Elemental Challenge Day Twenty-Four: Metroidvania

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We’ve less than ten days left in our Elemental Challenge, NPCs! Let’s crank up the difficulty…

Today we’re talking about a hybrid sub-genre. It’s not a Metroid fusion or a Castlevania symphony, but put ’em together and what have you got? The portmanteau Metroidvania, one of the most poorly defined extant classifications in gaming. What makes a Metroidvania? Good question. I suppose if it plays like a classic Metroid game, or a classic Castlevania one (apparently to a lesser extent). We can get more technical than that: Metroidvanias come in the vein of action-adventure games and they usually share a few characteristics such as massive, labyrinthine, interconnected maps, progression through locked areas via securing upgrades for your character, some degree of backtracking, pseudo-non-linear gameplay, exploration/experimentation, and typically platforming. There are all kinds of redundancies and overlaps and clones haunting this sub-genre, but there are certainly some gems to hunt down, as well.

These are just some of our amalgamated Castleroid favorites.

 

 

blackmage  The Black Humor Mage

Super Metroid is one of the games that perfected the Metroidvania formula. It’s dark atmosphere and great gameplay makes for an awesome experience, and makes for one the best SNES game out there.

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mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Guacamelee. This beautiful and at times very difficult game was a masterpiece. It is done in the art style of the Dia De Los Muertos or Day of the Dead from the Mexican culture. I get embarrassed about this genre because I have never played the original Metroid or Castlevania games, but every time I play a game in the style of them I always get hooked. (Honorable Mentions – Shadow Complex, Apotheon, Outland)

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spoonybardmageright.jpg  The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

This is one of my favorite genres, and it’s pretty hard to choose. Recently I absolutely dug Axiom Verge, Cave Story+ and the Shantae series. My favorite though is Aquaria. This gorgeous game puts you in control of Naija, an aquatic lifeform with amnesia exploring a gorgeous underwater world, trying to piece together what disaster befell it. You collect plenty of powers and abilities, and the music and narration have a ton of polish.

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HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

I was going to say Symphony of the Night, but I’ve only played around 32% of it. I’m woefully unqualified to discuss Metroidvanias having spent most my life playing sports and wrestling games…that’s something I need to work on.

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Kx18GL1dNEW  The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)

I’m sorry, Order of Ecclesia; you were an old crush and Shanoa is still #2 on my personal list of Top Female Protags in a Metroidvania Game. But nobody can out-shinespark Samus Aran and her second trip to Planet Zebes in Super Metroid for the SNES. Metroid- it’s literally in the name of the genre now.

Super Metroid was probably THE first SNES game I ever beat- at least, one where I wasn’t tagging along as a little, inexperienced 2P leeching victory off of somebody next to me. The very nature of the game blew my mind: You could play as a super cool person in a special suit that fired lasers out of one arm? You got new power-ups that permanently stay with you and made more places explorable? You actually got rewards for going back to old ‘stages’ with those new tricks and seeing what you missed? Everything was amazing to me at the time- setting, characters, and graphics all.

In all retrospect, Super Metroid’s simplicity in those was what made it so appealing to a child. There wasn’t any morality issues- your enemies were very clearly bad aliens with no qualms about killing innocent scientists. There wasn’t any pesky NPCs or allies to get in your way- you were a one-woman army entirely on her own in Zebes. And there weren’t any builds or choices to be made about equipment- you either had that power-up or you didn’t, and if you had two weapon power-ups, you got to combine both of them. (Video game protagonists to this day still don’t get the concept.) Super Metroid focused entirely on what made it great, and that was smooth, progressive gameplay, and fantastic world design to go with it. And that’s just the vanilla game.

Nowadays, for those that also grew up with it and simply know the game like the back of their hand- and believe me (*cough*), there are those (*cough*) that can name every item location and how to find them- the modding community has provided a sizable number of new adventures for Samus. The galaxy isn’t going to save itself, so, have at them!

