Special articles, columns and features exclusive to the MDb.
For Metroid Fans
by MDb Staff
The Metroid series has helped pioneer its own genre many like to call "Metroidvania," even though it takes much of its design and game mechanics from other different genres of games. For fans of this genre, we, the MDb staff, feel you will greatly enjoy playing these games if you love playing Metroid.
This section is no longer being updated every week, but will still be updated as time goes on!
Kid Icarus is actually what I would call the "Companion Game" to the original Metroid. They both came out in the US as the first "Password Paks" from Nintendo; they are both adventure games with fantastic themes that offset each other nicely (sci-fi vs. Greek mythology); and to top it off, they share some of the same staff, most notably the awesome Hip Tanaka doing the music (whose Kid Icarus work is on par with, if not better than, Metroid) and supervisor Gumpei Yokoi. It's also similar in that Pit (the main character) gets powerups that change his color, the game has multiple endings in which you can watch Pit transform, and finally, once you finish the game, you can start a new one from the ending with all your powerups and just plow through it. If you own Metroid, you really SHOULD own Kid Icarus!
The Legend of Zelda
I barely even need to write anything about these games, as The Legend of Zelda series is now a legend of its own in videogame history. In the Zelda games, the elements of exploration and item-juggling that go along with adventure games are expertly blended with storylines that are simple yet involving. Few games present the entire package of playability, addictiveness, and pure charm the way Zelda does. And as in any good adventure game, there's always more than meets the eye, whether it's that hidden passage found by burning down a bush, or a network of subterranean dungeons whose front door is a crack in a mountain, or an entire parallel universe where Ganon is working towards the end of the world. Few games do it all as well as The Legend of Zelda.
A series which started on the MSX computer, moved on to the Famicom/NES, PlayStation and PlayStation 2, Metal Gear has since grown into one of the most popular titles in videogames today. Metal Gear is known for being a little different type of action/adventure -- rather than running into the next area with guns a-blazin', your character -- a lone special ops commando known only as Solid Snake -- needs to use stealth to infiltrate enemy territories. Snake is dropped practically empty-handed into hostile areas and has to obtain items and weapons in order to survive. With his only back-up in the form of radio communiques, Snake is truly one man against the world. The Metal Gear and Metal Gear Solid games have brought action/adventure gaming to new heights of detail and realism and should definitely be right up any Metroid fan's alley.
A totally SPRAWLING game with supercool levels, death-defying action, lotsa stuff blowing up, and one of the coolest, most twisting plots in any videogame, not to mention the way above-average graphics and music. This NES title is very different from the arcade version upon which it's loosely based, but it's a rare specimen in that the changes made to the home version actually greatly improve and deepen the game rather than detract from it. Bionic Commando gives you the same you-against-the-world feeling that Metroid does, throwing you into a hostile environment with only your wits to save your hide. Bionic Commando games are also available for the original Game Boy and the Game Boy Color.
For years, people bugged me to add Blaster Master to this list, so finally, here it is. This NES classic allows the player to explore caverns deep beneath the earth's surface both on foot and in an all-terrain vehicle (with the ability to jump!) in both side-scrolling and overhead views. Lots of monstrous enemies and plenty of ground to cover make Blaster Master a must-play for Metroid lovers. There were a number of sequels to the original NES game, but only Blaster Master: Blasting Again for the PlayStation seems to really carry on the tradition of the original.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
Although the Castlevania series has been around for as long as Metroid has, the games were not originally very similar. However, with the 1997 release of Symphony of the Night, Konami worked with a new format which turned out to be very Metroid-like. Rather than trudging through a series of linear levels, players were now able to go wherever they desired (or at least, wherever able) and collect items and powerups. A map screen fills itself in (just like Super Metroid) to help you keep track of where you are in the enormous citadel of Dracula. Multiple endings reward you and change depending on how well you played. Fabulously diabolical bosses try to stop your quest, secret passages hide the strangest of relics, and old friends (and fiends) meet you every step of the way. SotN was my favorite PlayStation game of 1997; I cannot recommend this title highly enough, especially to Metroid fans!
