Metroidvania games are incredibly popular. This is a subgenre of action-adventure video games and one that’s been around for ages. If it’s a new term for you, the name came from two iconic video game franchises, Metroid and Castlevania. Overall, these are typically 2D games where players have to explore a relatively large map. However, you’ll reach different areas that are locked off. You can only progress by backtracking and finding some power-up that will allow players to progress forward.
So this list of games below is exactly what you can expect in terms of gameplay. To avoid sounding repetitive below, just know that you’ll have a large map filled with areas that will cut you off, forcing you to find some power-up that will allow you to progress forward. With that said, below, we’ll rank down some video games and provide some premise. Perhaps you’ll find something worth picking up to enjoy today.
#25 F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch
F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Tech just launched into the marketplace at the time of writing this description. In this game, players are tossed into Torch City, a once lively location inhabited by animals. However, when a legion of machines stormed in Torch City was taken down. Forced to abide by the new way of living, Rayton discovers that his friends were arrested. So now it’s time to dress back in uniform and once again create a resistance war with hopes of defeating the legion. This is a 2.5D video game that has players finding an assortment of unique weapons to use against enemies. Everything from a giant mechanical fist, drills, and whips can be acquired as you progress. It’s all about figuring out what weapon is best to get the job done. Expect plenty of combat, puzzles, and platforming while exploring this in-game world.
Sundered is a Metroidvania that takes inspiration from Lovecraftian horror. In this game, we’re taking the role of a woman named Eshe who finds herself in the desert. Suddenly, players are pulled down into a new strange underworld. It’s here that we learn of the underground civilization that was once at war. Now in chaos, with two forces still struggling to overtake the other, players will have to venture through and attempt to take control of the underworld themselves. Again, much like other games on this list, it has several of the Metroidvania tropes, and by the time you reach the end, there are three pathways players can take.
#23 Shadow Complex
Shadow Complex is a 2.5D video game that initially launched been as an Xbox 360 exclusive. But, of course, now the game has been moved onto other platforms such as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Overall, this is a game based around a couple, Jason and Claire, as they go off to explore some caverns. However, Claire suddenly goes missing, and Jason finds a massive underground complex full of soldiers. To find Claire and escape, Jason will have to explore the complex and take out any enemies that pop up along the way. Of course, being an underground complex bunker, you’ll come across some useful advanced gear to help Jason get through enemies and even locations around the map.
If you’re after a challenging Souls-like Metroidvania type of game with some oddity narrative attached, then give Grime a chance. The narrative is a bit abstract; you’re essentially playing a random statue-Esque guy with a black hole for a head. Meanwhile, the world around you is grotesque and just unusual for the lack of better words. You’ll meet several different characters along the way, and you’ll slowly pull back interesting lore. The gameplay is solid as you explore the world, find treasures, make platforming jumps, and fight bosses to acquire new powers. Again, there is some Souls-like gameplay here as well, so you’ll spend some time in the inventory screen going over the different items, armor, and stats before you progress towards the next significant enemy encounter.
Blasphemous is a bit newer compared to some of the other games on this list. Released in 2019, this game puts players into a fictional medieval time where you’re taking the role of a silent knight. An evil plague has hit the land of Cvstodia, and all that live within it. Surviving a massacre, you’re possibly the last thing standing to clear the land from its heinous enemies. It’s a gore-filled journey with brutal combat, plenty of exploration, and secrets to uncover. For some, this might be too much of a Souls-like Metroidvania game, but if you press forward patiently, this could be a thrilling journey.
#20 Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
There are two installments to the Bloodstained franchise, which was meant to be a spiritual successor to Castlevania. Created by the series producer behind Konami’s Castlevania, Koji Igarashi’s Bloodstained titles might be well worth the pick up if you’re looking for a Metroidvania experience. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon gives players the Metroidvania experience but will visually look like a classic NES game. This particular installment has players taking the role of a demon slayer named Zangetsu. Seeking to end the horrible demon that has claimed its home within a castle, players will venture through the massive structure in search of the monster. However, you’ll have to watch out for the different minions that roam around protecting the halls and corridors from the likes of you. On the other hand, you have various party members who will join in and offer their unique abilities to aid you on your quest. If you enjoy this game then you’ll find that there is also Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2.
