Feature

Top 10 Metroidvanias To Play Right Now

by Game Informer Staff on Oct 06, 2021 at 12:17 PM

Whether you call them Metroid-likes, exploration-based action platformers, big map adventures, or simply Metroidvanias, this sub-genre has exploded in popularity. What was once a criminally underused design template has become one of the most commonly used formats in games. That’s especially true for indie developers, who seem more than happy to make up for prolonged droughts between actual Metroid and Castlevania titles by concocting their own unique spins on the style. While some 3D games have adopted the formula to success (see: Batman: Arkham Asylum), this list will only highlight 2D-style titles for the sake of clarity. Here are 10 great Metroidvanias, listed in no particular order, that you’ll have a great time getting lost in. 

Hollow Knight

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Hollow Knight boasts engaging combat, a haunting beauty, and a delicious difficulty that makes it one of the most beloved entries on this list. Players control a diminutive knight fighting to keep a kingdom of sapient bugs from falling to a devastating infection. Combat feels great, and flexible upgrades encourage you to tinker with different builds to tackle an assortment of tough-as-nails enemies and intimidating bosses. Finding and purchasing a map to see the world can be annoying, but it forces you to internalize the eye-catching world. Hollow Knight’s skill ceiling may be higher than the average Metroidvania, but it rewards patience and skill with an engrossing adventure that continually gets better throughout its lengthy runtime. There’s a reason fans come running when even the slightest mention of the long-in-development sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong, hits the airwaves. | Our Review

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS, Android

Bloodstained may as well be called “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night 2”. After all, it comes from Symphony’s mastermind and Castlevania luminary Koji Igarashi and carries many of the series’ classic elements while introducing cool new ideas on top. Players explore a gothic castle overflowing with secrets while slaying supernatural foes using weapons such as swords, axes, and, of course, a whip. Killing enemies feels extra rewarding since they drop shards that bestow cool powers that can turn the tide of battle. The more shards you collect, the more comprehensive your ability pool to create multiple loadouts suited for any situation. When you aren’t fighting the forces of darkness, you help surviving townsfolk by completing bounties, farming crops, cooking recipes, and other engaging diversions. Best of all, a ton of post-launch updates have only sweetened Bloodstained’s package. If you’ve been dying for something more “Vania” than Metroid, Bloodstained is a must-play. | Our Review

Yoku's Island Express

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Want some pinball with your Metroidvania? Yoku’s Island Express is for you. This imaginative title gives you control of a mail-delivering dung beetle tethered to a ball of poop that you fling around a vibrant world using pinball-style flippers, bumpers, and ramps. Excellent level design means flippers are precisely where you need them to be, and like real pinball, hitting shots at the right angle can send Yoku down secret paths accessible only to the most skilled wizards. It may be pinball, but you still indulge in plenty of path-opening, sidequests, as well as a narrative that ups the ante on gameplay as it unfolds. Yoku’s ingenious blend of seemingly disparate ideas makes it stand out amongst an increasingly crowded genre. | Our Review 

Iconoclasts

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, PC

Iconoclasts’ action rocks, but it won many over for its surprisingly mature story tackling faith and the dangers of religious zealotry. The tale stars Robin, a simple mechanic defending her free will and that of her friends against the theocratic rule of an oppressive regime. The strong supporting cast and eye-widening plot twists hook you until the end and should have you reflecting on the adventure long after the credits rolled. Traversing the well-designed world requires solving clever environmental puzzles that challenge players to use their skillset in increasingly ingenious ways. That inventive design extends to a rogue’s gallery of imaginative boss battles. Boasting great action, a wonderful presentation, and a thoughtful narrative, Iconoclasts is the total package. | Our Review 

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Will of the Wisps improves upon Ori’s first adventure in every way and then some. The already jaw-dropping presentation somehow looks even better, traditional auto-saves replace the original’s weird soul links system, and it feels smoother than silk on the sticks. The acrobatic platforming feels fantastic, and that’s good because you’ll be doing a lot of it thanks to high-stakes escape sequences that push your skills to their limits. Combat plays a more prominent role this time around, with Ori bringing the hurt with satisfying melee strikes. If failing a white-knuckle platforming sequence doesn’t make you cry, Will of the Wisps’ tear-jerking story and sympathetic antagonist ensures there won’t be a dry eye in the house once you reach its dramatic climax. | Our Review

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights

PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC

Ender Lilies is a dark fantasy gem that puts you in the role of Lily, a young priestess possessing the power to cure her blight-infected kingdom. She’s no fighter, so her guardian, the Umbral Knight, handles the eradication of subjects-turned-monstrosities. This effective team grows in membership as you defeat and cure corrupted guardians, who join your cause to lend an array of entertaining offensive options, like archery or spellcasting. Mapping every inch of Ender Lilies’ gigantic kingdom proves rewarding thanks to numerous upgrades, intriguing narrative breadcrumbs, fun traversal mechanics, and enjoyably tough boss battles hiding around every corner. It also helps that the game is quite a looker, with a killer soundtrack to boot. | Our Review

