Let’s talk about metroidvania games. The term is a combination of the word ‘metroid’, from the classic 2D side scroller Metroid and ‘vania’, as in Castlevania.
Over time, the word has come to describe games, usually with a 2D view (but not always), that task the player with exploring a world and dealing with obstacles (or combat) to unlock tools or powers that allow them to explore more of the world. There may or may not be a few cool bosses thrown in for good measure.
There are thousands of games out there that fall into the metroidvania style. The basic formula of what a metroidvania even is has been challenged many times.
So today, we thought we would bring you a list of our favorite metroidvania style games. As an added bonus, all of these games are indie games.
1. Hollow Knight
Developed by the Australian dev studio, Team Cherry, Hollow Knight is in many ways, the quintessential modern metroidvania. It takes everything good about the classic formula and puts it in a beautiful and deadly world realized through modern technology.
The game features gorgeous art, adorable characters, a truly vast map to get lost in, a gorgeous score that ranges from atmospheric to pulse-pounding, a gauntlet of some of the wildest bosses we’ve faced, and a vague and esoteric story for you to chew on for days. There’s a reason why Hollow Knight lore videos are their own niche on YouTube.
The game has gone on to score 90% on Metacritic, 4/5 on Eurogamer, 9.4/10 on IGN, and 10/10 on Steam.
2. Dandara – Trials of Fear
Developed by the Brazilian game developers, Long Hat House and published by the Swedish publisher, Rae Fury, Dandara is a game that challenges what a metroidvania can even be. Simply put, this is a metroidvania without any jumping.
The game has the player take control of the protagonist of the game, whom the game is named after. They must navigate a metroidvania world by moving from one wall to the other in straight lines. It feels a little like a mix between being a ninja sticking to walls and moving through space. The game has gorgeous art, fantastic music, truly inspired level design, and some great bosses.
It is also worth noting that the protagonist and the themes of the game are based on a famous Brazillian historical figure named Dandara. She was a warrior from the colonial period of Brazil.
The game has gone on to score 73% on Metacritic, 68% on PC Gamer, and 9/10 on Steam.
3. Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night
Games of the metroidvania style owe a lot to Castlevania, specifically Symphony of the Night. So when the producer of that legendary game stepped away from Konami and Castelvania to create his own modern vision of what the style should be, the world held its breath to see what this project would become. Enter Bloodstained – Ritual of the Night.
This game is both a throwback to the Symphony of the Night style of game design and a modern iteration of what that style could be. It features gorgeous art, a wonderfully realized map to explore, memorable bosses, and a story that is more meaty than the usual metroidvania fare.
The game has gone on to score 83% on Metacritic, 4/5 on Eurogamer, and 10/10 on Steam.
4. Ori and the Blind Forest
Developed by the Austrian developer, Moon Studios, and published by Microsoft Studios, Ori and the Blind Forest is a beautiful experience from start to finish.
The game features extremely polished gameplay, beautiful art, a mesmerizing soundtrack, and a surprisingly heartfelt story. The game’s story is inspired by the Iron Giant and the Lion King, with the gameplay being inspired by the Rayman and Metroid franchises.
And if you enjoy this game, there is also a fantastic sequel named Ori and the Will of the Wisps for you to enjoy. It is a direct sequel and builds upon the original in terms of gameplay and story.
The game has gone on to score 90% on Metacritic, 4.6/5 on Common Sense Media, and 10/10 on Steam.
5. Salt and Sanctuary
This next one is probably the least well-known game on the list. It is a game developed and published by SKA Studios. It is also a game that wears its influences very proudly on its chest. Among those influences is Dark Souls.
This is a game that plays like it is trying to answer the question, “What if Dark Souls, but 2D?” The game features a tough but fair combat system with multiple build options and character progression choices. It also features a mysterious island with many fantastic dungeons to explore and horrid monsters of all types to destroy. The game even has a “retrieve your souls” mechanic, though in this game, the resource is called “salt”.
The game is not high budget by any stretch. Looking at its sparse artstyle can tell you this much. But when making this Soulslike metroidvania, the developers’ focus was exactly where it should have been; the gameplay. It is responsive, weighty, and feels enjoyable to master. Fighting the various bosses in the game is a definite highlight.
The game is getting a sequel by the name of Salt and Sacrifice, which honestly looks even better than this one.
And there you have it! A list of some of our favorite metroidvania style games.
There are plenty of games we love that didn’t make the list either because they were too similar to something already on the list or because we wanted to prioritize a lesser known game.
This is only a tiny sample of the breadth and depth of experiences metroidvania games have to offer. We will definitely be covering more games like this at a later date.