The Nintendo Switch is the perfect console for playing a particular type of game called “Metroidvania.” A genre heavily influenced by the Metroid series and Castlevania games from Symphony of the Night onward, Metroidvania games combine platforming, exploration, role-playing, customization mechanics, and combat together into a sprawling adventure.
There are no set “rules” for the genre, but in general, a Metroidvania game will involve fighting enemies, finding ways to progress past locked doors or unreachable areas, and learning new abilities. Their 2D side-scrolling style makes them perfect for the Switch, and we’ve rounded up some of the best ones to play on the console. These are the best Metroidvania games on Switch.
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One of the most atmospheric and engrossing games available on Nintendo Switch, Hollow Knight understands what makes a Metroidvania game work. The world is filled with passages and detours that contain secrets, enemies, and upgrades, and the combat is simple enough to not overwhelm you but with enough special moves to make it interesting.
In a world filled with bugs, many of whom want you dead, you must always remain on your toes. Friendships can be forged in unexpected places, and there always seems to be one path you haven’t taken yet. Hollow Knight’s use of a Souls-like currency-dropping system makes every dangerous moment that much tenser, as well.
Fantasy worlds? Who needs them when you have a prototypical American high school? Super Daryl Deluxe stars a silent protagonist who is basically willing to do whatever menial tasks other students tell him to, and that typically involves heading into a classroom and entering a level inspired by its subjects.
You meet classic historical figures such as Genghis Khan and Georgia O’Keefe, usually while battling monsters that stop you from making it further into the school. The real charm in Super Daryl Deluxe, however, comes from its excellent writing, which has just the right mix of sarcasm and historical references. It’s wrapped up in a gorgeous hand-drawn style package that also features some killer tunes.
The term “Metroidvania” initially came about after Castlevania: Symphony of the Night took the series from mostly linear action into an open-ended environment, and director Koji Igarashi ran with the concept for subsequent games. With Konami showing little interest in making a new Castlevania title using this style, Igarashi took it upon himself to design a spiritual successor: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.
Featuring a similarly spooky setting and horror-inspired enemies, it feels like the modern Symphony of the Night we never got, and its deep customization system gives you plenty of choice for how you confront its many enemies.
Dead Cells is different than many Metroidvania games in that it is also inspired by the roguelike genre – it features permanent death, so you won’t be able to simply retry any areas you struggled with immediately. Instead, you must improve with each subsequent “run” through its world, mastering the patterns of different enemies and bosses and picking the upgrades you need to do so.
Though Dead Cells uses pixel art often associated with the 16-bit era, the fluidity of animations and depth of colors are something we would not have seen back in the ‘90s, giving the game a unique flavor all its own.
Image & Form has quietly become one of the most talented and acclaimed developers in Europe, and SteamWorld Dig 2 stands as one of its finest creations. Set largely underground as you attempt to discover the cause of earthquakes, the sprawling world is classic Metroidvania, as are the different varieties of enemies you’ll face and the gear upgrades you can acquire.
One thing that separates it from the pack, however, is a hook-shot mechanic that you can use to make your way across certain areas as if you were Link in Ocarina of Time. The cartoony art style and mix of environments help to keep things feeling light and fresh, even if you have hot lava below your feet.
The original Guacamelee was a love letter to the Metroidvania genre, but it built on it substantially by featuring a deep and combo-focused combat system with its luchador protagonist Juan. The sequel doesn’t fix what wasn’t broken, with the same flashy attacks intact, but it includes a new upgrade system and even sharper visuals inspired by Mexican folklore.
The game also features drop-in four-player cooperative play, so your friends and family can get in on the fun whenever they want, and there are plenty of new bosses for you to beat to a pulp. DrinkBox Studios has a knack for making every punch feel excellent, so you’ll enjoy fighting even the most mundane enemies.
While we wait for a full-fledged original Metroid game to release on Nintendo Switch, we can play the next best thing with Axiom Verge. An unashamed monument to the classic Metroid games, Axiom Verge is a mysterious science-fiction adventure loaded up with different weapons to use and secrets to unravel.
It’s a cerebral and deep experience that builds on its Metroid-inspired gameplay with its own twisted story, and it shows that you can create something special even while drawing heavily from past works. Though available on practically everything, Axiom Verge certainly feels at home on Nintendo Switch.
Why simply run when you can fly? In Owlboy, you can take to the skies to conquer obstacles and carry nearly anything to assist you in your objectives, and a special spin attack can be used to defeat enemies or send projectiles flying back at them. Flying adds a new twist on solving puzzles, and the sky-based world you explore has a sense of whimsy and charm that is perfect for a Nintendo system.
Developer D-Pad Studio has also put more emphasis on storytelling than we typically see from the genre, as the decade-in-the-making project focuses on protagonist Otus’ struggles with being mute, as well as a new enemy he encounters.
The Messenger, like several games on our list, pays tribute to a classic action-platformer – Ninja Gaiden – but the original games on NES weren’t really Metroidvania titles. This itself is addressed in the gameplay, which begins as an 8-bit linear action game before eventually shifting to a 16-bit art style.
When this occurs, the game opens up and transforms into a Metroidvania, effectively delivering a game with an entirely new adventure. There are plenty of hidden levels to find and upgrades to give to your character, all bundled up in an experience that highlights well-defined controls more than the games that inspired it.
Possibly the greatest game in the whole genre, Super Metroid wasn’t available on the Nintendo Switch at its initial release. In fact, it wasn’t until the end of 2019 that the Nintendo Switch Online service began providing it to customers as a free bonus, and the Super NES classic still remains a legendary accomplishment. The eerie ambiance Nintendo created with such restricted hardware surpasses most recent Metroidvania games, and the detailed structure and design of the world are packed with innovative gadgets and abilities for Samus.
Super Metroid may not technically be a Nintendo Switch game as it’s just an emulator for the SNES. However, it’s proof of the game’s quality, making us want to return to it, even with countless other options available on the system. Super Metroid demonstrated that exceptional science-fiction was achievable in games just as much as film and is the unquestioned gold standard for the entire genre.
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