Metroidvania is a peculiar genre. In fact it’s a chimera formed from taking the key gameplay elements of two games which used to rule the gaming world, but haven’t had a significant resurgence in modern gaming, even if their legacy lives on.
The genre experienced a glorious resurgence in the past decade or so, with several excellent titles having been released to a general approval of both the critics and the audiences. We’re here to introduce some of these games to you, or refresh your memory of them, but before we do that, a brief explanation of what makes a Metroidvania game is in order.
What is Metroidvania?
The name “Metroidvania” gives a good idea of what two gaming brands have come together to form this new genre. The first is Metroid, a science fiction series about the exploits of one Samus Aran, a hardcore bounty hunter. The other is Castlevania, a fantasy series dealing with the vampiric misdeeds and legacy of Count Dracula, from the perspective of monster-hunting Belmont family and Dracula’s own offspring, Alucard.
On the most basic level, most Metroidvanias are platform games with a number of twists on the formula. One of the key elements is that games of this genre eschew linear progression through discrete levels in favour of a large map linking all locations.
Usually certain locations are inaccessible until the protagonist acquires an ability or item which removes an obstacle. Since these upgrades are awarded for exploration and moving the story forward, the player is guided along the path necessary for completing the game in an organic way, without restricting their freedom to explore.
Now that we have discussed what is the general idea behind the genre, we can move on to discussing some examples which you could add to your PC game library immediately. We’ll also mention three titles which at the time of writing await their release, but are worth keep an eye on.
|Hollow Knight||2017-02-24||Team Cherry||-45%|
|Guacamelee! Complete||2013-08-08||DrinkBox Studios||-74%|
|Salt and Sanctuary||2016-05-17||Ska Studios||-65%|
|Blasphemous||2019-09-10||The Game Kitchen||-70%|
|Dead Cells||2017-05-10||Motion Twin||-57%|
|Yoku's Island Express||2018-05-29||-|
|Record of Lodoss War-Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth||2021-03-27||-|
|SteamWorld Dig 2||2017-09-22||Image & Form||-66%|
|Monster Sanctuary||2020-12-08||moi rai games||-79%|
|Axiom Verge||2015-05-14||Thomas Happ Games LLC||-37%|
|Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition||2016-04-27||Moon Studios GmbH||-68%|
|Sundered Eldritch Edition||2017-07-28||Thunder Lotus Games||-93%|
|Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night||2019-06-18||ArtPlay||-88%|
|Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order||2019-11-15||Respawn Entertainment||-80%|
|Control | Ultimate Edition||2019-08-27||-80%|
|Skul: The Hero Slayer||2021-01-21||SouthPAW Games||-63%|
|Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon 2 (PC) - Steam Gift - GLOBAL||2020-07-10||INTI CREATES CO., LTD.||-36%|
|Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate - Deluxe Edition||2014-04-01||Armature Studio||-84%|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow Ultimate Edition||2013-08-27||MercurySteam - Climax Studios||-87%|
|Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 Digital Bundle||2014-02-25||MercurySteam||-87%|
|Mark of the Ninja||2012-10-16||Klei Entertainment||-|
|SteamWorld Dig||2013-12-05||Image & Form||-87%|
|Metal Unit||2021-01-28||JellySnow Studio||-83%|
|Wuppo||2016-09-29||Knuist & Perzik||-88%|
|8Doors: Arum's Afterlife Adventure||2021-04-08||Rootless Studio||-95%|
|Rogue Legacy||2013-06-27||Cellar Door Games||-67%|
|Developer:||The Game Kitchen|
Blasphemous might be the most Dark Souls-looking 2D game you’ve ever played. The game puts you in the uncomfortable helmet of The Penitent One, the last surviving member of a knightly Brotherhood of the Silent Sorrow.
The game takes place in Cvstodia, a gloomy land styled after Andalusian culture, and Gothic architecture, and the story involves facing a weird miracle corrupting the inhabitants.
The game revolves mostly around exploring the large map of Cvstodia, following quest and plot threads. There’s also a lot of tense combat, powered by various special attacks and spells, as well as timely dodges to avoid damage impossible to block with your shield. Suitably, you also gain new traversal abilities, which open previously inaccessible areas of the map.
