Ten Metroid-Like Games To Play While Waiting For Samus’ Return
One of the biggest disappointments coming out of E3 was the lack of what many people feel is a proper entry in Nintendo's Metroid series. Even Nintendo understands the complaints, but that doesn't mean we'll be getting the Metroid that everyone wants anytime soon. Thankfully, gamers no longer have to rely on Nintendo to scratch that itch. Over the years, there have been a number of great releases that have emulated Metroid's exploration-based gameplay in a variety of original ways. Here are some of the best non-Metroid, Metroid games that fans of Nintendo's series should add to their catalog.
[This story has been updated since its original publication in August of 2014]
Axiom Verge – PS4, PC
This one-man project is everything you love about Metroid wrapped up into a nearly perfect package. Indie developer Tom Happ spent nearly half a decade refining the gameplay of this opus and his love for Nintendo’s classic sci-fi adventure shines through. The game follows the journey of a scientist named Trace who suffers a fatal injury during an experiment only to awake centuries in the future in a world overrun by technology and devoid of human life. Throughout his adventure, players acquire a series of new weapons that help Trace unlock new environments and face towering bosses. We had a lot of fun controlling his remote drone and finding glitches in the environment that lead to entirely new areas. Everything about the game — from Axiom Verge’s haunting music to it’s painfully striking 8-bit visuals — screams old school fun.
Ori and the Blind Forest – Xbox One, PC
Moon Studios tells a heartbreaking but engaging tale about a young guardian spirit who must face down the wild beasts of a corrupting force and ultimately help bring an ailing forest back to life. Moon Studio’s amazing hand-painted visuals help draw players into the gameplay, which is a clever cross between Rayman’s platforming and Metroid’s world exploration. Accompanied by a small sprite, Ori eventually learns to clamber up walls, use enemy projectiles to fling himself through the air, and even triple jump. Many of Ori’s platforming trials and puzzles offer a sizable challenge, but we found it hard to put the controller down until the closing credits.
Apotheon – PS4, PC, Mac
Alientrap's fast but brutal adventure features a clever art style based on ancient Greecian black-figure pottery. The game opens with a young warrior named Nikandreos trying to repel an invasion of his home town. After defeating the raid leader, Nikandreos joins forces with Zeus’ wife Hera to battler the rest of the Olympian gods. Apotheon may sound like God of War, but its twin-stick combat and unique stages built around each god’s theme really set it apart from other mortal titles. Whether you’re sailing along Poseidon’s seas, beating back Ares’s berserk inhabitants, or turning into a deer while hunting in Artemis’ forest, there is always something new to experience around every corner.
Guacamelee! – PS4, Xbox One, Wii U, PS3, 360, Vita, PC
Featuring an emphasis on action and a Dia de los Muertos vibe, Guacamelee! is a great mix of a lot of different elements. The game features the traditional Metroid-style exploration, but a strong combat focus and dimension-switching mechanic mixes up the formula creating something new. As Juan, players battle their way through a world inspired by traditional Mexican culture and folklore in order to rescue El Presidente's daughter. Many of the new moves that you acquire throughout your journey are also the tools you need to traverse further into Guacamelee’s world.
Outland – PS3, 360
Inspired by the arcade classic Ikaruga, Outland uses a light/dark swapping mechanic that allows players to change their energy and absorb hits from like colors. However, players can only damage monsters when they are switched over to the opposite color, creating an interested risk reward system. Combine this with Metroid’s 2D exploration, vibrant visuals, clever puzzles, and solid platforming, and you have a game that stands on its own.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – PSone, 360
Symphony of the Night is one of the original Metroid imitators, but it still deserves a spot on this list. Now that the game is more than 15 years old, there may be those who still haven’t played it. Even if you’re familiar with the game, it’s worth a return visit. Set four years after Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Dracula’s son, Alucard, returns to his father's castle looking to put his reign of terror to an end. Symphony of the Night takes Metroid’s non-linear platforming and exploration and layers on an equipment and RPG experience system. The result is a true gaming masterpiece.
Cave Story – Wii, DS, 3DS, PC
Studio Pixel’s retro nod is like a game that fell out of a time warp. Featuring old school graphics and gameplay sensibilities, you could easily fool the uninitiated into thinking the game from the ‘80s. Players play an unnamed character with amnesia who fights to save a village of Mimigas from a villain named the Doctor. Yellow shards, dropped by defeated foes, are used to power-up a variety of weapons, but taking damage causes weapons to lose experience. While Cave Story doesn’t feature as much backtracking as a traditional Metroid title, you still use your weapons and wits to explore about a dozen cavernous worlds. A 3DS version updated the game to 3D visuals, but retained the title's classic gameplay.
Shadow Complex – 360
Before Chair started making Infinity Blade games on iOS, the studio made this downloadable gem. Set inside the universe of Orson Scott Card’s Empire novel, the game begins when Jason Flemming follows his girlfriend into the forest to explore some caverns, only to stumble upon a massive underground complex filled with soldiers and high-end gear. Jason then proceeds to acquire new gear and weapons until he’s a super soldier who can single-handedly save the world.
SteamWorld Dig – Wii U, PS4, Vita, 3DS, PC
SteamWorld Dig is a clever little indie game from the studio Image & Form, which has almost as much in common with mining and crafting games like Minecraft as it does with Metroid. Players control a cowboy robot named Rusty who digs out the mines underneath the old Western town of Tumbleton in order to uncover buried secrets. The mines are randomized, making each playthrough different, but equipment such as a rock destroying drill and water-propelled jump make SteamWorld Dig’s tight reward loop all the more compelling.
Strider – PS4, Xbox One, PS3, 360, PC
Some gamers may remember Capcom’s classic platforming ninja from his arcade and NES days, but when Double Helix Games rebooted the series earlier this year, they dropped the hyperactive assassin into a giant open world. Players are tasked with killing villain Grandmaster Meio, who has taken control of the metropolis of Kazakh City. The game is considered a retelling of the Strider concept, but a series of unique weapon upgrades, fast platforming sequences, and challenging boss fights make this a completely new experience.