Whether you call them Metroid-likes, exploration-based action platformers, big map adventures, or simply Metroidvanias, this sub-genre has exploded in popularity. What was once a criminally underused design template has become one of the most commonly used formats in games. That’s especially true for indie developers, who seem more than happy to make up for prolonged droughts between actual Metroid and Castlevania titles by concocting their own unique spins on the style. While some 3D games have adopted the formula to success (see: Batman: Arkham Asylum), this list will only highlight 2D-style titles for the sake of clarity. Here are 10 great Metroidvanias, listed in no particular order, that you’ll have a great time getting lost in.
Like basically every wrestler, Juan Aguacate couldn’t stay retired forever. His return to the ring isn’t radically different than his first bout, but it does prove that he’s still got it. Guacamelee 2 retains the stellar level design of the first game, but a dimension swapping mechanic adds a twist, letting players explore an afterlife version of their surroundings. Some platforms exist in one realm but not the other, and skillfully shifting realities during fast-paced sequences is thrilling. Melee combat remains a blast, and Juan’s chicken form gains new abilities to make it vastly more capable. Best of all, instead of tag-teaming Guacamelee 2 with just one other player, you can explore the game as a faction of luchadors thanks to a four-player co-op.
SteamWorld Dig 2
The shorthand way to describe SteamWorld Dig 2 is “Better than SteamWorld Dig 1 in every way”. The game remains a compelling loop of digging underground to find treasures, returning above-ground to purchase upgrades, and going back down to see how much further you can dig. Chasing the next cool upgrade or useful ability causes the hours to melt away, and new powers are doled out at the perfect pace. A flexible cog system lets players freely experiment with several neat perks to tackle whatever obstacle lies ahead. Superb puzzle-solving breaks up the routine of digging. Combat, while not perfect, gets the job done well enough. SteamWorld Dig 2 packs a ton of great ideas into a tight package and shouldn’t be missed whether you played the original or not.
Salt and Sanctuary
Salt and Sanctuary shares as much in common with Dark Souls as it does Castlevania. The FromSoftware-inspired difficulty, progression, class-building, and checkpointing blends wonderfully with the labyrinthine, ability-gated level design. You just have to be willing to take a beating to really see it shine. Stick with it, and you’ll experience an entertaining synergy of engrossing exploration, thoughtful combat, and freeform character customization that keeps you taking hit after hit and asking for more. If things get too nasty, enlist the help of a friend in local co-op. With a sequel in the works, now is a great time to revisit this modern indie classic.
What games on this list do you enjoy? What games would you add that aren’t listed? Let us know in the comments! If you enjoyed this list, be sure to check out our other recent genre list
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