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The Best Metroidvania Games For Beginners

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Highlights

  • Metroidvania games are a hybrid of platformers and RPGs, popularized by scrolling platformers but not restricted to that format.
  • A few recommended Metroidvania games for newcomers include Axiom Verge, Dead Cells, and Chasm.
  • These games offer a mix of challenge, exploration, and unique mechanics that make the genre more accessible and enjoyable.

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Metroidvania games, coined for the two series that helped to nail in the staples of the genre, are typically considered a hybrid of platformers and RPGs. The genre was popularized with scrolling platformers, although it’s not restricted to that format these days.

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Players will typically traverse a large, interconnected map which they must explore for solutions to locked areas, whether it be gaining access to a new item or ability that will allow them to get past the obstacles or simply progressing a plot point. If you’re interested in testing the waters of Metroidvania games, here are a few recommendations.

Updated on November 28, 2023, by Mohamed El Ouardighi: The number of Metroidvanias continues to grow each year. Although not all of them are a walk in the park, many incorporate new and intuitive mechanics to make the genre more accessible and accommodating than ever before. We’ve reviewed this list to add a couple more games for you to explore and appreciate the beauty of this genre.

16 Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge

Released
March 31, 2015

Platform(s)
PC, PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Wii U, Xbox One

Axiom Verge is not an easy game, but then Metroidvanas rarely are. Some will be a little more approachable and forgiving, but Axiom Verge sticks to its roots while still being a great place to start. Inspired and influenced by classic gaming from the era of the NES and SNES, this title has you explore a mysterious alien world.

Discover new abilities, powers, and equipment as you find your way back home and fend off the things coming for you. This game will still challenge you, but the inclusion of modern mechanics into a classic style of game makes it feel so much easier to dive into as a newcomer – though perseverance will still be required. With a sequel available, too, there is more than enough to keep you engaged.

15 Dead Cells

Dead Cells

Released
May 17, 2017

Platform(s)
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Android, iOS

Another game that offers a still-significant amount of challenge, Dead Cells is a popular choice amongst new and old fans of Metroidvanias. With an incredible art style and gameplay that’ll keep you hooked from the first moment, you can’t go wrong with this one – it offers plenty of time for you to get up to speed and learn the game, and will give you more and more as you progress.

This remains one of the most well-known in the genre that came out in recent years, and is even backed by this more as it received an expansion set in Castlevania itself. With such a strong connection to the heart of the genre, Dead Cells is a must-play for anyone that hasn’t given it a shot already.

14 The Last Faith

The Last Faith is a recent Metroidvania game that draws inspiration from previous games in this genre, especially the Blasphemous series, to deliver a dark, gothic experience. As you explore levels, upgrade your character, and acquire multiple weapons and spells to overcome challenges, the visually satisfying pixel art style and solid gameplay enhance the overall experience.

Though it may seem a bit challenging at the start, the game becomes easier as you progress. With a stats system and various equipment at your disposal, you have the flexibility to craft any build you want and tackle the game in your own way.

13 Blasphemous 2

Blasphemous 2 is the successful second installment of the series, taking what was already good and perfecting it to create an overall enhanced experience. While the first game posed its challenges, Blasphemous 2 is a bit more accessible to everyone, featuring significantly improved gameplay and a smoother experience, along with new weapons and abilities. As the Penitent One explores the world of Cvstodia, encountering enemies, bosses, NPCs, and various items contributes to the overall immersive experience.

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The game’s difficulty is still present, but the enhancements made from the first game are likely to capture the attention of many new gamers who haven’t had a chance to try it yet.

12 Chasm

A charming and stylish entry point for anyone interested in Metroidvanias, Chasm truly takes you by the hand and leads you into a beautiful world and a mysterious town. Sent from the kingdom, you travel to a nearby mining town to find that the inhabitants are missing. From there, you will descend into the mines and locate the missing villagers, as well as explore the long-forgotten legends and lore of the kingdom of Guildea.

What makes the game stand out a little more is that everyone’s experience will be slightly different, as the mines you explore are randomized when you start a new game. This makes for a fresh experience, and adds some mystery so that there is no straightforward answer – just explore, fight, and find out just what’s been going on under this town, and in the kingdom as a whole. Anyone can get into Chasm, which truly makes it a wonderful starting point for beginners.

