We love metroidvanias. Something about revisiting old haunts with new powers and crushing one’s former tormentors underfoot appeals to our sense of justice and personal growth.
The games in this list span the spectrum from straight-up metroidvanias like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night to games that put the basic ingredients of the metroidvania genre to work in new and interesting ways, such as the awesome Reventure and the self-professed “roguevania” Dead Cells.
What they all have in common, though, is being great.
The multiple award-winning Dandara: Trials of Fear Edition is an absolute masterclass in metroidvania game design. Originally released in 2018, this gorgeous game sees you exploring a huge, maze-like environment via an innovative movement mechanic that involves jumping from point to point, gravity be damned. It’s available on every platform, but mobile is one of the best thanks to some smartly conceived and slickly executed touch controls.
While the Android port of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was less than ideal at launch due to some shaky controller support, improvements are on the way. And they’re worth waiting for because this marvellous metroidvania boasts an enviable heritage. It was made by ArtPlay, the studio founded by Koji Igarashi, who worked for Konami on the Castlevania series. In fact, with your eyes half-closed you could mistake this gothic adventure for its spiritual predecessor.
Strictly speaking, Dead Cells is technically a “roguevania”, but only because developer Motion Twin did such an amazing job with the game that the gaming community has collectively agreed to let the studio coin new words. This gripping, endlessly replayable metroidvania contains roguelike elements, in that each run through is different and each one results in death. While you’re alive, though, you’ll occupy hosts, acquire skills, access new areas, and generally have a swell time.
Robot Wants Kitty has been around for nearly ten years, and it’s still one of our favorite metroidvanias on mobile. Based on a Flash game of the same name, Robot Wants Kitty sees you collecting kitties. You start with an unbelievably limited range of movements and skills, but as you play you upgrade your abilities and acquire new ones, in turn increasing your cat-collecting prowess until your neurons are bursting with pleasure.
No list of metroidvanias would be complete with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, co-parent (along with Super Metroid) of the whole damn genre. Originally released for PS1 in 1997, this platforming masterpiece sees you exploring none other than Dracula’s castle. While it inevitably looks a bit dated, and lacks some of the features you’d expect to see in a more recent game, it stands the test of time by essentially creating the timeline.
Nubs’ Adventure might not look like much, and its title play fast and loose with the possessive apostrophe, but this vast metroidvania is a real treat. It sees you exploring an expansive gameworld in the shoes of Nubs, a little pixelated man. There are tons of characters to meet, environments to traverse, enemies to defeat, weapons to master, bosses to beat, secrets to uncover, and more.
Sword of Xolan goes fairly light on the metroidvania elements, in that the abilities you acquire only allow you to access secret stuff rather than advance through the game, but it’s worth including because it’s just so damn polished. Evoking the 8-bit era with its adorable pixel-art graphics, this is a deceptively slick and demanding platformer experience with some welcome metroidvania elements.
Swordigo is yet another metroidvania-lite retro action-platformer, but it pulls the formula off with such flair that it’s impossible to hold a grudge. Set in a sprawling fantasy gameworld reminiscent of the Zelda games, it sees you running and jumping around, hitting things with a big sword, solving light puzzles, and incrementally acquiring the skills and items you need to push the story forward. Swordigo is the real deal.
Teslagrad is a stunning example of an indie platformer. Originally released on PC all the way back in 2013, it finally found its way onto the Google Play Store in 2018 and instantly – ahem – electrified the Android gaming world. The gameplay sees you climbing the Tesla Tower by jumping around, solving puzzles, and acquiring new sciencey abilities to help you access and traverse new areas.
Color is overrated. Tiny Dangerous Dungeons, from developer Adventure Islands, goes all the way back to the Game Boy era for its aesthetic inspiration. This free-to-play platformer will be over in a couple of hours, but you’ll enjoy every second thanks not only to the authentic ‘90s vibe but to the metroidvania gameplay, which sees you exploring a huge, open, monster-filled dungeon.
Grimvalor is developed by Direlight, a studio founded by the people who made Swordigo. That’s pretty much all you need to know. This huge, gorgeous, epic metroidvania sees you hacking and slashing your way through hordes of monsters in a sprawling fantasy world. It won a brace of near-perfect scores and award near-misses, and it boasts an incredible 4.6 average user rating from nearly 50,000 reviews.
Game developers have done a lot of interesting things with the idea of death, with titles like Hades making failure a part of the process rather than a fate to be avoided. Reventure has its own take on the big sleep. The aim is to die in every conceivable way, with each death giving you access to new weapons and items that will allow you to experience the next. It’s breathtakingly clever, funny, and fun.
ICEY isn’t just a metroidvania. It’s a meta-metroidvania. Developed by X.D. Network, the acclaimed studio behind Juicy Realm, To the Moon, and Muse Dash, the game sees you exploring a huge sci-fi world while your actions are constantly being commented on, undermined, and encouraged by a slippery godlike narrator. It’s a clever and compelling device, complemented by some meaty hand and slash action.
Released in 2014, this unassuming metroidvania from Donut Games immediately became a favorite of every discerning gamer and journo thanks to its simple, perfectly crafted metroidvania gameplay and endearing pyramid-based relic-hunting premise. But there’s a rub. Traps n’ Gemstones has been around for so long that it’s now blighted by performance issues, and just straight up doesn’t work for many gamers. Don’t buy it, then, but keep your eyes peeled for an update.