While I think most of us would agree that the announcement (or rather confirmation) of Metroid Dread was the best thing to come out of 2021’s rather tepid E3, I certainly haven’t felt starved for open-structure 2D exploration-based platformers for a very long time now.
Fact is, a variety of developers have been doing the Metroid and Castlevania thing as good as — if not better than — the original creators of those series for a long time now. And as such, if you fancy getting yourself in the mood for Metroid Dread’s supposed October 8, 2021 release date, there are plenty of great options to choose from.
To list all your possibilities in this regard would take all day, so here’s five favourites — if you have your own top picks, why not write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page? Hit up the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right of the page and tell us all about your personal faves.
The Mummy Demastered
WayForward are absolute masters of the side-scroller, and The Mummy Demastered is their shameless but loving homage to Metroid. Taking on the role of an elite agent in the Prodigium organisation, it’s your job to delve into the darkness and take down the deadly Princess Ahmanet.
As you progress through the spooky 2D world of The Mummy Demastered, you’ll uncover a variety of items that will make your life easier. Grenades can be used to blast down barricades, health packs can be used to increase your maximum life, new weapons allow you to deal with the increasingly deadly creatures you encounter as you explore and other items of equipment can be used to supplement your basic abilities.
The Mummy Demastered isn’t even trying to hide its Metroid inspirations — your health meter even only goes up to “99” rather than “100” — but this is a game made by people who have studied Nintendo’s classic series and who truly understand what made it great. Don’t let the fact it’s based on a less than stellar series of movies put you off — this game is absolutely great, and should absolutely be in the library of every Metroid fan.
A Robot Named Fight!
Also wearing its Metroid inspirations pretty blatantly on its sleeve is the curiously named A Robot Named Fight! from Morningstar Game Studio. Taking on the role of a robot tasked with destroying the Megabeast, you’ll have to explore levels, collect items, upgrade your weapons and splatter a whole load of gooey enemies into meaty chunks before the day is done.
A Robot Named Fight!’s unique selling point is the fact that it features procedurally generated levels, offering supposedly 4 billion different possible runs. And these levels feel consistently interesting to explore, covering a variety of different possible areas to explore, each with their own traps, hazards and enemies.
Like The Mummy Demastered, A Robot Named Fight! makes no attempt whatsoever to hide the fact that it is heavily influenced by Super Metroid in particular. The visuals have that distinctive Super NES-style chunkiness about them, many of the abilities you acquire throughout the game are direct analogues to those Samus receives in Super Metroid, and the whole experience just feels like a lost Metroid title.
A Robot Named Fight! is available for Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. Collectors should also take a look at Premium Edition’s physical versions of the Switch version, which are available for preorder at the time of writing.
Rabi-Ribi’s been around for a good few years at this point, but it’s still a great time. Offering super-cute pixel art, a variety of items and abilities to discover as you explore its world and some challenging bullet hell-inspired bosses, Rabi-Ribi is a great choice for fans of Metroid-style exploration-centric platformers who fancy something a bit different; less creeping around in the dark and more hitting cute slimes with a hammer.
In Rabi-Ribi, you take on the role of Erina, a bunny who has mysteriously been turned into a human bunny girl. It’s your job to discover exactly what happened to her — with the assistance of her fairy companion Ribbon — and return her to normality. Assuming that’s really what she wants after her adventure is all over and done with!
Rabi-Ribi received a lot of post-launch support, so a variety of additional modes have been added as optional DLC to the base game. Said base game will still keep you busy for quite some time, though, with special speedrun and boss rush modes as well as a variety of difficulty levels available to challenge you even after you’ve beaten it once.
Rabi-Ribi is available for PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Switch and PC via Steam. There is a physical PS4 version, but this can be hard to track down these days. Limited Run also did physical versions of the PS4 and Vita editions, but these are long out of stock.
Astalon: Tears of the Earth
While more Castlevania than Metroid, Astalon: Tears of the Earth is still one of the best exploration-centric platform games there has been for a very long time indeed. Featuring a beautifully authentic NES-inspired visual style coupled with some fantastic level design and clever character-switching puzzles, Astalon: Tears of the Earth is a game that looks retro but plays in a thoroughly modern way.
Drawing inspiration not only from retro classics but also from more modern developments such as FromSoftware’s Souls series and the “roguelite” genre’s persistent, gradual progression, Astalon: Tears of the Earth challenges you to explore a vast tower in search of the truth behind a doomed world’s poisoned water.
Each of the game’s three playable characters have their own unique abilities that are supplemented with additional pieces of equipment as you progress, and every time you die you have the opportunity to purchase additional upgrades. But what is the true cost of your pact with the Titan of Death? Only one way to find out…
This oft-overlooked retro-inspired title is a wonderful homage to the non-linear installments in the classic Wonder Boy series, featuring a vast world to explore, some absolutely glorious pixel art and plenty of modern refinements to ensure that it plays as good as it looks.
Aggelos features a much stronger element of action RPG-style gameplay than many of the other titles on this list thanks to its optional sidequests and character progression, but the core non-linear exploration-centric gameplay is sure to appeal to Metroid fans the world over.
Rather than adopting the commonly seen NES-style aesthetic, Aggelos instead opts for a visual style more akin to that seen on the Sega Master System and the PC Engine. This makes it immediately stand out with its bright, vibrant colours — and its impressively large boss monsters will remind you that you’re playing a thoroughly modern take on an old-school genre!
So there’s our picks for exploration-centric open-structure 2D platformers to keep you busy until Metroid Dread shows up later this year. What are your favourites, though? We’d love to hear from you — so if you have a moment and want to tell us about your top Metroid-style games, hit up the “Write to Rice!” widget over on the right and pen us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page!
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