11 Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight

Released
February 24, 2017

Platform(s)
PC, Switch, PS4, Xbox One, macOS, Linux

While Hollow Knight itself is a difficult game and will have you face down some truly daunting bosses requiring split-second reactions in order to defeat, it remains a perfect entry point for one main reason: it’s a beautiful world that will encapsulate you immediately. While on the surface, Hallownest might not look like the brightest and prettiest video game setting you’ve ever seen, the remnants of a forgotten kingdom and wonderful characters brighten it to no end.

It will continue to surprise you with just how deep it goes – both literally and figuratively, with so much lore to uncover about the kingdom, the inhabitants, yourself, and what exactly happened to this once thriving place. It’ll take some practice, but almost any of these games will. However, Hollow Knight will increase the challenge incrementally, giving you more than enough time to get stuck in before the true bosses come.

10 SteamWorld Dig 2

Though the first game kept to itself and its digging mechanics, SteamWorld Dig 2 buries itself in the Metroidvania genre. It might not be your typical expectation for the genre, but is an excellent entry point for anyone looking to get stuck in. The game offers plenty of content for dedicated fans and casual players alike, and is an easy pick-up-and-play title.

Mine as you explore and pick up loot, able to reach more areas and achieve more with each bit of progress you make. Return to the surface between runs, and then head back down for another try. Later on, you even get to choose between a few different ruins to explore, so there is more than enough to keep anyone engaged, and to teach you all you need to know about the genre.

9 Metroid Dread

The most recent 2D Metroid game offers plenty of challenge, exploration, and story, but packs it all into an easy-to-learn, easy-to-play package. If you want to get into Metroidvanias, don’t feel daunted to jump into one of the newer titles – Metroid Dread is there to get more people into the series.

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You’ll explore the ruins of an alien planet as you search for a way out. Face down many types of enemies and brilliant bosses as you solve puzzles and open up shortcuts you couldn’t access before. However, watch out – there are robots called E.M.M.I.s looking for you, and they are relentless.

8 Monster Boy And The Cursed Kingdom

As a follow-up to the Wonder Boy series, Monster Boy follows the journey of a young boy who has been turned into a pig. On his adventure to put an end to the curse on the land, he will gain the ability to transform into many different animals, offering new abilities and letting you reach new areas.

While the game can be difficult at times, it’s fair and paced well. You can explore the beautiful cartoon world and see all of the colorful sights, and then head off to explore further than before in order to find the animal orbs and defeat the evil on the land. It’s a classic feeling title, and one that is a joy to delve into.

7 Super Metroid

Super Metroid

Released
April 18, 1994

Platform(s)
SNES

Alongside another game on this list, 1994’s Super Metroid is credited with the coinage of the very term “Metroidvania”. Unlike the “vania” half of the equation, however, Super Metroid does not feature directional inputs that the player must memorize and perform, making it more beginner-friendly for those with little experience. Super Metroid being available on the Switch Online catalog of NES games also makes it fairly accessible considering its old age. It introduced features like the minimap (or automap) into the Metroid series, something that has remained helpful for navigating the often labyrinthian interconnected maps of the genre as a whole.

It also offers the typical range of movement options – sliding, crouching, jumping, and double-jumping – as well as some more interesting mechanics, like swinging from place to place with the Grapple Beam or seeing through walls with an X-Ray scope. It’s also pretty short – for a first-timer, it’ll be within 5-8 hours if you really stretch it, or as short as 3 hours if you’re playing in haste. All in all, it’s a great way to get a sample of the genre on a spare afternoon and have a fun sci-fi game experience.

6 Castlevania: Symphony Of The Night

This is the quintessential Metroidvania game. In fact, it’s the other game that the genre was specifically named after, and can be credited with many game mechanics that are now considered staples for the genre as a whole. While Super Metroid is a slightly shorter and easier experience, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is actually considered one of the easier games in the series, which still makes it a good jumping-off point for beginners.

