The games on this list offer the most easily accessible entry-points. No attempt has been made to create a “best of” list.
- Metroid: Zero Mission – A reimagining of the original Metroid through the lens of its most well-known successor Super Metroid, Zero Mission provides a short, but nonetheless sweet, introduction to Metroidvanias. Dropping the original game’s theme of survival in a hostile, confusing environment, Zero Mission provides players with not only a map of rooms previously visited—a staple of the series since Super Metroid—but also guides to each essential power-up and boss location in a predetermined order. This makes Zero Mission perhaps the most linear game classified as a Metroidvania. And it even features an optional “easy” mode! While cheapening the experience for series veterans, Zero Mission is the perfect entry point for newbies. Availability: Wii U Virtual Console, Game Boy Advance
- Shadow Complex – The Super Metroid of the new generation, Shadow Complex eases players into the experience with a tutorial mission and features a simplistic, and lovingly cheesy, story written by long-time comic book veteran Peter David in a world conceived by science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. Shadow Complex also boasts a gradual acquisition of power-ups, beginning with only a flashlight and then climbing gear, but culminating with a sleek power suit with advanced weaponry that effectively recalls the equipment in Metroid. The game includes four difficulty settings, including a “casual” mode that even newbies should have little problem finishing. Shadow Complex perfectly marries modern design philosophy with the classic style of Super Metroid. Availability: Xbox Live Arcade
- Monster Tale – Colorful, peaceful, and with the presentation of a children’s storybook, Monster Tale proves that dark themes are not a Metroidvania necessity. The game also includes Pokemon or Tamagotchi like roleplaying and creature evolution mechanics, with the creature companion assisting the player in battle instead of taking her place. This feature recalls the familiars of another Metroidvania pioneer, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, although companion Chomp has a friendlier relationship with the player similar to that of a pet. While the cartoonish aesthetic may appeal to newcomers, don’t let it fool you; Monster Tale has some nasty difficulty spikes! Still, Monster Tale seems custom-made for gamers of a different sort that might be turned off by the supernatural or sci-fi horror themes of most Metroidvanias. Availability: Nintendo DS
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night – The first game in the Castlevania series to be classified as a Metroidvania (although the first to reflect a Metroid influence came ten years earlier with Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest), Symphony of the Night makes the list not because of its quality or importance, but rather because it’s actually the easiest of the Metroidvania style Castlevania games. Despite the Gothic aesthetic and heavy use of monsters such as zombies, skeletons, and Death, Symphony of the Night has closer thematic ties to action-adventures than survival horror. Incorporating overt roleplaying elements such as improving character statistics, leveling up, narrative presentation and varied equipment that improves some statistics at the cost of others, Symphony of the Night offers something for gamers of nearly every proclivity, be they fans of action, platforming, exploration or roleplay. Availability: Xbox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, PSP, PlayStation, Sega Saturn
- Cave Story – Although navigating the world proves a bit more obtuse than other entries on this list, indie title Cave Story manages to nab the final spot due to its refinement of platforming controls coupled with a near perfect difficulty curve that provides a consistent, yet fair, challenge. Developed solely by Daisuke Amaya to romanticize his childhood experiences with Metroid, Castlevania, and shooters such as Gradius, Cave Story boasts an inventive and charming, yet dangerous, world every bit as mysterious and fun to explore as Metroid. The game comes with several difficulty levels, including a “casual” mode, and if you’re not accustomed to Metroidvanias this will be a godsend! Availability: PC, Wii, Nintendo 3DS