A subtype of the Action Adventure
genre, usually with Platform Game
elements, Metroidvania refers to any game containing the major gameplay concepts shared by the Metroid
series and later Castlevania
Your typical Metroidvania game is typically portrayed as a single large area or a set of large areas, broken up into many different rooms, corridors, and open spaces, with Respawning Enemies
in most areas. Progress in the game is driven by the discovery of Video Game Tools
(actions, abilities, inventory items) that allow the player to navigate obstacles and "unlock" new areas, while also serving as more than just a "key"; for example, a weapon powerful enough to destroy certain walls will often deal more damage to enemies, and the ability to climb walls could be used to avoid enemies as well as reach high places.
The player will often pass many insurmountable obstacles as they explore the game, which they must backtrack
to after finding the appropriate item/ability, often made easier by opening Doors To Before
. There are usually many secrets hidden around the game, some far more difficult to obtain than any item required to proceed.
It often contains mild RPG Elements
as well, like stat-boosting equipment or a level system
; some of these games will have multiple playable characters with different abilities and require the player to switch between them. But if not, expect to find hidden Heart Containers
in every cranny and nook.
Despite the openness of the game, progression is usually linear, with the more difficult areas separated by natural barriers such as high shelves, sealed or locked doors, or other obstacles that can only be bypassed by finding specific items or weapons. Among gamers, Sequence Breaking
is a common stunt used to access these areas before the player is "supposed" to.
The definition of this subgenre varies somewhat depending on whom you ask. People seem to variably demand some or all of the following traits:
This sub-genre gets its name from the Metroid
, published in 1986, was the Trope Codifier
, and subsequent Metroid
games have consistently used it in all of its installments (except Prime Pinball
first used the style in 1986's Vampire Killer
and 1987's Castlevania II Simons Quest
, before abandoning it and then returning to it after the success of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
. The term itself has been used for some time, but was popularized by Jeremy Parish of Gamespite,
who originally used the term to refer specifically to those later Metroid
games. More information can be found here.
A somewhat lesser version of this was fairly popular towards the end of the NES
' life cycle. The game would be separated into stages, but each stage was a wide-open, explorable area instead of a linear progression. Many of these games allowed you to revisit a stage after you already beat it.
Games in this genre tend to be a four (or three) on the Sliding Scale of Linearity vs. Openness
. Competing terms include "Castletroid", "Castleroid", "Metrovania" and "non-linear action adventure platformer", with or without capitalization.
Unfortunately, this is not a crossover between Castlevania
... but it so should be.
open/close all folders
- All of the Metroid games and most of the 2D Castlevania games from 1997 onwards, of course. Some people don't consider the 3D titles (the Metroid Prime sub-series and Metroid: Other M) to count, but even those games play out the same, with the main difference being that the environments are arranged in 3 dimensions rather than 2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night isn't the first time that the Castlevania series experimented with the genre, either; Vampire Killer and Castlevania II Simons Quest shared many of the same gameplay elements, though the latter didn't have the closed complex setting typical of the genre, and the former had no RPG Elements. The series has seemingly moved away from the 2D Metroidvania style for 3D Action Adventure. An interesting note is that the man behind most of the Metroidvania titles had actually never heard of the term until around 2012 (though he quite liked it). He said his inspiration in creating Symphony of the Night actually came from Zelda II (which in turn borrowed elements from the original Metroid).
- Antichamber is non-linear, allows sequence breaking, features interconnected areas, requires upgrades to advance, and focuses on exploration.
- Aliens: Infestation. Quite fitting, considering the influence Alien had on the original Metroid.
- The SNES game of The Addams Family is this, as well as having a quasi-Hub Level in the form of the entrance hall.
- Amea is an online Metroidvania by Godlimations.
- The indie game Aquaria embraces this trope fully, although there is much less of a platform element since it takes place almost entirely underwater.
