HomeEditorialBest Metroidvania Games: 10 Top-Notch Sidescrollers to Beat

Best Metroidvania Games: 10 Top-Notch 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 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 impressive 2.5D graphics add visual depth to the game. The whole thing is topped by immersive-emotional storytelling. In the following, we would like to present our Top 10 candidates for the best Metroidvania games.


10. The Messenger

If you could use a challenging ninja action platformer right now, you’ll get your money’s worth with The Messenger. Set out in a doomed world, searching for a scroll to save your clan from destruction. Use your sword, grappling hook, and your unique skill, “the cloud step ability”, with which you can shoot up tremendously. The numerous dungeons are difficult but invite you to become an even faster, deadlier ninja master.

This screenshot shows the player as a ninja in turquoise battle gear in the wide shot in the center of the image. He is in a pixelated diabolical-looking red level that takes place in the middle of the night. In the background, there are pointed dark mountains shone by the moon, above which the large white-bluish moon is shown in the upper left corner. The ninja is currently jumping over fireballs spat out by a demonic red and yellow turtle-like creature. The playable foreground of the level features rectangular earthy structures. On the left is a tall streetlight, and in the bottom left corner we can see black spikes on the ground.
The Messenger screenshot (Source: Sabotage/Devolver Digital)


The Messenger is available for PS4/PS5, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch, and you can purchase it for PC via Steam.


9. Owlboy

If you want to try out a different Metroidvania and have a preference for the retro look, check out Owlboy. This title features beautifully detailed pixel graphics, and the game also comes with an innovative “shoot & fly” mechanic. As an owl boy, you have neither weapons nor special abilities except for your flying skills. Instead, you grab your friends, who will do the job of shooting for you. With him, you’ll explore the world above the clouds, defeat numerous enemies and solve fun riddles. However, the controls require some time to get used to. But it is a gentle alternative to the familiar thrills.

In Owlboy you fly high above the clouds and let your friends fight for you, as this screenshot shows: In the center of the image we see Owlboy in a long shot. The protagonist looks like a brown owl and is flying straight over a 2D grassy landscape to the left with its wings spread. Directly below it, it carries a friend with it, who has a green outfit and a reddish nose. He carries an ancient-looking pistol in his hands. Although the grass on the horizontally running game platform looks lush green, the distant background consists of dark-red stony formations up to black areas. To the left and right of the player float two green alien-like round enemies with green legs and only one eye. From the ceiling, a dreary stony dark formation goes off.
Screenshot from Owlboy (Source: D-Pad Studio)


You can play Owlboy on PS4/PS5, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Linux, and macOS. Get it for PC via Steam.


8. Steamworld Dig 2

In Steam World Dig, you are not only underground like in other Metroidvanias, but you also dig through the earth. The mining adventure lets you discover numerous mysterious places and find incredible treasures. In the second part of the series, you now slip into the role of the robot Dorothy and search for Rusty in a steampunk-like world. The protagonist from the predecessor. The game provides you with less equipment but all the more upgrades and skill abilities that will let you further modify your wealth. In its implementation, one of the best Metroidvania games for Nintendo Switch if you’re looking for a more leisurely gaming experience with moderate difficulty.

In this screenshot from Steamworld Dig 2, we see the player in a long shot in the center of the image, digging through the 2D underworld. The character has a blue hat, a big cute head, and a cave explorer outfit with raised goggles. In his left hand, he holds a pickaxe, with which he has already dug down several branching rectangular tunnels from above. To the left and right, he has placed two lighted torches on the ground to illuminate the scene. At the bottom center of the image, an existing hole in the ground can be seen with another lighted torch in it. Directly to the left of it are two blue gems, one red gem, and one yellow gem in the ground. Also to the player's left are three different colored gems, which he is about to dig up. With Steamworld Dig 2 you play one of the best Metroidvania games with a feel-good factor.
Screenshot of Steamworld Dig 2 (Source: Image & Form Games)


Steamworld Dig 2 is available for PS4/PS5, PS Vita, Xbox One, Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, Linux, and macOS, and you can purchase it for PC via Steam.


7. Cave Story+

This Metroidvania title is the work of a single developer whose game is offered for free on the official website. However, you can show your appreciation with the Cave Story+ version on Steam if you like. The title was released when Metroidvanias as a genre didn’t exist yet. Both the scope and the nature of the puzzles are genuinely remarkable. You play a robot soldier who has lost his memory and wants to save the creatures he wanted to destroy. A touching, lovingly crafted story awaits.

Here we see a cover from Cave Story, an action-adventurer that comes from just one developer. On the cover, we see the protagonist from behind in the bottom right corner in a long shot. He is standing on a rocky outcrop, holding a sword in his left hand and a pistol in his right. His gaze falls to the right. He wears red pants and an equally red cap as well as red gloves. His upper body is covered with a white shirt and a black vest. We look at the scene from the bottom view, which makes the character look even more powerful. In the top left corner, the title of the game "Cave Story" can be read in large white letters, and below it are Japanese characters that translate to "Dokutsu Monogatari". Both the ledge and the field ledges in the background have greenish to turquoise cold colors. In the back on the left, we see even higher-level structures that become more and more transparent and lighter. The player is deep down in a canyon and thus looks out to the surface of the earth.
Cave Story screenshot (Source: Nicalis, Inc., Studio Pixel)


You can play Cave Story+ on Linux, macOS, and PC via Steam.


6. Sundered

Prepare for many chaotic intense battles embedded in beautiful graphics, as you are used to from Thunder Lotus Games. Your screen will always be littered with enemies, challenging you to the fullest. At the same time, the title doesn’t overdo it with its difficulty level, so you won’t lose your items or have to run long distances. This game should definitely be included in your collection for the best Metroidvania Games on Nintendo Switch.

In what is arguably one of the best Metroidvania games for Nintendo Switch, you are involved in intense combat, as illustrated in this screenshot from Sundered: the player is seen in a long shot in the center of the screen. He is in a very reddish environment reminiscent of an underworld. Both the floor the player is on and the ceiling at the top of the image features the same curved red stone structures. The player is performing a very powerful melee attack, causing two enemies directly to his left to completely glow as white areas and thus be destroyed. Yellow rays of light emanate from the player. To the left of the image, as well as to the right of him and above him, there are other enemies that are very similar in appearance and are gray loveless creatures. The two enemies above him have wings and can fly. The lower creatures crawl around and in the upper left corner, you can see a kind of gray spider.
Screenshot from Sundered (Source: Sabotage/Devolver Digital)


Sundered is available for PS4/PS5, Nintendo Switch, Linux, and Mac, and you can purchase it for PC via Steam.


5. Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge’s story is comparable to that of Super Metroid. However, that doesn’t mean this game has nothing independent and new to offer. For example, you’ll have a wide variety of weapons available when solving the many puzzles, or you’ll be able to transform into some alien mite. Thus, this title uses 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, Linux, 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, this 2.5D sidescroller’s true greatness is exploring the world around you. , The levels you will face are exceptionally well designed. This is topped by a beautiful soundtrack that perfectly underscores the atmosphere and moods and gets far under your skin. Uncover numerous clues to find out what happened and combine all the puzzle pieces 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 much information about the time, combat should not be neglected either. So, of course, you can expect many remarkable and 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 fantastic 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 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, excellent 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 and 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 procedural creation of the levels 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. You lose all the upgrades and weapons you got in one playthrough when you die. 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 inspire you with the Best Sandbox Games for PC. There you can let your creativity run wild with maximum freedom. However, if you prefer a relaxed building experience from an isometric perspective, you might find the suitable game 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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