original game, Doukutsu Monogatari, which was released in 2004. Waking up in a dark cave with no memory of how you got there, you’ll have to help the villagers of Mimiga Village and decipher your past as you make your way through the main quest.
This title is a perfect homage to the Metroidvania style and includes 15 levels to explore, 10 unique weapons to find and upgrade as well as over 20 challenging boss battles. The main character, Quest, is able to access new areas by upgrading weapons and solving platforming puzzles.
Cave Story+ has a great soundtrack which is very reminiscent of some of the older games we grew up with. The charming art-style also fits the genre perfectly and brings the detailed world to life. As well as playing with a new set of fully remastered songs and updated graphics, you can also choose to run the game with the old graphics and soundtrack, or even mix and match these options if you’d like.
Release Date: March 11, 2020
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Xbox One, Xbox Series X
Moving on to a title that was recently released, Ori and the Will of the Wisps is a follow up to the hugely popular Ori and the Blind Forest released back in 2015. This platforming adventure follows Ori’s travels through a mystical world, where danger lurks just beneath the surface. The story takes place immediately after the first game with the hatching of Kuro’s last egg.
The graphical style of this game is just as stunning as the last. Each of the areas you explore is painstakingly beautiful and the lighting is simply fantastic. The gameplay is also very easy to pick up and has a fluidity that makes it easily accessible for those who aren’t used to platforming games.
It isn’t a simple walk in the park though, some of the areas can be quite difficult to pass and will require split-second decisions. It’s a credit to the game that none of these areas feel broken or unfair though, rather, a nice challenge. The boss fights that you encounter also add another interesting layer to the game, each requiring a slightly different approach to complete.
Release Date: August 7, 2018
Platforms: Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
While Dead Cells isn’t solely a Metroidvania type of game, it includes enough of these features that it fits in perfectly on our list. The mix of roguelike elements including procedurally generated dungeons and each run being different adds a lot to the longevity of this game. With every run, you’ll find yourself becoming just that little bit stronger and less likely to fail.
In Dead Cells, you explore an ever-changing castle, making your way through different environments as you go. There are 13 levels to explore in the game, each of which has its own distinct art style and sets of enemies.
The combat is challenging but fair and may remind you a little of Dark Souls with the emphasis on perfect timing and unforgiving damage. This isn’t an easy game by any stretch of the imagination, but as with a lot of Metroidvanias and Roguelikes, the more you play, the more you’ll improve.
Through your countless runs, you’ll start to unlock items that will make things a little easier, but the game will also become that little bit more challenging as well. With over 90 weapons to find, unlock, and play around with, there are lots to tweak during your runs.
Release Date: September 22, 2017
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Linux, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Xbox One, Stadia
Set mostly underground, the large world of Steamworld Dig is a classic example of the Metroidvania genre with a mining adventure story on top.
In this game, you’ll need to dig deep to unearth the secrets of the underworld. You play as a character trying to uncover the cause of earthquakes but your mission will be interrupted by countless enemies and harsh underground environments to journey through. Along your travels, you will uncover self-contained challenge rooms, forgotten temples, and lost survivors of a mythical species called “humans”.
You’ll have to be careful to avoid enemies and traps as you burrow through the ground but, watch out for some goodies as you’ll discover treasures along the way. Armed with treasures in hand, you’ll be able to return to town to sell your loot or stock up on supplies in what sometimes feels like a dungeon crawler-style game.
With a clear central mission, to burrow into the ground as far as possible, this gives players a clear focus. But all the characters and enemies you meet plus the little detours you’ll make, manage to keep it from getting too repetitive.
Now that we’ve come to the end of our list of the best Metroidvania games in 2020, which one was your favorite? Each of these games has its own little spin on the genre, offering different abilities, levels, and skills to master along the way.
We’re particularly fond of Ori and the Will of the Wisps due to its charming art style and engaging story. It’s a great game to pick up and play, but it’s definitely worth catching up on the first game, to begin with.
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