There are very few games that redefine a genre to such an extent that they birth an entirely new one. From Software’s Dark Souls is a recent example that many would be familiar with. Technically an action-adventure, however, its expert use of complex systems, exploration, puzzles, and tough-as-nails combat single-handedly invented a new genre in ‘Soulslike’.

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Similarly, many moons and castles ago, Super Metroid and Castlevania took the action side-scroller genre to new heights, helping build the multifaceted genre called Metroidvania. With the release of Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown, Ubisoft’s own take on the Metroidvania genre, which has received rave reviews with some terming it as a serious GOTY contender, we thought we would take a look at some of the best Metroidvania games to have ever released.

Our Picks for the 10 Best Metroidvania Games

The list below is in no way definitive, but it has a mix of underrated and classic games that not only perfected the formula but pushed the envelope in a myriad of ways, with some innovations that will continue to influence the genre for years to come. It is sorted by the year the game was released.

Blasphemous 2 (2023)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

As the Soulslike genre started to pick up, its grimdark fantasy setting and developer’s itch to test the limits of player skill started to bleed into other genres, especially metroidvania, which seemed almost built for the ensuing brutality. Blasphemous famously blended the Metroidvania and Soulslike genres into one, and its sequel, released last year, came around to perfect it. 

Combat remains the beating heart of Blasphemous 2, with every swing of the weapon washing the screen with blood and gore that is every bit as spectacular as it is grotesque. The complexity comes with the introduction of new weapons and abilities, which adds a layer of strategic depth, forcing players to master the offence and defence equally well. 

Infernax (2022)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

Berzerk Studio’s 2022 release is a delightful cocktail of pixelated terror and classic action-adventure and is another underrated gem on our list. Infernax offers choice-based endings, unlockable skills and items, and a blood-drenched world full of terrors that can only be bested by ruthless precision and unforgiving swings of the blade. 

The game offers no hand-holding, instead it throws players into the fray and expects them to learn, adapt, and ultimately master its unforgiving systems. It celebrates player skill and punishes recklessness with almost a childlike glee, making every encounter with an enemy a balance of precisely timed attacks, frame-perfect parries, and strategic execution of pixelated violence.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps (2020)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

No fans of the Metroidvania genre should go without playing the Ori series, Moon Studios’ gorgeous and emotional platformer that has rightfully taken its place among the classics.

It might offer a traditional gameplay loop of running and jumping that is synonymous with the genre, but the way it masterfully blends its beautiful visuals and gameplay is where the true art of the game lies.

Platforming challenges are ingrained into the natural flow of the environment, where vines become springboards, luminescent flowers grant a burst of speed, and crumbling platforms demand acrobatic precision, demanding not just skill and agility from the players but also an opportunity to make the environment almost second nature. Will of the Wisps builds upon the foundation of its predecessor, introducing new abilities and refining existing mechanics to create one of the shining examples of the popular genre.

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (2019)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

Bloodstained is a bonafide classic, but that’s to be expected as it was developed by Koji Igarashi, the mastermind behind Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. Bloodstained expertly captures the essence of the genre while expanding it with unbridled customization options that open up the game in excellent and surprising ways.

Players assume the role of a Shardbinder, who can absorb the souls of defeated enemies and transform them into powerful abilities known as Shards. The game then allows you to mix and match these Shards and even fuse them together to create entirely new effects.

This constant experimentation encourages creativity in not only tackling enemy encounters but also unearthing secret passageways and optional areas while seeking our secret Shards, valuable crafting materials, and lore-rich story nuggets.

Guacamelee! 2 (2018)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

In a time where beat ’em ups are rare, DrinkBox Studios dared to think differently with the Guacamelee series. It blended the beat’em up and Metroidvania genre to concoct a fiesta of flamboyant lucha libre action that wasn’t ever seen before. The sequel, Guacamelee! 2, then took it up a notch.

As the masked luchador, Juan Aguacate, players must throw devastating punches, perform acrobatic throws, and unleash powerful uppercuts to overcome not only enemies but also mobility challenges.

The game finds its depth by adding combo chains, special moves, and unlockable abilities that keep combat fresh and exhilarating while its story proudly celebrates its Mexican heritage, adding tons of pop culture references and many laugh-out-loud moments.

