Gaming in 2017 gives consumers a lot of options. From mobile games to First Person Shooters to indie games there’s a section of the market that most people tap into at least sometimes. The most popular console games at the moment are probably FPS’s (who hasn’t played Call of Duty) and open world 3rd person games. Then there’s the mobile market, which although it’s flooded with shovelware to such an extent that it may cause another video game crash, is technically the most popular form of gaming. We’re now at a point where people who grew up playing games are making games and the indie scene has benefited greatly from this. One sub-genre that is particularly popular on the indie scene are Metroidvania games. Metroidvania games are 2D sidescrollers where exploration is a focus and acquiring new weapons/ items to unlock previously inaccessible areas is key. Carry on reading for some insights and fun facts about Metroidvania games, a genre I love.
Metroidvania games are largely inspired by two franchises. They are Metroid and Castlevania. Metroid, a Nintendo property that debuted on the NES, has you control Samus through dark and creepy corridors (either on huge space stations or atmospheric alien worlds). Super Metroid on the SNES was a standalone title and is often credited as being one of the best games of all time. The series endures to this day and the hype around the recently announced Metroid Prime 4 is huge. The Metroid titles evoke feelings of loneliness and isolation whilst also having difficult enemies and moments of discovery. The problem with Metroid games is that they’ve never really sold well, although this hasn’t stopped them being a continuing source of inspiration for developers.
The other franchise credited with establishing the Metroidvania genre is Castlevania. A Konami property, there are more Castlevania games than Metroid games, although they also vary more in style. Again, most of the games follow a 2D side-scrolling format except this time the themes are vampires and gothic castles and cathedrals. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, the PSone classic, is the most critically acclaimed game in the series and it has had as big an impact on the industry as Super Metroid. It’s ironic that the 3ds is now going to be home to a 2.5D Metroid and a 2.5D Castlevania made by the same developer. MercurySteam released Castlevania: Mirror of Fate a few years ago and in September is releasing Metroid: Samus Returns.
I find Metroidvania games and Zelda style games share a few key game mechanics. In a way, I’d describe some Metroidvania games (such as the Shantae games) as 2D side scrolling Zeldas. The hidden items and pathways, exploration and feeling of progression add to this impression. The Shantae games are such good examples of great Metroidvania games. Despite their fun, colourful aesthetic they can match the atmosphere of Metroid or Castlevania, just in a different way! Wayforward who develops Shantae are great at 2D pixel-based art and side scrollers in general. They also developed the excellent Aliens: Infestation for Nintendo DS. One game to look out for from them is a new 2D side scroller based on the Mummy film reboot, hopefully, it won’t suck, knowing Wayforward, it’ll be good! Let’s hope more Metroidvania games are coming to a platform near you soon!!!