Mega Man Legends
Many Mega Man fans complain about how different the style of the Mega Man Legends games is from the original Mega Man classics. However, as an open-minded gamer (and a Mega Man fan since the very first game), I not only see the MML games as an interesting twist on the Mega Man mythos, but also as games which appeal greatly to my sense of adventure. Metroid fans should find quite a bit to like in these titles: sprawling labyrinths to explore, plenty of weapons to upgrade, and a definite sense of spookiness in some of those deep caverns populated with all sorts of hostile bots. MML and MML2 are available for PlayStation, and the first game was ported to the N64 under the title (what else?) Mega Man 64.
Be afraid -- be very afraid. This is the game that launched the "survival horror" game genre into the stratosphere. The Resident Evil (aka Biohazard) series is a true heavy-hitter of emotionally-charged action/adventure gaming. Oh sure, you have lots of great weapons and items to help you make your way through the murky mansions, buildings, sewers, and passages that make up the world of Resident Evil. But can your weapons kill a virus? Everything that adventure gamers lust after is here -- huge areas to explore, gadgets and guns, and a twisting plotline. But Capcom has thrown in a little something extra for your money: FEAR. Add to that some of the nastiest, ickiest, most evil monsters ever put in a videogame, and man, it doesn't get much better than this. RE games are available on every major console released after the Playstation.
Remember what I said up there about Resident Evil? That goes double for Silent Hill. Not only are the Silent Hill titles brilliantly-designed games, with plenty of places to explore, items to use and puzzles to solve -- but Konami has made Silent Hill synonymous with pure creeping terror in videogames. Amidst an atmosphere with a definite Twin Peaks vibe, there are things in these games that people shouldn't even think of, much less put in a videogame -- and if you're up for that sort of thing, SH delivers. Some say SH is scarier than Resident Evil, and I tend to agree -- the monsters and situations in Silent Hill are much darker, much deeper, and much more disturbing. But most of all, it's extremely cool and extremely fun.
Shenmue is the ultimate combination of adventure gameplay, RPG, and fighting. Few other games deliver an escapist experience the way Shenmue does. But instead of exploring alien worlds or monster-filled haunted mansions, Yu Suzuki's masterpiece takes place in the real world -- on the streets of Japan and Hong Kong. The freedom allowed the player is nearly absolute -- one can take as long as he/she wishes to explore and complete the game. For a truly unique adventure gaming experience, I urge you to check out something very different and try the Shenmue series.
Turrican (Various, 1990-95)
- Rainbow Arts & Factor 5
Turrican is a long-running series from Rainbow Arts and Factor 5 originating on the Amiga and finding its way to the SNES and Genesis. The game is kind of a cross between Metroid and Contra (Controid?), which is unsurprising, as the game's designer, Manfred Trenz, was inspired by the original Metroid. (The art style is also inspired by Aliens and Terminator). The Turrican soldier is armed to the teeth with all manner of weaponry, including his signature lightning gun. Like Samus, the Turrican man (aka Bren McGuire) has the ability to roll into a windmill, which is basically a combination morph ball and screw attack. He even gets a grappling hook in the later titles. There are massive labyrinths with lots of hidden passages in which lie 1-Ups, jewels, power-ups, and nasties. The series' massive bosses also took up an entire screen long before Super Metroid. Many of the caverns have a particularly Metroidfeel to them, particularly Stage 4 in the original, whose background music is just this eerie, hollow wind and flapping noises. Also just like Metroid, the music for the series is top-notch, composed by Chris Hüelsbeck. I highly recommend the remixed soundtrack as well, which can be purchased off iTunes.
You can play Turrican most easily on the Wii Virtual Console, as they have Super Turrican, Super Turrican 2, and Mega Turrican. Sadly, the originals were only available on the Amiga (though the first one was ported to the Genesis), but hopefully they will eventually appear on the Virtual Console. There is also a very strong fan community which has been working on custom games, including their own level builder!
