The Metroidvania genre

Metroidvania games


The gaming world has so many genres of games, it can be hard to keep track. One of the interesting things about genres is, new ones can pop up out of nowhere. The Resident Evil games are one of those. The first Resident Evil didn’t fit into any specific niche, so the creators dubbed it “Survival Horror” and thus the genre was born. Other types of games and their genre associated can slowly emerge over time. One game will come out and when it first arrives, it seems to fit into a specific style but then maybe the studio creates more like it, or other people love it, so they mimic the gameplay and then eventually you have a new genre floating around. Again, the Dark Souls games are akin to this. Look around and you will see the term “Souls type” games.

The Metroidvania game genre definitely fits into the slowly built and eventually established, category.

The term is a combo of the game titles Metroid and Castlevania. Both of those games came out in the mid 80’s with the original Nintendo Entertainment System. At the time there were few to almost no established genres in the gaming world. Super Mario Bros was the first official platformer but both Metroid and Castlevania were different. Metroid was almost an adventure game and had you running around an alien world, going to one area, being blocked, backtracking, finding a new weapon or item and then backtracking again to go back to the area that you were blocked from going through. See, games like Super Mario Bros, once you advanced you couldn’t go back. This changed as the series moved forward but at first, it made games like Metroid stand out. The series continued this sense of adventuring and traversing a world with enemies abounding. Castlevania on the other hand was different yet similar. It fit a little neater into the games of the day but established itself as unique. There was a more linear forward progression in the level advancement (except of course for Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest which was much more like Metroid) although a lot of levels had you potentially going up and down vertically, as opposed to just left and right. A huge thing for me about the Castlevania games was the fighting/action and weapons you used. The Belmont’s signature weapon is a whip which has made for interesting dynamics in almost the series as a whole. On top of that you have a sub-weapon slot that can be filled with one of the various choices that can be found somewhat often throughout the game. The weapons change around throughout the series, but the three staples are the battle Axe thrown in a high arc, the dagger that flew straight ahead and a good distance, and the holy water thrown in a low arc but when it lands on the ground it strikes up into a pillar of flame for additional damage. The variety of these sub-weapons created a whole new level of combat in the early days.


So, what is the Metroidvania genre??


The Metroidvania genre is an amalgamation of the two styles of gameplay, just like the name is a mix of the two game titles.

  • Metroidvania games are going to have you traversing some type of world/area and a large part of the game will be spent going back and forth from one area to another and throughout the map.
  • The map display and viewing it is a key part of the genre.
  • You will find areas that you should be able to get to, but something is blocking your progress (a ledge is just out of reach, a door blocked by something and on and on).
  • The entire world/area will be broken up into sections. Within a section you can move around but when you hit the edge of that section (many times indicated by some kind of door/passage), the game will have you transition to the next section. Specific parts or areas of the overall world map will have MANY sections within them.
  • Enemies will be in abundance and will respawn when you go from one section to another.
  • In some way shape or form you will acquire new abilities that allow you to progress further in the game and in particular, give you access to the areas that were unobtainable before.
  • Whether it be leveling up your character through the gaining of experience points or finding new gear and/or items, your character will get better weapons/attacks, defense/armor, and a higher life meter.
  • A final and very unofficial aspect of a Metroidvania game is the music. This last piece is more for fun and just my own opinion and not necessary but for me, a good soundtrack that both pulls you into the world you’re in and you can listen to for countless hours without being irritated is absolutely key.


Now we know what it is, The next question would be, what started the genre??


It all began with the epic game, Castlevania: Symphony of the night. Symphony of the night (from here on called SOTN), is widely considered the very first Metroidvania game. SOTN, has you start as Richter Belmont but after a somewhat quick beginning the game tells you Richter has gone missing. You then transition into playing Alucard, Dracula’s son. You then play as Alucard for the rest of the game. SOTN very much combined elements of the two parent games mentioned above. The bullet list written just above here is 100% SOTN. You traverse throughout Dracula’s castle (basically almost a pocket dimension given the breadth of exploring you do in the game) in a similar manner to Metroid. The map display has an incredible likeness to Super Metroid. However, when compared to the Metroid series, SOTN equally pays homage to and utilizes many of the expected aspects of the Castlevania games. SOTN is after all a direct entry into the Castlevania series (even if it birthed a new genre).


I could go on and on about Symphony of the Night and maybe one day I will write a post about it but since this post is more just a blurb about the Metroidvania series, I’ll leave it at that. If you’re curious to check out the genre, click this link here and get cracking.