You’d be hard pressed to find a genre with a more dedicated — and opinionated — fanbase than that of Metroidvanias. The quintessential combination of action-adventure game mechanics and non-linear exploration have been keeping thumbs busy for close to 40 years.
As with any storied video game genre, there are a handful of must-plays. But the deeper you dive into the genre the more opinions tend to diverge.
Start sharpening your pitchfork now because you’re bound to disagree with at least one of our inclusions or omissions. Nevertheless, here are the best Metroidvanias released in the last decade.
Yoku’s Island Express
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
If the goal was to list the weirdest Metroidvanias, Yoku’s Island Express would likely crack the top three. The game puts a literal spin on the genre by combining the exploration and progression mechanics that Metroidvania fans have come to expect with arcade-style pinball elements.
Yoku’s Island Express has no business being as fun and engaging as it turned out to be, but the game really is as fun as it looks. If only it was just a little bit longer.
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Wii U
DrinkBox Studios hit the nail on the head with this 2013 release. Originally created for PlayStation 3 and Vita, Guacamelee! would eventually expand its reach to all of the major gaming platforms with the enhanced Super Turbo Championship Edition.
The game’s colorful and inspired character and level design would have been enough to secure its spot in the annals of Metroidvania history, but there is so much more in store. The platforming elements are challenging, the fighting is a blast, and the story is stacked with excitement and laughs.
Both entries in the Guacamelee! series deserve your time and their spot on the top 10 Metroidvanias released in the last decade.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Gamers love to disagree. It’s a game in and of itself, really. But there are a handful of objective truths that have long been established as fact. One such fact is that Hollow Knight belongs on the Metroidvania Mount Rushmore.
Equal parts atmospheric, punishing, and rewarding, 2017’s Hollow Knight marries everyone’s favorite Metroidvania elements with seriously challenging combat. The game received four downloadable expansions, all of which are free and universally beloved.
The game’s sequel, Silksong, remains one of the most hotly anticipated future releases as of this writing.
Platforms: PC, PS4, PS Vita, Switch, Xbox One, Wii U
It’s easy to mistake Axiom Verge for a retro Metroidvania — and that’s by design. A loyal ode to the 8-bit graphical limitations of the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Axiom Verge is a must play for anyone searching for something both novel and nostalgic. This 2D side-scrolling adventure stays true to its retro aesthetic whilst also introducing an impressive variety of new and innovative weapons to master and explore the world with.
The latest addition to the franchise, Axiom Verge 2, was released in 2021 and offers even more to explore and experiment with.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Platform: Mobile, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Those thirsting for a new addition to the iconic Castlevania franchise got it in 2019. Well, sort of.
It’s not technically a Castlevania game, but Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was led by a former Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi. If the subtitle didn’t make it obvious, the game is heavily inspired, in terms of feel and play, by the widely acclaimed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Despite taking heavy inspiration from Symphony of the Night, Bloodstained brings plenty of new ideas to differentiate it from the classic. The game brings loads of new elements to the genre, a giant stockpile of powers and weapons to experiment with, and an endearing cast of unique characters to fall in love with.
Ori and the Blind Forest
Platform: PC, Switch, Xbox One
Equal parts emotional, awe-inspiring, and just plain fun, Ori and the Blind Forest exemplifies the spirit of the modern Metroidvania. Very little of what one experiences in this game can be found in the Metroidvanias of yore — yet it elicits a feeling of nostalgia.
In Ori and the Blind Forest, you help small white spirit, the titular Ori, navigate platforms, puzzles, and an emotionally driven story that you’ll likely never forget. Whether you’re a fan of the genre or not, Ori and the Blind Forest is a bonafide masterpiece and an unquestionable must-play.
Plus, if you can’t get enough of Ori, there is the sequel, Ori and the Will of the Wisps, with its expanded combat, beautiful environments, and dramatic chase sequences to enjoy.
Platforms: Mobile, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
With Dead Cells, developer Motion Twin took a gamble by diverging from the time-tested Metroidvania formula so much. However, their efforts were rewarded handsomely. The game’s popularity has led to a constant flow of new content through free updates and paid DLC expansions — even six years after its initial release as a Steam Early Access title.
As a roguelike, death in Dead Cells means restarting at the beginning of the game with little to no gains from the previous run. Depending how far you get, you can gain permanent traversal upgrades and weapon blueprints that open new ways to interact with the levels and battle enemies.
Critics and gamers heralded the game for its unique atmosphere, jaw dropping depth, and boundless replayability.
Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
On first glance, The Messenger doesn’t look like your traditional Metroidvania. In fact, the side-scrolling, retro-inspired adventure seems to more inspired by action platformers like Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man. However, it does lean on some of the more traditional Metroidvania elements in its second half.
The game is certainly good enough to make this list. The Messenger is humorous, fun, and features a soundtrack that’ll leave you humming for weeks.
Sometimes, the OGs need to come back to remind the world of their greatness. Conceptualized as the sequel to 2002’s Metroid Fusion, Metroid Dread was once thought to be lost in the pre-development ether. The game was teased as far back as 2007, but seemingly never made it off the cutting room floor. Well, until the critical success of Metroid: Samus Returns for the 3DS.
It’s safe to say that Metroid Dread was worth the wait. The first original 2D Metroid since Fusion, Dread introduced tension-filled horror elements to the franchise seamlessly and effectively. The story, game mechanics, soundtrack, and stunning environment all added up to make Metroid Dread the best-selling Metroid game ever made.
Platform: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One
Dripping in religious symbolism, unsettling in its art direction, and difficult in its gameplay, 2019’s Blasphemous is certainly not for the faint of heart. However, if you’re willing to give it a try, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most satisfying Metroidvanias in recent memory.
The protagonist, called the Penitent One, beats back baddies at close range with his sword and by casting a variety of spells that are unlocked as the player progresses through the game. It enjoyed three free downloadable expansions and would go on to be named the best Spanish-made game of 2019 by the Titanium Awards.
It sure has been quite a decade for this oft-celebrated genre. Revolutionary new IPs, retro-inspired tributes, and the triumphant return of a familiar friend set the stage for even more Metroidvania masterpieces in the years to come.
That’s not wishful thinking either. Modern Metroidvanias are more popular than ever before. Still, the next decade sure has a lot to live up to when you consider the quality of the previous decade’s collection of Metroidvanias.