Salt and Sanctuary
Another rather gloomy game on the list, Salt and Sanctuary has you play as a survivor of a ship wreck, arriving at an island seemingly ruled by a mysterious being known as The Nameless God.
Your task is to rescue a princess kidnapped from the wreck. What follows is a lot of Souls-reminiscent combat peppering the exploration of the island in search for answers and power.
In addition to mostly free-form exploration, the game also puts a lot of emphasis on your gear and class abilities. There’s even robust visual customization of your character, shifting the game somewhat towards role-playing games. Salt and Sanctuary looks great, with a dedicated 2D graphics and lovely backgrounds improved with modern special effects.
Robin is a good-natured girl working as a mechanic. The problem is that she is unlicensed, which is religiously illegal in Iconoclasts’ setting, dominated by an grim institution known as One Concern.
Now, following an excommunication and an intervention from One Concern’s soldiers, she takes up arms and gathers allies to fight back.
Iconoclasts features a lovely, old-school graphics, bright, vivid colors and a lively protagonist. The gameplay is exactly what you need from metroidvanias: a satisfying mix of combat and exploration, gently guided by the plot developments. Iconoclasts is tremendously fun, pleasant to look at, and the story is excellent, easily enough to keep you engaged until the end.
You’re playing Lemeza Kosugi, an archaeologist, who follows his father trail leading to the mythical city of La-Mulana, the cradle of civilizations.
What follows is a huge map to explore, plenty of highly challenging enemies, and plenty of puzzles blocking your path to the secret of life hidden deep within the mysterious city.
The plot of La-Mulana is also quite interesting, involving great worldbuilding for the mythic city. Ancient mysteries, a brave archaeologist with a handy whip, and more will surely appeal to fans of Indiana Jones, while the gameplay is a distillation of the best metroidvania tropes. There’s also a sequel, following another member of the Kosugi family.
Possibly the shortest single-playthrough on the list, but it is nevertheless a great time for any fan of the genre.
You’re playing as an astronaut’s cat, called Kiki, trying to save her human after a spaceship crash. By default, Kiki is weak, fragile, and extremely agile, but she can get a mech suit, which not only features a hefty gun, but can also be upgraded for combat and movement.
Gato Roboto is also the most graphically simple of all games on the list, featuring 1-bit graphics that come in black-and-white, but more colors can be unlocked. Even the designs themselves are very retro. It’s a fantastic, funny, AND fun game which features great action and hides plenty of secrets to encourage you to thoroughly explore every area.
Yoku’s Island Express
Yoku’s Island Express merges metroidvania and… pinball in a fascinating and highly entertaining proportions.
You’re playing as a tiny dung beetle Yoku, who normally works as a post-bug, but the game’s events force him into a quest to save his island and its protector deity. Although Yoku can’t jump, you can manipulate flippers and bumpers to propel the ball (not dung) Yoku is attached to.
Yoku’s Island Express is, true to genre traditions, a 2,5D side-scroller, with truly lovely environments, all based on super-magnified natural environments seen from the scale and perspective of a small beetle. The maps are large and full of secrets, and there isn’t a lot of combat, so usually you can focus on platforming and exploration via pinball mechanics.
Record of Lodoss War – Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
|Genre:||Platform & Adventure|
Record of Lodoss War is a popular series of Japanese novels originally based on a Dungeons & Dragons campaign.
It has since then branched into other media, including video games, such as Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth, a mildly metroidvanian side-scroller that is well worth checking out. It follows Deedlit, a High Elf who awakens in a weird place and has to find answers…and a way out.
There’s plenty of fast combat, a healthy dose of exploration, but the game is divided into several stages instead of being truly open-world, so there is a predetermined structure to it. It’s hard to get lost, but there are still some puzzles to solve, and plenty of hurt to unleash upon your enemies, including well-designed bosses, before reaching the subsequent stage.
|Developer:||moi rai games|
Another genre-bender on the list, Monster Sanctuary features a metroidvania-like world map, but combat is turn-based.
