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Summer 2018 was the Summer of Metroidvanias

by Ron Duwell | September 9, 2018September 9, 2018 6:30 am PST

And this is why I’ll never be able to write songs like Bryan Adams. I spent the dog days of summer throughout my youth, and not to mention my adult years, throwing my valuable time into playing video games. While I am a JRPG guy at heart, I’ll never turn down a solid Metroidvania game. I spent an entire summer digging through every corner of Super Metroid as a child, and when I finally discovered Castlevania: Symphony of the Night a few years too late… all bets were off.

You can imagine how I felt once these franchises starting coming to the Game Boy Advance en masse.

But times have changed, and neither Nintendo nor Konami’s franchises sit in the driver’s seat of the genre anymore. We leave it to the indie market to provide our thrills and build upon the legacy of these undeniable classics.

From Shadow Complex to Cave Story to Guacamelee, the genre has made leaps and bounds over the years, but 2018 stands out as one of the biggest seasons we’ve seen for the booming genre. It seems everywhere we look, be it Steam or the Nintendo eShop or PlayStation Store, something new is coming out or countless smaller titles are filling in the cracks. How could one possible sniff out the right games?

That’s where we come in. Here are our five favorite or most anticipated Metroidvania games from the summer of 2018.

Hollow Knight

A blockbuster indie hit that took the summer by storm. Hollow Knight was made by just three developers and is already being hailed as one of the best Metroidvania titles in years. And at $15 on the Nintendo Switch and PC, with releases expected for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as well, the game is a steal for the value you are getting.

The game features a silent bug-knight protagonist tasked with exploring and liberating a long forgotten insect kingdom from the rogues that now inhabit it. Much of the game is told through images and colorful characters with little backstory to flesh out the events, a majority of it left vague for players to use their imaginations to fill in the gaps.

This silent story unfolds behind blazing fast action, tight controls, tough boss fights, and all of the traditional progressive skills that typical Metroidvanias required. As the game progresses, your knight becomes stronger and can begin to take down challenging bosses with increased ease.

Hollow Knight is nothing revolutionary to the genre, but sometimes, sticking to the tried and true formula and delivering it with an exceptional amount of character is all that’s needed for a hit. That is where Hollow Knight comfortably sits as one of the best the genre has seen in a long time.

Dead Cells

One of my favorite Metroidvania titles from the indie wave is Rogue Legacy, an exceptional game that combines the exploration and power-ups of Metroidvania titles with a randomized dungeon that changes each time you enter. The crutch of that game is that characters can’t become more powerful until they are killed, using the resources they gain from their most recent dive into the dungeon to power themselves up and pass on their skills to the next generation warrior.

Dead Cells is very similar to Rogue Legacy in that regard. You’ll start the game off weak, unable to make progress with limited powers and weaponry. However, each time you are killed, the potential for new powers unlocks, and your destination becomes that much easier to reach.

It’s not a carbon copy of Rogue Legacy, of course. Dead Cells does a marvelous job of mixing up the formula with intense, fluid combat and a steep difficulty curve and does so with a slick pixelated presentation.

The game was already a success through Steam’s Early Access program, but now that a completed project is available on consoles, such a great game is guaranteed to find a huge audience.

LA-MULANA 2

A long-awaited sequel to one of gaming’s most notorious and groundbreaking indie titles. LA-MULANA 2 is every bit as complicated as its predecessor, providing an expansive tomb of traps, purposefully obtuse puzzles, precision platforming nightmares, brutal boss fights, and a constant, crushing feeling of wondering where to go next.

LA-MULANA is one of the most intricate and expertly designed video games ever made, and I’ve be playing it this summer to prepare for my dive into this sequel. I don’t think my heart can handle a second pummeling at the hands of NIGORO.

My soul is shattered, my bones are broken. Please, deliver me from this personal hell I can’t help but put myself through.

Dark Souls and its ilk have nothing on LA-MULANA. If you want to climb the mountain and overtake gaming’s greatest challenge, I present you with these two titles.

Guacamelee! 2

DrinkBox Studios hasn’t let us down yet. After stealing our hearts with the original Guacamelee! and taking time off to develop the sinfully amazing Severed, the indie superstar studio is back to the franchise that made it a house hold name.

Reviews for Guacamelee! 2 have been strong with many expressing shock at how well it establishes itself outside the shadow of the first game, something many indie Metroidvania sequels struggle with.

However, we haven’t gotten around to Guacamelee! 2 just yet thanks to my PlayStation 4 not surviving the move from Japan to the United States. A release on the Switch or Vita is what I need to jump back in and wrestle with this must-play sequel.

Chasm

A Kickstarter-superstar turned five-year-wait, Chasm finally launched this summer after teasing us for years with its randomly generated dungeons and slick pixelated art.

I haven’t gotten around to it, however, as reception has been rough, something the developers acknowledge and look to fix with patches. As it stands, the game could be a solid title with a bit of work, so you might want to wait until all the kinks have been ironed out before trying this one.

We still love the idea behind the game and haven’t lost hope yet. Consider this one we anticipate… just not as much as the others.