Looking to get into the Metroidvania genre, or are you looking for recommendations to give to a friend? Here are our top ten picks for best entry games.

One of the more common questions that we are asked is “What game should I start with if I’m looking to get into the Metroidvania genre?” or sometimes we’re asked its variant “What is the best game I can recommend to a friend to help them get interested?” Every time I think about this question I always come back to whether or not the player has any experience with 2D platformers. Metroidvania games are sort of an evolution of the basics, and a lot of them seem to be designed with some previous experience in mind. For that reason, if a person is completely new to Video Games, I almost recommend starting with Kirby or Mario, especially the former, to get used to the tropes and mechanics of platformers before adding on that extra layer of map exploration. With that in mind, there are still quite a few Metroidvanias that are friendly to all levels of players without being too frustrating for those who are still learning – some of them even being perfectly fine candidates for “first game ever” experiences.

Out of the games we’ve actually reviewed, I’ve put together a list of the top ten games that I think would be perfect for beginners. Each of them gives a sense of what the Metroidvania tropes are, such as ability gating, an interconnected map, and recontextualizing old areas with new abilities. Not all of them are a “perfect” fit to the genre, but I feel they nevertheless introduce the concepts well.

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I would also like to note that while I have picked these games for beginner friendliness, none of them are “simplistic.” Each of them has layers to uncover, or higher levels of mastery, so that I could recommend them to players of any skill level. In fact, in the search for “beginner” games, the best recommendation would be those that can elevate a player to those higher levels. After all, it wouldn’t be a very good gateway game if the next step into the genre was still 3 feet above the player’s head. This is the primary criteria I used to determine the ranking number for this list – after picking which 10 should be on it.

For the sake of diversity I’ve also avoided listing more than one game from a single series, otherwise this list could have just been a top ten Metroid and Castlevania games, as most of the games from those two series would be excellent choices for first games. Just playing Castlevania in order of release starting from Symphony of the Night is a great recommendation without even doing a list.

To avoid any confusion, I’m also including the “Metroidvania Fit” rating with these games. We fully acknowledge that not all of these fit perfectly into the Metroidvania mold – so please don’t get angry with us!

Click each Game’s Title for our full review!

10. Yoku’s Island Express

Metroidvania Fit: Medium
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
It might seem ironic after talking about 2D platformers in the introduction to start this list off with a Pinball Game, but that’s part of what makes Yoku’s Island Express so special. “Metroidvania”, more than anything, is a level design format and progression philosophy; it’s not necessarily just a subgenre for 2D Platformers. Yoku’s Island Express has the interconnected map, the ability gating, and everything you’d need to understand what a Metroidvania is. The fact that it does all this while also being a Pinball game – a format I think most people are familiar with – makes it a fantastic choice for new players. It even has some platforming that advanced players can take advantage of. Best of all it has a game world that is relaxing and inviting, making it a one-of-a-kind experience all on its own. That pinball aspect does make it more of a genre fusion, which is why I rated it lower on this list, but it definitely belongs here.

9. Lootbox Lyfe

Metroidvania Fit: High
Platforms: PC (Steam, itch.io)
Lootbox Lyfe is a bit of an underrated gem for games that were released in 2020. What makes Lootbox Lyfe unique is that it does not include any combat – all of its challenges are platforming oriented. The controls are finely tuned and every mechanic is meticulously taught before turning the player loose into the world to explore. While its lack of detailed map system and sometimes ambiguous goals might make it a little dubious for new players, it makes up for it with its highly adjustable difficulty settings. While some of the games later on this list have some hand-holding to help a player along, Lootbox Lyfe is a great choice for anyone who wants something not too expensive that let’s them learn the exploration aspect of the genre all on their own.

8. Steamworld Dig 2

Metroidvania Fit: High
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG), PS4, Xbox One, Switch
While the first game was more of a novelty digging game, Steamworld Dig 2 provides a “True” Metroidvania experience while combining it with addictive mining and looting mechanics. The game starts out on a loop of diving into the mine, collecting gems, and selling them in town for upgrades that allow you to dig further. Eventually, you’ll have a few options for ruins to explore – you can even sequence break the game a bit if you know what you are doing. That additional openness exudes that “Metroidvania” feel, making a great introduction to the genre. Steamworld Dig 2 is colorful, the world is inviting, and it’s not too difficult; highly recommended to anyone.

7. Robot Wants it All

Metroidvania Fit: High
Platforms: PC (Steam) – Individual games available for free on the Web
Robot Wants it All is actually a collection of games that were initially offered for free on the web – with more than enough variants and new content to justify the asking price. I’ve actually talked to a few people where one of the Robot games was their first experience with the Metroidvania genre just because it was freeware. Each of the six games adds its own twist on the Metroidvania exploration idea giving you a great variety to experience, as well as giving you other options if you happen to dislike some of them. All of them are bite-sized endeavors, taking no longer than an hour or two to complete, so as an introduction it doesn’t even take up that much of your time. That is, unless you get addicted to applying mutations and additional challenges like I did. Best of all the freeware versions are still available on the web if you want to check those out before buying into the currently Steam-only compilation.

6. Gato Roboto

Metroidvania Fit: High
Platforms: PC (Steam,GOG), Switch
There’s nothing like an atrociously cute game to entice someone into a genre. This is another bite-sized Metroidvania as completion is possible in under 3 hours. It’s also a bit more linear than the genre can be, but that’s part of why it’s on this list. Gato Roboto has some actually challenging combat and platforming while lightly peppering in the concepts and ideas that make it a Metroidvania. Being cute and sometimes hilarious also means that it has great vibes to leave with anyone who plays it, possibly whetting their appetite for more.

5. Guacamelee!

Metroidvania Fit: Medium
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG), PS4, Xbox One, Switch (As well as some 7th gen consoles)
Guacamelee! is like a Festival of the Night. Its style and general irreverence is a fun time all on its own, but eventually the platforming challenges hit some extreme levels of difficulty, particularly for those completionists out there. The main critical path to the game’s normal ending is almost strictly linear, but it comically steals ability gating from the Metroidvania genre by even stealing the statues that traditionally gave the powers in the Metroid series. Once you hit the end game, you’ll be checking the map for places to apply those powers in much the same way you would in a better genre fit. The light introduction to the genre’s concepts is part of the reason why this is on the list, but another reason is that this game has local co-op support. If you get the Super Turbo Championship Edition, you can even have up to four players at once. This means if you’re trying to introduce the genre to a friend, then you can sit down and experience it with them. I personally found Guacamelee 2 to be even better than the first, so if you liked this one I definitely recommend getting both at some point.

4. Ori and the Blind Forest

Metroidvania Fit: High
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG), Xbox One, Switch
In many of the places I discuss Metroidvania games on the internet, Ori is considered the classic gateway game. Sometimes it gets derided for its Zelda-like dungeons, but in my personal opinion the game’s main “over world” area provided more than enough opportunity to put the powers you get to the test, especially with the definitive edition content in mind. Ori and the Blind Forest is also light on combat making it a great recommendation for those more interested in platforming challenges. The one caveat that I’ve seen some complaints about are the game’s chase sequences, which can be a bit of a spike in difficulty. Nevertheless, between the amazing production values and the top class level design, Ori and the Blind Forest is indeed one of the best gateway Metroidvania games out there. To make it an even better choice, its sequel introduces combat that is similar to the best in the genre, so playing the original and The Will of the Wisps together will get you well prepared for trying everything else.

3. Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom

Metroidvania Fit: High
Platforms: PC (Steam, GOG), Switch
Monster Boy is the spiritual successor to the Wonder Boy series of “Metroidvania” style games, which have been around since the late 80s and early 90s. Thus it’s no wonder that this game is so expertly crafted for all types of players. With its transformation system – which allows you to turn into different monster forms that you collect – you even get the opportunity to try different gameplay styles within the same game. Like many of the games on this list, it’s cute, colorful, and inviting. Beneath the hood it also has well-designed wordless tutorials and even a hint system so you don’t necessarily have to look up a map online if you want to get 100% completion. Its challenges have just enough bite to them in order to stretch the player, but it never gets so difficult that anyone is left behind.

2. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Metroidvania Fit: Perfect
Platforms: PS3, PS4, PSx, Vita, Xbox 360, PSP
The original Castlevania Metroidvania game is still my top recommendation as an introduction to that series, and it’s possibly the best introductory Metroidvania game of all. You can’t be confused about the genre tropes when you’re playing one of the games that popularized the genre in the first place. Symphony of the Night, with its RPG style progression, also has a bit of an upside-down difficulty curve, making it very friendly for any player to pick up and play. By today’s standards the second half of the game might be a little slow, but that first half is still an example of excellence that has rarely been surpassed. It’s a classic for a reason, and if you want to learn about a genre, starting with the classics is never a bad choice.

1. Metroid Zero Mission

Metroidvania Fit: Perfect
Platforms: GBA, Wii U
Between Castlevania and Metroid, Metroid is definitely the more difficult of the two, so arguably starting with one of the Castlevania games is a better choice. However, being a remake of the first Metroid game, Metroid Zero Mission was explicitly designed as an introduction to the Metroid series, and by extension it works well as an introduction to the Metroidvania genre as a whole. It starts out with some aggressive hand holding, forcing you to use your map as it marks where you’re supposed to go from the outset. However, gradually it actually plays tricks on you, forcing you to figure things out on your own and discover the beauty of ability gating and the renewing of old areas that makes the genre so appealing. It doesn’t even stop at introductions, because some of Zero Mission’s secret collectables are the most challenging in the entire Metroid series to obtain. There are special endings for 100% collection and for speedrunning the game, or doing both, and because of this both beginner players and veterans alike can appreciate Zero Mission. The venerable Super Metroid is still a fine choice for a starting game, but Zero Mission does the “beginner” aspect so perfectly in my opinion that it well deserves this number one spot.

And that’s our top picks for the best games for those new to the genre! Even if you are a genre veteran and haven’t played some of these, you should check them out. They’re highly recommended regardless of where you’re at in your Metroidvania journey.

Now of course, we haven’t played every Metroidvania game yet so maybe you’ve played something that should be on this list. Or, maybe we have played something that you think deserves a slot instead. Let us know what you think in the comments below or on our Discord!