If the name doesn't immediately give it away, Metroidvania is one of the oldest genres in video games. A staple of early home consoles, these games have become somewhat niche over recent years. However, there are still several worth celebrating, and they continue to release a few times per year. Here are our picks for the best Metroidvania games available on Xbox.
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the best Microsoft exclusives of this generation. Visually it is gorgeous and has a beautiful soundtrack to complement it. The lack of load times helps the flow of the game, and the platforming gameplay is fluent and precise all the way through. Difficulty spikes bring a challenging edge, and the escape sections are some of the most hectic portions of any platformer game. Ultimately, we cannot recommend this game enough, it is a must-play.
Steamworld Dig is refreshing against many other ID@Xbox games because it feels like a fully realized concept with a well-defined beginning, middle, and end (well, and cliffhanger if we’re being technical). While the slow trek to get upgrades may occasionally feel frustrating, they are, in actuality, extremely well-paced, it just may be difficult to get that sense until having the benefit of looking back on the experience as a whole. When all is said and done, in the great landscape of all the games available on Xbox One, SteamWorld Dig is a jewel that will make you feel your efforts to discover it was well worth your time.
Guacamelee! is a superb example of a relatively simple game done exceptionally well. Difficulty spikes aside, there is very little to fault with the title. Gamers of all levels, be it casual or hardcore, will find the title incredibly enjoyable to play. In its simplest form, it is a blast that will appeal to the casual gamers with more than enough to keep the hardcore genre fans entertained too.
Axiom Verge is a brilliant homage to the Metroidvania origins. Whilst the choice to be so uncompromising in its retro style might not suit everyone, the gameplay in the title remains compelling and manages to maintain that fine balance in the level of difficulty for being challenging for all players without becoming frustrating. Given that the title remains true to its roots and maintains all of the classic game elements, it's hard to find an actual fault with it other than its limited appeal and niche market; sadly some of the younger generations of gamers might not appreciate its classic style or nostalgia value. For the rest, it's simply a great Metroidvania title. Axiom Verge has it all.
Unepic probably won't be for everyone with its death-prone areas, but once you get sucked in, it is an enjoyable experience. The skill system is simple but complex enough for those who like RPGs and the boss battles are memorable and exciting to witness. The castle itself is huge and there is plenty to see, so for the price there is a hefty amount of content. The requirements for the challenge related achievements is peculiar, but the completionists among us will forgive the developers as we roam through every nook and cranny, lighting up every torch and lamp that we see. There are so many indie titles that are available now and it's tough to shine above the rest when you're a 2D sidescroller like Unepic, but it is a worthy title in the ID@Xbox library and is a great throwback to those games of old.
The beautifully drawn and wonderfully composed Yoku's Island Express is another nice addition to the Xbox One's library of platformers. There is a ton to unlock and collect on the island's large map, which is rewarding and fun to explore, although the size of the world can sometimes lead to problems. Mashing up pinball and platforming makes it a unique example of the genre too, so if you really want something different than the rest, this is it.
A romp through Owlboy's beautiful zones brings back wonderful memories of platformers of the past; however, make no mistake, the game is modern-day. But without its incredible presentation, stunning visuals and charming music, Owlboy would be missing a lot of what makes it special. If you need a genre game that also delivers visuals unlike anything else on this list — and better than most of them too — make this your pick.
Widely regarded as the best superhero game ever made, Rocksteady's first foray with the cape and cowl is also a fantastic Metroidvania title. Unlike the others on this list, it's not 2D, but make no mistake, mechanically it's just like those classic titles and others listed here. With stellar voicework, art direction, a pitch-perfect soundtrack, and the birth of the oft-cribbed freeflow combat, Batman: Arkham Asylum is undoubtedly one of the most important games to come out of the past decade.
The XBLA favorite was recently brought to Xbox One, so if you've still not played, there's no excuse to keep ignoring it. At the time, it proved the limitations of XBLA were not as stifling as many once thought, as it broke those proverbial doors down and gave players a polished, cinematic Metroidvania all for under 2GB of hard drive space. It was special then and it remains special now.