The spell inputs in this game are potentially intimidating to a novice: however, they tend to “flow” or follow an easy-to-understand motion on the controller, such as left-down-right. They’ll be even easier for those with any experience in fighting games. If you’re looking to understand what makes Metroidvanias tick, this is a good place to start, and it’s accessible on a range of consoles from the Xbox 360 to the PS4. Following Super Metroid up with this isn’t to say only old games are good – it’s a recommendation of a game that will demonstrate nearly all the fundamentals of a Metroidvania, while still being easy enough to learn.

5 Ori And The Blind Forest

Not all Metroidvanias have to use pixel art – Ori and the Blind Forest is a visually gorgeous game that weaves a sensitive, emotional narrative for players to experience as they traverse the ruined forest in hopes of restoring its balance. Among all the recommendations here, this takes the cake for players who are used to narrative storytelling or looking to take the scenic route.

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Ori isn’t only known for its good looks though: it has a unique saving mechanic that allows players to save wherever they’d like – however, it uses up a relatively finite resource. That means you can opt to save before any location in the game that’s giving you trouble – as long as you’re confident you’ll have enough saves for the content that comes next. It also features a skill tree that allows you to choose what to invest in. If you like games with combat but not platforming, for example, you can get more abilities to make the platforming segments easier to pull off and save the combat upgrades for later.

4 Touhou Luna Nights

You don’t need to know anything about the bullet-hell series of Touhou games to have a good time with Luna Nights. The gameplay does an excellent job of expanding upon itself and teaching players new mechanics gradually, and is generous with save points before the more challenging areas. There’s plenty of room to learn the ins and outs of the platforming and time-stopping puzzles while you’re gearing up for the boss fights. It’s also got great music.

The best feature of Luna Nights is the unique timestop mechanic, which is utilized in tandem with nearly all other abilities within the game and unlocks incredible variety in movement and combat. You’re able to freeze time to use your own knives as platforms, walk over motionless water, and stop traps in their place. It even lets you fill the air with knives that proceed towards their unfortunate target as soon as you allow it to resume. Luna Nights offers unique gameplay and a higher degree of forgiveness when it comes to platforming than most other games in the genre, at the cost of more punishing boss fights. That said, the bosses generally follow strict patterns that can be learned.

3 Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

Released
June 18, 2019

Platform(s)
PS4, Xbox One, Switch, PC, Stadia

Yes, it’s another Castlevania game – almost. Since Bloodstained: Ritual Of The Night is technically a Kickstarter-backed original project and not part of the series, it deserved its place here. The project was led by Koji Igarashi, former series director for Castlevania. If you’re looking for a newer Metroidvania with updated graphics and the classic Castlevania feel, this is it. The stylized visuals, excellent gameplay, and extensive choice of weapons make for a perfect successor to the series.

While it is easier to get your hands on than some of the older Castlevania games, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easier to play. The game still offers plenty of challenges, abilities, optional endings, and secrets to uncover. Take this one as a suggestion for a Metroidvania title once you’ve gotten a bit more familiar with the genre.

2 Guacamelee!

An action platformer that takes inspiration from Mexican folklore and culture, Guacamelee is a perfect Metroidvania for anyone looking to jump into the genre for the first time. Its style makes it much less intimidating than most others, and it’s easy to fall in love with as you play. Some Metroidvanias can be quite daunting by default, with so many corners to discover, items to acquire, and complete patience to master – with this one, you can relax a little more.

What makes this even better for beginners is the co-op – you can play Guacamelee with a friend, adding so much more to the experience. You can have a fun time in multiplayer, make things easier for yourself with some help, or even if you’re trying to get your friend into the genre with this one – Guacamelee is a great choice and a colorful game to delve into and explore. Whether you end up trying it out solo or with a friend, this game is an ideal entry point for this otherwise difficult genre.

1 Owlboy

While Owlboy falls loosely on the definition of Metroidvania, it’s more than enough to welcome anyone into the genre and introduce you to some of the core mechanics. Set in a world of floating islands above the clouds, you’ll play as Otus. This young Owl – a race of humanoid owl-like people – must go on a journey with some friends after his village is attacked by pirates.

Along your journey, you’ll need to backtrack and unlock more abilities to reach what you previously could not. Learn the lost truth of the Owls as you venture, and experience the excellent story alongside this perfect introduction to the Metroidvania genre.

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