Holdover (Windows, 2009)
- Fox Eye
Holdover is an 'underwater game' where the primary mechanic is maneuvering past underwater obstacles before the oxygen runs out. The player controls Marie, a girl who emerges from a stasis capsule centuries after the lab she was in was obliterated (as recalled through some rather choppy Engrish). Marie is initially very weak, but exploration leads to new items that increase her jumping abilities, lung capacity, and armor, allowing access to new areas. The game's visuals and audio make it seem like a forgotten SNES game, and the aesthetics are on-par with Super Metroid - Marie even looks quite a bit like Samus. The difference is that unlike Samus, Marie is injured and completely helpless, so will easily fall victim to the heinous traps that litter the ruins. Once Marie dies, she leaves behind a bloodstain on the wall, giving the player a visual cue of which places to avoid. These traps can become a little annoying, however, so the die-and-reload mechanic gets frustrating. The game is relatively short and can be completed in about three hours, making it an excellent diversion. Like Super Metroid, Holdover records speed of completion as well as number of deaths to add replay value. You can download the game for free off the homepage of Fox Eye, the game's designer, which also contains maps and strategy guides. Overall, a solid indie game from Japan.
One final note: Holdover contains some nudity (though nothing explicit): when Marie is shot by a lazer, her clothes fry off, so the game has a slight hentai feel.
Abuse (Windows/Mac/Linux, 1996)
- Crack dot Com
Abuse is a fun run-n-gun from the twilight days of 2D gaming on the PC. Set in a hellish prison inhabited by mutants, the player is an escaped convict who must fight his way to freedom. The game has an excellent control system with mouse control allowing for 360 degrees of aiming and independent keyboard control over movement, making Abuse feel like a more ideal version of Super Metroid. There are also Super Metroid-like items such as speed boots, though these are one-off powerups that disappear when you collect another item. However, linear level design and limited ammo makes the game feel more like a 2D version of Doom than Metroid (unsurprising considering the game was developed by ex-id developers). The atmosphere is similar to Aliens, though the levels are far too boring - you will be fighting your way through the same dull, gray areas for the majority of the game. There are some excellent scripted sequences, such as tension built from the eerie chattering of mutants in what was previously a tomb-like quiet space and the sudden mad dashes to escape the onrushing hordes. Abuse came with a level editor, and there is a small group of fans still dedicated to it.
One interesting thing to note is Abuse was ported to Mac by Bungie. Because Bungie has now opened the game up to free download and supported it on PC, Mac, Linux, and iPhone, there really is no reason not to try it out. The best version runs on Mac. I recommend setting the difficulty on something other than extreme unless you plan on inching your way through the levels on masochist mode.
Shadow Complex (Xbox 360, 2009)
We've said so before, but if you are both an XBox 360 owner and a Metroid fan, you owe it to yourself to pick up Shadow Complex. The game is essentially a cross between Super Metroid and GI Joe: it has the exploration and item collecting of a Metroid game and the military action of a GI Joe movie - unsurprising considering this was what the developers were aiming for.
The game's controls are spot-on, with plenty of wall-climbing, and obstacles requiring various weapons to blast through. You can also backtrack to collect items you couldn't reach earlier. Other touches include a Foam Gun that operates similar to the Ice Beam, and there is even a speed booster upgrade with visual effects that make it a blast to use. Overall, the game's map is well designed (the developers actually wrote the whole thing out on paper before a single room was coded), though there are some areas that are a pain to reach at the end. There are some pretty cool event and battle sequences as well that also help make the game memorable, such as the boss battle with the spider tank. For the hardcore Metroid fan, Shadow Complex includes plenty of challenge modes such as speedruns, low item completion, and sequence breaking. One addition that helps differentiate Shadow Complex is a healthy dosage of sneaking and using terrain to your advantage: you can either take out that mech through frontal assault or use cover to sneak up behind it and plaster it with some grenades. In fact, there are often multiple solutions to tackling the enemies in a particular room, keeping action fresh. All the sneaking makes the game feel a bit like the Splinter Cell series.
Shadow Complex has its share of weak points. The narrative is pretty hokey, there is an overall lack of music/visual styles to help differentiate each area, and a sub-par ending. Some people also criticized Shadow Complex from borrowing TOO much from Super Metroid - not that I think this is a bad thing, but it certainly loses some points for originality.
Overall, Shadow Complex is an excellent addition to your collection and any Metroid fan should already not be without it.
