It was video games that first taught me that sometimes, in order to go forward, you must first go back. Rather than follow a scripted, linear path a certain genre was born out of the pioneering need to gain new abilities and skills, powering yourself up before venturing onwards. Popularised by both the Metroid and Castlevania series of games, Metroidvanias have crafted a style of play all their own. But what if you want to scratch that itch without an obvious choice?
The recent release of Metroid: Samus Returns has meant that there’s more of an interest than ever, so we thought we’d explore the best metroidvanias you can play in 2018 that don’t have the word ‘Metroid’ (or ‘Castlevania’) in the title!
Developed, scored, and realised by just one guy in Thomas Happ, Axiom Verge was originally released in 2015, and did an amazing job at filling the gap while Metroid was on hiatus. The game features over 60 items and collectibles to seek out and discover, appropriately setting the character of Trace on a back-tracking to-and-fro journey to escape the alien world of Sudra. The Geiger-esque caverns and hollows are suitably dark and mysterious, backed up by a truly mesmerising soundtrack.
Oozing with style and bursting with colour, the second original game from developers DrinkBox Studios was a tour de force of Luchador lunacy. As Juan, an exuberant Mexcian wrestler on a quest to save his betrothed from the forces of evil, your journey will see you transform into a chicken, transcend the worlds of light and dark, and even come face to face with a demon or two. Guacamelee! is simply one of the most charming and flashy Metroidvanias around, a true modern classic.
Steamworld Dig 2
One of the newest titles on our list, Steamworld Dig 2 iterated upon and perfected the cavern-mining mode of play laid down by the first game in almost every way. As steam-driven robot Dorothy – or ‘Dot’ for short – you’ll create many unique paths in an underground world on your quest to find friend and protagonist of the first game, Rusty. The central hook is that the deeper you get, the less light you’ll have left, giving the experience a unique sense of risk and reward that makes every time you venture down thrilling yet delightful.
Ori and the blind forest
One of the Xbox One library’s subtler yet awe-inspiring independent titles, too few people have yet to experience the wonders Ori and the Blind Forest provides. And that’s a shame. As white guardian Ori and fellow spirit Sein, you’ll be tasked to complete various puzzles, overcome challenges, and just generally access previously locked-off areas. With a sequel already in the works, Ori and the Blind Forest is a whimsical experience complete with an astonishing art-style and soundtrack.