#19 BloodStained: Ritual of the Night
Naturally, one of the games that would have made this list is a title developed by Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi. I’m referring to Koji’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. The video game is in the style of Metroidvania as you explore, craft new weapons, and of course, find new armor. Thus, it has the tropes of what you would expect from a Castlevania game. Meanwhile, the narrative is centered around an orphan named Miriam who has been cursed by an alchemist. With her skin slowly turning into crystal, Miriam is forced to venture through a strange castle to find the summoner behind the curse.
#18 Salt and Sanctuary
It’s no surprise that there are so many Souls-like games available in the marketplace today. This gameplay setup is brutal and provides players with a real challenge. Another Souls-like game that blends in fierce and unforgiving combat with Metroidvania gameplay is Salt and Sanctuary. Within the game, you’re taking the role of a sailor that is shipwrecked on a dark uncharted island. With no one around to help you, our protagonist must venture through the dangerous traps and hostile enemies that lurk on the land. This is a game based on dodging and successful parry attacks.
#17 Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin
In 2006 we received a new Castlevania video game for the Nintendo DS. This was Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin. In this title, we’re thrown into 1944 during World War II. This is a familiar story here with the conflict between Dracula and the Belmont clan. What is different with this installment is that within the castle, there are various paintings available. These paintings are essentially portals that will unlock different areas around the castle. Of course, getting through the structure is a bit of a puzzle as you’ll constantly have to explore and backtrack, but that’s what makes a Metroidvania game.
#16 Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
A few Castlevania games hit the Nintendo DS platform, and Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia is one of the last installments for the platform. Likewise, this was one of the latest games in general for the franchise. This game launched in 2008, and after 2010’s Castlevania: Lords of Shadow launched, we’ve had a few years before the next major release. Within this game, we’re tossed into the 1800s while the narrative takes place after the events of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. With the Belmont Clan gone, several orders are established to defeat Dracula, should he ever return. You’re taking the role of Shanoa, one of the promising members of the Ecclesia order. Set to participate in a ritual that would grant her powers to stop Dracula, the event is stopped early. With Shanoa losing her memories and emotions, the only way to complete the ritual and equip the powers needed to fight off Dracula’s return is to find the stolen Ritual pages.
#15 Rogue Legacy
Rogue Legacy is a bit different than some of the other games you might have played. This is a game where you’re constantly swapping around new characters when a protagonist dies. However, each character has its unique genetic peculiarities. Overall, this could be anything from color-blindness to having ADHD. You never know what you might end up getting when you die, as the next character will step up and press on. You’re constantly finding new adventures as well since the game provides procedurally generated levels. For example, every time you start up and enter a castle, it’s a new layout. Will you be able to free the castle from evil, or will the next hero succeed in your honor? Fortunately, every time you die, the gold you acquire can transfer over, giving the next hero a slight bump up in life. Although don’t be mistaken, you’ll still need to uncover the hidden secrets within the castle.
#14 Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
Shantae is a game franchise that got started in 2002, but it wasn’t until 2010 that it started to pick up steam again. In 2014 we had Shantae and the Pirates Curse. Shantae games are a bit of a platform game where players take the role of a half-genie character who has vowed to protect the land from any terrible threats that may come up. However, by the time we reached The Pirate’s Curse installment, Shantae had given up her genie powers and began her life as a normal human. Naturally, things don’t go well and soon the land is under attack by seemingly a new mayor. Shantae is then forced to explore the world, gather useful pirate items, and attempt to make the land into a peaceful state again.
#13 Axiom Verge
Axiom Verge not only provides a classic Metroidvania gameplay experience, but it’s an indie title that attempts to look like those early SNES video games. With the story of Axiom Verge, players are tossed into the role of a scientist that experiences a horrifying lab accident. Transported into this new alien world, our protagonist has to fight for his life. There’s no telling just what is around the corner, so scavenging for all power-ups to help you fight off hostile enemies and unlock pathways is crucial for our scientist’s survival. If you’re after something that plays like a modern title but gives you that nostalgia retro gaming vibe, then you can’t go wrong with Axiom Verge. With that said, the game can be punishing if you don’t gather up all the weapons along the way.