Resident Evil 4(GCN/PS2/Wii/Mobile, 2005/07/08) & 5 (Xbox360/PS3/Windows, 2009)
Resident Evil was mentioned in the old Recommended Games section, but if you're like me, you might not have enjoyed the clunky controls and constrained camera angles of the originals - or the sheer, gruesome terror of being eaten by a zombie. Thankfully, the series was reborn in Resident Evil 4 and the two-player Resident Evil 5, making it much more accessible to the faint of heart.
The new controls (best on the Wii) give you plenty of freedom of movement, with the ability to hop over fences and jump through windows. Combat is quick and simple, with a laser sight letting you know just what you're shooting at and plenty of ammunition, so the game feels more like a shooter than survival horror. The weapon upgrade system and multiple strategies for defeating enemies will also make you feel like you can play just a little better next time, increasing replay value and making you aware of your growing skill level.
Both games have large maps containing plenty of secrets, though 4 has a more open world with some backtracking. While new areas are unlocked by defeating giant bosses rather than by obtaining new items, the game has a Metroid-esque sense of exploration and item collecting as well as a good sense of fear. Speaking of which, 4 and 5 are short on the zombie side, opting instead to go with the Las Plagas virus, which infects humans with giant bugs, turning them into bloodthirsty madmen instead of zombies. You will still have your pants scared off by the Regenerators in 4, but it's not quite as disturbing as the zombies in the rest of the series. You can also team up with a friend in 5, which, along with the Regenerator-free jungle, makes the game more enjoyable. It's a heck of a lot more fun to scream together!
VVVVVV (Windows, Mac, & Linux, 2010)
- Terry Cavanagh
One of the most interesting games to make its way onto Steam, Terry Cavanagh's VVVVVV is essentially an homage to the Commodore 64, complete with 8-color graphics, disco lighting effects, and some totally rockin' chiptunes next to hair-tearing difficulty (I died 847 times just to get the first ending!). Your spaceship has become trapped in an alternate dimension, and your crew members scattered about thanks to a transporter malfunction. The goal is to rescue everyone and find shiny trinkets along the way. The key mechanic of this game is you can't jump: to get around obstacles, you reverse gravity to fly up or fall down. The Metroid element comes in through the exploration: tons of narrow passages that feel like the dark caverns of Zebes and SR388 along with a sci fi tale of scientific experiments gone awry, told through comm terminals. There's a neat teleportation system borrowed from Symphony of the Night that works fantastic, too. It's a fun little treat for those looking for a taste of Metroid exploration without the combat and powerups.
Jesse D's Picks
TRON 2.0 (Windows, 2003)
- Buena Vista Interactive
Movie-based video games have a near-legendary notoriety for being cheap cash-ins of an otherwise successful franchise. TRON 2.0 is one of these surprising exceptions to the rule.
Written as a direct sequel to the campy-but-awesome 1982 film TRON, TRON 2.0 reprises some of the original actors and continues the storyline. It's set in the contrasted and colorful blacklit world inside of your computer, creating a stunningly beautiful and deliciously 80's atmosphere. Its gameplay bears many similarities with that of Metroid Prime, being centered more around the adventure and research of your environment than generic first-person running-and-gunning. The system in which you customize your character and create new weapons is surprisingly deep and innovative, giving you a great deal of variety in how you may choose to tackle your objectives. The voice acting is excellent, the story is enthralling and the clever computer-related jokes are always funny but never over-the-top. ("You'd lose your header if it wasn't compiled on!") And of course, the classic Light Cycle and Disc arcade games make an updated and well-executed 3D reprisal.
I highly recommend TRON 2.0 for the PC or Mac if you enjoy the adventurous pace of Metroid Prime or even the 80's nostalgia. You can also play a modified console version for Xbox or a portable one for Gameboy Advance, each respectively titled TRON 2.0: Killer App.
Okami (PS2/Wii, 2006/08)
- Clover Studio/Ready at Dawn
An ancient tale tells of the valiant efforts of a renowned swordsman and a mysterious wolf with power over the elements as if by magic. Through an epic battle against an eight-headed demon, the duo sealed the demon and saved the life of a maiden, but at the cost of the wolf's life. One hundred years later, the demon's seal has been broken and a curse has begun to sap all life from the land.
