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. The genre is named after games from the Metroid and Castlevania series, but the style of game play came about in 1984 with games like Montezuma's Revenge, Pitfall II: Lost Caverns, and Below the Root. It wasn't until the late 1990s that the game really started to be identified as a unique genre with the release of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
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.
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 (like 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 or money.
- 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.
|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|
|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||8|
|Castlevania: Symphony of the Night||1997-03-20||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||9|
|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||6|
|The Legend of Zelda||1986-02-21||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No*||6|
|The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past||1991-11-21||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||7|
|The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening||1993-06-06||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||6|
|The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap||2004-11-04||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||7|
|Metroid II: Return of Samus||1991-11-??||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||5|
|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||6|
|Wonder Boy In Monster World||1991-10-25||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No*||7|
|You Have to Win the Game||2012-05-06||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No||No||No*||No||No*||3|
|Ys III: Wanderers From Ys||1989-07-28||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||7|
|Zelda II: The Adventure of Link||1987-01-14||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes||7|
* This game has aspects of this, but not enough for me to mark it as a "Yes."
My favorite Metroidvania games include:
- Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- Cave Story
- Metroid Fusion
- Metroid: Zero Mission
- Super Metroid
- Wonder Boy In Monster World
- Category: Metroidvania