There is something that is just so satisfying about 2D side-scrolling exploration. Games in the Metroid and Castlevania series feature a large map full of interconnecting doorways and difficult enemies. As players explore and gain new abilities, different fragments of the map are discovered. Acquiring certain weapons or abilities will be the key to unlocking new areas, so there is a heavy emphasis on back-tracking. The legacy of these two franchises sparked a new genre of video games known as Metroidvania, which feature many of the same elements.

With the implementation of small downloadable titles on services like STEAM, Xbox Live, and PSN, retro-style sidescrollers have made a prominent return to video gaming. Among these are many good Metroidvania games, which have revitalized the familiar concept in new ways. Here are five of the most popular and best modern Metroidvania games that we recently played.

Shadow Complex (Remastered)

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360 (original)
Buy Shadow Complex Remastered

One of the early Xbox Live Arcade titles, Shadow Complex was a notable release in 2009 due to its fast-paced combat and full 3D side-scrolling action. Set in Orson Scott Card’s Empire universe, the compelling setting was perfect for its dark political story. A radical left-wing militia is plotting to send the US into a second civil war by overthrowing the government. It might sound a bit cheesy, but it serves as a good backdrop for a fun hero-based adventure.

As you gradually build up your tools and arsenal, new areas become accessible in traditional Metroidvania fashion. Shadow Complex features some very cool gadgets that eventually allow you to look at the great level design in a whole new way. Exploration and gameplay is still a solid experience, but it may feel slightly dated 7 years later.  Thankfully, game developer Chair Entertainment has released Shadow Complex Remaster available on Xbox One, PS4 and PC, the trailer for which can be viewed above.


Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One, Xbox 360, WiiU, PS3 (original), PS Vita (original)
Buy Guacamelee!

Guacamelee! stars Juan, a former agave farmer who becomes a pro wrestler after being killed by an evil skeleton named Carlos Calaca. With newfound superpowers, Juan begins a quest to rescue his lost love and seek revenge on Carlos. The story isn’t anything great or original, but most of Guacamelee!’s appeal lies in great gameplay, a gorgeous art style, and a fun sense of humor. Guacamelee!’s old-school design blends perfectly with its polished look and fleshed-out, explorable world.

At about 6-8 hours, Guacamelee! is a short experience, but completely worth buying at $15 in our opinion. It is also a cross-play, cross-save title on PS3 and Vita, making it a great option for travel. A PS4 version, called Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, is also now available.

Axiom Verge

Platform: PC, PS4, PS Vita, WiiU, XboxOne
Buy Axiom Verge

Perhaps the biggest tribute to Super Metroid on the list and perhaps the best Metroidvania old school game full stop, Axiom Verge is a great indie title for those who are yearning for a new iteration of Nintendo’s classic franchise. Trace is a scientist who discovers a barrier to the world of Sudra after being severely injured in a lab explosion. Exploring Sudra leads him to discover new weapons and abilities which he must use to stop an all-out war.

Axiom Verge’s sense of exploration and progression is fantastic, though the actual world itself leaves something to be desired. Combat is challenging and features a number of excellent boss battles. For fans of Metroid, Axiom Verge is worth checking out, especially since it is now available on a number of platforms including PS Vita.

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