Okami tells the story of Amaterasu, a Shinto deity who has assumed the form of a wolf in order to aid the failing world and restore its former splendor of life. Set in a beautifully-colored and open-ended world, Okami makes a serious nod to the Legend of Zelda series by allowing you to explore the land, gain new abilities and expand your horizons in the process. There is a great deal of interaction with a wide cast of unique characters, and an amazingly deep and inspired storyline. The puzzles are creative and never repetitive or overdone. Most creative of all is the brush system, in which you may use Amaterasu's god-like abilities to freeze-frame the world and manipulate it using a paintbrush and some ink. The visual effects are astounding and the artistic style is both refreshing and pleasing to the eye.
I recommend Okami to fans of the Metroid series for its excellent and adventurous gameplay, exploration, story, music and visual style. Like any member of the Metroid or Zelda families, Okami stands out as being one of the greatest games of its generation.
Beyond Good & Evil (PS2/GCN/Xbox/Windows, 2003)
- Ubi Soft
Beyond Good & Evil is one of those rare gems of the gaming world which, despite its critical success, never quite sparked much more than a cult following. In fact, widespread praise became so sparse that until recently it was believed that its promised sequel would never arrive. E3 2009 certainly proved us wrong, I'm glad to say.
BG&E stars a tough but intelligent young woman by the name of Jade. Wanting nothing more than to protect her "family" of orphans, she picks up a job as a photographer in order to make ends meet. But along the way she manages to snap photographic evidence of a terrible government secret, and only here does the story really begin...
Combining elements of exploration, stealth, item collection and puzzle solving, and weaving them into a touching tale with charming and memorable characters (good voice acting helps, too), BG&E has shown to be one of the greatest and most under-appreciated action/adventure games of its generation, and a testament to its art form. Any adventure gamer should not let this one slip under the radar. It's easy to find a used copy at around $10, so you have very little to lose for a great experience!
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (Gamecube, 2002)
- Silicon Knights
Survival horror games have certainly set their staples: typically starring a young woman who is left to explore (and fight her way out of) a zombie-infested town or mansion while she must carefully manage her precious supply of ammunition and health kits. Eternal Darkness isn't ashamed to follow this trend, but it brings so many new concepts to the table that it ain't your standard Resident Evil.
Eternal Darkness stars a young blonde woman by the name of Alexandra Roivas. Being sent to examine the home of her late grandfather after he was brutally murdered, she discovers the Tome of the Eternal Darkness, a huge book wrapped in flesh, with an account of all the lives who have come in contact with it. As she reads the book, you get to play out each of those characters' encounters throughout human history.
The game combines survival horror with psychological thriller to create a masterpiece of narrative, gameplay and flat-out frightening atmosphere. But what makes it most unique of all is that not only are you given meters displaying your current health and magic, but also a third meter that measures your sanity. Yes, as supernatural phenomena occur, your character loses their sanity. When you go insane, the really freaky things start to happen (which I won't mention for spoiler reasons). The insanity lasts only a moment to throw off the player, then a flash of white occurs and everything is soon back to normal.
Developed by Silicon Knights and published by Nintendo, Eternal Darkness is a polished and innovative entry in the GameCube library.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver (PS1/PSN/Dreamcast/Windows, 1999)
- Crystal Dynamics
Soul Reaver is a subseries of Legacy of Kain which tells the story of Raziel, a vampire lieutenant of Kain (thousands of years after the ending of Blood Omen). Having been struck down and "killed" by Kain as an act of jealousy, Raziel awakens to find his body a disfigured abomination, having been salvaged from total destruction by a mysterious deity. No longer a vampire and now a wraith, Raziel is able to attain a new level of ethereal abilities.
The gameplay of Soul Reaver is centered around the solution of innovative puzzles and the resourcefulness to use your environment in order to defeat your enemies. Raziel replenishes his steadily-draining health by feeding not on the blood of his victims, but rather their souls. As a wraith, Raziel is able to teleport himself between the physical realm and the twisted (but parallel) realm of spirits. As the juxtaposition of objects in the material realm affect their counterparts in the spirit realm, it allows Raziel to open new paths. (Very much in the spirit of The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past.)
Soul Reaver has two sequels: the linear Soul Reaver 2 and the awesome Devil-May-Cry-style Legacy of Kain: Defiance. The three games tell one of the most complicated but fascinating stories I've ever seen in a video game series. The script is eloquently written and acted out by a talented cast of actors (including Micheal Bell, Simon Templeman, and the late Tony Jay). The character interaction and story progression are both fascinating and entertaining to watch, if a bit dry.
Though originally developed for the PS1, Soul Reaver was a technical achievement for its day. Running in a fully 3D environment with scarcely notable load times, it still feels modern and is in fact quite ahead of its time. It's incredibly easy to find a used copy for play on your PS1/2/3 or Dreamcast, or also on PSN for your PS3 or PSP.
Infinity's End's Picks
Cave Story (PC/WiiWare, 2004/10)
- Studio Pixel & Nicalis
Cave Story (known as Doukutsu Monogatari in Japan) is the 5-year labor of love by indie game developer Daisuke Amaya, aka "Pixel." The game was released in 2004 as a freeware title for the PC, and its popularity brought about unofficial ports to the Mac, Linux, PSP, Xbox, Amiga OS, GP2X, and most recently, an official port to WiiWare by indie studio Nicalis. The title has deep roots in Metroid-style gameplay including a unified world, shoot-and-jump mechanics with RPG-esque elements, a variety of weapons, tile-based level design, a beautiful chiptune soundtrack, pixel-based graphics, and a fun, yet serious story throughout. There's even some floating jellyfish creatures in there, too! One of the best features of the game is using your machine gun like a jetpack -- the force of shooting towards the ground propels you upwards and allows you to fly along at will.
Since it is freeware, you have absolutely no excuse not to play this wonderful game!
Jet Force Gemini (Nintendo 64, 1999)
A civilization in terror by deadly, insect-like beings...a distress signal beckons...who will save the day? Sound familiar? One of the most overlooked and underrated games ever, Jet Force Gemini is essentially the closest thing we ever got to Metroid on the N64. The game is played from a 3rd person perspective, which dynamically zooms closer to your character while aiming, who then shifts into a translucent version so you can see better. This kind of play style was ahead of its time, and paved the way for many other 3rd person adventure/shooter games like Ratchet and Clank, or Resident Evil 4. The game features three playable characters, the twin brother-sister pair Juno and Vela, and their trusty cybernetic dog, Lupus. It also features lots of great, fun to use weapons, level-based puzzle solving, lots of difficult platforming, nonlinear gameplay, and non-stop action. Blowing up the enemies and watching their guts fly everywhere never stops being completely satisfying! The game pushed the N64 to its limits though, as frequent slowdown issues prevail throughout. Jet Force Gemini is a diamond in the rough, and undoubtedly one of the best on the console.
Portable Castlevanias (GBA/NDS, 2001-2008)
There are six Castlevania titles on the GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS: Circle of the Moon, Harmony of Dissonance, Aria of Sorrow, Dawn of Sorrow, Portrait of Ruin, and Order of Ecclesia. It goes without saying that any fan of the Metroid series will feel right at home playing any of these titles. But which one should you play?
The GBA games are a mixed bag. To be honest, Circle of the Moon and Harmony of Dissonance both failed to deliver. The games basically look like Symphony, but play like old school Castlevanias (read: slow and bulky). The music in both of the games weren't very memorable, either. Though they do feature long, Metroidy experiences (contributing to the advent of the "MetroidVania" genre), Aria of Sorrow was the only one which came close to being as good as Symphony of the Night. You play as Soma Cruz, who is able to harness the souls of every enemy he fights, giving you a total of 112 unique weapons in the game. The souls can be leveled up as well. It also features some of the best music written for the GBA (Castle Corridor FTW!). Some, however, felt the GBA hardware just wasn't quite up to snuff to create a SotN-killer title...enter the Nintendo DS and Dawn of Sorrow (Aria's direct sequel) two years later.
Dawn of Sorrow has the graphics, music, and level design, and even brought with it Aria's phenomenal every-enemy-is-a-weapon gameplay. There are also some touch screen mechanics thrown in there that might be a bit gimmicky, but they don't detract too much from the experience. Though Dawn may have lacked on innovation that was brought about in the previous game, it was in no way a port. Regardless, both Aria and Dawn are excellent titles that are well worth your time. You can even play as Symphony-style Alucard in the DS title.
What about Portrait of Ruin and Order of Ecclesia? These games are both brilliant titles. In my opinion, Portrait of Ruin is the SotN-killer that we had desperately wanted. It does everything SotN does and more, lets you brandish a whip, and switch between two different characters at any time during the game. It also creates a mixture of level-based and open-world gameplay, and truly feels like a fresh, new experience. If there was a single DS Castlevania title that I would recommend over the others, it would definitely be Portrait of Ruin. Order of Ecclesia, while definitely splendid in all it does, (the animation on Shanoa is breathtaking) it was too short of an experience, and that fact is a little disappointing in the end. I do, however, think that it should not be ignored if you've played the other titles.
While I do recommend some of the games over the rest, Metroid fans will feel right at home in playing any of these awesome Castlevania titles on the GameBoy Advance and Nintendo DS.
Ninja Gaiden Series (Xbox/Xbox360/PS3/NDS, 2004-onward)
- Team Ninja
Since 2004, there have been a total of six games released with the Ninja Gaiden title released across 4 platforms. These are: Ninja Gaiden and NG Black for Xbox, along with the HD port NG Sigma on the PS3, NG 2 and NG Sigma 2(Xbox 360 and PS3) and NG Dragon Sword for Nintendo DS. All of these games feature a character named Ryu Hayabusa, who is essentially the deadliest ninja assassin known to man, and also the star of the original titles released in the late 80's and early 90's.
Ever since the original, the Ninja Gaiden series has been well-known for its exceedingly difficult nature (Awesome Gaiden is a pretty accurate representation of that). While the new games are definitely no walk in the park, they are also a testament to upholding what an actual challenging experience feels like, which is refreshing when you look at most games today that seem rather hand-holdy and full of tutorials and "everyone can play" sentimentalities. To those that are looking for refined gameplay with tons of old-school fun, these games definitely deliver.
Developed by Team Ninja (the makers of Metroid Other M), Ninja Gaiden is definitely not for the weak of heart. The game offers an over-the-top amount of violence with plenty of head and limb-chopping, blood spurting, and just plain brutality to match its neverending difficulty curve. Fortunately, Ryu can block oncoming attacks in a split-second, moves lightning-fast (he can even run across water), and has a great arsenal of weapons and ninpo magic to fight back with. While the games are level-based, they are actually reminiscent of Metroid in a way, whereas you gain powerups and weapons which later help you access areas and defeat new challenges in the later stages of game. The level design also plays out very much like a 2D platformer in a somewhat linear fashion, but it has paths that allow you to branch off into different directions to find hidden secrets, making it a very obvious choice to why Sakamoto decided they were the right people for the job to help create Other M.
As of this writing, Metroid Other M will be released at the end of the month. If you are at all curious on how the game will play, sans the sci-fi setting and projectile-based action, give any of the new Ninja Gaiden games a try. Just be sure to bring a rag to soak up the perspiration off your hands.
K.O.L.M. (Any Flash-supported browser, 2010)
- Armor Games
K.O.L.M. is the story of a lost robot. It is a very short, but sweet free indie title, basically created by one person, Antony Lavelle. While most Metroid veterans should be able to get through it in less than an hour, it's definitely a fun ride while it lasts. The game has you controlling a small, square robot in which you must search for upgrades to further yourself and "please mother." The game features eerie but calming music to set the mood while its minimalistic art style gives off most of its charm. It also has a minimap which can be very helpful as you traverse the game world. The game's combat, while limited, is a bit unforgiving at times, due to you only having 1 hit point, but this ultimately makes sense further down the road when you receive the final item of the game. When you beat it, the game scores you based on time and item completion, as well as lives lost, so there is a bit of replay value if you want to get better at beating the game. And if you're wondering what K.O.L.M. stands for, most people reading this should be able to guess, but telling you would only ruin the surprise. Check it out if you have some free time to kill.
Dead Space Series (Xbox360, PS3, PC, Wii, mobile, 2009-2011)
- Visceral Games
What do you get when you combine gritty survival horror with Metroid? You basically get the Dead Space series. What could be better?
