This post is part of Metroidvania Month.
Metroidvanias are making a comeback, and I couldn’t be happier. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the best modern Metroidvanias – i.e. those on current systems, and not including classic games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
This list has been put together by the AMAP team as well as a few other games bloggers who have kindly contributed: huge thanks to the peeps from Geek Sleep Rinse Repeat, Drakulus, Normal Happenings and I Played The Game. The games are listed in alphabetical order rather than any sort of preference. And note that there are a few modern Metroidvanias that look excellent but that we haven’t had a chance to play yet, hence why they’re not included here: notably Chasm (review coming soon! UPDATE: review now live and Chasm added below!), Death’s Gambit and Guacamelee 2. If there are any other modern Metroidvanias that you think should be added to this list, let us know in the comments!
Formats: PS4, Vita, PC, Mac, Linux, Wii U, Xbox One
Lucius Merriweather: Axiom Verge is a love letter to Metroid games of old – and in many ways it surpasses them. The garish landscapes hark back to the series’ 8-bit roots, but the music is a cut above anything you’d have heard back then – haunting chip tunes that are so good I went out and bought the soundtrack. There are tons of secrets to uncover in the vast game world, not to mention around 20 unique and varied weapons, and I had an absolute whale of a time tracking them all down. As far as I’m concerned, Axiom Verge is the peak of modern Metroidvanias, and an absolute must play for fans of the genre. Check out my review here.
Formats: PC, PS4, Vita (and soon on Switch)
Lucius Merriweather: Chasm is old school in almost every way. Dying sends you back to the title screen, the weapons are classic fantasy staples like swords rather than the fancy guns of Axiom Verge, and there’s little here that hasn’t been done before elsewhere. And yet it’s just so solidly put together it’s a joy from start to finish. The pixel art is superb, and the massive range of enemies means that combat is always enjoyable. Plus exploring is great fun thanks to the huge range of things to find, not least the many missing villagers who have been imprisoned throughout the underground labyrinth. All in all, an absolutely cracking game. Check out my review of Chasm.
Formats: Linux, PC, Mac, Android, iPhone, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
Lucius Merriweather: Dandara is a tough game, but also fair – you have the speed and agility to overcome any situation, so each time you die you’ll be left thinking ‘if only I’d moved just a little bit quicker’. It’s the sign of a good game when every time you die, you can’t wait to get stuck back in and press on a little further. And I love the movement mechanic – Dandara gets around by leaping from floor to ceiling, which makes for some dynamic battles and dizzying levels where you lose track of what’s up and what’s down. The unusual lore of the game is fascinating, too, and it’s steeped in references to Brazilian culture. I interviewed the developers about the meaning of Dandara, and you can check out my review of the game here.
Formats: PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, Xbox One
Lucius Merriweather: Is Dead Cells a Metroidvania? There’s been plenty of discussion about this, since the game is more about repeated plays where your progress is reset each time you die. But it has that essential Metroidvania trope of gaining new abilities that let you access new areas, so I think it should definitely be included here. And what a game – the control you have over your undead avatar is pin perfect, and there’s an obscene amount of weapons and upgrades to unlock. I still haven’t got to the end, but even though I’ve played through the game countless times, I still find it compelling – which is all the recommendation you need. Check out my review of Dead Cells here.
Formats: PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Wii U, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Switch
Map Schwartzberg: While many games crib the inventory-based exploration of Metroid, few tackle its atmosphere. Forma.8 is a haunting, silent approach to the genre that gives the player nothing beyond a few visual cues as to what to do or where to go next. You’ll find yourself quickly endeared to our little orbular friend as he tries to find his way in a melancholic world where technology has overtaken nature, and where it slowly dawns on you that perhaps you’re on the wrong side of a conflict… Here’s a discussion with Lucius about why Forma.8 is brilliant and you should play it.
Formats: PC, PS4, Vita, Xbox One, Wii U
Rob Covell (I Played The Game): Just to get this out of the way early, Guacamelee is my favourite Metroidvania game (apart from maybe Batman: Arkham Asylum if you’re counting that). You can keep your Hollow Knights and your Axiom Verges whilst I enjoy this utterly gorgeous story of undead luchadores. With a beautiful art style, fantastic characters, and a combat system that fits the game’s theme wonderfully, you have a world worth exploring. The bright colours of both the living and dead worlds bring everything (ironically) to life as you gain abilities to unlock more and more interesting environments during your quest. Of all the games mentioned here, I would implore you to try this one out. It seems like an odd duck compared to the others, but it is absolutely worth every moment you put into it.
