Metroidvania

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The game that pioneered the genre.

Metroidvania is a genre of video game that primarily focuses on action, but has a lot of adventure elements. They traditionally platformers using a 2D side-view and feature ways to increase the strength of your character as you progress. This usually is done by collecting items which give you more powerful abilities, leveling up through the accumulation of experience, or both. As the name suggests, the genre was popularized in the late 1980s by the Metroid and Castlevania series.

These games tend to be among my favorites for several reasons. I like the fact that they tend to be graphically beautiful with a thought-provoking atmosphere. I like that, if areas are too difficult, you can grind monsters or explore other areas and try again when you're stronger. I also like feeling of accomplishment when you return to earlier areas after you've become stronger and seeing how powerful you've become.

Properties

These are the specific properties I have identified that I feel can be used to accurately determine whether a game is a Metroidvania and are also fairly easy to gauge as a yes or no. Other properties may much more accurately determine a game's genre, but are greatly a matter of opinion, so I don't include them. Those games with the largest number of matching properties are more of a "pure" Metroidvania game.

  • Side-view Platformer: Traditionally, Metroidvanias are side-view platformers. While a top-down remake of Metroid would certainly be wonderful, it would lose some of the feel of the game.
  • Non-linear Map: Part of the allure of Metroidvanias is being able to explore a large complex map when you can return to past areas at your leisure. Compare this to stage-based games where you're forced to move at the game's pace.
  • Power-up Collection: For this page, a "power-up" is something that remains with you once you collect it (Samus's high jump boots).
  • Usable Inventory: This includes items that are placed in your inventory and later can be consumed (like a healing potion). It does not include things like ammo.
  • Hidden Passages: Areas of the map that are not readily apparent, but can be discovered with persistence.
  • Stat Leveling: Often through experience rewards for defeating enemies. This causes the player to grow in strength over time.
  • Money: A lot of Metroidvanias include money, usually dropped by enemies, that can be used to purchase items.
  • Mini-bosses: In addition to a final boss, Metroidvanias often have minibosses for various areas which serve as gatekeepers to new areas.
  • Environment Puzzles: Many Metroidvania games have puzzles created from their environments which require a bit of ingenuity to solve and often feature power-ups as a reward.

Games

Game Released Side-view Platformer Non-linear Map Power-up Collection Usable Inventory Hidden Passages Stat Leveling Money Mini-bosses Environment Puzzles Total
Below the Root 1984-??-?? Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes No No* 6
Bionic Commando (Game Boy) 1992-07-24 Yes Yes Yes No* No* Yes No Yes No* 5
Bionic Commando (NES) 1988-07-20 Yes Yes Yes No* No* Yes No Yes No* 5
Bionic Commando: Elite Forces 2000-01-?? Yes Yes Yes No* No* Yes No Yes No* 5
Blaster Master 1988-06-17 Yes Yes Yes No No No No Yes No 4
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest 1987-08-28 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No* Yes No* Yes 7
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow 2003-05-06 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 9
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon 2001-03-21 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 9
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance 2002-06-06 Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes Yes 9
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 1997-03-20 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes 9
Cave Story 2004-12-20 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No No Yes Yes 7
The Goonies II 1987-03-18 Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No No No 4
Kid Icarus: Angel Land Story 1986-12-19 Yes No* Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes No 5
Metroid 1986-08-06 Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes No* 5
Metroid II: Return of Samus 1991-11-?? Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes 6
Metroid Fusion 2002-11-18 Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes 6
Metroid: Zero Mission 2004-02-09 Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes No 6
Momodora: Reveris Under the Moonlight 2016-03-04 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes 8
River City Ransom 1989-04-25 No* No* Yes Yes No* Yes Yes Yes No 5
Super Mario World 1990-11-21 Yes Yes No Yes Yes No No Yes Yes 5
Super Metroid 1994-03-19 Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes Yes 6
VVVVVV 2010-01-11 Yes Yes No No No No No No Yes 2
You Have to Win the Game 2012-05-06 Yes Yes Yes No No No No* No No* 3
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link 1987-01-14 Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes Yes 6

* This game has aspects of this, but not enough for me to mark it as a "Yes."

Favorite Games

My favorite Metroidvania games include:

Category

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