Did you get caught up in the release hype for Metroid Dread?
We hope so, because we’ve been enjoying revisiting the Metroid universe by replaying some of the seminal titles from the franchise in canon order. Our whistle-stop tour has taken us from Zero Mission on the Gameboy Advance, to Samus Returns on the 3DS, then jumping into Super Metroid on the SNES, before finally finishing with Metroid Fusion back on the GBA (to which Dread is a direct sequel). One helluva round trip, we’re sure you’ll agree.
But before taking Samus Aran on her first original 2D Metroid outing in almost 20 years, we figured we should compile a list of five Metroidvania titles you should check out. After all, the whole concept of Metroid inspired games has become a staple of the indie community in the two decades between the release of Fusion (2002) and Dread (2021).
Heavily influenced by the Metroid franchise, this retro-styled action-platformer features everything you’ve come to know and love from the genre. It was developed by one man, Thomas Happ, a guy who knows his onions when it comes crafting a huge 2D open world filled with weapons and abilities to collect and explore. This is a Metroid game in all but name, as far as gameplay goes. Plus, it has a sequel that recently launched which is also receiving rave reviews (although we haven’t played it yet).
Unlike Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight leaves the 16-bit visuals behind and opts for a much slicker and smoother hand drawn animation style. Combat is mainly melee based, but it stays faithful to the Metroid formula, allowing players to explore a vast underground map populated by an insect civilisation. On the surface it looks like an innocent platformer, but scratching a little deeper reveals the beginnings of a dark and atmospheric tale of a fallen kingdom.
An award-winning title from Derek Yu and the late Alec Holowka, Aquaria released way back in 2007, and features a main character named Naija, a humanoid/mermaid protagonist in an underwater realm, trying to regain her memories as she explores the ruins of a lost civilisation. One review described Aquaria as ‘a game you can comfortably get lost in‘, which pretty much sums up our experience. This is definitely a a worthy addition to any Metroid fan’s collection.
Another early gem from a one-man studio, Cave Story released to pretty much zero fanfare in 2004 and slowly simmered away online, garnering rave reviews down the years as fans discovered the title organically. Inspired by Metroid and Castlevania, developer Daisuke ‘Pixel’ Amaya crafted the game in his spare time; a tale of lost memories and broken curses, which remains free to this day for PC players.
Treasure Adventure Game
Another freeware title (get it via Steam or GoG.com), Treasure Adventure Game casts you in the role of a young boy who lands on an island that is a fragment of what was once a continent, destroyed in the war between a demon and a wizard. Another Metroidvania title made by a solo developer, the 8-bit visuals lend themselves well to the varied environments and are complemented by a memorable score, harking back to the simpler days of 2D exploration and discovery.