The word ‘Metroidvania’ might rub some core gamers the wrong way, but it’s a useful catch-all to describe a very specific type of game experience. Combining elements from both the Metroid series and Koji Igarashi-produced Castlevania titles, this broad platforming genre has you using an ever-growing skill set to open up new paths across an expansive, layered map. As you explore and find secrets throughout the environment, these games empower the player in a way that makes them extremely addictive.
Despite laying down the blueprint, neither Nintendo or Konami have been particularly prolific in the genre for a while, although the announcement of Metroid Dread for Switch has got us jonesing for some quality Metroid-style explorative platforming games. Fortunately, over the past decade or so we’ve seen some incredible examples from independent developers inspired by the classics — there is no shortage of great Metroidvanias to choose from on Switch.
To help you keep on top of all those releases, we’ve rounded up the best examples of the genre — in no particular order — to help you avoid the turkeys. Each of the following games showcase the brilliant and varied mechanics of the genre and are sure to give you that very particular buzz you get from the exploration and combat in the best Metroidvanias.
So, let’s have a look at the best Metroidvanias for Switch…
Publisher: Team Cherry / Developer: Team Cherry
Hollow Knight feels like it’s found its natural home on Switch. The game’s beautiful 2D world, tactile combat and impressive bevy of secrets constantly drag you in for more, and it proves to be as strong an experience on the move as it is on your TV. On an eShop that’s already filled with top quality indie games, Hollow Knight is one of the very best; a big, beautiful, foreboding Metroidvania that’s absolutely thick with detail. From its punchy combat system to its charming art and sound design, this is one of the finest adventures you can have on Nintendo Switch.
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Publisher: Drinkbox Studios / Developer: Drinkbox Studios
A dazzling, thrilling action-platformer with a potent cocktail of combat and platforming components, all set in one of the most appealing game worlds around. It’s not a massive progression from the original, and its sheer relentlessness can prove tiresome, but Guacamelee! 2 is a real celebration of a sequel.
Publisher: Thomas Happ Games / Developer: Thomas Happ Games
Axiom Verge on Switch is truly an outstanding port of an outstanding game, no more and no less. We would strongly urge those of you that missed this game on other platforms to pick it up here; this is the full Axiom Verge experience and it’s available in a format that supports both handheld and home play. For those of you who have played it before on other platforms, it’s ultimately a question of just how much you love this game. This is the exact same, excellent game that you’ve played before, so whether or not you want to buy it again is personal choice. Regardless of which side you fall on, Axiom Verge is a fantastic example of how to do a Metroidvania right.
Publisher: Devolver Digital / Developer: Sabotage
2D side-scrolling action games like The Messenger may be a dime a dozen these days, but you’d be missing out on something special by passing this one up. Featuring a surprisingly long campaign, an incredible soundtrack and tight, challenging level designs, The Messenger stands as a shining example of great game design. We’d highly recommend you pick this one up; it’s the very definition of a modern classic.
Publisher: Image & Form / Developer: Image & Form
SteamWorld Dig 2 is another confident effort from Image & Form, and a worthy successor to a game that’s a treasured part of many eShop collections. Stylish and good-looking, it also has the series’ trademark humour and, yes, a pretty good soundtrack. It refines and expands upon the qualities of the original and hits some delicious high points, albeit some of the smartest segments and ideas appear only briefly. It sets the scene for more content and games, too, which is pleasing to see.
For fans of SteamWorld Dig we suspect the recommendation isn’t needed as they’ll buy this anyway. For those that skipped the first game, however, Dig 2 is a must-have — its charming aesthetic and cast set the scene for a tightly designed and clever exploration game.
Publisher: WayForward / Developer: WayForward
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, and you shouldn’t judge this game based on its movie tie-in; with The Mummy Demastered, WayForward may have reached its apex. It deserves to stand on its own as one of the best recent examples of not only a pixel art aesthetic, but as an excellent combination of run ‘n gunning, platforming and exploration. The game benefits from paying homage to multiple 16-bit ancestors rather than strictly sticking to its celluloid source material; The Mummy Demastered is a polished, accomplished and satisfying adventure that will entertain more than just Metroidvania fans.
Publisher: WayForward / Developer: WayForward
If you haven’t gotten around to it by now, the Switch version is certainly the best way to play Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse. Tight gameplay, detailed visuals, and charming writing combine to make this a Metroidvania that is a must play for any fans of this genre. We’d give this game a strong recommendation to anybody who hasn’t played it yet and would still encourage veterans to consider double dipping. Though there’s nothing groundbreaking about this re-release, it’s still the same great game that it was before, and the few minor additions are a nice bonus.
Publisher: Motion Twin / Developer: Motion Twin
Dead Cells is a masterclass in excellent roguelite design, mixing together nonstop intense action sequences, gorgeous vistas, and an addictive loop of unlocks and rewards into a beautiful experience that no Switch owner will want to go without. There’s dozens, if not hundreds, of hours of content available here, and though some sense of repetition can creep in every now and then, it’s remarkable how fresh Dead Cells can stay through all those hours. This game is a blast to play, full of visual splendor, and packed with things to do; don’t miss out on this one, it’s a must-buy.
Publisher: Inti Creates / Developer: Inti Creates
Blaster Master Zero is a lovely addition to the Switch’s library. We suspect that it will help to fill the gap between major retail releases for anxious Switch owners looking for a low-impact game to play on the go. As Blaster Master Zero features simplistic visuals, we were able to squeeze some extra battery life out of our Switch while playing it when compared to some of the more visually intense titles already on offer.
If you are looking for something new, we highly recommend Blaster Master Zero; it’s a great homage to the original and one you will have a blast (sorry) playing.
Publisher: Bifrost / Developer: Joakim Sandberg
Iconoclasts is a memorable, thought-provoking, and enjoyable take on the Metroidvania genre which manages to stick out from the crowd with its chipper presentation and deeper storytelling style. Couple those elements with some of the best 16-bit spritework we’ve seen and a killer lineup of awesome boss encounters, and you’ve got another must-have for the Switch library.