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Best Metroidvania games to explore to absolute completion

20. La-Mulana 2

best metroidvania games - la-mulana 2

(Image credit: Nigoro)

Some games are notoriously difficult, and some may be overdoing it a little. Both La Mulana entries are punishingly difficult, but if you can crack them, they are lovely homages to Indiana Jones-style treasure hunting, complete with a feisty hero who cracks a whip.

Here, it’s not so much the enemies who are deadly (although they too of course are plenty deadly), but also the environment – you’re going into a tomb with all sorts of nasty surprises that no artificial skill acquisition is able to overcome. You have to learn by doing- again and again and again.

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

19. Gato Roboto

best metroidvania games - gato roboto

(Image credit: doinksoft)

Gato Roboto isn’t only short and sweet, you also play a cat. Are you sold on this yet? This game isn’t all about combat, although that works well thanks to its precise control scheme – sometimes you quite literally have to be a nimble feline, who has to find ways around stuff rather than through it by brute force. It’s also unashamedly Metroidvania in the way your pelt-clad protagonist usually gets around in armour, and needs to find different weapons to proceed through an environment mostly made of caves. 

Available on PC, Switch

18. Blasphemous

best metroidvania games - blasphemous

(Image credit: Team 17)

Every time you think Metroidvanias have used just about everything feasible as a theme, a game like Blasphemous comes along. It brings a Dark Souls-esque touch to the Metroidvania genre, complete with cursed undead, religious iconography and the bonfire mechanic as central element. 

The art direction is fantastic, and the gameplay is solid, if a little lacking in anything to make it stand out among the mass of Metroidvanias available – a central problem for most newer titles. If you’re looking for a game where in terms of environment, you’ll always see something new, including some amazing boss design, Blasphemous still rises above much of its competition.

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

17. Dust: An Elysian Tail 

best metroidvania games - dust: an elysian tail

(Image credit: Humble Hearts)

This is a great game for anyone who wants to play a Metroidvana that’s more about story than mastery. There are plenty of secrets to find and you will have to backtrack quite a bit at times to find everything, but you have the option of simply concentrating on the story. Since that’s slightly cheesy however, you’re better off exploring every nook and cranny of the Asia-inspired 2D world. 

Dust uses fun beat em’ up-style sidescrolling combat that’s never frustrating, think Japanese games such as Odin Sphere. As such it’s a great game for those who are bit tired of Metroidvanias set in caves or castles, and another good title for genre beginners.

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One (via backward compatibility), Switch

16. Touhou Luna Nights

best metroidvania games - touhou luna nights

(Image credit: Why So Serious?)

You don’t have to know the Touhou series to enjoy Luna Nights, a short Metroidvania with some really cool skills, including the abilities to freeze and slow time, which are absolutely central to making it through in one piece. This is also a game that offers more in the puzzle department than “use skill to open the path”, and to top it all off it doesn’t hurt that this game is gorgeous, boasting marvellously smooth pixel art throughout.

Available on PC

15. Sundered

best metroidvania games - sundered

(Image credit: Thunder Lotus Games)

Sundered stands out, not only due to its incredibly gorgeous art, a trademark for developer Thunder Lotus Games, but also for how chaotic it is. At any given time the screen is absolutely filled with enemies, and you have to be both quick and calm to make it through. 

At the same time, the difficulty is forgiving enough (use the Metroidvania definition of forgiving) to accommodate such combat without being punishing – you rarely have to walk far and you don’t lose your items. The focus is very firmly on combat so Sundered may feel repetitive at times, but in a genre all about trying again and again, it’s very good at offering palpable, satisfying progress. 

Available on PC, PS4, Switch

14. The Messenger

best metroidvania games - the messenger

(Image credit: Sabotage Studio)

The Messenger isn’t a Metroidvania, first and foremost – it’s an action platformer that turns into one halfway through. Meant as a modern take on Ninja Gaiden, it’s all about becoming the ultimate ninja, using your sword, grappling hook and, most important of all, the cloud step ability. With it you can not only double jump, but also gain height if you hit something with your sword in mid-jump. It’s difficult, of course it is, but it’s also so much fun thanks to the amazingly responsive controls. 

Each dungeon comes in a present version that has 8bit visuals and music, while the future is fittingly in 16bits. It’s a cool gimmick, but one the game could perhaps have done without, as it leads to quite a bit of dungeon recycling. The story is far more than a gimmick though, and actually captures the feeling of being a hero fighting an ancient curse quite well.

Available on PC, PS4, Switch

13.  Iconoclasts

best metroidvania games - iconoclasts

(Image credit: Joakim Sanberg)

Inventive boss fights and multipurpose tools are the highlights of this gorgeous adventure. With a story darker than its looks might suggest, and gentle tweaks to the established formula, Iconoclasts stays continuously entertaining throughout.

Like in Sundered, you don’t so much pick up new skills as you learn to use what you’ve got – the focus this time lies on using your inventory to solve puzzles, rather than rock-hard combat. Additionally, thanks to the effort that went into the story, you’re sure to love plucky protagonist Robin by the end.

Available on PC, PS4, Switch

12. Axiom Verge

best metroidvania games - axiom verge

(Image credit: Thomas Happ Games)

It may not look particularly fancy, but with its  theme of a human being stuck on an alien planet, Axiom Verge could hardly come any closer to the original Super Metroid. Not that this is just a carbon copy, as there are tons of interesting skills to unlock, such as transforming yourself into something that looks like an alien mite or using a large array of different guns to solve all kinds of puzzles. A lot of thought went into how a classic that inspired a whole genre could be enhanced, and so you get a classic experience with many cool surprises.

Available on PC, PS4

11. Yoku’s Island Express

best metroidvania games - yoku's island express

(Image credit: Villa Gorilla)

This platformer comes with several unique twists – the fact that you play a cute dung beetle who is also a postmaster (!), and its pinball mechanic. To get around, Yoku often needs to build up speed and height, and since he can’t jump, he pushes a ball into flippers carefully set into the environment. 

Developer Villa Gorilla got this to work on a traditional Metroidvania map with interconnected rooms, which in itself is a feat, but it’s also stunningly atmospheric, set on a sunny island inspired by no less than Studio Ghibli films and Tove Janson’s Moomins. Play Yoku’s Island Express for something different or whenever you’re in need of an island getaway.

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch

Turn to the next page to see our ultimate top 10 best Metroidvania games...