299 8.61. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night - PlayStation
Release year: 1997
Beyond eight-directional whips and divergent paths, Symphony of the Night took the Castlevania series into its second phase of existence, drawing on the early installments Vampire Killer and Simon's Quest. Though it maintained the Castlevania series in 2D despite the 3D craze (and more specifically, Castlevania's handful of less-than-stellar console 3D offerings), the differences to the standard series formula are game-changing: non-linear exploration, role-playing elements, a non-Belmont main protagonist, and a whole new aesthetic. The name "Metroidvania" ostensibly honors both the Metroid and Castlevania series for their contributions to the genre.
Highest point: The stylish Halloween atmosphere.
Forgivable flaw: It's very, very easy.
280 8.72. Super Metroid - Super famicom and SNES
Platform: Super Nintendo
Release year: 1994
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Following the massively innovative yet flawed original (Metroid) and the much more playable yet still transitional second installment (Return of Samus), Super Metroid is the quintessential Metroidvania and set the standards for the sub-genre with its fully-realized formula and undeniable quality. Along with an atmosphere that's both tension-creating and absorbing, memorable boss fights, and power-ups that show what Samus can really do, the third installment to this game industry-changing series is without a doubt its peak.
Highest point: It subtly and inconspicuously draws in and captivates the player like few other games.
Forgivable flaw: Minor control issues - wall jumping, switching between weapons - are cause for annoyance.
54 8.43. Kirby & The Amazing Mirror - Game Boy Advance
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release year: 2004
Developers: Flagship, Dimps
The Kirby series has its conventional style of gameplay as well as an experimental side to it, and The Amazing Mirror fuses both into one of the all-time best Kirby games. In it his ability copy skills are put to the test as he explores a puzzling world with frequent need for certain abilities. Though the idea could have easily fallen flat if the map design weren't spot-on, Flagship intricately pulled it off.
Highest point: The level design, which taps into a unique potential for Kirby's abilities with its balanced puzzles.
Forgivable flaw: The map can be confusing.
4 104. Spider-Man: Web of Shadows - Nintendo DS
Release year: 2008
Spider-Man's well-established control scheme is better than ever in Web of Shadows. Griptonite's take on the character successfully combines non-linear exploration with brawling, making backtracking and gaining new abilites satisfying and the deep combat system a joy to master without favoring one in particular. Spidey's effortless controls, combined with a constantly-adjusting camera, cinematic score, lively voice acting, and effective background/foreground layering, makes for a totally immersive experience. This game is the first to make use of Griptonite's 2.5D sidescrolling engine, which would be employed in a number of platformers and Metroidvanias and one licensed Spider-Man game in the future.
Highest point: Spidey's spider-silky smooth controls, which are both unique and effortless.
Forgivable flaw: The bosses are cheap and almost have to be spammed.
3 105. Dark Void Zero - Nintendo DS
Release year: 2010
Developer: Other Ocean
The first Metroidvania released on the DSiWare service, which along with the 3DS's eShop would see originals by WayForward as well as ports of freeware games, Dark Void Zero is a Nintendo Entertainment System throwback with the charm of a classic and the crispness of a current creation. As far as gameplay goes, the jetpack accessory is both helpful and provides the game's primary challenge, and the level design is a real standout. Nostalgia may be a motivation for purchasing Other Ocean's exceptional downloadable, but there's plenty to make said buy last - at least for 3 levels.
Highest point: The old-school NES charm is captured perfectly.
Forgivable flaw: At 3 levels, it's really short.
87 7.26. Metroid II: Return of Samus - Game Boy
Release date: 1991
Developer: Nintendo R&D1
Metroid was an immensely influential game, but easily the series' hardest to play. Metroid II adds new features - like the update to Samus's costume and some new abilities - but more importantly, it just takes the formula and makes it fun. The 39 Metroid hit list is a great idea leaving one satisfied whenever said total gets reduced, and the black-and-white graphics provide a one of a kind atmosphere as far as the series goes.
Highest point: The 39 Metroids kill count gives it a simple yet satisfying objective.
Forgivable flaw: The map is nonsensical and not viewable.
39 7.97. Mega Man Zero - Game Boy Advance
Release year: 2000
Developer: Inti Creates
Since sequels to the Mega Man and Mega Man X series were wearing on the public, developer Inti Creates was called in to do what Keiji Inafune had intended to do almost a decade earlier: place emphasis on a different character that plays differently, Zero. Though it exists in the same continuity and stars X's sidekick, the collectible Cyber Elf upgrade system, nonlinear world, and advanced storyline make Mega Man Zero a new experience - and the refined controls make it quite fun to play. Inti Creates was the saving grace during Capcom's less successful output of 2D Mega Man gaming during this era with successes like the Zero and ZX series and the downloadable revival of the original series.
Highest point: Zero's controls, which make doing practically anything a joy.
Forgivable flaw: The lives system is punishing and unnecessary.
93 7.38. Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance - Game Boy Advance
Platform: Game Boy Advance
Release year: 2002
Though the fan and critical favorite of the Game Boy Advance trilogy is generally either Circle of the Moon or Aria of Sorrow, these titles don't hold a whipable candle to Harmony of Dissonance when it comes to creating a Metroidvania with such fun and addictive exploration. With its parallel castles, environmental interaction, and rewarding of the player for being thorough at map completion, the middle child doesn't need an extensive magic system to carry it along. The introduction of Boss Rush Mode is not just an extra but a great adventure in its own right, and its inclusion in later Castlevania handheld offerings would be a given.
Highest point: Parallel castles make for some truly great exploration.
Forgivable flaw: The Symphony of the Night influence is rather blatant.
8 7.79. Monster Tale - Nintendo DS
I haven't played these ones yet, but from what I can gather they'll likely find a spot on here.
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