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nostalgiamage  The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)

I struggled to come up with any Metroidvanias that weren’t Metroid or Castlevania games. Maybe it’s just that the 2D action I generally like is in the form of platformers, ie. Rayman, Mario, those kind of games. But the Metroidvania is an interesting genre – generally consisting of a large, interconnected world, and although 2D is the more “traditional,” 3D games can be Metroidvanias.

That being said, if I had to pick my favorite Metroidvania, it would have to be Metroid Prime. I honestly don’t believe there’s a more perfect example of Metroid games than Prime itself. They captured the atmosphere of the 2D Metroid games and translated it to 3D seamlessly. One of the best games I’ve played of all time, and definitely the best Metroidvania out there.

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  The Rage Mage

I guess all the plebeians on this blog forgot the -vania in Metroidvania, so I’ll name the best Castlevania game there is and just pretend it’s “metroidvania” too.

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rmage2.jpg  The Well-Red Mage

I’m reminded of how much I really want to play Axiom Verge! Since I haven’t had the pleasure, I’m limited to talking about Metroidvania games I’ve played (and I’m personally restricting myself to non-Metroid, non-Castlevania games for this hodge-podge of a category, otherwise it would definitely be Super Metroid for me, too). Song of the Deep and Blaster Master Zero were two Metroidvania titles I played recently but neither of them had that spark of spectacularity befitting first place in an Elemental Challenge. Other games I was surprised to learn had the touch of Metroidvania classification include Arkham Asylum, Demon’s CrestStrider, and one of my definitive favorites: DuckTales: Remastered. So you know what? I’m going to go with that one, even though it’s clearly not the most exemplary of this hybrid sub-genre.

It was one of the first reviews I wrote for The Well-Red Mage (so if you read it, remember that I was a sapling). This is one of my favorite remasters. Signs of quality are all over it. They even got the original voice actors from the DuckTales cartoon to reprise their roles. You can finally dive into Scrooge’s money bin but best of all, the remaster is as fun to play any original NES game. That’ll do for my Metroidvania choice. 

Have fun with this category, Mister Chris Scott.

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Sound off in the comments below about your favorite Metroidvanias, or perhaps start a rigorous discussion on the vague evils of gaming genre classification methods, but be sure to do it silently, at least by tomorrow. What will tomorrow’s genre be?! Shhhh!!!
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40 thoughts on “Elemental Challenge Day Twenty-Four: Metroidvania

  1. I nominate Metroid Prime 3 on the Wii. I am not sure how many games I have played actually fit the description and whether Metroid Prime 3 is the most fitting example in the series, but I enjoyed it. I liked the story for this game, which seemed more detailed, than the previous games in the trilogy. I also liked the extended cast of characters which made the game feel less alienated than the previous games and added an extra dimension to the story (Samus begins the game with allies that become corrupted by phazon and become hostile). I like the way the game uses different planets, each with a different atmosphere, the industrial Norion, the mountainous Bryyo, Elysia (situated above clouds), the ruined G.F.S. Valhalla, the dark Pirate Homeworld and the weird Phazee. I also like the way each planet has a different backstory (revealed through different ways), which described how Dark Samus’ implement her plan and makes her seem more than just a difficult enemy. I enjoyed how the game used different gameplay, such as the action sequence during the raid on the Pirate Homeworld and the ship actions. I also liked exploring the meteors and the boss fights (although I was slightly confused by what happens afterwards). I did feel the locations felt more connected in the other Metroid Prime games though. Particular highlights for me were the ruined G.F.S. Valhalla (it was interesting to see the damage caused to the structure, but not knowing what caused it) and Elysia (I liked the floor of clouds, the meteor visible among the clouds, the eerie Space Pirate laboratories and the way distant structures can be viewed from the walkways).
    What is better about Super Metroid compared to other Metroid games? What are the elements of Metroidvania present in the games you mentioned? Are Castlevania and Metroid very similar?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I typically loathe backtracking in games, but I’m a big fan of the “metroidvania” tag. The original Metroid is likely my favorite, but Axiom Verge, the Strider reboot, and the usual Metroid/Castlevania games that built the subgenre are all pretty great. Simon’s Quest remains my favorite of the NES Castlevania trilogy, which is the only one that fits the descriptor anyway. Symphony of the Night is easily one of the best games I’ve ever played, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • If there’s good reason to backtrack, as in metroidvania, then it becomes a part of exploration more than tedious tracing over your steps. Axiom Verge! Is that coming to the Switch or what? I’d love to play it but I’d love even more to play it on the Switch.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s supposed to come to Switch, yeah. Tom Happ seemed surprised that Nintendo never sent him a Switch dev kit to port it, but I believe the Multiverse Edition has a physical Switch version. I loved this on Vita, but since I’ve already played through it twice I won’t be double dipping on the Switch. But it’s 100% worth picking up when it does land over there.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ll have to go with Ori for this one! My Metroidvanian experience is pretty limited. I don’t THINK I’ve said Ori for any of the other days yet because I have only played two hours of the game and it felt like cheating before! But because my only other Metroidvanian play is probably (I say probably because who knows, maybe a few that I’ve decided are side scrollers belong to this subgenre) Cave Story, which I’ve played significantly less of, I thought it more acceptable for this category to squeak by a little 😅

