Metroid fever spreading! Since Nintendo announced not one, but two new Metroid games (one of which is slated for this year), people are going nuts for the return of the franchise. This is because it’s been so long since we’ve seen a Metroid game, and there’s really very little like it. With its hard sci-fi overtones, moody atmosphere, and open world 2D gameplay, Metroid is a series that has demanded attention as a critical darling for years now. It’s about time for its return.
However, Metroid’s not the only one of its kind. Over the past few years, as people have wanted more Metroid, indie developers have tried to fill in the gaps with their own at the Metroid formula. Maybe they’re not all hard copies, but many attempt to use the gameplay formula in unique and interesting ways. Some bigger companies have caught onto the popularity of the genre and have tried their hand at it themselves. So, with Metroid being on everyone’s mind, we thought we might recommend some games similar to it to get you prepped for Metroid: Samus Returns later on this year!
Similar Games to Metroid
1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- System: Playstation, Sega Saturn (Japan only), Xbox 360, Playstation 3
- Publisher: Konami
- Developer: Konami Computer Entertainment Tokyo
- Release Date: October 2, 1997 (US)
Taking place a few years after Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night shifts the focus from Richter Belmont onto Alucard, the son of the notorious Dracula. Alucard, realizing how dangerous his father truly is, rushes off to destroy Dracula’s castle once and for all. However, upon reaching his destination, he is stopped by Death and is stripped of almost all his vampiric powers. He pursues his goal anyway, and, along with a young vampire hunter named Maria Renard, hopes to finally seal away Dracula once and for all.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was one of the first games to look at the precedent set by Super Metroid and attempt its own take on the formula. Mainly, it looked at how Super Metroid used its exploration as a means of “grinding” for the player and applied it to Castlevania. See, it was easy to get lost in Super Metroid, but by hunting around the environments, you could find power-ups that would help you with tougher enemies and bosses. Symphony of the Night, however, takes the same concept, but rather than limiting its player by what they can find at that moment, has a leveling system so that you’re always making slow progress and getting stronger, even as you’re totally and utterly lost. This was the game that spun off its own sub genre and is the reason they’re called “Metroidvanias” and not just Metroid-likes!
2. Shadow Complex
- System: Xbox 360, PC, Playstation 4, Xbox One
- Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios, Epic Games
- Developer: Chair Entertainment, Epic Games
- Release Date: August 19, 2009
A prequel to Orson Scott Card’s novel Empire, Shadow Complex stars Jason Fleming out on a hiking expedition with his recent romantic entanglement, Claire. They’re out in the Olympic Mountains when the couple accidentally stumbles upon a secret military base. Claire’s captured by the soldiers stationed there, and it’s up to Jason to save her. However, along the way, he may end up stumbling upon a much grander conspiracy than he ever thought possible that could engulf the entire world!
Super Metroid was a game of its time. Stuck in 2D, you could really only fight on the same plane as your enemies. Shadow Complex, however, makes full use of its 3D graphics. While you’re stuck moving left and right on a 2D plane, your enemies can come from all directions. You’ll have to take note of all your surroundings, as enemies can jump freely between your plane and their own. It allows the game to keep your own actions simplified to the 8 cardinal directions while also freeing up the screen so that it can throw more enemies at you than if you just had normal 2D gameplay!
Shadow Complex Remastered – Announcement Trailer:
3. Cave Story
- System: PC, Wii, DSi, 3DS, Switch
- Publisher: Nicalis
- Developer: Studio Pixel
- Release Date: March 22, 2010 (US)
You’re not really sure who or what you even are. You just awaken in a cave one day, powerless and weaponless. After some exploring, you’ll find yourself a broken gun that’s at least strong enough to clear some rubble out of the way, allowing you to enter another cave. Here, you find a small village with cute rabbit-like creatures called Mimigas. Despite the warm and lovely atmosphere, though, it’s actually a pretty miserable place. All the Mimigas live in fear of a figure only known as “The Doctor”, who comes to capture the Mimigas. You’ll set off to stop the Doctor’s nefarious schemes and bring peace back to the Mimiga people!
