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Guided Tour: Metroidvanias


With over 72 million monthly visitors across over 320,000 wikis (and counting!), Wikia is a hotbed of passionate expertise on an incredibly diverse range of topics. With such a plethora of information to sift through, breaking into a new franchise or genre can seem a tad overwhelming. To help break the ice, we're going to be asking experts from various communities to tell us what it is about their area of expertise they find so captivating -- and the steps they recommend beginners take to set themselves on the path to geekery.

We're calling the series "Guided Tour," and our topic this time is the Metroidvania video game genre.

What are Metroidvania games?

Nes metroid
“Metroidvania” style games are a subset of the platformer genre that emphasize non-linear progression, exploration, and an epic sense of adventure. In games like these, players will often encounter obstacles that can only be hurdled after he or she obtains a specific item. These obstacles can range from doors that require a type of munition to open, geographical materials that can be destroyed only with the right kind of bomb, chasms that can’t be cleared without the right pair of jet boots, and so on. Usually, all of the game’s obstacles are environmental, as opposed to narrative or character driven, and the game progresses alongside the player’s acquisition of items, scattered throughout the world map, either as items the boss drops, or rewards for completing puzzles.

Metroidvania’s forebearer — as you may have guessed — were early Metroid and Castlevania titles for the NES (and, in the case of Castlevania, the Japan-only MSX2.) Though there were other early 2D platform adventures, these series really blazed the trail for Metroidvania as a genre, establishing and popularizing non-linear exploration, a la Zelda, in side-scroller platformers.

The world maps in Metroidvania titles tend to be interconnected areas that encourage exploration on the part of the player. Traditionally, the games won’t do much hand holding or directing — it’s up to the player to experiment with and investigate the game’s environment, trying new combinations of items and abilities to check and see if they can now bypass obstacles that previously left them staring at a dead end.

Expert Opinion


Pseudobread Wikia

“Check your map! Metroidvanias are generally all about exploring, and the faster you familiarize yourself with the world, the easier it will be for you to get around.”

How did you get into Metroidvania games?
Seeing that I’m an old man, I naturally got into Metroidvanias with the original game, Metroid for the NES. At the time most of the games I played were sidescrollers where you ran from the left to the right for the entire game, so the idea that I could go in pretty much any direction was a big change for me. I remember the game making me feel very alone, and it really captured the feeling of landing on an alien world and being all by yourself. The eerie soundtrack helped a lot in that regard as well.

What are some good Metroidvania games for beginners? For intermediate players? For experts?
Beginners new to Metroidvanias should definitely check out Drinkbox Studios' Guacamelee! It’s a fun platformer with great melee combat and a super colorful world. It’s available on pretty much every platform at this point, and unlike most Metroidvanias, it only takes ~5 hours to complete, meaning you won’t have to sink a bunch of time in to see if you like it or not. Shadow Complex is also a good entry point, it’s not too long and has a more action game theme for people turned off by the usual sc-fi and fantasy themes of most Metroidvanias.

If you’ve found the genre to your liking, you’ll have to play Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, one the best, if not the best, Metroidvanias ever made. Featuring a massive castle, great soundtrack, and fantastic combat, it captures the thrill of exploration, the tactics of an RPG, and the excitement of duking it out with monsters. Intrepid gamers are also highly encouraged to seek out Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, an amazing PC Engine game that was previously unavailable in America until its release on the Wii’s Virtual Console. Avoid the far inferior SNES remake/port Castlevania Dracula X.

What is some advice you'd give to new players?
Check your map! Metroidvanias are generally all about exploring, and the faster you familiarize yourself with the world, the easier it will be for you to get around. If you find a dead end, make a mental note so you’ll remember to come back there later once you’ve gotten a new ability or item. Good Metroivanias will make it pretty clear which new area you’ll have access to once you’ve gotten a new ability/item, but if not, making a note can save you a lot of time.

Pseudobread recommends

Expert Opinion



“Patience is key! It can be quite easy to get lost in the world you are exploring within the game. Take a step back and think if you're not making progress.”

Tell me a bit about yourself and your involvement with the the Cave Story Wikia.
I've never grown up owning any major gaming consoles like Playstation and whatnot, so my gaming experience mostly comes from browser based games -- particularly those of the Flash variety. It's only been recently that I've begun to turn my attention to games of other platforms -- downloadable, mobile, etc.

Currently I'm an admin on Cave Story Wiki. I've been supervising it for the past couple months or so, fixing little things here and there, but I hope to become more active there in the near future.

How did you get into Metroidvanias? Into Cave Story?
The first time I remember getting into Metroidvanias was when I stumbled upon a game called Katwalk on JayisGames. I thought it was such a great game at the time that I spent days sifting through lists of games tagged "metroidvania" on JIG and playing through them.

