Metroidvania games are a special genre. They give you a giant world full of collectibles to explore that slowly opens up as you collect upgrades. And thanks to talented indie developers, there are tons of them to enjoy.
Let’s look at some of the best Metroidvania games you can play on modern systems, and what makes each of them so great.
1. Hollow Knight
Hollow Knight is a standout Metroidvania, and one of the best indie games you can buy on Steam. You control The Knight as he explores the world of Hallownest after it has been ruined by The Infection.
Hollow Knight is notable for its focus on exploration. Unlike other Metroidvania games, you don’t start with a map and an objective marker right away. You must explore on your own to build your map. There’s also a steep punishment for death: return to the point where you died to defeat your ghost, or else you’ll lose all the money you had.
With hand-drawn graphics, touching music, tough bosses, and a ton of content for the price, every Metroidvania fan should definitely play Hollow Knight. It’s a world to get lost in with challenging combat to match.
Buy: Hollow Knight for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
2. Axiom Verge
Axiom Verge borrows a lot from the Metroid series, with its sci-fi setting and gadgets for navigation. You play as a scientist injured in an accident who ends up in an alien world, and there’s more of a plot to discover than a lot of other games in the genre.
While the world is quite vast, the game breaks it into manageable areas to assist with navigation. There are also tons of upgrades to collect.
Speaking of which, Axiom Verge is also notable for its intentional use of “glitches,” such as the glitch gun which corrupts enemies and walls. Impressively, the developer, Thomas Happ, created the game all by himself.
It can be a little difficult to figure out where to go at times, but Axiom Verge is one of the best Metroidvania games for gamers who don’t want their hand held.
Buy: Axiom Verge for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
3. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
This sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest is even better than the original. Like the first game, it’s a beautiful adventure through a stunning forest that features calming music and a touching story.
However, the game makes many improvements for an even better experience. In addition to the returning intense escape sequences, Will of the Wisps features proper boss fights. It also has improved combat offering more moves, and drops the self-made checkpoints of the original for predetermined checkpoint locations.
Both Ori games are worth playing and provide more direction than the above titles, so they’re good if you’re not too familiar with the genre.
Buy: Ori and the Will of the Wisps for PC | XBO
4. The Messenger
When you first start The Messenger, it doesn’t play like a Metroidvania. The game takes you through several levels of classic platforming action, similar to the Ninja Gaiden titles. But then partway through the game, it opens up and becomes a proper Metroidvania with free exploration, new upgrades, and secrets to find.
Aside from this twist, The Messenger is unique in that it features two graphical styles. While it starts in 8-bit, “The Future” appears in 16-bit and you have to switch between them to progress through some areas.
With a lot of humor from the shopkeeper and a rocking retro soundtrack, The Messenger is a hybrid Metroidvania worth checking out.
Buy: The Messenger for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
5. Yoku’s Island Express
While most Metroidvania games take the form of a standard 2D platformer, Yoku’s Island Express plays like a pinball game. You control Yoku, a postmaster dung beetle who pushes around his ball, and must use flippers and other pinball elements to guide him around.
Some Metroidvanias can get pretty intense, but Yoku’s Island Express is more lighthearted thanks to the island theme and accompanying music. Plus, the pinball theme keeps the gameplay fresh; give it a try if you’re tired of the usual platformers.
Buy: Yoku’s Island Express for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
6. Guacamelee! and Guacamelee! 2
Guacamelee! is a luchador-themed adventure with plenty of humor. You play as Juan, who finds a legendary mask and must stop the villain from merging the worlds of the living and dead.
Unlike some Metroidvanias, Guacamelee! has a heavy emphasis on combat. New abilities you collect help you both navigate around the world as well as provide new options to take down your foes. Being able to switch between the living and dead worlds also brings a puzzle mechanic to the experience.
While we highlight the first game here, Guacamelee! 2 is largely more of the same with some refinements, so you should play them both. Note that the definitive version of the original title is called Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, which includes some enhancements and DLC.
Buy: Guacamelee! for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
Buy: Guacamelee! 2 for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
7. SteamWorld Dig 2
While SteamWorld Dig was a procedurally generated platformer with Metroidvania influences, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a full-blown Metroidvania title. You dig through underground caverns in a steampunk-inspired Western setting and upgrade your abilities to explore further and dig through the dirt more efficiently.
For instance, upgrading your lantern lets you spend more time underground without it getting dark. And items new to the sequel make it more enjoyable to get around.
SteamWorld Dig 2 is a pleasant game that isn’t too difficult and doesn’t overstay its welcome, making it another good choice for newcomers.
Buy: SteamWorld Dig 2 for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
8. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
While the Shantae series is full of enjoyable games, Pirate’s Curse takes the crown for its level design and abilities. In this title, Shantae loses her trademark magic that lets her transform into various animals, so she has to team up with her nemesis and use pirate gear as power-ups instead.
Like all of the Shantae games, the Pirate’s Curse features a cute art style, charming characters, great music, and lots of upgrades to find.
Buy: Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
9. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
A lot of Metroidvania games lean more into the Metroid influence than the Castlevania roots. If you prefer the latter, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is for you. Koji Igarashi, who worked on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, led the development team for this title, so you can be sure it’s an authentic successor.
As you’d expect, Ritual of the Night has more of an emphasis on combat, withplenty of monsters and bosses to defeat. Your magic bar dictates how many skills you can use, and you also gain new equipment throughout the adventure to boost your attack and defense.
Symphony of the Night is considered one of the best Metroidvanias of all time, so if you’ve played it and want more, try Ritual of the Night.
Buy: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO
Supraland offers something a little different. It’s a first-person game that describes itself as “a mix between Portal, Zelda, and Metroid.” Like other Metroidvanias, you must explore the world to find upgrades that let you access new areas. There’s also an emphasis on puzzle solving, which you’ll appreciate if you like games such as The Talos Principle.
The developers explain that they didn’t include any puzzles that reminded them of content from other games. With overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam and a free demo available, it’s worth checking out if you want to see the genre applied to a different format.
Buy: Supraland for PC
Enjoy Exploring the Best Metroidvania Games
We’ve taken a look at the best Metroidvania games available on modern systems. These will have you exploring, upgrading, and hunting for secrets for hours to come.
In case you haven’t played them, don’t forget that the grandfathers of the genre are readily available too.
You can play Super Metroid on Nintendo Switch through the Switch Online service, as long as you have a subscription. And Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is available on PS4 as a combo pack, as well as on XBO through the Xbox 360 version.
And if you’re not sure what to play next, why not look into some other niche video game genres?
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