- Albero and the Great Blue Emblem
- Ainevoltas 1 and 2, freeware games. Ainevoltas 2 is the remake of the first one.
- ASCIIvania - as the title suggests, it's a Metroidvania style game with ASCII graphics. The Ability Required to Proceed element is mainly provided by finding different letters, which you use to complete words that are blocking your way. There are also the abilities to jump, double jump, and reverse gravity, all of which you will need to find all of the letters of the alphabet and complete the game.
- Bunny Must Die! Chelsea and the 7 Devils, which even includes shout outs to both Metroid and Castlevania.
- Brain Breaker, released for the Sharp X1 computer in 1985, is perhaps the first true Metroidvania-style game.
- Battle Kid combines this with a less unfair version of I Wanna Be the Guy.
- Blaster Master
- Batman: Arkham Asylum is not a pure example, sort of fitting somewhere between Metroid and Zelda.
- Bionic Commando(NES) and its remake.
- The Breach is more or less what you'd get if you bred Metroid Fusion with Event Horizon.
- Cave Story borders on this. It hits most of the requirements of the game type except for two: it's fairly linear barring sidequests, and areas aren't as interconnected as they could be due to just using the Hub Level. It does show influence from both Castlevania and Metroid.
- Clash At Demonhead was widely considered an early example of the genre.
- The obscure The Battle of Olympus for the NES.
- Banjo-Tooie borders closely on this, and can be used to illustrate the genre differences between this and a straight Platform Game. The levels, as in the previous game, are non-linear, large and focus on exploration and item collection, have a lot of puzzles and pathways between each other, and there are a lot of unlockable moves and attacks required to progress through the Hub Level and to complete everything. On the other hand, progress in the game is limited by having later levels mostly inaccessible until opened one at a time by turning in Plot Coupons at a central location (unless using a certain in-game cheat), so Sequence Breaking is fairly limited.
- Captain Comic
- Dark Souls shares a lot of similarities with the Metroidvania genre, particularly with its world design. It is also a rare 3D, Third Person example.
- BBC Micro game Codename: Droid is another early example.
- Endeavor requires players to find different items/collect special upgrading fruit to be able to reach new areas.
- Escape From Puppy Death Factory is also an online Metroidvania by Adult Swim Games.
- Eternal Daughter
- The ROM hack Extra Mario Bros. is a Metroidvania game built on Super Mario Bros., and is probably the only example of the genre with one-way scrolling.
- The Divide: Enemies Within for the PSX and PC is a rather excellent 3-D example of this.
- DNA is a short example of the genre made in 48 hours for a game making competition with the theme of evolution.
- The final levels of the two main games in the Emogame series (especially the second one) play out like this, though it's doubtful that any of the Castlevania or Metroid games ended with Belmont or Samus beating Dracula or Ridley. The third game would've been done entirely in this style, had it ever been finished.
- Exhumed, also known as Power Slave, is possibly one of the earliest examples of a Metroidvania FPS, predating Metroid Prime by almost a decade
- Elephant Quest is a free flash game in which a cute elephant sets out on a quest to reclaim his Cool Hat made in this format. With lasers.
- The Floor is Jelly has some elements of this. Each of the game's levels are interconnected to a single hub, and you can freely revisit and backtrack through each level as well. The night level, the second swamp level and the Disc One Final Dungeon plays this more straight in which these levels are more non-linear and has you searching these levels to find several keys that will open a portal leading to the level's exit.
- Ghost Song: A Journey Of Hope, another game from Kickstarter, is most influenced by Metroid: Fusion, with a recurring NPC which pursues the player through the open world.
- The Goonies II.
- Faxanadu - the other Dragon Slayer games also have elements of this.
- Ghoul School
- The Gargoyle's Quest trilogy.
- Guacamelee!: A Metroidvania where you learn wrestling moves (from goatmen or fighting chickens) to access more areas.
- Gun Girl 2 has a linear main plot but a Metroidvania-type world with plenty of hidden upgrades.
- Hasslevania: The Quest For Shuteye, a parody of the Castlevania series.
- Hebereke for the Famicom (and the Euro Release Ufouria). Something about a drunk duck (hebereke translates into stumbling drunk) falling into an alternate dimension with his animal-ish friends who have to find a way back home (or so it appears). Plays like Metroid meets Mario. All the sequels (on the SNES) completely abandoned this genre and are party games.
- Houchou Shoujo Gensoukyoku is Yume Nikki reimagined as an action metroidvania.
- The free and moderately NSFW Holdover, which forgoes combat entirely to focus on some fairly tricky platforming in an old, flooded laboratory filled with spikes and other nasty obstacles. It's made trickier by the fact that your character's only protection is a one-piece swimsuit that loses its top or bottom half in a single hit, potentially leaving her naked and completely vulnerable until she can restore it. On top of that, metal braces on her feet make it impossible to swim and half the platforming is done underwater, requiring you to manage your air throughout. Luckily, the game has a quick-save feature that it outright encourages you to abuse, which brings the difficulty back down to manageable levels.
- The Adventure Time video game adaptation Hey Ice King! Why'd You Steal Our Garbage?! has elements of this. Finn and Jake run around the Land of Ooo, fighting monsters and learning new powers in order to progress at certain points.
- Hero Core by the same creator can basically be described as the combination of a Metroidvania and a Shoot 'em Up.
- Hell Yeah! Wrath of the Dead Rabbit is essentially Sega's take on this genre.
- In 60 Seconds is a freeware mini-Metroidvania. As the title suggests, you get just one minute to gather all the abilities required to reach the boss and defeat it.
- I Wanna Be the Guy is sometimes described as one of these, despite the fact that it doesn't have any powerups or heart containers.
- The Iconoclasts by Joachim "konjak" Sandberg
- Indie freeware game Iji borders on this - once you clear a level, you can't backtrack, but each level is huge and there are several secret areas that require Metroidvania logic to reach - to get one Supercharge requires getting a jump upgrade, using an enemy's rocket attack to reach an elevator back to a now accessible ledge that leads to a weapon necessary to destroy a wall blocking off the powerup.
- Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, albeit lacking the platformer elements typical for the genre
- Jables's Adventure
- Kirby and The Amazing Mirror is unique in that unlike other Metroidvanias, instead of finding abilities to progress to other abilities, you have to eat enemies for their abilities which are near the parts you have to use those abilities in, and you can discard the abilities soon after. You could also get help from the 3 other Kirbies, and do things in any order, even reverse. The Great Cave Offensive in Kirby Super Star had similar gameplay, but was more linear. (Note that other games in the series, including the other components of Super Star, are Platform Games).
- Knightmare II: The Maze of Galious, the game that inspired La-Mulana.
- The free flash game K.O.L.M. from Armor Games, in which the main character is a robot that needs to rebuild itself (thereby gaining the required powerups). If you collect all the letter panels, the final scene reveals that the acronym stands for Kind Of Like Metroid.
- Lord of the Sword for the Sega Master System.
- Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, although its sequels were much more linear in nature.
- Legend Of Kalevala is an online Flash Metroidvania by Dit Dah Games.
- The Legend of Zelda:
- The series is a parallel or even sub-genre, as the games also focus on collecting Video Game Tools to bypass obstacles in the wide-open Overworld (often to the point of allowing sequence breaking). While the early games mainly feature a top-down perspective, some contain side-scrolling sections, and the transition to 3D saw the series leaning more towards the platformer genre. However, one major difference remains: the dungeons, fully self-contained areas separate from the Overworld that require only a single trip to complete. Zelda dungeons mainly require completing puzzles/tasks and collecting keys to progress, with the exception of one important item to be found and utilized to reach (or even to fight) the dungeon boss. After completing the dungeon, the item discovered there can be used in the Overworld to progress toward the next dungeon.
- Zelda II The Adventure Of Link has all the action take place in 2D side-scrolling sections, including towns and dungeons, although these are all still contained within a top-down overworld. Some of the handheld titles in the series, starting with The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, also have a small amount of 2D side-scrolling sections, and even add a jump button to the top-down controls, making the entire game a platformer.
- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass has the best bridge between the two with the Temple of the Ocean King, a huge dungeon which contains maps and keys to access the other smaler and self contained dungeons which in turn hold the items and keys needed to progress further into the temple (and make previous sections simpler and quicker to pass through) while the overworld holds sands for the hourglass which allow you to explore for longer periods of time before having to turn back. Both the sands and the items from each dungeon are needed to safely and successfully navigate the massive dungeon.
- The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword narrows the gap between Zelda and most Metroidvanias by adding hallmarks of the latter that had been largely absent in the former, with some of the main additions being less distinction between the overworld and dungeons as well as save points.
- Lyle in Cube Sector
- The first Mega Man Zero game.
- Also Mega Man ZX and its sequel Mega Man ZX Advent.
- The first Mega Man ZX game features waypoints that allow you to teleport to any waypoint already visited, but all waypoints must be found by exploration first (except for the isolated area that becomes the Hub Level, which gets added to the teleport list once you complete a certain early mission), and very few areas have their entrance right next to a waypoint. The first Mega Man Zero game features the same, but has a habit of automatically placing you at the beginning of the relevant area at the start of each mission you accept; which, combined with the fact that many areas host two missions, means that if you never wandered outside the Hub Level in between missions, you would never notice that most of the areas are physically connected to each other (specifically, you would only notice that one pair of areas, plus the linearly-connected areas of the final three missions, are connected).
- Mega Man ZX Advent, on the other hand, is a step back from ZX, with at least as many missions taking place in self-contained areas as otherwise. It wins back points by being more reliant on Ability Required to Proceed than its predecessors (and offering shapes to morph into with overlapping functions, thus offering multiple solutions to certain mazes and traps), introducing a Metroid-inspired minimap and encouraging re-exploration of completed areas to apply your new abilities to find hidden stuff just as much as ZX did before it.
- In addition, Zero lacks the ability-gaining that is central to the genre (some Cyber-Elves can give you permanent upgrades, but they're never needed to access areas you couldn't reach before).
- Mega Man Battle Network has a Gaiden Game for the Gamecube called Network Transmission (largely an homage to the classic verse, with platforming gameplay in classic 'verse level designs), whose main internet area qualifies for this. The main Internet alone branches to Lan's, Mayl's, and Dex's homepage, an outpost of Higsby's chip shop, the Zero Area and its guardian areas, the legendary WWW area, and the Undernet. There are alternate, disconnected areas, but most of the game occurs in the main Internet.
- The ROM Hack Rockman 4 Minus Infinity uses this for Wily Stage 3. The previous stage's boss, Snatchman, is an Evil Knockoff of Mega Man that steals the first four weapons he uses. In Wily Stage 3, you must defeat the eight robot masters again, but for half of them you get their weapon back, and the other half doesn't give you anything. The maze-like structure of the level, which uses the tiles and enemies of every previous stage, also fits this trope well.
- Mega Man Legends is a partial case, in that it's a third-personal shooter but has a very similar nonlinear explorative feel to it. With the proper special items, nearly all the underground areas can be made to interconnect too.
- Muramasa The Demon Blade
- Metal Walker, while an Action RPG, has elements of this. Returning to previous areas with more Core Units can get you items, gold, and in some cases, new Recipes and special Cores.
- Monster Tale
- Meikyuujou Hydra has no RPG elements, but you can collect things to extend your ability to travel around and stay alive.
- Pitfall II: Lost Caverns was a precursor to the genre. Super Pitfall as well, of course, and Pitfall: The Lost Expedition/The Big Adventure as well.
- Another likely candidate is Montezumas Revenge, also released in 1984 on the Atari 2600; though the game world is a bit small, the gameplay is familiar.
- Project Black Sun, an extremely difficult one for PC, Mac and Linux.
- Prince of Persia (2008) is an interesting example of the 3D kind. While the abilities the Prince and Elika gain help them explore new areas, they don't find the abilities, they buy them... but they use light seeds to buy the abilities, and the only way to find enough light seeds to buy a new power is to use your latest power to explore a new area.
- There are many areas in Pokémon series that are not inaccesible because of Broken Bridges, but because you need the right HMs, usually Cut, Strength or Rock Smash. An important HM is Surf, which allows you to travel into islands, where some gyms and Legendaries are. Where does the ability to use HMs outside of battle come from? Badges from Gyms.
- Paper Mario: Sticker Star has heavy elements of this, but with Adventure Game puzzles and RPG battles littering the levels.
- Poacher, a freeware release made in Game Maker by Yahtzee Croshaw of Zero Punctuation fame. A bit unusual in that most of the overworld opens up after a certain point early in the story and you're free to tackle the different areas in any order. Each major area uses the basic jump-and-shoot controls for a different gimmick, such as a sneaking around a dark tomb or vertical platforming up through gigantic trees. The big upgrade in each area is also only required to clear that particular area and generally just makes things easier or allows you to access secrets in the others. The progression gets more linear again after clearing all the areas and making it to the last act of the story.
- Each Unit in Quake II consists of a group of revisitable interconnected areas.
- The Phantom 2040 videogame for the SNES and Genesis. (Different areas are connected through a world map rather than being continuous, but it's still a good, classic example of this genre.)
- The first Red Faction is more linear than most examples, but allows you to backtrack to previous levels, which is sometimes required.
- Robot Wants Series.
- Rush'n Attack: Ex-Patriot. Yes, Konami simultaneously revived one of their mustiest IPs and shamelessly ripped off Shadow Complex all in one game.
- Surprisingly, the NES videogame of Rambo, which featured one of the most confusing, maze-like game worlds ever.
- Rygar, the NES version, which has a whole series of items to collect in order to improve your climbing skills more and more, and then makes you try to remember which previous stage had that unreachable ledge.
- Freeware title Return of Egypt.
- Rogue Legacy
- Re Ve N is heavily influenced by Super Metroid but adds the wrinkle of mining materials to make your upgrades.
- Scurge: Hive is probably the only isometric perspective example.
- Secret Scout in The Temple of Demise is a not-too-good one of these by Color Dreams.
- Seiklus, a highly minimalistic freeware Game Maker game that takes certain quirks even further than the previous two: the whole overworld bar the final area is available to explore immediately in any sequence you want, and there is absolutely no combat or even any way to die whatsoever. There aren't even any upgrades to find in order to progress: your impetus for exploring is finding a bunch of artifacts to unlock the door to the final area and climb back up to the cloud land you fell from. There's also a bunch of colored whisps scattered throughout the game world that you can collect in order to unlock paths to pieces of a moon amulet you can bring back to the cloud land for 100% Completion.
- Steamworld Dig: As you proceed deeper into the mines, obstacles appear that require a specific upgrade to pass.
- There's even a Sonic the Hedgehog game with a Metroidvania theme—the Game Gear spin-off Tails Adventure. By all accounts a pretty good game.
- Sorta; it was divided into levels for cartridge space's sake. But everything else played out like a Metroidvania, and you could revisit levels to look for new stuff.
- Sonic Adventure had shades of this (all the levels were connected through a hubworld, you could backtrack and gain various items) Sonic Adventure 2 dropped most of this.
- Sonic Advance 3 seemed to be another stab at this: All worlds are connected through a hub, and different character combinations beyond the initial Tails and Sonic are needed to explore the levels fully and achieve 100% Completion.
- The ZX Spectrum game The Sacred Armour Of Antiriad is now retroactively considered one of these; it's basically a parallel evolution of Metroid.
- The final stage of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Adventure mode, The Great Maze. The rest of the mode is straight platforming.
- Samurai Jack: The Amulet of Time for Game Boy Advance was a transparent wholesale ripoff of both the GBA Castlevania and GBA Metroid games. Not that it was bad...
- Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs is isometric but contains all of the other traits.
- Subbania: A Metroidvania where you pilot a submarine through underwater caves, collect upgrades to explore new areas, and survive against the creatures within. Everything figuratively and literally goes to hell as you go deeper.
- Shaman King: Master of Spirits 1 and 2 on the Gameboy Advance
- Shadow Complex on Xbox LIVE Arcade has been described by pretty much every single reviewer as an (awesome) callback to Metroid and Castlevania. This was intentional: the developers have openly admitted to basing it on said games, and spent the entire first month of development playing them. Even the minimap in the top right corner looks eerily familiar. On top of that, the debut article about the game in Play Magazine mentions Super Metroid 17 times. On the first page.
- The NES version of Strider often requires returning to levels several times after obtaining keys or ability upgrades. The 2014 reboot continues the tradition.
- The Swapper has a protagonist, setting, and map layout very similar to Metroid, only that it's a puzzle platformer instead of an action adventure.
- Teslagrad is one. Interestingly, it's very light on combat, making it mostly about exploration and puzzle solving.
- An Untitled Story
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Radical Rescue for the Game Boy. You start off as Michaelangelo and must rescue the rest of the gang, whose abilities open new areas to explore.
- Terraria is somewhat of an example, since although the game is based around freely building and mining in a randomly generated map, certain areas are very difficult before finding or crafting the right tools or equipment.
- The Dark Souls-based mod The Story of Red Cloud includes a massive pre-built map with strategically placed items and removes the player's ability to freely build or destroy, turning the game into a full-fledged Metroidvania.
- Treasure Adventure Game, a freeware pirate-themed game based around collecting treasures.
- Toshi Tenso Keikaku Eternal Cityfor the PC-Engine.
- Valdis Story: Abyssal City is an indie title for PC that adheres to the genre very closely. More in common with Castlevania than Metroid, with a focus on melee combat and magic spells. It has a fairly robust skill tree with your typical Castlevania-style stats and equipment to go along with it that allow the player to create a good number of fairly varied playstyles depending on what they choose. The combat system is more in-depth though with freeform melee chain combos and a skill cancel ability that also functions as a dodge. There ends up being a pretty high skill ceiling as you gain powers and figure out the intricacies of the systems. There are currently two playable characters and the devs have plans to add 2 more in the future.
- A Valley Without Wind has large elements of this, with the added bonus of being procedurally-generated at random.
- Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap, Wonder Boy In Monster World, and Monster World IV (Japan-exclusive until 2012).
- Wario Land 3
- Wizards And Warriors III. Not so much the first two.
- Wine & Roses is this in Eastern RPG form. The game is very non-linear, and there is nothing impeding you from exploring the entire game aside from the first tutorial fights. Each battle rewards you with specialized powerups that help you fight stronger enemies.
- Wilt Last Blossom has this; you pick up skills and powerups along the way, granting access to new areas.
- VVVVVV is a simpler Pitfall II-style variety of Metroidvania, but is very much unlike Pitfall II in gameplay.
- Sega Master System game Zillion -based on Red Photon Zillion- in addition to being strongly influenced by Epyx's Impossible Mission, has some Metroidvania elements, leading the gamer to explore an alien base as fighting enemies and finding weapons and power-ups to open up new areas to explore.
- Zeliard, published in 1987.
- Someone over at Griptonite Games seems to like Metroidvania, as it shows up in several of their games (some of which are better than others):
- There are even a few Metroidvania iOS Games, most notably Grokion and Phoenix Spirit.