Metroidvania games are like Sourpatch Kids – first they’re sour, then they’re sweet. It takes a sadistically-intelligent person to want to attempt them.
I remember the first MV game I played was Dead Cells back in 2018. I had just come off my near decade-long video game hiatus and needed an entry point back into the realm of digital entertainment.
As I strolled through the game titles on Microsoft’s store, I finally came upon Dead Cells. The trailer looked enticing, touting an artistically crafted 2D platformer (something I wasn’t familiar with playing). I decided to purchase the game (it was only $20). I performed the quintessential gamer “back-stretch” to signal to the world that I was ready to go.
The game began and I could tell I was rusty as hell. A one-year-old had better hand-eye coordination than me. As I clunked through the first level, I got hit too many times and died. The screen went black and my character reappeared at the start of the level. Surprised, I reminded myself to lookout for a checkpoint on the next run through. I made it further than before, but still no checkpoint and I perished again. Back to the start of the level.
This happened a few more times. I started to realize this wasn’t your average platformer. I did a little research on the game (something I should’ve done before) and learned that it was a Metroidvania-style game. It was then I learned a few key characteristics about this sub-genre of action-adventure games:
- 2D/Platform – These games are typically two-dimensional and boast the platform-style. Don’t let that fool you, though. They may look basic, but they’re designed to be…
- Challenging – Dead Cells is particularly difficult because once the main character runs out of health, it returns to the beginning of the game. It doesn’t matter if you’re fighting the final boss – if you run out of hearts, it’s back to the start.
- Inner-connected world to explore – these games usually contain large maps for the player to explore. However, there are certain areas the player cannot explore in earlier levels, which can later be accessed by acquiring special abilities or items.
- Affordable – okay, this doesn’t have to do with the games themselves, but it’s still a plus! These beauties are typically crafted by small indie companies, resulting in pleasantly affordable video games. They usually run somewhere between $15-$30.
Once I realized the nuance of Dead Cells, I realized that the game required the player to git gud. There was no alternative. If the player didn’t want to grind like Bob Burnquist, they weren’t getting anywhere. And I wasn’t about to go out like some chump.
All the sudden, I found myself itching to play this game. I wanted to keep playing and figure out how to get farther faster. I found myself becoming quite obsessive as I slashed my way through this 2D slaughterhouse.
After what felt like 100 runs, I finally beat the game. I stood up, flexed at the final boss that lay at my feet and took a big breath. It was gratifying. The game didn’t let just anyone beat it. It demanded respect and only those that gave respect were the ones who’d prevail in the end. That’s when I knew Metroidvania games breed the toughest gamers.
It requires a series of unique characteristics to play (and beat) MV games. If you play them, you probably have the following:
- An adventurous spirit
- Sheer tenacity
Interestingly, I told some of my gamer friends about this sub-genre. None of them were interested in trying it. They were too busy playing the various mega-popular “battle royale” games, like Call of Duty and Apex Legends. They didn’t want to play a one-player, 2D video game. They wanted to compete against the rest of the world in a vain contest to be the last-man-standing.
Quick side-story: I tried playing battle royales. It just wasn’t inherently compelling enough for me to invest my time. There was no story, no adventure and not a whole lot to earn. Most of the time, you’re just trying to survive.
One thing that’s similar between MV and BR games is death. Players die a lot in both. In BRs, you could be moving from one building to the next and get sniped. Great – now you’re dead and some gamer’s going to use that clip on their highlight reel. The difference is in MV games you can’t blame anyone else for sucking.
Another factor that kept me from playing more BRs was they’re often team based, and I was usually the token liability. Since I didn’t play often, I wasn’t that good. And nothing sucks the fun out of gaming like playing with people who’re more interested in winning than playing the actual game. You’re constantly getting yelled at for not doing your part, or worse, when you jump on to play, your friends flat-out don’t want you on their squad (ouch).
Despite my gripes about BRs, I don’t mean to downplay their significance to the gaming community. They’re great games filled with great gamers (just a different style of gamer). I digress.
MVs have so many desirable qualities – they’re often uniquely charming, difficult, and like golfing, all the onus falls on a single player. When you finish the game, you reap all the reward. There’s a certain selfishness to it, and I like that.
If you play these wonderfully difficult games, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t played them but want to give them a try, I encourage you to. Go to Google and look up a game that suits your interests, but only if you’re a raging badass that wants to be included in the pantheon of elite MV gamers.
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