Axiom Verge

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, PC

This love letter to Super Metroid recaptures that eerie sense of isolation but is by no means a retread. As Trace, you’re transported to an alien world following a failed experiment, and the only way to survive is to collect a staggering arsenal of guns to blast through an assortment of bizarre enemies. No two weapons are alike, and every firearm seems tailored to combat certain foes. One fires bouncing artillery. Another shoots wall-patrolling buzzsaws. There’s even a weapon that can distort reality itself. Perhaps nothing demonstrates Axiom Verge’s creativity better than your signature address gun, a tool that causes enemies and environments to “glitch”, altering their behavior and physical makeup entirely. Another highlight is the fascinating story that serves as the first chapter of a carefully planned mythos that continues in the recently released Axiom Verge 2. | Our Review

SteamWorld Dig 2

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, 3DS, Stadia, PC

The shorthand way to describe SteamWorld Dig 2 is “Better than SteamWorld Dig 1 in every way”. The game remains a compelling loop of digging underground to find treasures, returning above-ground to purchase upgrades, and going back down to see how much further you can dig. Chasing the next cool upgrade or useful ability causes the hours to melt away, and new powers are doled out at the perfect pace. A flexible cog system lets players freely experiment with several neat perks to tackle whatever obstacle lies ahead. Superb puzzle-solving breaks up the routine of digging. Combat, while not perfect, gets the job done well enough. SteamWorld Dig 2 packs a ton of great ideas into a tight package and shouldn’t be missed whether you played the original or not. | Our Review

Salt and Sanctuary

PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, PC

Salt and Sanctuary shares as much in common with Dark Souls as it does Castlevania. The FromSoftware-inspired difficulty, progression, class-building, and checkpointing blends wonderfully with the labyrinthine, ability-gated level design. You just have to be willing to take a beating to really see it shine. Stick with it, and you’ll experience an entertaining synergy of engrossing exploration, thoughtful combat, and freeform character customization that keeps you taking hit after hit and asking for more. If things get too nasty, enlist the help of a friend in local co-op. With a sequel in the works, now is a great time to revisit this modern indie classic. | Our Review

Metroid Dread

Switch

It's fitting that Samus' latest adventure ranks among the best of the genre she pioneered. Metroid Dread may have taken 19 years to see the light of day, but it was worth the wait. Dread features the classic side-scrolling action, top-notch level design, and modern improvements that developer MercurySteam introduced in Metroid: Samus Returns but adds a terrifying twist. Nigh-invincible robots called E.M.M.I.'s stalk the bounty hunter and can annihilate her on sight, forcing players to evade them or hide using Samus' new cloaking ability. This adds a tense and sometimes scary wrinkle to the superb action exploration that put the franchise on the map. It also makes it all the more satisfying when you eventually turn the tables on E.M.M.I.'s with an upgraded arm cannon (though besting these formidable machines is still easier said than done). Metroid Dread may serve as the conclusion to Samus' decades-long conflict with the Metroids, but we hope future 2D entries build upon its winning formula. | Our Review

Products In This Article

Hollow Knightcover

Hollow Knight

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
February 24, 2017 (PC), 
June 12, 2018 (Switch), 
September 25, 2018 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Nightcover

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, iOS, Android
Release Date:
June 18, 2019 (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC), 
June 25, 2019 (Switch), 
December 3, 2020 (iOS, Android)
Ori And The Will Of The Wispscover

Ori And The Will Of The Wisps

Platform:
Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
March 11, 2020 (Xbox One, PC), 
September 17, 2020 (Switch), 
November 10, 2020 (Xbox Series X/S)
Yoku's Island Expresscover

Yoku's Island Express

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
Iconoclastscover

Iconoclasts

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac
Release Date:
January 23, 2018 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, PC, Mac), 
August 2, 2018 (Switch), 
January 23, 2020 (Xbox One)
Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knightscover

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights

Platform:
PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC
Release Date:
June 22, 2021 (Switch, PC), 
June 28, 2021 (Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One), 
July 20, 2021 (PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4)
Axiom Vergecover

Axiom Verge

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, Wii U, PlayStation Vita, PC
Release Date:
March 31, 2015 (PlayStation 4), 
May 14, 2015 (PC), 
April 19, 2016 (PlayStation Vita), 
September 1, 2016 (Wii U), 
September 30, 2016 (Xbox One), 
October 5, 2017 (Switch)
SteamWorld Dig 2cover

SteamWorld Dig 2

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, 3DS, Stadia, PC
Release Date:
September 21, 2017 (Switch), 
September 22, 2017 (PC), 
September 26, 2017 (PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita), 
February 22, 2018 (3DS), 
September 21, 2018 (Xbox One), 
March 1, 2020 (Stadia)
Salt and Sanctuarycover

Salt and Sanctuary

Platform:
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PlayStation Vita, PC
Release Date:
March 15, 2016 (PlayStation 4), 
May 17, 2016 (PC), 
March 28, 2017 (PlayStation Vita), 
August 2, 2018 (Switch), 
February 6, 2019 (Xbox One)
Metroid Dreadcover

Metroid Dread

Platform:
Switch
Release Date: