Metroidvania

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A subtype of the Action Adventure genre, usually with Platform Game elements.

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. As the player progresses through these areas and finds Video Game Tools (actions, abilities, inventory items), the ability of the player to navigate more obstacles in the play environment increases, allowing the player to explore a greater amount of the game, and in doing so progress through the game. This makes Back Tracking occasionally necessary, 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. (Some games deliberately design sequence-breaking paths as well.)

The definition of this subgenre varies somewhat depending on who you ask. People seem to variably demand some or all of the following traits:

  • Some people say it has to be a 2-D environment; some even go as far as saying it has to be platforming.
  • Non-linearity of (official) game sequence, often resulting in Back Tracking, especially for new players.
  • Sequence Breaking capabilities, even if not official.
  • Highly interconnected areas.
  • Powerups used to get around obstacles.
  • A focus on exploring one's environment.

This sub-genre gets its name from the Metroid and Castlevania series. Metroid, published in 1986, was the Trope Codifier, (though the style had previously been utilized in the Atari 2600 game Pitfall II: Lost Caverns), and subsequent Metroid games have consistently used it in all of its installments (except Prime Pinball and possibly Prime Hunters), while Castlevania largely switched to it after the success of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The term itself was coined by Jeremy Parish of Gamespite, who originally used the term to refer specifically to those Metroid-inspired Castlevania 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 and Metroid... but it so should be.

Examples of Metroidvania include:
  • All of the Metroid games and most of the recent (post-2001) Castlevania games, of course. Some people don't consider the 3-D Metroid titles to count, but even those games play out as if they were Metroidvania games with a first-person perspective. The main difference here is the environments are arranged in 3 dimensions rather than 2. Symphony of the Night isn't the first time that the Castlevania series experimented with the genre; Vampire Killer and Castlevania II: Simon's 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.)
  • Dark Souls though not quite a true example, shares a lot of similarities with the Metroidvania genre, particularly with its world design. It is also a rare 3D, Third Person example.
  • Dark Theory
  • Pitfall II: Lost Caverns was probably the Ur Example. Super Pitfall as well, of course, and Pitfall: The Lost Expedition/The Big Adventure as well.
    • Another likely candidate is Montezuma's Revenge, also released in 1984 on the Atari 2600; though the game world is a bit small, the gameplay is familiar.
  • The first Mega Man Zero game.
    • Also Mega Man ZX and its sequel Mega Man ZX Advent.
    • Which are, arguably, more connected through the Hub Level rather than interconnected.
    • 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 eachother (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 definitely a downgraded version of this genre, with at least as many missions taking place in self-contained areas as otherwise.
    • 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).
  • Nicklas "Nifflas" Nygren's games Within a Deep Forest, Knytt, and Knytt Stories. His games are unique in that they have minimal power-ups and focus on exploration.
  • 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).
  • Some games in the Zelda series, as they share the gameplay element of granting powerups to the player character that allow him to access more places. (Sequence-breakers and speed-runners have similarly had many field days with Zelda games.)
    • Zelda II the Adventure of Link may fit the 2D side-scrolling version of this trope, for those who insist that this genre must include 2D side-scrolling.
    • The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword narrowed 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.
      • Depending on the definition, possibly all games in the Zelda series, since the leading characteristic of a Metroidvania is not its sidecrolling nature, but the hybridization of Puzzle/RPG/Adventure elements, and the use of Video Game Tools specifically to make it to new areas. Lufia 2 Rise of the Sinistrals, despite having many of the same elements, cannot be considered this, since these tools are restricted to dungeons, rather than being used to move around in the world itself.
  • 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.
  • The Goonies II.
  • Eternal Daughter
  • Project Black Sun, an extremely difficult one for PC, Mac and Linux.
  • Shantae
  • Tomba
  • Toshi Tenso Keikaku Eternal City from PC-Engine
  • The final stage of Super Smash Bros. Brawl's Adventure mode, The Great Maze. The rest of the mode is straight platforming.
  • The indie game Aquaria embraces this trope fully, although there is much less of a platform element since it takes place almost entirely underwater.
  • La-Mulana
  • Blaster Master
  • An Untitled Story
  • Albero and the Great Blue Emblem
  • The ROM hack Extra Mario Bros. is a Metroidvania game built on Super Mario Bros.
  • 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):
  • 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.
  • Hero Core by the same creator can basically be described as the combination of a Metroidvania and a Shoot'Em Up.
  • 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...
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King for Game Boy Advance was a transparent wholesale ripoff of the GBA Castlevania games. It was considerably better than Samurai Jack.
  • Hebereke for the Famicon (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. Unfortunately, all the sequels (on the SNES) completely abandoned this genre and are party games.
  • Bunny Must Die which even includes shout outs to both Metroid and Castlevania.
  • There's even a Sonic 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 One Hundred Percent Completion.
  • Faxanadu - the other Dragonslayer games also have elements of this.
  • Legacy of the Wizard in particular is a much more Metroidvania-like entry in the series.
  • Ghoul School
  • 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.
  • Lyle in Cube Sector
  • Hasslevania: The Quest For Shuteye, a parody of the Castlevania series.
  • Shaman King: Master of Spirits 1 and 2 on the Gameboy Advance
  • Ainevoltas 1 and 2, freeware games. Ainevoltas 2 is the remake of the first one.
  • Zeliard, published in 1987.
  • The obscure The Battle of Olympus for the NES.
  • Wonder Boy III the Dragons Trap, Wonder Boy in Monster World, and Monster World IV (Japan-exclusive until 2012).
  • Knightmare II: The Maze of Gallious, the game that inspired La-Mulana.
  • 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.
  • Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, although its sequels were much more linear in nature.
  • 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
  • Batman: Arkham Asylum is not a pure example, sort of fitting somewhere between Metroid and Zelda.
  • Captain Comic
  • Exhumed, also known as Power Slave, is possibly one of the earliest examples of a Metroidvania FPS, predating Metroid Prime by almost a decade.
  • Banjo-Tooie borders closely on this, and perhaps 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 focused 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.
  • 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.
  • Wario Land 3
  • VVVVVV is a simpler Pitfall II-style variety of Metroidvania, but is very much unlike Pitfall II in gameplay.
  • Scurge: Hive is probably the only isometric perspective example.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The NES version of Strider often requires returning to levels several times after obtaining keys or ability upgrades.
  • Surprisingly, the NES videogame of Rambo, which featured one of the most confusing, maze-like game worlds ever.
  • 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.
    • The first NES TMNT, although level-based, has explorable levels with an overhead overworld and side-scrolling indoor 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 Gargoyle's Quest trilogy.
  • The Divide: Enemies Within for the PSX and PC is a rather excellent 3-D example of this.
  • Wizards and Warriors III. Not so much the first two.
  • BBC Micro game Codename: Droid is another early example.
  • There are even a few Metroidvania IOS Games, most notably Grokion and Phoenix Spirit.
  • Gun Girl 2 has a linear main plot but a Metroidvania-type world with plenty of hidden upgrades.
  • Cat Planet
  • Bionic Commando(NES) and its remake.
  • Darksiders
  • Monster Tale
  • Terraria is a Co-Op Multiplayer game with Minecraft-style construction and resource gathering.
  • Amea is an online Metroidvania by Godlimations.
  • Escape From Puppy Death Factory is also an online Metroidvania by Adult Swim Games.
  • Clash at Demonhead was widely considered an early example of the genre.
  • Hydra Castle Labyrinth: No RPG elements, but you can collect things to extend your ability to travel around and stay alive.
  • Crazd
  • Secret Scout in The Temple of Demise is a not-too-good one of these by Color Dreams.
  • Jabless Adventure
  • Legend of Kalevala is an online Flash Metroidvania by Dit Dah Games.
  • Lord of the Sword for the Sega Master System.
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, albeit lacking the platformer elements typical for the genre
  • Okami, being strongly inspired by Zelda, mostly fits this genre with an long, intense and elaborate plot, power-ups and Plot Coupons that allow you to unlock the (very) wide map, a barely restricted freedom of exploration and a huge number of sidequets, optional power-ups and Heart Containers. There are a few areas where you cannot return afterwards but these only contain items necessary to the plot or Vendor Trash.
  • Ys III: Wanderers from Ys (not so much in the remake, which was an overhead Action RPG)
  • 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.
  • Each Unit in Quake II consists of a group of revisitable interconnected areas.
  • The Breach is more or less what you'd get if you bred Metroid Fusion with Event Horizon.
  • Outland is what would happen if Metroid and Ikaruga made sweet love while Castlevania watched.
  • Aliens Infestation. Quite fitting, considering the influence Alien had on the original Metroid.
  • The Iconoclasts by Joachim "Konjak" Sandberg
  • The free flash game KOLM 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.
  • The first Red Faction is more linear than most examples, but allows you to backtrack to previous levels, which is sometimes required.
  • The ZX Spectrum game The Sacred Armour of Antiriad is now retroactively considered one of these; it's basically a parallel evolution of Metroid.
  • Treasure Adventure Game, a freeware pirate-themed game based around collecting treasures.
  • The SNES game of The Addams Family is this, as well as having a quasi-Hub Level in the form of the entrance hall.
  • 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.
  • BioShock (series) may qualify as a 3D example. RPG elements? Check. Backtracking and doors to before? Check. Obstacles requiring plasmid upgrades to pass? Check. Interconnected (albeit linear) areas? Check. Quick travel via bathysphere? Check.
  • A Valley Without Wind has large elements of this, with the added bonus of being procedurally-generated at random.
  • Spyro: Attack of the Rhynocs.
  • Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is a Spiritual Successor to Castlevania, led by former Castlevania series producer Koji Igarashi.