Formats: PC, Mac, Switch
Drakulus (Drakulus.com): What more can be said about Hollow Knight? It’s the best modern Metroidvania and has already become one of my favorite Metroidvania games of all time. The amazing thing is that this is Team Cherry’s first game. They created a masterpiece on their very first try, and they’re still adding free content to it. Hollow Knight can be brutal, and that could turn some people off, but if you stick with it you’ll be drawn into its beautifully dark world, memorable characters, amazing lore and, most importantly, awesome gameplay. Hollow Knight ticks all of the boxes that a great Metroidvania should have and it’s, by far, the best Metroidvania I’ve played since Symphony Of the Night. It’s that good. Check out my ten favourite Hollow Knight bosses.
Metroid: Samus Returns
Lucius Merriweather: This remake of Metroid II improves on the original in numerous ways – in particular with the addition of a nifty counter move that’s very satisfying to pull off. The backgrounds also take advantage of the 3D function to look mightily impressive, and there are some intriguing additions to the plot that possibly hint at where the series is headed. If you want a modern game that replicated the feel of classic Metroid but without the arcane annoyances of old-style gameplay, then this is highly recommended. Check out my review, and if you’ve played the game, here’s a discussion about that weird ending.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Formats: Xbox One, PC
Will (Geek Sleep Rinse Repeat): Ori and the Blind Forest is easily one of my favourite games. With its beautiful score, tight responsive gameplay and stunning visuals, it’s a joy to play from start to finish. Ori manages to perfectly blend fast, fluid gameplay interspersed with challenging sections that will test your reaction speed and timing. But it never becomes overly frustrating. It’s a manageable challenge, one that you can overcome with practice and patience – and when you do, there is a great sense of achievement. Whilst there is no dialogue in the game, Ori still manages to tell a wonderful story full of a mixture of emotions that will probably have you close to tears right from the get go.
It may not be the longest game at roughly 8 to 10 hours, but it’s a fantastic ride that’s perfectly paced the whole way through. The sense of progression is well balanced, with new skills unlocked as you play, each one opening the game up to you a little more. I personally feel that Ori and the Blind Forest set the bar for the modern Metriodvania, and it set that bar pretty high!
SteamWorld Dig 2
Formats: Switch, PS4, Vita, PC, 3DS
Normal Happenings (NormalHappenings.com): “Oh, let me just pick up SteamWorld Dig 2,” I told myself during the lull between Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. I’m very choosy about my Metroidvanias, but this was something different – a collision between accessibility and challenge that I have never seen in the genre. I found myself continuing to play the title, seemingly unaware of the progression of time. I was enamored by the personalities of Dorothy and the other characters, and I was enchanted by the dystopian worlds both above ground and below. The beautiful colour scheme of the graphics perfectly exemplify this sense of wonder. However, most important are the flawless mechanics, which are a pure joy. It may seem repetitive to be constantly digging through the dirt, but it’s that exact thing that mitigates the frustration of lesser Metroidvanias. You always feel like you are progressing, either by finding treasure or solving puzzles. All of this combines into the only Metroidvania experience I have ever had – Super Metroid included – where I was never frustrated, not even once. Check out Map Schwartzberg’s review of the first SteamWorld Dig.
Formats: Xbox One, PC, Wii U, Switch, PS3, PS4, Vita
Map Schwartzberg: Teslagrad is the story of a young boy on the run who stumbles upon an old tower; then the tower teaches him a long-forgotten skill that involves magnetism and magic. More puzzle-focused than your average Metroidvania, Teslagrad sees the boy work his way further and further up the castle, learning new ways to manipulate his surroundings and discovering the atrocities of the world via very clever and silent puppet plays, innuendo and abstraction. What follows is a quiet tale of redemption and revenge that has now led Rain Games to make an entire universe based on this style. Check out my review of Teslagrad.
And that’s it! Are there any cracking Metroidvanias we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments!