Since the announcement of Metroid Dread, I’ve been on a huge Metroid kick! I just finished replaying the “main” series (ending with the spectacular Metroid Fusion, my favorite GBA game). What’s next while I wait for October 8th? An excellent Metroidvania, of course! I’ve been playing Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights and am absolutely entranced by the atmosphere and gameplay. Of course, that got me thinking about the stellar selection of other Metroidvanias on the Nintendo Switch, many of which can be picked up digitally very cheap! But before checking out the best Metroidvanias on Switch, let’s talk about why I love the genre.
Why the Metroidvania love?
This is probably my favorite overall genre of game, largely because of the sense of progression and exquisite atmosphere the games build. I really enjoy the feeling of exploration and discovery as you fill in the map piece by piece (those unexplored regions are always so tantalizing!). Since you traverse the same places again and again, you really feel stronger as you power up and tear through the older areas much more quickly. That palpable sense of progress just feels great! Most Metroidvanias also have a very intriguing, yet understated story that is slowly revealed. Glorious lore is usually pieced together from the environments and small fragments of writing you find over time. I love it! And is there anything like an epic Metroidvania boss that takes up the entire screen? (no, there is not).
Neither “Metroid” nor “vania”
For the purposes of this list, I’m omitting the actual Metroid and Castlevania games. That may seem like heresy, but rest assured each of those series is truly amazing (check out my rankings of all the Metroid games). Symphony of the Night and Aria of Sorrow are also some of my favorites of all time. But they’re the original inspiration. Here I’m going to stick to successor games that came after!
Okay, on to the actual best Metroidvanias on Switch! Many of these can be played on other platforms, but as you probably know I’m a huge Nintendo fan and game primarily on my Switch in handheld mode. You’ll find all of these beauties on the Nintendo eShop, and several have physical copies available too!
10. Gato Roboto
I’m going to assume you’ll purchase this game based on the title alone (as well you should). At only 4 or so hours long (I finished it in a single night because it was so fun), this bite-size Metroidvania sees you controlling a mech-riding kitty on an alien planet, helping your human locate things to save them. The graphics are a delightful throwback to old game boy titles, and the movement and combat is insanely satisfying in how nice it feels. I was surprised to see the amount of lore packed into this short adventure too! As a fun bonus, you can find cassette tapes that offer additional “filters” to slightly alter the graphical style, including one that makes things look like a Virtual Boy! (pictured below) Cheap and often on sale, it’s one of the best Metroidvanias on Switch.
9. SteamWorld Dig 2
I started playing this game when I was waiting for an oil change at my mechanic a few winter breaks ago. And for once, I didn’t want the car to be done quickly! The simple but insanely addictive gameplay has you digging into the ground as Dorothy the robot, finding loot then using it to improve your skills. Your digging becomes faster and easier, you find more loot, and the loop continues. You just can’t stop. The graphics are also insanely charming and music catchy. Movement and the use of all the tools feels great and very fluid. SteamWorld Dig 2 is a very relaxing and enjoyable experience that I strongly recommend as a “new to Metroidvanias” game!
A time-traveling game with graphics inspired by Chrono Trigger? You’ve already sold me! Playing as Lunais, a “Time Messenger”, you jump through different time periods in an attempt to prevent a future catastrophe. The world is beautiful, movement and combat is zippy and satisfying, and the supporting cast charming. Timespinner also doesn’t shy away from making a statement, which I appreciate. Another fairly concise experience, it’s one I highly recommend if you’re looking for “short and sweet”.
Blasphemous is one of my favorite games. Why is not higher on this list? Largely because I recognize its faults, and can easily say that it’s not for everyone. It’s set in the land Cvstodia where a supernatural force called “The Miracle” warped nearly all of its inhabitants into twisted forms years ago. You play as “The Penitent One” tasked with cleansing the land of its twisted inhabitants. The religious iconography, inspired by that found in Seville, Spain is beautiful and fascinating, but not for the feint of heart. The imagery is pretty intense, violent and brutal, and the gameplay reflects that. Think Dark Souls combat and mechanics in a 2D plane, and you’ll have an idea. Instant death pits and some clunky platforming can lead to a lot of frustration too.
If the premise if fascinating to you, it’s worth toughing through to see the entire game. I even bought the limited edition art book!
6. The Mummy Demastered
Remember that Mummy movie starring Tom Cruise? Exactly. But you know what IS awesome? This game based on it made by WayForward! (one of my favorite developers). This fast-paced, fun-gunplay, mythology-rich hidden gem is easily one of the best Metroidvanias on Switch. It can be frustrating at times. If your character dies, they are immediately replaced by another just like them who must hunt down and kill the previous one (now a sort of zombie) to reclaim all weapons and items. Occasionally you can die in an inconvenient spot, making it a huge pain. But I found the gameplay and difficulty more than fair! The map size is manageable, and warp points are easy to access. My favorite part of the game is probably the spectacular bosses, who are ENORMOUS, gorgeously animated, and a great challenge. You won’t regret picking this one up!
Iconoclasts is a little lighter on the Metroidvania and heavier on platforming elements. The power ups you get are more to progress the story rather than open up huge new chunks of the map on your own. But I still think it fits the bill, and is certainly one of the best Metroidvanias on Switch. The SNES-inspired graphics are absolutely gorgeous. The soundtrack is unique and creative. Movement and gameplay feels great. And the best part is the story! This is a fascinating world, ruled by the religious order called the “One Concern”. Most machines and technology are outlawed, and your character Robin happens to be a mechanic that loves fixing things. The tale is well told, surprisingly dark and epic, and goes in directions you wouldn’t expect. Check out this gem for the mythology alone!
4. Axiom Verge
I first played this heavily Metroid-inspired title back on the Wii U (and promptly re-purchased it on Switch to get the lovely Multiverse collector’s edition!). You play as Trace, a scientist who wakes up on the foreign planet of Sudra after a lab accident goes awry. As you explore, you find the planet has been in decline for some time and piece together what went wrong. Very creative power ups abound, the most famous of which is the “address disruptor” that warps the game world itself. The game just nails the atmosphere, spinning mysteries and drip feeding answers to what happened to the world at a perfect rate. Axiom Verge was made by one (very talented) developer-Tom Happ! I personally wasn’t nearly as impressed with the sequel, but the original is just fantastic.
3. Shantae and the Seven Sirens
I recently finished and ranked all the Shantae games. Each game embodies Metroidvania elements to some extent, but the one that perfectly embodies the spirit is the most recent, Shantae and the Seven Sirens! Packed full of joy and charm, the new setting of the game is welcome and refreshing, and every character looks and is written better than ever. Everything in the world is beautifully interconnected rather than segmented, making Paradise Island really come alive and feel authentic. I had a blast exploring the entirety of the island, and it even had some deep lore. The abilities and controls are perfect and make gameplay super kinetic and fast paced. Plus, there’s gorgeous hand drawn cutscenes! A title I’d recommend to literally anyone, regardless of whether you enjoy Metroidvanias or not.
2. Hollow Knight
A game a lot of folks would put in the #1 spot! And Hollow Knight deserves all the praise it gets. The lore, world, characters, and mechanics all present within the world of Hallownest are stunning in their depth, detail, and complexity. Movement and combat is insanely polished and tight, which is great because the game is infamously brutal (damn you, Watcher Knights!) and souls-like in its death system. I am absolutely floored by the amount of content the game has (Team Cherry just kept adding free updates to an already underpriced game-the insanity!). The difficulty may mean it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I recommend trying to experience the world at least once, however you can. The atmosphere alone is simply breathtaking.
1. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Will of the Wisps was my favorite game of 2020 and is one of my top 10 games of all time. Released right around the time lockdowns began around the world, I feel like this game flew under the radar! A sequel to the already-excellent Ori and the Blind Forest, Will of the Wisps is a better game in every capacity, and might be the most beautiful game ever created. The graphics are absolutely breathtaking. The character models are utterly charming. The soundtrack is outstandingly emotive (I was tearing up before I even left the title screen). The gameplay is fluid and sublime-Ori is a delight to control, power ups are perfectly paced, combat is fun, and boss fights are insanely epic.
And then there are the themes of the game. What it means to be a true friend or a family. The beauty and fragility of nature. Coping with loss. The difference between forgiving and moving on versus clinging to past resentment. And let’s not even start on the ending here, my friends. That’s easily the most my wife and I have cried during a video game. It’s perfect. Ori and the Will of the Wisps easily tops my list of best Metroidvanias on Switch.
I hope you found something you like, especially if you’re new to the genre! What other games would make your list of best Metroidvanias on Switch? How about titles for other systems I missed? Let me know in the comments below!