HomeEditorialBest Metroidvania Games: Five Intense Sidescrollers to Beat

Best Metroidvania Games: Five Intense Sidescrollers to Beat

Back to the roots, it doesn't always have to be three-dimensional. Even today's sidescrollers offer a very special fascination, especially the Metroidvanias.

Sidescroller classics like Metroid and Castlevania have defined their own genre by offering the perfect mix of intense combat and far-reaching level exploration. Check out our ranking of the best Metroidvania games to see which titles follow this popular recipe par excellence and have taken it to the next level.

Metroidvanias have something nostalgic about them, as they often appear in 2D and also like to have a retro look. Nevertheless, the technical progress in game design is pleasantly noticeable, especially in the newer titles: smooth animations, high frame rates, and beautifully lit 2.5D graphics that give the game visual depth. The whole thing is topped by immersive-emotional storytelling. In the following, we would like to present our Top five candidates for the best Metroidvania games.

 

5. Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge’s story is comparable to that of Super Metroid. However, that doesn’t mean that this game doesn’t have anything independent and new to offer. For example, you’ll have a huge variety of different weapons available when solving the many puzzles, or you’ll be able to transform into some sort of alien mite. Thus, this title makes use of the benefits of a classic while offering a new, involving gameplay. An excellent title for fans of challenges and retro styles.

A screenshot of the 2D sidescroller Axiom Verge can be seen. The protagonist is shown crouched in a long shot centered on the bottom half of the image finding himself in a kind of dark dungeon. He wears white clothing, has brown hair, and has a large red-brown colored alien-like weapon in his hand, with which he shoots at a giant red scorpion shown on the right of the image. The scorpion shoots pink fireballs from one of its four cannon barrels, one of which is located at the end of its upturned tail and aimed at the player. The game foreground consists of rock-like black and white pixelated blocks, which have occasional red dots in the center. In the distance, horizontally arranged round to spherical shapes can be seen in dark red color against a black background. This title is known as one of the best Metroidvania games on Switch.
Boss fight in Axiom Verge (Source: Thomas Happ Games/BlitWorks)

 

You can play the game on Nintendo Switch, Wii U, Xbox One, PS4/PS5, PlayStation Vita, Linus, Mac, and PC. Get it for PC via Steam.

 

4. Hollow Knight

Immerse yourself in the touching story of Hollow Knight, which is not only beautifully designed through elaborate animations but also challenging. Although you’ll encounter intense fights, the true greatness of this 2.5 D sidescroller is in the exploration of the world around you. This is extremely well-designed and opens up in a miraculous way as the game progresses. All of this is topped by a wonderful soundtrack that perfectly underscores the atmosphere and moods and gets far under your skin. Uncover numerous clues to find out what really happened and put all the puzzle pieces together in one of the best Metroidvania games.

A screenshot of the 2D sidescroller Hollow Knight is shown, on which the knightly protagonist can be seen in the wide shot centered below: It’s a cute figure with small black clothes and a large white skull-like head with two horns. He is in a very dark, cold stone vault, which is decorated with numerous horn-like ornaments, which can be seen in the foreground as well as in the background. To the right of the image, we see a large white end boss with a light blue, heavily desaturated body and white protective armor around his belly, as he is about to strike with a huge stone hammer. Spherical orange glowing stones fall from the ceiling. In the background, a light blue, also strongly desaturated mist rises.
Boss fight in Hollow Knight (Source: Team Cherry)

 

Hollow Knight is available for Nintendo Switch, Linux, and Mac, and you can purchase it for PC via Steam.

 

3. Blasphemous

When you think of Metroidvania games, you probably don’t have the Spanish Inquisition in mind. In Blasphemous, you’ll live through this historical chapter of the Catholic Church, which may provide both fascination and shock. In addition to a library that offers a lot of information about the time, combat should not be neglected either. So, of course, you can expect many remarkable and very beautifully designed fighting moments, which are also brutally challenging. Some players refer to this game as 2D Souls-like, which probably stems from the dark Gothic-looking setting. A sidescroller of the historical kind embedded in wonderful 2D graphics. But please don’t get too frustrated about the difficulty level.