I first heard about Cave Story when a user on the Nitrome Wiki posted a video with the Cave Story theme on her blog. The music was catchy, so I loaded the video on YouTube and did some searching around for other soundtracks from the game. A number of them got my attention and eventually I decided to give the game a try. Barely knowing anything about Cave Story beforehand, I found myself intrigued by the story. Curiosity had me coming back to play more, and over time, search up let's plays when I got too impatient to complete it on my own.

How would you recommend a beginner get into Metroidvanias? Any particular game that would serve as a good starting point?
Getting into Metroidvanias is about immersing yourself in a different world without ever having to get off your seat. For the most part, Metroidvania games are self-guided. There are multiple paths to explore, but there are many instances where you must choose the right path on your own.

For beginners, I would recommend something small-scale and straightforward. Perhaps a game like Seedling, which guides the player through the controls and doesn't take a super long time to complete. It's got fluid controls too, which is a great thing. The game doesn't categorize itself as a Metroidvania, but I think it fits the bill. Another nice one is Aqua Boy, which also provides an additional challenge for players who complete the game.

Anything you wouldn’t recommend?
Well, it really depends on where your taste for games lies. Some play Metroidvanias to be engrossed in the atmosphere; others are more engaged with gameplay. It also depends on how much of a difficulty spike you can handle too. If you're a first time beginner, for instance, I wouldn't recommend starting on a game like Kodachrome. The platforming skills needed for that are intense!

Any additional advice you’d give to someone new to Metroidvanias?
Patience is key! It can be quite easy to get lost in the world you are exploring within the game. Take a step back and think if you're not making progress. Sometimes it's helpful to sneak peeks at walkthroughs for a bump in the right direction if you're not entirely sure about what you have to do while playing. Don't depend entirely on guides; it's a lot more satisfying to beat a Metroidvania on your own (as with any other game, right?)

What resources on your wiki might be useful to an aspiring Metroidvania fan?
Right now Cave Story Wiki is in the midst of a revamping process. There's still a lot of work to be done with our articles and the wiki's structure overall, so I don't think we have any readily available resources yet. I guess we always have our forums; there's always some users lurking that should be able to respond.

Randomstory-keeper recommends

Expert Opinion



“Don’t always take the obvious path! The more you allow yourself to get lost in these games, the more secrets you’ll uncover and the more fun you’ll have.”

How did you get into Metroidvania games?
The first Metroidvania game I really got into was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Radical Rescue for the original Gameboy. The game involved sneaking into Shredder’s lair as Michelangelo to rescue your fellow Ninja Turtles, all of which had a special ability that allowed you to get past new obstacles. The game that really made me a fanatic about the genre, however, was Metroid Prime for Nintendo’s Gamecube. It was the first Metroid titled I’d played —- and the series’ first foray into 3D — and I was immediately hooked. I recall feeling lost and vulnerable in Tallon IV, the game’s lush over world, feeling instantly compelled to explore the world and acquire new offensive and defensive abilities -— or else face certain death by the hand of some indifferent alien creature.

What are some good Metroidvania games for beginners? For intermediate players? For experts?
Beginners should start with Metroid: Zero Mission, for Gameboy Advance. Zero Mission is a remake of the original Metroid title from the NES days, complete with a revamped story and updated visuals. It has a built in hint system that should help newer players get acclimated with the game’s labyrinth-like world. I also recommend players try out the relatively recent Guacamelee!, from Drinkbox Studios. The game’s great co-op mode and excellent combat system make for a well-rounded experience that showcases the genre’s novel formula without entering overtly cryptic territory.

Intermediate players should look to other Metroid games, especially Super Metroid and the first Metroid Prime, for their continued Metroidvania fix. The ominous alien atmosphere in these games will creep you out and the environmental puzzles will leave you scratching your head. Complete with some of the most exciting boss fights of all time, these titles represent the pinnacle of the genre (in my opinion) and shouldn’t be missed by players seeking a modest challenge.

Experts look no further than Konami’s excellent Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. The game has one of the most cryptic map systems of all time, one that can be tackled in a variety of ways, and features absolutely no guidance whatsoever. The experience is made more memorable by an epic story, amazing animation, and a mesmerizing score.

Castlevania - Alucard's Theme01:53

Castlevania - Alucard's Theme

What is some advice you'd give to new players?
Don’t always take the obvious path! The more you allow yourself to get lost in these games, the more secrets you’ll uncover and the more fun you’ll have. Disregard any preconceived notions you have about how side scrolling platformers are supposed to be played -— investigate the environment, experiment with your tools, and take your time!

Mhadick recommends

Wikia resources

Want to learn more about Metroidvanias? All of our experts provided a number of links to help you dip your toes into their world. They also recommend you reach out to them via their message wall, wiki chat, or talk page if you have any questions. Here's the syllabus:

Got any questions about Metroidvanias or a favorite Metroidvania to recommend? Leave a comment below!

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