Moreover, since the game revolves around collecting various monsters, it’s hard not to be reminded of Pokémon. All in all, there’s a ton of exploration, just over a hundred monsters to find, a plenty of skill trees to climb. Mechanics of Monster Sanctuary are quite engaging.
Unlike Nintendo’s ground-breaking series, however, your full team is on the battlefield, which makes a good team composition even more important, with a good coverage or roles and abilities. Monster Sanctuary features some puzzles, but it’s clear that the game’s focus in on exploration of the huge map, and on mechanically complex combat, which you can even enjoy in PvP multiplayer if you so wish.
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
Hollow Knight is one of the best Castlevanias around, and since its launch on PC it has been ported over to consoles so that more people could experience what it has to offer.
The story is about an insectoid people, who have taken to worshipping a being known as a Pale King. Sometime after that they started to suffer from a weird ailment necessitating the use of Vessels to contain it.
The rest of the story is up to you to uncover. Mechanically, Hollow Knight is easily one of the most finely-crafted Metroidvanias of modern gaming: very responsive, with beautiful maps and animations, as well as an interesting Charm system allowing the player to customize the Knight’s abilities. The boss fights alone justify the price of admission.
If you thought that la lucha libre is cool, but doesn’t have nearly enough mythological monstrosities, this game is for you.
As a peaceful farmer Juan, now transformed into a powerful luchador, you need to save El Presidente’s Daughter (who is also your old friend and a love interest) from the clutches of an evil skeleton in a charro getup.
You’ll travel a 2D world inspired by Mexican culture, gather upgrades allowing you to access previously blocked locations, and fight your way through legions of weirdos. Guacamelee is colorful, energetic, and remarkably funny. The sequel is at least just as good as the first game, and its story involves some time shenaniganery.
When a village of humanoid Owls is attacked by pirates, a boy called Otus sets on a quest to try and save them.
You have to see for yourself what he discovers along the way. The mechanisms ruling Owlboy are defined by Otus’ ability to fly, which allowed the developers to make the world much more vertical, emphasizing the ‘sky island’ vibe.
Otus can also carry objects and people while in flight, and the latter can attack enemies with their diverse ranged weapons. Owlboy is designed in a gorgeous pixel art style, giving the world a lot of charm. Although it might be noted, that the game puts storytelling over closely pursuing genre traditions, which limits the exploration a bit.
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
You are a sentient biomass, which can attach to corpses in order to animate them. There’s an entire dungeon ahead of you before your destination.
Dead Cells does have more story than this, as you unveil over time if you manage to get far enough, and for a game set mostly in fantasy dungeon-sewers, the plot has a lot of dramatic flair.
Mechanically Dead Cells is somewhere between a Metroidvania and a Rogue-lite, and an argument could be made for either description. The indisputable fact is that it is has tight controls and combat, excellent presentation, demanding boss fights, and possibly endless replayability thanks to a procedurally generated map. Can you get to the final boss, Prisoner?
SteamWorld Dig 2
|Developer:||Image & Form|
A steam-powered robot looks for her friend, the protagonist of the first SteamWorld Dig. She’ll also meet new friends and discover a foul conspiracy. SWD2 looks fantastic, like a cartoon with a distinctive visual style.
Dorothy, the player character, descends into deep mines in search of her robot friend… and also a fair profit that comes from mining resources. Two birds with one pickaxe!
She’ll also spend a lot of time fighting enemies and look for resources which she can then trade for upgrades to become more capable. SteamWorld Dig 2 is also more open than its predecessor, making exploration much more satisfying, and although there are plenty of upgrades to get, the game won’t fully stop you from sequence-breaking if you’re skilled and clever enough.
|Developer:||Thomas Happ Games LLC|
If you blended a Metroidvania gameplay with Contra-esque pgrahics, you’d get an approximation of what Axiom Verge feels like when you play it, but the story is far, far weirder.
You play as Trace, a scientist who wound up on an alien world, and that’s the least weird part. The plot is a bizarre science fiction romp involving mutations, ancient alien civilizations, and time shenanigans.
As you explore the alien world, you’ll find tons of upgrades, unlocks, and secrets. The open world is vast, and you’ll side-scroll through its platforming challenges and boss encounters to the fantastic chip-tune soundtrack. And when you’re done with it, there’s also Axiom Verge 2 for you to play, telling a different, but still deeply science fiction, story.
