The Metroidvania genre got its start on consoles, with both Metroid and Castlevania released on the NES. Since then, the genre evolved towards PC gaming thanks to the prevalence of Metroidvania indie games.
Now, as games grow increasingly more cross-platform, Metroidvanias have returned to gaming consoles—and, more importantly, if you're subscribed to Xbox Game Pass, you have plenty you can play right away.
Metroidvanias are platformer games that encourage wide-scale exploration across a large world via interconnected screens. Along the way, you can acquire new equipment and abilities that grant access to areas that you couldn't reach before, thus opening up more of the world.
Here are my picks for the best Metroidvanias on Xbox Game Pass that you should try, even if you aren't normally a fan of the genre!
The execution of Recompile may leave a bit to be desired compared to its concept, but the story is absolutely brilliant. In Recompile, you play as an anthropomorphic computer program that shoots, jumps, and hacks its way through the process of computer repair.
The art style of Recompile is minimalistic, but it works well with the story, which itself is delivered through optional text logs. As you unravel the mystery of why the space station is slowly decaying from the inside, you start to understand why the game plays the way it does.
Modern Metroidvania games often sprinkle in elements from other genres, and the results can be special. That's the case with Monster Sanctuary.
Monster Sanctuary takes the exploration and platforming aspects of the Metroidvania genre and throws in Pokémon-style monster catching and team building. The result is a huge game to delve into, with hours of content that'll keep you coming back even after you've completed the main storyline.
Monster Sanctuary gives you the chance to build your team of monsters however you like, with limitless potential for experimentation as you explore their abilities through the different environments.
5. Dead Cells
If you're the type of gamer who's always searching every nook and cranny for the next surprise, then you'll love Dead Cells. This game challenges you to never stop searching for something new.
Its mix of exploration and experimentation make it one of the best Metroidvania games of all time, no matter which system you play it on. You can replay it dozens of times and still find something unexpected.
Dead Cells mixes its Metroidvania trappings with roguelike elements, giving you the tools to go a little further with each attempt at escaping the prison. It's perfect for fans of slow, incremental progression who want to peel back the depths of the game one layer at a time.
Released in 2021, Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is a Metroidvania that mixes in elements of action RPGs.
In this one, you must traverse environments to locate and fight bosses, which will require you to master new and varied powers along the way. It's based on the Record of the Lodoss War anime series and takes heavy inspiration from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
The art in Record of Lodoss War is outstanding, and even the most chaotic and dangerous frames are gorgeous to look at. Indeed, one of the biggest struggles in the game is to not get distracted by the beautiful artwork that's on display during your difficult battles.
Being funny without being eye-rollingly cringeworthy is tough to do in video games, but Guacamelee! 2 makes it happen and delivers healthy doses of humor in between bouts of nail-bitingly hard platforming.
Guacamelee! 2 is a short game that's beatable in around eight hours, but it packs a lot of punch into that short time. Even after you've beaten it the first time, you'll be tempted to go back in for a second or third helping of this clever Metroidvania title.
This game can serve as a great introduction to the genre for new players, but it's just as good as a celebration for returning veterans.
Ori and the Blind Forest is, from start to finish, a jaw-droppingly beautiful game to play. Every moment feels ethereal and surreal with you playing as Ori and his companion, Sein.
The game is largely about the relationship between these two characters and how they work together to try to save their troubled home. Ori slowly unlocks new abilities and powers, allowing him to traverse new parts of the forest and take on more dangerous creatures.
The music, art, and touching narrative make this one of the best Metroidvania games on Xbox Game Pass, period.
Hollow Knight will always be one of the best Metroidvania titles of all time, with its fantastic story and near-limitless content for players to enjoy.
The art is beautiful without being distracting. The soundtrack is lush and immersive. Each biome you explore feels distinct and different, offering a unique challenge for players to overcome.
Hollow Knight does all of this better than just about any other indie Metroidvania game, even rising to the level of the best Metroid and Castlevania titles that spawned the genre in the first place. If you haven't played Hollow Knight yet, you absolutely need to!