First of all, let’s provide a broad definition of Metroidvania to know what we’re talking about. Metroidvania is a non-linear style of 2D action gameplay where you freely explore a labyrinthine map. But in order to make progress beyond obstacles, you need to unlock specific abilities, items or equipment. As its name suggests, the genre adopts elements proper of the Metroid and Castlevania series.
On this list, you’ll find five of the best Metroidvania titles ever made. The only rule I decided to follow while writing this article was to omit all the games that have Metroid and Castlevania in their names. As usual, take into account that this is a personal list, so if you disagree, feel free to share ideas, comments or even your own list in the comments down below. Now without further ado, these are some of the best Metroivania titles ever created:
5. Dust: An Elysian Tail (Xbox 360, PC)
Since Dust: An Elysian Tail makes use of colorful environments and characters, many people thought that this title was for children. As a consequence, Dust is probably one of the most overlooked games of this generation. Don’t let Dust’s visuals fool you, because this action RPG discusses some truly mature topics. Additionally, responsive controls, gorgeous environments, engrossing RPG elements and some unexpected cameo appearances make Dust: An Elysian Tail a Metroidvania title that no fan of the genre should miss.
4. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console)
If you really think about it, pretty much any game in the Zelda series could be considered a Metroidvania title. But taking into account that Nintendo doesn’t want to change Zelda’s tried-and-true formula I decided to choose what I considered to be one of the most refreshing 2D titles in the series. Unlike most games on this list, A link to the Past uses an overhead perspective similar to that of the first The Legend of Zelda. Nevertheless, this entry in the series features multiple innovations, such as selectable items and character upgrades.
3. Outland (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3)
Outland combines the polarity system of Ikaruga with traditional action platforming and the result of such a dissimilar combination is nothing short of impressive. The idea is to explore the world making use of the Light and Dark energies, so alternating between these on the fly allows you to pass obstacles and defeat enemies. If you’ve never heard anything about Outland, let me describe it to you in one sentence: this is one of the most expertly crafted action platformers of this generation.
2. Guacamelee! (PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita)
As its name suggest Guacamelee draws inspiration from the culture and folklore that surrounds Mexican wrestling and the result is a downright insane action-platformer. In the game, you assume the role of Juan Aguacate, a masked luchador who needs to defeat the undead to save El Presidente’s daughter. Guacamelee has a strong emphasis on combat and exploration, so even if you couldn’t care less about the game’s Mexican references, you’ll still have a great time. You do want to have a great time, right?
1. Shadow Complex (Xbox 360)
Despite making use of 3D graphics, Shadow complex is a love letter to the genre. Players can move freely through its sprawling world, defeating enemies with multiple weapons and obtaining items and abilities that allow you to reach previously inaccessible areas. The role-playing elements let you level up your character and improve some of his abilities, such as his precision or resistance to damage. Although many consider Shadow Complex one of the best Xbox 360 ever made, a sequel hasn’t been announced yet.
These are some of the games that didn’t make the final cut: Chasm, Knytt Underground, Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit, Cave Story 3D, Aliens Infestation, UnEpic, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, VVVVVV, Aquaria, Mega Man ZX, Mega Man ZX Advent, La-Mulana, Cave Story, Tomba!, Getaways, Eternal Daughter, Aquaria, Muramasa: The Demon Blade.