#12 Guacamelee 1+2
Guacamelee tosses players into the role of Juan Aguacate, a hard-working farmer. Juan sets off to meet his love interest, El Presidente’s daughter, Lupita. Unfortunately, things quickly become a mess as an evil skeleton bursts onto the scene and kidnap Lupita. With the village in terror, it’s up to Juan to save the day! Well, at least he tries to, as the bout ends up leaving him dead. Fortunately, while roaming the underground, Juan befriends a legendary luchador who gives a mystical luchador mask. Granting Juan some new unique powers, Juan sets off to find this terrifying antagonist and defeat him once and for all. The game’s success was such a hit that it wasn’t long after the initial installment that a sequel came out, which sets up after the first game’s events. We’ll, of course, refrain from spoiling anything here.
#11 Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a very new game on this list. The title just launched in 2021, and with it, the indie title blew up. It quickly became one of the better smaller video game titles to have been released in 2021, alongside being a Metroidvania experience. In this game, we’re taking the role of Lily, a girl who awakens from her slumber at a church. Discovering that some curse has hit the kingdom, everyone has turned into terrifying monsters. Now to cleanse the area, you’ll have to take on these enemies. The gameplay is a bit like a Hollow Knight experience, but with a bit less platforming. There’s a good range of attacks when fighting off enemies and bosses. Meanwhile, Lily will have to explore the complex kingdom to uncover all of its secrets.
#10 Ori and the Blind Forest
Ori and the Blind Forest follows a tiny, glowing woodland creature trying to heal a diseased land. Unfortunately, a powerful storm has proven to start the forest’s demise, and the only way to bring things back to the once lush and vivid world is by taking on an evil nemesis. Visually, the game was outstanding and most credited it as a beautiful platformer experience. You also have an excellent soundtrack, intuitive controls that make a responsive character, and tons of atmosphere. Best of all, if you’re getting into this game franchise, there is the Definitive Edition which further enhances the gameplay experience. Outside of improvements, there are new areas, abilities, difficulty modes, and some additional storyline sequences. Furthermore, you’re looking at an ESRB-rated E video game, so it’s a suitable experience for all ages.
#9 Cave Story
There will be quite a few indie title hits that will stand the test of time. One of those games that blew up back when released and continues to find newcomers today is Cave Story. This game puts players into the role of a young boy who awakens deep inside an underground cave. Our protagonists wander onto a village with no memories of who he is or how he got in this cave. It’s here we learn that the inhabitants, Mimigas, are in danger of a horrifying scientist. Now it seems that the only thing potentially stopping their destruction is this boy who will seek to find the necessary equipment to help fight off enemies and protect the Mimiga. It’s worth noting that if you’re after this game for the first time, you’ll want to hunt down the Cave Story+ release, which is a remastered edition with HD graphics and a new soundtrack.
#8 Metroid: Zero Mission
Metroid: Zero Mission is an early video game release within the story chronology. This installment launched back in 2004 exclusively for the Game Boy Advance, and it was a hit. Some Metroid games might not be as highly looked upon, but Zero Mission is typically a game you’ll find ranked as one of the more classic installments to the franchise. Overall, this is a remake of the original Metroid title from 1986, and it provides players with a nice bump in visuals and gameplay mechanics. Again, we’re looking at Samus Aran, who travels to the planet Zebes as she fights off space pirates. Not only did this game bring out a remake of the first installment, but it added some new areas, items, bosses and tweaked the narrative just a bit to help give players a little more backstory to our protagonist.
#7 Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow
Castlevania: Dawn of Sorrow marked the first time this franchise hit the Nintendo DS. This game came out back in 2005 and was a follow-up title to the previous Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow. It had the usual tropes from a Castlevania game, while the narrative was centered around the events following Aria of Sorrow. When Dracula had been defeated, Soma Cruz was able to gain his powers. However, Soma was able to avoid turning into the dark lord. Now a cult has grown with its eyes set on killing Soma Cruz to unleash a new dark lord. While the game was popular and played similar to the previous installments, there was a new mechanic. This was called the Tactical Soul system. Essentially players would use the Nintendo DS stylus to draw out different seal patterns to fight off enemies. The Nintendo DS platform mechanic might have been a gimmick, but the overall video game release was a hit.
