Top 10 Metroidvanias in my Backlog
Metroidvanias are one of my favorite types of games to play. Some have more metroidvania-inspired elements than others, even among the Castlevania and Metroid games that the genre is named for. But even more linear metroidvanias like Metroid Fusion are really fun! There’s just something about this kind of game that I can’t get enough of. There are plenty of them in my backlog too, particularly on Steam! Here’s just a small sample of the metroidvania games I haven’t played yet, but want to soon.
It’s worth noting that I could have filled half this list with the GBA and DS Castlevania games I haven’t played yet, because there are several of those. But my Steam backlog is too massive, so in an effort to shrink it a bit, most of these games are from Steam. …Most.
Unless noted, the platform for each of these games is PC. On with the list!
Minoria is from the developer of the Momodora series, Bombservice. After I played Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight, I was naturally curious about their next game, Minoria. A few unfavorable comments on Reddit initially made me lose interest in it, but after watching Indeimaus’s video on the game it looked fun, and I’m back on board.
Visually, it has taken a few steps away from the 2D pixel art of the Momodora series, mixing in some 3D elements. It still looks pretty good though, especially the backgrounds, the developer’s experience in 2D art definitely shines through in those.
Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was a short but satisfying metroidvania, and I’m hoping Minoria is an equally good experience!
A reboot of the 1989 arcade game of the same name, Strider is a side-scrolling action platformer where you control a high-tech ninja named Strider Hiryu.
The reviews on Steam are currently Very Positive overall, and Mixed recently. There were only 12 recent reviews at the time of writing though, so I’m not too concerned about them. This title might be a bit lighter on metroidvania elements, but the fast-paced, intense combat system sounds exciting, and makes this game one I definitely want to check out.
8. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate HD
Edit: Mirror of Fate was a pretty fun Castlevania game, as long as you go in expecting something a bit different from the rest of the series. The metroidvania elements here are pretty light, but it’s definitely a fun 2D action adventure game! Read more of my thoughts on it here, spoiler-free.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate was originally a 3DS game, but a later HD port was released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and finally released on Steam in 2014. The other entries in the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow sub-series are all 3D, 3rd-person games, but this entry/spin-off is a 2D game! I mean, it has 3D graphics, which is fine, but it plays in 2D.
I’d heard this was a decent metroidvania, and being a fan of Castlevania games like Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow, the promise of a vaguely similar game on PC was enough for me to buy it. It was only when researching for this post that I realized it was developed by MercurySteam, the same developer who co-developed Metroid: Samus Returns alongside Nintendo. Knowing that, I’m definitely more interested in this game, since MercurySteam did great work with the Metroid series!
7. Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition
Guacamelee! is a metroidvania that draws heavily from Mexican culture and folklore, putting players in the shoes of an agave farmer-turned-luchador as they explore and brawl their way through the land of the living and the land of the dead.
I’ve heard great things about Guacamelee. The several editions that exist of it are a little confusing to a newcomer like me though. Like, should I play Guacamelee! Gold Edition or Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition? In this case, my Steam library decided for me, because I already owned Super Turbo Championship Edition…but I don’t remember where I got it, or how long it’s been there. That happens to me a lot with my Steam library.
Anyway, one Google search later and I’ve learned that Super Turbo Championship Edition is the most fully-featured, definitive edition of Guacamelee 1, so it’s nice that that’s the version I own and will be playing!
Control is a 3D, 3rd-person action-adventure game with a bunch of supernatural and mysterious elements. You’ll explore the Federal Bureau of Control, digging through the dark secrets within, unleashing supernatural powers like telekinesis.
Fun fact about Control on Steam: Control: Ultimate Edition is the only version that shows up in the store when you search for it, but the Standard Edition is available. It’s some sort of “sub-package” of Control: Ultimate Edition, and it’s the version I own because of the March 2021 Humble Choice. So, I see “Control: Ultimate Edition” in my Steam library since that’s the name of the parent game on Steam, but all I really own is the Standard Edition. …It’s weird, let’s move on.
Here’s the big question: is Control a metroidvania? There’s a lot of disagreement about this online. I’ll form my own opinion once I play it myself, but from what I’ve read and seen, it probably leans less toward metroidvania and more toward 3rd-person shooter. In any case though, there’s definitely metroidvania elements and influence here, and I’m excited to see what those elements end up being, as well as experience a game that was nominated for several Game of the Year awards in 2019 and 2020.
5. Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia
Edit: Another Castlevania under my belt, and it was another great game! Pretty linear, but really fun. You can read more of my thoughts on it here, spoiler-free.
Introducing the first non-PC game on the list: Castlevania: Order of Ecclesia for the Nintendo DS.