Iconoclasts (2018)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

On the surface, Iconoclasts might seem like your average 16-bit throwback, but beneath its nostalgic exterior lies a game that is subversive and genre-defying in its own right. The game’s design champions mastery over progression, rewarding player understanding and improvisation rather than simply being efficient and nimble with your weapons. Every puzzle feels handcrafted where Robin, our spunky mechanic, must become a conductor to orchestrate the environment to her will. 

Joakim Sandberg’s 2018 platformer is truly an underrated gem, skillfully balancing fun gameplay with a narrative that weaves a tale of loss, betrayal, and redemption with unflinching honesty.

Hollow Knight (2017)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

Team Cherry’s Hollow Knight is possibly the most recognized action-platformer among modern gamers, and for good reason. Its hand-drawn visuals, cryptic storytelling, and smooth movement captivated players and garnered near-universal acclaim.

In the game, players must actively piece together the story through environmental detail, messages scrawled on forgotten walls, and the occasional haunting dream sequence that paints a vivid picture of Hollownest’s tragic past. But it’s the movement and buttery-smooth controls that hook players in, where every hop, dash, and wall climb feels fluid and responsive, almost like an extension of the player’s will. 

The combat then builds upon this foundation, testing the player’s skill of strategic positioning and timing, converting every enemy encounter into a satisfying mix of defiant charge and cautious approach. Boss battles play out wonderfully, too, demanding a different approach every time, where players are forced to learn patterns, exploit weaknesses and conquer the challenge with unwavering accuracy.

Steamworld Dig 2 (2017)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

The official description of Steamworld Dig 2 says that the game will take you on a “platform mining adventure forged in Metroidvania flames,” which is truly the best way to describe the Image & Form Games 2017 classic.

Steamworld lures in players with the joy of excavating, with every swing of the pickaxe crumbling the earth to reveal hidden pathways, secret chambers, and forgotten riches. The act of digging is satisfyingly tactile, scratching the itch of self-exploration and discovery.

But this isn’t a side-scrolling Minecraft – as you delve deeper, the challenges escalate, introducing formidable enemies, environmental hazards and clever puzzles that become a test of the player’s platforming and resource management skills.

Owlboy (2016)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

Owlboy is a story of Otus, a mute owlet yearning to prove himself amidst a society of skilled avian warriors. As Otus trudges along his journey, the simple premise expands into a narrative layered with themes of self-discovery, acceptance and overcoming limitations.

But what sets Owlboy apart is that it differentiates itself from other side-scrollers’ standard run-and-jump formula by allowing you to fly, as well as grapple with other owls, creating a web-slinging mechanic which the players can use to solve puzzles, traverse treacherous gaps, and even utilise during combat.

This innovative system adds a layer of strategic depth and creative freedom that allows players to tackle any situation in a variety of different ways. Oh, and it also helps that the game’s pixel art is nothing short of breathtaking.

Axiom Verge (2015)

Platforms: PC, Xbox, PS, Switch

The Metroidvania genre thrives on the delicate balance between freedom and direction. Axiom Verge perfects this. With subtle environmental cues and cleverly placed items, the world invites experimentation and exploration, rewarding curiosity and bringing players one step closer to untangling the biomechanical alien planet called Sudra.

A vision of a single developer, Thomas Happ, Axiom Verge is as much of a homage to the pixel-bit era as much as it yearns to push the boundaries of what the genre offers. Using a weapon called Breach, the game allows players to manipulate the world in interesting ways – where walls become doorways and enemies transform into platforms, contorting the environment to the player’s will.

The core gameplay loop is not simply clever but also plays into the narrative, beckoning players deeper and deeper into Sudra’s interconnected caverns and labyrinthine tunnels.

Those were our Picks for the best Metroidvania games you can play across the PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo consoles. Hit us in the comments below if you’ve played any of these or if we’ve missed a game that should be on this list.

Mufaddal Fakhruddin
Mufaddal Fakhruddin

Mufaddal Fakhruddin has been writing about games and technology for the past 15 years. He has lost count as to how many reviews he has written over the years, but he is sure headphone reviews make up at least 70% of that.

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