The best Metroidvania games on Nintendo Switch
Aside from roguelikes, the most plentiful genre on Nintendo Switch is the “Metroidvania.” And, just like “roguelike” or “Souls-ish”, that term gets thrown around a lot.
Metroidvania games are most notably categorized by their sprawling worlds, usually traversed in a 2D platforming fashion, that have several roadblocks that can only be accessed after players have found the necessary upgrade — and finding that upgrade itself requires backtracking, finding new areas, and even more upgrades; these characteristics define the games that spawned the genre: Super Metrioid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
There is one very obvious pick for “best Metroidvania” on Nintendo Switch: Axiom Verge — it’s an indie that is Super Metroid to its very core, and one could easily make the argument that it surpasses the classic that inspired it. What about the other Metroidvanias on Nintendo Switch, though? The Switch Era team has got you covered.
The best Metroidvania games on Nintendo Switch not named Axiom Verge:
Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight
“The concept of ‘Metroidvania’ is tossed around quite a lot now, with the eShop even having a suggestions tab for the genre. It’s primary platforming and exploration mechanics are quite old school, but modern 2D titles can slap on the idea that it might be like Super Metroid or Symphony of the Night while doing little to implement the concepts properly. While last year Hollow Knight brought a whole new realm of cool and creativity to the genre, Momodora – Reverie Under the Moonlight made me remember while I fell in love with it’s tough but fair style of gameplay.” Read Pete’s full review here
Steamworld Dig 2
“This game handles the exploration of its world unlike any other I’ve played: instead of following corridors that already exist in the world, you’re digging most of those yourself. Oftentimes you’ll find areas that have already been dug around areas of interest like warp points that send you back to the hub area, mini-puzzles, or upgrades. Most of the digging will be going further and further down from different eastern or western points, and you can’t jump and use your pick ax at the same time, so you’ll have to carefully plan the route you’ll be digging out (luckily, you can perform a series of wall jumps to climb back up holes you’ve dug yourself into). Waypoints can be toggled off and on from the aforementioned hub area. I found the game to be far more enjoyable and a little more challenging by playing with the waypoints turned off.” Read Carl’s full review here
Dust: An Elysian Tail
“Like most Metroidvania titles Dust: An Elysian Tail is short and sweet. It didn’t take me a long time to get to the very end of the story and I clocked in at around 7 hours, but that doesn’t meant I was finished with the game. I still had plenty of chests to find scattered through the world and the games excellent difficulty level means that trying out on a harder setting won’t seem like a mindless slog as each battle will have you involved and struggling to survive. There might be an ocean of Metroidvania titles on the market, but for those who like them with a strong focus on combat and younger gamers who might be able to get more involved with the story, Dust: An Elysian Tail is well worth checking out.” Read Jack’s full review here
Carl writes: “Cave Story is one of the first ‘indie classics’ and it’s been released a thousand more times than Skyrim. It’s hard to believe that anyone hasn’t played Cave Story up to this point, but if you haven’t, Cave Story+ is one of the best versions of an already outstanding game. It’s a lot shorter and lighter on backtracking than some of the other games on this list; however, it makes up for that with a couple of different endings, a dark and thought-provoking narrative, and a really neat power-up system that requires players to deal damage and avoid damage to maintain stronger weapons.”
“The art and music are beautiful, and the design of each area is unique. The game builds naturally in difficulty and complexity, allowing you to improve your platforming and use of skills to the point when pinpoint accuracy is required. You may have to fight through the frustration of the wide spans between some saves, but it’s all worth it. Plus, for only $9.99, this is a game you can’t miss.” Read Devin’s full review here
Salt & Sanctuary
“One of the best parts of Salt and Sanctuary is how it teaches players mechanics and how to adventure through its world by having players actually, you know, play, instead of bogging them down with walls of text. I hate to throw around the term since it gets overused, but Salt and Sanctuary is a true “Metroidvania” — meaning that players explore the map in a 2D platforming fashion, and must backtrack or divert their course to another area once they come up on a progress-hindering obstacle. In Salt and Sanctuary, those obstacles are usually locked doors that have keys hidden in other areas, or obstacles that can only be crossed after players have obtained a specific ability.” Read Carl’s full review here
“Dead Cells is a part of the ever growing genre known as Roguevania. It makes use of randomly generated locations but also mixes in some permanent upgrades to open up new places to explore. It describes itself as “2D Souls” action and for the layman that is a fitting description, but I’d say it feels more similar to Bloodborne. […] Dead Cells is an amazing title. One that has me coming back for more and more. A game that still surprises me with what secrets there are to be found. The combat is great and what really lifts this title above the competition. Easy to pick up, but a lot of skill is involved. Multiple routes and a mighty amount of builds mean there is plenty of reason to jump back in and when you feel like you’ve had enough you can always check out the Daily Challenges.” Read Jack’s full review here
“Hollow Knight falls in line with a recent string of titles taking pointers from the Dark Souls series in hopes to spice up or innovate gameplay, but where others feel like shabby and lazy clones, Hollow Knight uses just enough of the popular dynamic to exceed expectations and harvest a truly amazing experience. As far as Metroidvania titles go, it’s hard to beat the classic Castlevania : Symphony of the Knight, but like how their development team took ideas from The Legend of Zelda to create something great, Hollow Knight takes some of the concepts of the Souls Series.” Read Pete’s full review here
“Where Dandara stands out is how it handles movement within each area. The world of the Salt doesn’t adhere to the laws of gravity: enemies may walk around on any surface, it doesn’t matter if it’s upside down or sideways. Dandara, on the other hand, is unable to walk. Instead, she has to leap from point to point, marked by white patches of Salt that are on a variety of surfaces. This does a couple of really neat things: first, it gives combat a fast-paced, bullet-hell feel to it as Dandara leaps from surface to surface, firing and dodging projectiles. Secondly, it introduces movement puzzles that aren’t in any other game; point A to point B may simply be a matter of waking across a hallway in Super Metroid, but in Dandara, players have to leap from surface to surface while keeping angles in mind, because Dandara can only leap to what she can reach in a straight line. Dandara eases the player into its leaping mechanic and adds new concepts slowly, building off of previous concepts that players saw in earlier areas.” Read Carl’s full review here
“At first, I was content with the fact that The Messenger felt like the fun game I imagined it would be. Then time travel came along and changed how I look at video games. The Messenger is hands down the best game I have played this year. It may even become one of my all-time favorite games. There’s no doubt in my mind that it is one of the greatest indie games ever created. This title is an absolute must-buy for any Switch owner. If you’re reading this right now go buy a Switch and get The Messenger. It is the epitome of indie. The sense of freedom, the ingenuity, the unabashed fearlessness of this game is what every indie should strive for.” Read Omar’s full review here