This game has a similar system to the Souls system in Aria of Sorrow and Dawn of Sorrow. In Order of Ecclesia, enemies have a chance to drop Glyphs when defeated, which give you new combat abilities. Basically the same system as the Sorrow games, just with a different name, and I’m happy to see this feature return.
On Metacritic, Order of Ecclesia has the same critic score as the previous entry in the series, Portrait of Ruin, both with a score of 85. In light of that, I’ll probably try Portrait of Ruin someday as well, but Order of Ecclesia takes priority because I’ve heard Portrait has several areas that are quite linear. That’s not something I particularly mind, but if Order of Ecclesia is a bit more non-linear, then that’s the one I want to play first.
Edit: I gave Catmaze a try, and it’s an okay game, but I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. With the high bar set by its competition in the metroidvania genre, I just don’t think it does anything interesting enough to make it worth playing. You can read more of my thoughts on it here, spoiler-free.
I’m pretty sure the developer, Redblack Spade, is just one person. I’m not 100% sure if they created everything in Catmaze alone, or if they had help with parts. So, I can’t accurately say if this game was made entirely by 1 person, but it’s an impressive feat nevertheless!
Judging by the art style, it seems like the developer of Catmaze was inspired by the Momodora games, and that’s a good thing if you ask me, because it looks great!
Catmaze looks to be a pretty standard metroidvania, with ability upgrades, collectibles, boss battles, and all the usual fare. Sometimes, all you really want is a game that stays true to the metroidvania formula; a comfort food game. Mac and cheese in video game form. I think that’s what Catmaze will be, and I’m looking forward to it!
3. The Messenger
Edit: Oh man, The Messenger was so much fun to play through! If it interests you at all, I encourage you to play it! You can read more of my thoughts on it here, spoiler-free.
Mechanically, The Messenger seems to play a bit like the NES Ninja Gaiden games with some extra metroidvania flair. I haven’t played the Ninja Gaiden games myself so I can’t speak from personal experience, but I swear I watched a review or something where that comparison was made.
The Messenger has a time travel mechanic where the level changes a bit and the visuals swap from 8-bit era to 16-bit era graphics when traveling through time. It looks really cool in the trailers, and I want to experience that mechanic myself! The 2D spritework in both visual styles is super good. Also, the movement seems awesome too, with tight wall-jumping mechanics and a grappling hook that launches you through the air.
I’ve seen nothing but praise for The Messenger online, and that’s why I have it so high on this list. I want to see what all the hype is about!
2. Axiom Verge
Edit: Another one finished! Axiom Verge was a fantastic metroidvania, with plenty of items to collect, secrets to find, and intense boss fights. I definitely recommend this one if you’re a fan of the genre! You can read more of my thoughts on it here, spoiler-free.
Axiom Verge is one of the essential metroidvanias. One of the ones every fan of the genre has played, and uses to frame their experiences with metroidvanias they play afterward. At least, that’s how it always seems when I’m browsing r/metroidvania. Obviously not every metroidvania fan has played it though: I sure haven’t, but not for lack of interest!
The only reason I haven’t played Axiom Verge yet is because I only bought it on Steam recently. A lot of metroidvanias I’ve played on Steam have been part of bundles in the past, or gone on really nice sales. Axiom Verge on the other hand tends to have modest sales, so I’ve put off buying it for a long time. I finally grabbed it a few months ago though, and it’s time to see what all the fuss is about!
One last mention before moving on, Axiom Verge was also developed by just one person: Thomas Happ. Development began in 2010, and the initial release was May 14, 2015. Making any kind of game is hard, but seeing a solo dev make a critically acclaimed game like this one is extra impressive!
Edit: Finished! It wasn’t as much a metroidvania as I’d hoped, but it was still quite fun. The characters, story, and pixel art are fantastic! You can read more of my thoughts on it here, spoiler-free.
I don’t know if Iconoclasts plays anything like it, but I’m strongly reminded of Cave Story from what’s shown in the trailers. The UI, entering buildings, and the characters and dialogue, all of it reminds me a bit of Cave Story. And I loved Cave Story! But besides that, the pixel art and animation in this game is just stunning in the trailers and screenshots on the Steam store page. It’s so vibrant, and the animation is so fluid!
Even more impressive, this game was also made by just one developer, over the course of 10 years. Developer Joakim “Konjak” Sandberg is listed as developer, designer, and composer on the game’s Wikipedia page. The fact that Konjak continued working on Iconoclasts and saw it through to release after such a long development cycle is inspiring, and a real testament to what a determined solo developer can accomplish.
Iconoclasts looks incredible, and seems to have its fair share of charm. For those reasons, it’s secured the top spot in my metroidvania backlog!