In 2D sidescroller graphics, this screenshot from Blasphemous shows the protagonist in the center of the image in a long shot. He stands on a brownish ledge and looks to the left. In his left hand, he holds a longsword and wears iron armor and an iron helmet, which is very long and pointed upwards. Around his waist, he wears a red cloth garment. A little further to the left, brown rock platforms are depicted floating in the air, onto which the protagonist must jump. On the left, a spidery figure with a historical-looking yellow head hovers above the stone platforms. Below the main character, two corpses can be seen impaled on a tree. In the distant background, we see a vast mountain range with pointed mountains that take up the entire frame and are illuminated reddish by the setting sun.
Screenshot of Blasphemous (Source: The Game Kitchen/Team17)

 

Play the title on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Switch, Linux, Mac, or on PC. You can purchase Blasphemous for PC via Steam.

 

2. Ori and the Blind Forest + Will of the Wisps

Developers Moon Studios have created a masterpiece that is surely one of the most emotionally moving and beautiful Metroidvanias. Experience a game with a heartwarming story, wonderful graphics, and absolute attention to detail. The game mechanics and animations harmonize perfectly, and it’s a real feast to navigate Ori through the levels. Face sinister enemies as a cute forest spirit and save your home from damnation. With Ori and the Blind Forest and the later sequel Will of the Wisps, you’ll be playing one of the best series in modern Metroidvania games.

Ori can be seen here in this screenshot in a greenish forest section shone by warm light at the bottom center, jumping together with his bluish companion to the right through a wooden arch. The foreground game area rises slightly in a stair-like manner. In the background, huge, thick tree trunks overgrown with vines can be seen out of focus. Purple light is visible at the left edge of the image, and turquoise light is generally visible in the background. This title is one of the best Metroidvania games that will warm your heart.
Jumping in Ori and the Blind Forest (Source: Moon Studios/Microsoft Studios)

 

Ori and the Blind Forest is available for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and you can purchase it for PC via Steam. The sequel Ori and Will of the Wisps is available on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S. You can also find it for PC via Steam.

 

1. Dead Cells

In Dead Cells, you’ll encounter a world full of procedural generation with numerous randomly generated loot. Due to the individual creation of the worlds and game contents, the title has an enormous game depth, which makes it the best Metroidvania game in this ranking. However, this title is also a roguelike. When you die, you lose all the upgrades and weapons you got in one playthrough. But the permadeath also includes the appeal of starting over, again and again, giving you hours of fun with a nimble character and exciting battles. Collect items, combine weapons to create new things, and find your strategy to master this game.

We catch sight of the protagonist in the center of the image in a long shot. The game is a retro 2D sidescroller and often takes place in dark cellar-like dungeons, as seen here: The playable image foreground consists of several dark stone platforms that make up two height levels. The player is on the first level here. To his right is a hole through which he can reach the lower level, where two archers with pink clothing and orange bows are standing by. Between them is another enemy in the form of a green shimmering skeleton. In the background, two large cellar entrances are shown at the bottom left and top right, through which we can see another cellar room glowing green. Also, at the bottom of the image, slightly to the left, we can see a sewer through which poison-green liquid flows, as well as several burning torches attached to the wall.
Dead Cells screenshot (Source: Evil Empire/Motion Twin)

 

Dead Cells is available for Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PS4/PS5, Linux, and Mac. You can buy it for PC via Steam.

 

If you need a little more relaxation

If your frustration threshold is a bit more delicate today, maybe we can give you some inspiration with the Best Sandbox Games for PC. There you can let your creativity run wild with maximum freedom. However, if you prefer that, you can get some basic conditions in our ranking of City Building Games on PC.

Should you have your friend or partner in tow, you might also be interested in a few alternatives to Co-op Games like It Takes Two.

 

Did we miss an important title? Feel free to let us know in the comments below.


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