#6 Dead Cells
Dead Cells is a roguelite-Metroidvania-style game. This is a game like Hollow Knight, as it’s tough to really expand on the premise. The developers crafted up the game in which the protagonist is mute, and as a result, you’re given bits of information about the premise and narrative as you progress through the game. Meanwhile, we can tell you that in this title, you’re taking the role of a person dubbed the Prisoner. Locked in a cell, it’s your goal to break free and escape. However, why you were imprisoned, what this world is like outside your confinements, and the characters you’ll meet along the way are something you’ll have to play for yourself to find out. Being that this game is a rougelite, if you experience an untimely death, you’ll get transported back to the start.
#5 Ori and the Will of the Wisps
It wasn’t a shock to see that Ori and the Blind Forest developers would offer players another installment to the franchise. Players who found the first installment a joy to go through can also pick up Ori and the Will of the Wisps. This title picks up right after the events of Ori and the Blind Forest, so you’ll want to start there first. You can expect the same gameplay style as the first installment, but the narrative is centered around Ku, a baby owl that Ori helps raise. With a damaged wing, the owl was never able to fly. That was until it was fitted with a feather. With this new power of flight, Ori and Ku sets off but are separated after a terrible storm emerges. Now Ori is on an adventure to find Ku in a new strange foreign land.
#4 Metroid Dread
Metroid Dread, in quite a few fans’ eyes, was a return to the Metroidvania gameplay. This was a game set up after the events of Metroid Fusion, a fantastic GBA title that you’ll see praise online for since it launched back in 2002. However, you’ll also find plenty of criticisms in that the game was just too linear. In addition, it was a story-driven title which isn’t a bad thing. However, Metroid Dread brings the 2D Metroidvania gameplay back into action. This game is the last title in the Metroid franchise chronologically at the time of writing this description. Within Metroid, Dread players are taking the role of Samus after the events of Fusion. The Galactic Federation receives details that the X parasite is still alive on a distant planet within the narrative. This prompts the federation to send out EMMI robots to take care of the problem. Unfortunately, the robots are mysteriously deactivated, forcing our heroine to venture into the planet herself. It can be a challenging experience at times but has received quite a bit of positive reception from fans and critics alike.
#3 Hollow Knight
In Hollow Knight, players are tossed into an insect world where you’re venturing through trying the different underground caverns. Of course, it’s a bit hard to tell this game premise because so much of the lore and narrative is based around players going through the game. You’re given a better understanding of everything after going through the different events. There’s a lot to like about Hollow Knight as it leaves you endlessly wandering to the point where you will have to keep track of areas yourself early on, much like every game on this list. Because this game was such a breakout hit, the developers are crafting up a sequel called Silksong. We’re still waiting on more information to come out on the game, but already fans can’t wait to dive into the installment. If you enjoy brutal gameplay from the Souls franchise, then you might enjoy this indie release.
#2 Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
For quite a few Castlevania fans out there, Symphony of the Night is ranked at the very top. This is because Konami managed to get so many things right with this installment. This game franchise started in 1986, and the 1997 release continues to receive praise today and recommendations for those who might have missed out on it. Within the game, we’re going through a follow-up narrative after Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, where Richter Belmont, who famously defeated Count Dracula, has vanished. Now the mysterious dark castle has reappeared. Alucard has arrived to destroy the castle. In this game, players could freely explore and find all the hidden secrets kept within the castle. Fans also praised the game for its twists and turns, enemies, atmosphere, along with the soundtrack that came with this installment. Fortunately, even though this game initially launched back in the late 1990s, you can still pick it up on more modern platforms, along with smartphones. After all, you don’t want to pass up on a game that is often credited as a title that helped paved the way for the Metroidvania genre.
#1 Super Metroid
Super Metroid might have been quite a few players’ first experiences playing the game franchise. This title was released back in 1994 for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It’s been one of the games that are cherished by so many fans of the franchise. Overall, the game narrative is centered around Samus rescuing a kidnapped Metroid creature from a space pirate. Meanwhile, the gameplay remained the same from what we’ve come to experience from the past two installments. It’s a game centered around plenty of exploration, fighting off hostile alien creatures, bosses, and uncovering special power-ups to progress further into the game. With that said, this title did bring out some new features for the franchise. For instance, you had a minimap to reference while playing, and now Samus could fire in different directions.