Cave Story could be considered the grandfather of all indie games. Entirely created by one man, Daisuke Amaya, Cave Story set the groundwork for what indie gaming was all about. Much of the tone of Cave Story seems inspired by Metroid’s lonely and hopeless atmosphere, with surprisingly somber and heart-wrenching story moments and some of the moodiest music you’ll ever find in a game. While it’s a bit more linear than Metroid, Cave Story still takes some inspiration in its level design by having secret upgrades hidden across its various stages. In fact, those who really poke around might even be able to extend their game time by finding branching story paths! It feels like it set out to evolve what Super Metroid started by evolving how games could be used as a narrative medium. With the recent re-release on Switch, it’s the perfect time to check it out!
Cave Story+ PC/Mac Trailer:
Any Games Like Metroid ?
- System: Playstation 3, Playstation Vita, PC, Playstation 4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Publisher: Drinkbox Studios
- Developer: Drinkbox Studios
- Release Date: April 9th, 2013
You’d think Juan Aguacate was just a simple farmer. And, well, he is!... except he somehow managed to end up as friends with El Presidente’s daughter. He can’t do anything about that, though. Because he’s dead. Or, rather, Juan was killed by a skeletal being named Carlos Calaca while in the process of protecting his friend. But not all hope is lost! While in the underworld, he is granted the powers of a luchador named Tostada, and has the ability to shift between the worlds of the living and the dead. Now Juan has set off to stop Calaca from sacrificing El Presidente’s daughter and gaining control of both worlds!
Most people might view Metroid as a solely exploratory experience. However, it’s easy to forget sometimes that part of what makes Metroid fun is the fast-paced combat. Guacamelee’s level design is still a linear take on the Metroid experience, briskly moving you from area to area, but with an open enough level design where you’re rewarded for exploration with new power-ups and abilities. But where Guacamelee shines, is the combat system. Think of it almost as a 2D take on the Devil May Cry combo system, where you’re rewarded for juggling and mixing up your move set. It’s a fantastic blend of both styles of games!
Guacamelee! For PS3 and PS Vita: Launch Trailer:
5. Axiom Verge
- System: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, PC, Xbox One, Wii U, Switch
- Publisher: Thomas Happ Games
- Developer: Thomas Happ Games
- Release Date: March 31st, 2015
The world of Sudra is in trouble. A mad man named Athetos has decided to destroy the Rusalki people and wipe out the entirety of the Sudran civilization. Luckily for them, a scientist named Trace has caused an explosion in his laboratory and has somehow transported himself to Sudra. The Rusalki decide to pin all their hopes on Trace to be able to confront Athetos and bring peace back to their world. However, they might be hiding something from Trace…
Out of everything on this list, Axiom Verge is the most obvious homage to Metroid. It so perfectly captures the feeling of what we expect an alien world to look like, with walls so gushy they look like they’re about to ooze off the screen and metallic armor so worn that you’re shocked that a game based on 2D sprites could produce such detail. But it’s more than just the visuals: the game also understands that a lot of Metroid’s appeal comes from how the exploration keeps the player guessing what kind of power-up you’ll find next. And the diversity of Axiom Verge’s gadgetry is something to behold, with each new ability subverting your expectations for what you might find in a Metroid game.
Axiom Verge on PS4 and PS Vita – Announce Trailer:
6. Strider (2014)
- System: PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
- Publisher: Capcom
- Developer: Double Helix Games, Capcom Osaka Studio
- Release Date: February 18th, 2014
You may not realize this, but the entire Strider franchise is actually based on a manga! It’s one of those franchises, though, where the game series has overshadowed the original work. However, this particular Strider game serves as something of a reboot, drawing inspiration from every single Strider work for its story, both games and story. Once again, Grandmaster Meio is causing problems in Kazakh City, and it’s up to Strider to stop him.
However, the story isn’t really why you’re playing Strider. Rather, it’s for the relentless and fast-paced combat. Strider 2014 has that in spades, moving faster than any Strider game before it. It manages to blend the action-focus with the more exploratory nature of the NES version of the game perfectly, creating one of the most harmonious blends of the “action” and “adventure” genres around. It’s perfect for people who love Metroid but feel like it lost the speed of Super Metroid in the transition to 3D.
Strider – Launch Trailer:
While the “Metroidvania” genre used to be disappointingly underrepresented, it’s seen a massive boom over the past couple of years thanks to the independent scene. This is only a tiny fraction of everything you might be able to find out there. Any Metroid-like game you loved that we didn’t mention? Please, share your recommendations with us in the comments below!