    Liked by 1 person

  4. When it comes to Metroidvanias, I’d say my favorites are Metroid Prime 3 and Dark Souls. The original Metroid Prime is probably a better example of the genre though; its sequels are more linear and action-heavy (still amazing, though).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yeah, I know I’m a mage, and that I could just add my entry, but hey, I don’t care.

    My favorite Metroidvania game is Metroid Fusion. Anyone who has a Gameboy Advance or Wii U should get it!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    Day 24 of the Elemental Challenge is Metroidvania! It’s a genre I love but have not yet been able to play the games that originated it. My number 1 in this category is Guacamelee it is such an awesome game and I love the Dia De Los Muertos style of it. Another one I love is Shadow Complex, what games are you fond of in this genre? Come let us know at The well-Red Mage.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m something of a Metroidvania addict and connoisseur. I think I made my feelings clear on the amazing Ori and the Blind Forest, but other favourites include early access Steam gem Dead Cells, and other brilliant slices of loveliness such as Teslagrad, SteamWorld Dig, Axiom Verge, Hollow Knight, Owlboy, Cave Story, and many more. A really amazing genre, in my opinion. So creative.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You could probably give me a better definition of metroidvania than the sloppy one I came up with rife with redundancies. A lot of those games are ones I’m itching to play! I really enjoy this genre when it’s done right.

      Like

  8. Oh today is what is your favorite made up nonsensical genre conglomeration day? Yay! [/sarcasm]

    Well since I’m playing along, I’m going to say Rogue Legacy. It is probably more randomized Castlevania than anything else but since there doesn’t seem to be any stringent rules on what can fit in this goofy genre, I’m going to go with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well you really can’t out-Nintendo Nintendo. So the Metroid games (except Other M) aren’t really touchable. But the closest is Thomas Happ’s Axiom Verge. One of the few games I’ve given a top score to. Not only does it completely nail Nintendo’s Super Metroid formula; not only does it have amazing pixel art; not only does it have a great soundtrack; it was done entirely by ONE PERSON. That is an amazing level of commitment not seen since the days of the Atari 2600. If you love 2D exploration adventure games like Metroid, you owe it to yourself to play this one. And its on pretty much everything current. So check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have had a great deal of trouble getting into Axiom Verge. I actually just pre-ordered a Vita physical release that’s coming out in October, so I’m going to try to get into it again. Everything about this game, I should like, but I think I just got lost too many times and didn’t play it consistently enough.

    I feel like AX is the culmination of years of building up the Metroidvania label, so I think I just need to give it a second shot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hope you enjoy it when you get the chance, but I definitely understand how a lack of consistency can make one lose interest in an otherwise respected game. I hope it comes to the Switch.

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      • The two that I played were deceptively large. I haven’t posted the original gameboy releases, so I don’t one if that’s recent tend fire Shantae. Either way though, it was five trying to 100% the items and abilities in each.

        Liked by 1 person

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