Top 5 Modern Metroidvania Games
The metroidvania genre provides a sense of exploration and growth. Whether it be exploring an alien world or the land of the dead, these games create wonder and excitement in their worlds. While not the most popular, the metroidvania genre has been a consistent driving force in how video games are designed.
Originally, these games increased their length by keeping players lost. Now however, metroidvanias have to create worlds that can be explored without overwhelming the player. The originators of this genre, Metroid and Castlevania are close to dead, but new games have risen to take their place. Here are the Top 5 Modern Metroidvania Games.
Number 5: Cave Story
Considered a hallmark of indie games, Cave Story is a shining example of what one man can create. Explore the land of the Mimigas, a cute race of bunny-like creatures as they war with a mad scientist. Engage in challenging combat with each weapon providing a different tool. Cave Story clearly takes inspiration from Metroid through the use of musical cues and the 8-bit pixel art.
Sadly, this inspiration is only skin deep as Cave Story is extremely linear. The only time Cave Story does not directly guide you is with its true ending, but that challenge is incredibly obtuse and frustrating. It not only requires external information, but is a grueling gauntlet that will cause most players to simply put down the controller. Even with these major issues, Cave Story should be experienced by any fan of indie games or metroidvanias.
Number 4: Strider
Jumping straight into 4th place is Strider. Explore Kazakh City as you attempt to assassinate Grand Master Meio. With a teleport dash and double jump, traversal is fast and fluid. Combat itself is intense and fast paced, with Strider Hiryu flipping across the battlefield, causing mayhem and carnage. Multiple upgrades allows this dance of death to increase in intensity with explosive kunai to deflecting bullets with a sword swing.
The reason this adrenaline fueled adventure is only number 4 is its linearity. Strider will lead you room to room with only a few moments letting you run wild. While this allows the game to focus on a tight pace that grips the player from start to finish, it limits the ability of the player to truly get lost in the world. If you want an action-fueled adventure, get Strider
Number 3: Guacamelee!
Guacamelee is easily the most unique entry on this list. Set in a humorous Mexican-themed world, Guacamelee takes you on a daring quest to save the President's daughter. Along the way, you will travel through bustling towns, giant mountains, and even the Land of the Dead. To best your foes in combat, Guacamelee provides a satisfying beat-em-up fighting style rife with combos, throws, and special moves. These special moves also serve as the main upgrades used to unlock the world. This allows the world to create challenging obstacles that will require the player to master its mechanics. Guacamelee turns the standard combat of most beat-em-ups and turns it into something unique.
Guacamelee also combines video game humor with a Mexican theme which creates some of the most entertaining parodies out there. Metroid in particular, is referenced through the use of Choozoo statues and Metroid sculptures. This may date the game but is enjoyable none the less. The only drawback is the linearity. While it is more open than Strider or Cave Story, Guacamelee leads the player through a predetermined path, leaving exploration for only hidden goodies and upgrades. Even so, it is still one of the most entertaining games on the market.
Number 2: Salt and Sanctuary
One of the more recent metroidvanias on the market, Salt and Sanctuary pays homage to both Castlevania and Dark Souls with its gloomy atmosphere and brutal combat. Explore a dark world filled with danger and traps in attempt to save a princess. The story may be cliché, but the world building more than makes up for it. Combat is weighty and punishing, yet never feels unfair as every enemy attack is telegraphed and can be countered. Backtracking is also kept to a minimum with its levels looping onto themselves.
Salt and Sanctuary nails the sense of growth that makes metroidvanias so satisfying, but its exploration can feel obtuse and limited. This is due to the lack of a functioning map or other tool that can be used to track your progression throughout the world. While Dark Souls was able get away without a map feature, Salt and Sanctuary does not have any major landmarks to create a sense of direction. Even with this blemish, Salt and Sanctuary is one of the best metroidvanias ever made.
Number 1: Axiom Verge
Axiom Verge is by far, one of the best metroidvanias ever made. It nails everything; from exploration to the sense of growth. Exploration in particular, is one of the most satisfying experiences as every upgrade provides a creative twist in traversal. The teleport for example, can give you an extra jump or allow you to pass through walls. Combat truly shows your power as a character, with almost every weapon being useful and appealing. While the exterior makes it feel like a Metroid clone, Axiom Verge provides a unique experience that exceeds many games in the Metroid series.
Axiom Verge's world design shows how to give the player a sense of exploration while not overwhelming the player with too many options. Every zone provides areas of no return, that gate off the world into smaller, more manageable, sections. With this and a fully functioning map, it is only a matter of time before the player finds the next upgrade. This perfectly balances the need of tight structured challenges and the need to provide a sense of wonder. Axiom Verge is a shining example of how a metroidvania should be done. If you can only buy one game from this list, buy Axiom Verge. It is worth every penny.
The future of metroidvanias as a game genre looks increasingly bright. These games show that the market still love to explore and experience. Upcoming titles such as Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Chasm provide excitement for fans of the genre. While the future of the Metroid and Castlevania series look grim, the legacy they created will live on in these titles.
What do you consider the best metroidvania? Let us know in the comments!