Ori and the Blind Forest
|Genre:||Action & Shooter|
|Developer:||Moon Studios GmbH|
If you love Metroidvanias and platforming games, you shouldn’t pass on Ori and the Blind Forest.
It’s a gorgeous game with excellent systems, and a world which is incredibly satisfying to explore, usually via highly challenging platforming challenges, which require precision and often using all traversal abilities in your arsenal.
Ori and the Blind Forest succeeds with aplomb in all the usual Metroidvania gameplay elements and adds to it a fantastic story which wouldn’t be out of place among Disney’s or Studio Ghibli’s line-up. It deals with parental feelings, protecting the natural balance, and more. It’s easily one of the top games in the genre, don’t sleep on it.
If you’ve dreamed of being teleported into a fantasy world and owning it with modern-day knowledge…this is roughly what happened to the protagonist of UnEpic.
It’s a story about a young guy who in the middle of a role-playing session with friends realizes he is in a fantasy world. Believing it’s just a delusion, he intends to press on, riding the assumed hallucination.
This game goes all out on mixing a Metroidvania with RPG elements, putting a lot of emphasis on skill point-based progression or collecting loot, while maintaining the two-dimensional, platform-like structure of a typical Metroidvania. It’s set in a spacious castle, which constituted the game’s freely explorable environment. While areas tend to be unlocked in a specific sequence, you can return to previously visited zones to complete a task or grab a secret you missed the first time around.
Sundered Eldritch Edition
|Developer:||Thunder Lotus Games|
Sundered is Metroidvania with an unsettling amount of Lovecraft mixed in, so prepare to struggle against monsters from the edge of sanity.
Become Eshe as she explores the hand-drawn caverns stretching seemingly out to infinity under the surface of her world. Fight against horrific bosses, perchance with the aid of cursed relics?
Thankfully you get to upgrade Eshe every time she meets her untimely demise, but in Lovecraftian horrors nothing ever comes without a price to pay. Although the world map is procedurally generated, some places are still ability-gated, encouraging exploration to discover necessary unlocks. There are even incentinves, both narrative and mechanical, to replay the game at least once.
Hollow Knight: Silksong
Although the release date is not revealed at the time of writing, some things are certain about Silksong.
For example that the protagonist is going to be Hornet, whom we’ve met in the original game. The developers also claim that the game is going to feature over 150 types of enemies at launch. As the first Hollow Knight was an excellent game, Silksong is absolutely worth waiting for.
There aren’t many details revealed yet, but we can expect it to share a lot of DNA with the original Hollow Knight.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Developed by Koji Igarashi, who has been with the Castlevania series since Rondo of Blood in 1993.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is as close to the platonic ideal of the genre as possible, created to revive the fond memories of Symphony of the Night. But it also does its own thing, with a brand-new story, great graphics, and tight gameplay.
The castle of Bloodstained… is massive and exploring its every nook and cranny never fails to be highly entertaining and exciting, especially when you find treasures and secrets. And on top of that we get a great, engaging story featuring interesting and likeable characters. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is one of the most perfectly “metroidvania” games out there.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps
|Developer:||Moon Studios GmbH|
Who would have expected that Ori and the Blind Forest would get a sequel? It is only one of the most beloved games in the genre.
Jokes aside, Ori and the Will of the Wisps picks up where the previous game left off and has Ori tangle with the consequences of the last game’s events. It’s once a gain a heartfelt, lovely story which does its predecessor justice.
Mechanically, the game is pretty much more of the same gameplay, albeit polished and taking place in new locales. Platforming is still the core of the experience, with plenty of extremely intense zones requiring great reflexes and familiarity with Ori’s abilities. If you played the original Ori and aren’t ready to leave the forest, Will of the Wisp is there to give you more time with the lovable characters.
Enough talk, have at you!
Thus concludes our list bringing some of the best and most interesting PC-available Metroidvania games to your attention. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or a newcomer, chances are you’ve found something to start or continue your journey through the genre with these, mostly indie, titles.