You take on the role of Issac Clarke, a mining engineer who, along with his crew, shipwrecks on an immense space station, the Ishimura. The station seems uninhabited at first, but you later find it is infested with an alien virus, which transforms normal humans into grotesque, bloodthirsty monsters. Dead Space's main gameplay mechanic involves the ability to shoot the limbs off the oncoming creatures, which only buys you some time as they run toward you. As you traverse the dark, foreboding maze of corridors within the station, you can pick up and purchase upgrades for your weaponry, as well as your armor and health, borrowing heavily from the Metroid-playbook. The game goes through great lengths of setting up a dark, atmospheric, cinematic experience, rarely cutting away from the action and forcing you to watch a cutscene; keeping you engaged in the gameplay as much as possible. The sense of isolation and lingering feelings of despair become apparent within the very first few minutes of the game. The developers have cleverly integrated the UI into the character himself, as the health bar is depicted by a vertebrae-like meter on your back, and your ammo counter is displayed holographically from your weapons. The game also has some of the creepiest, scariest, and downright chilling sound effects the genre has to offer, so if you have a surround sound setup, this game takes full advantage. There is even a rail-shooter released on the Wii (and later ported to PS3), DS Extraction, which is every bit as thrilling as its big brothers.
Shantae (GBC, 2002) & Shantae Risky's Revenge (DSiWare, iOS 2010-11)
- Capcom, Wayfoward
Not going to lie - I LOVE Shantae! The fact the Shantae games have not been on this list until now is quite embarassing to say the least. Shantae puts you in control of a cute and sexy half-genie who can attack enemies using her long purple hair as a whip. The original game came out at the very end of the GameBoy Color's lifespan. It was due to this that the game received very little publicity and went largely unnoticed except in the eyes of collectors (Copies go for $100+ on eBay). As a game though, Shantae is a brilliant example of a Metroidvania. The game combines adventure with platforming, but instead of an open-world system, it has clearly divided dungeons known as labyrinths, making the game feel more like Zelda 2 than Metroid. Powerups such as the Monkey ability owe quite a bit of homage to Samus's Morph Ball & Spider Ball abilities, but the game also has a more traditional currency-and-shop system from RPGs, which give it that classic adventure feel. The games are also prime examples of sprite art and animation; you'll find only the highest quality in this game, the likes of which would even make a SNK employee blush. (The original is how Joakim Sandberg started his career as a professional artist in the game industry, and Risky's Revenge's breathtaking backgrounds are by industry vet Henk Nieborg.)
Risky's Revenge is a game that was originally due to come out on the GameBoy Advance, but was delayed for so long that it was eventually ported to DSiWare and then later yet the iOS platform. The game itself is only $5, so you are doing an extreme disservice by not downloading and playing it. One wonders that if it was released during the GBA's lifetime, how many accolades it would have acquired. Finding the first Shantae might prove difficult unless you have the funds to spare, so a ROM or watching a Let's Play might be your best bet, unfortunately. The games' scores are also composed by Jake "virt" Kaufman, who continues to be one of the most passionate game music composers out there - Wayforward is lucky to have him.
If you're not too macho to play Shantae, and you like Metroidvanias, then definitely give 'em a shot - it's totally worth it.
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Windows/Xbox 360/PS3, 2009)
- Rocksteady Studios
Batman: Arkham Asylum is a triple A, high budget, Game of the Year game that isn't kind-of-like Metroid, it's is blatantly inspired by Metroid. Unfortunately I don't hear people talk about that as often as I'd like. Which is a shame because I have heard many Metroid fans, who are likely unaware of how Metroidian this game is, pan it because they don't like brawlers.
Okay, yes, there is some brawling in this game. It is the primary way Batman deals with goons, but there are very engaging sections where Batman has to stock several armed guards and silently take them down one-by-one while avoiding detection. These sections more than make up for the brawling. But that's not even the point. Arkham Asylum is a Metroid game first and a brawler second. Make no mistake.
So how is Arkham Asylum like a Metroid game you ask? Batman: Arkham Asylum takes place on Arkham Island. Like the staring worlds in the Metroid games Arkham Island is progressed through via exploration. As you move through the story Batman gains access to new tools all of which aid in traversing the island and reaching new areas. Instead of Missile Expansions and Energy Tanks Batman can find Riddler Trophies which give him experience points that can be used to upgrade his weapons and health.