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File:Metroid - NES - Start.png
The game that pioneered the genre.

Metroidvania is a genre of video game traditionally described as 2D platformers with a strong emphasis on exploration and action, while also featuring ways to increase the strength of your character. 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.


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.

  • 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 apparant, 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.
  • Minibosses: In addition to a final boss, Metroidvanias often have minibosses for various areas.
Game Released Side-view Platformer Non-linear Map Power-up Collection Usable Inventory Hidden Passages Stat Leveling Money Minibosses Total
Below the Root 1984-??-?? Yes Yes No Yes No No No No 4
Metroid 1986-08-06 Yes Yes Yes No Yes No No Yes 5
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link 1987-01-14 Yes Yes Yes No Yes Yes No Yes 6
Castlevania II: Simon's Quest 1987-08-28 Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes No Yes No 6

My favorite Metroidvania games include: