There’s a lot to love about Metroidvania games, from the original Metroid and Castlevania entries to some of the subgenre’s more compelling entries on PS4 and other more recent systems.
While there are some that must be mentioned in every Metroidvania conversation, there are quite a few that offer a totally engaging and immersive experience that are always conveniently forgotten when the genre is discussed.
That’s why we wanted to come up with a list of the most underrated Metroidvania games on PS4, so that gamers that just can’t get enough of the genre can get a deep dive and play otherwise unknown entries that are sure to please.
Since we’re going with underrated titles, I’ll save you the suspense now. Hollow Knight is not on this list!
I know. I know. It pains me to do that. Believe me. But if you ask me a casual question about Hollow Knight, I will accost you for hours and bore you to tears with the deep lore surrounding Hallownest as well as how Team Cherry did everything right to potentially create the greatest indie game of all time.
That’s hardly underrated, if you ask me. Because Hollow Knight is like literally the greatest game ever made, I just put it on the list. As much as it pains me, that’s how it’s gotta be.
We good? Good. Now let’s move on.
What is a “Metroidvania”?
Before we get going on this, let’s define what we’re calling a “Metroidvania” today. Sure, we all know it to be a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania, because both games were so darn revolutionary that they’ve literally defined the subgenre of action-adventure platformers.
So for our purposes, we’re calling any action-adventure game with platforming elements that requires players to acquire new items or gain new abilities in order to fully progress through the world and complete the game.
Without further ado, let’s get to the games already!
10) F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch
If you’re looking to play the part of a sullen anthropomorphic rabbit with a giant robot hand, then boy do we have a game for you. F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch lets you play Rayton as he opposes the robot hordes, Legion, in an effort to save Torch City.
Sure, it all sounds pretty ridiculous on paper, but it’s actually pretty good! The gritty art juxtaposed with a character that looks like what you’d get if you put Sonic the Hedgehog in the film Sin City actually works well, and the storyline and world-building is more detailed than other Metroidvania games developed by indie studios.
Over the course of Rayton’s journey through some immensely detailed environments, you’ll find a colorful cast of side characters that inject their own personalities into the plot while also unlocking new abilities for Rayton and his robot arm. From double jumps to dodge dashes, Rayton ticks all the Metroidvania boxes. Still, the game is a delight to navigate, even despite no included minimap.
Overall, F.I.S.T. seems like it would be a silly game given the character design, but it’s actually quite engaging and worthy of a spot on our list of underrated Metroidvania titles.
9) Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse
It took about 2 years for the 3DS favorite to find its way to PS4, but Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse finally arrived in 2016 and offered a great gameplay experience that looked stunning as well. You reprise the role of Shantae, the hair-whipping half-genie from the two other previous entries of the series, as she clashes with her nemesis, Risky Boots, in a pirate-themed world.
If you like a little bit of anime art and cheeky humor with your Metroidvanias, this is the one for you. We almost want to qualify it as Metroidvania “lite” because, while it does involve upgrading abilities to backtrack and fully complete regions with your new unlocked powers, it does so in a limited manner by comparison.
The shortcomings continue in the form of a fairly short campaign, approximately 8 hours for most casual folk, and a combat that mostly involves rapidly whipping that hair like you’re rocking out to Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls”. In this regard, Shantae doesn’t deliver as much depth as other entries.
What it does well, however, is offer an engaging plot, lighthearted presentation, and fan service galore. It looks slick and plays well enough to get you through from start to finish with a smile every step along the way.
8) Axiom Verge
At first glance, Axiom Verge looks straight out of 1995, not 2015, because it pays homage to the classic Metroid in many ways. For one, we have a protagonist, Trace, who must navigate a 2D world that’s filled with alien organisms and futuristic technology. In addition, there are power-ups a plenty that enable you to backtrack and open new passageways constantly.
Through and through, Axiom Verge is a classic kind of Metroidvania experience and it’s not too shy to lean into it.
The game shines in its gameplay, responsive controls, and diversity of abilities. Trace attains a variety of guns that all feel different and accomplish different tasks. The Address Disruptor, endearingly nicknamed the “glitch gun”, is one of the most creative weapons we’ve seen in some time, and it’s an absolute joy traversing each area and shooting it at different things just to see what will happen.
Will it turn the enemy into a block? Will it slow them down? You never know until you try!
Unfortunately, Axiom Verge falls short of the Metroid experience in its world-building. Unlike Metroid which managed to make each area feel unique and different, Axiom Verge glues together a whole bunch of squares and rectangles with slightly different coats of paint and it all washes together into one indiscernible blob. You may spend some time searching high and low for where the game wants you to go next simply because of the world design.
Fortunately, the abilities and smooth controls mitigate the weaker points, and you wind up walking away from Axiom Verge feeling positive overall despite a few kinks in the experience.
Sundered was released in 2018 and offered a crisp presentation featuring hand-drawn character art and animation for one of the slickest, sleekest looking games in the genre. Add in an H.P. Lovecraft aesthetic that doubles down on the tentacles and you’ve got a game filled with intrigue that you won’t want to put down.
You play as a mysterious woman, Eshe, who is pulled into the underworld and assisted by a friendly monster while uncovering the mysteries of this strange new setting. The monster offers us most insight on what is actually going on in the game, as Sundered does well not to interrupt the action or exploration with exposition. Like Dark Souls, it’s more about mood and atmosphere than it is about storytelling, and players must truly dive in if they care to uncover the lore surrounding the game’s events.
Like any great Metroidvania, Eshe unlocks a plethora of power-ups that enable her to traverse previously untraversable areas in often creative ways, including boots that allow her to walk up walls.
An interesting mechanic added to give Sundered more personality is that the dungeons are procedurally generated and rearrange with each death. You’ll have to face a whole new layout with each death and truly test your mettle without slipping into video game autopilot mode. Of course, this adds to the game’s replayability since no two playthroughs will be identical.
All in all, Sundered is a great play with exceptional art and satisfying mechanics from the combat to the platforming. It’s an underrated must-play.
Blasphemous dropped in 2019 following a successful Kickstarter campaign, offering a well-made Metroidvania experience that drips with blood and religious iconography all washed with a coat of Dark Souls colored paint.
You play as your everyday generic sword-wielding hero known only as “The Penitent One” as he travels the fictional world of Cvstodia to repent for the sins of the world.
The combat is satisfying, albeit easy at times due to a generous window for executing parries, but overall the hit-and-run style of engaging powerful enemies makes for an experience that discourages your standard “run in and mash attack” kind of combat.
In addition, the game employs finishers at times that allow The Penitent One to execute the enemy in gruesome fashion, either with an over-the-top, overkill manner with his own weapon or by seizing the foe’s weapon and turning it on them.
The areas are stunning visually, utilizing a timeless style of graphics and smooth animations that make each area an absolute pleasure to enter and explore. Each area offers new enemies as well and while there are some repeats and palette swaps, it’s generally fresh throughout a majority of the game.
What’s more is that each area concludes with an epic boss fight. The looks and tactics employed by each boss will vary quite a bit, and you’re likely going to lose sleep pushing onward to find out what the next boss encounter is like before wrapping on a gaming sesh.
Blasphemous shines in various areas, including combat, art direction, and enemy design, but platforming, the other staple of a great Metroidvania, is lacking. You won’t lose much time trying to perfectly time jumps or wrap your head around control patterns to execute aerodynamic feats of skill.
Instead, Blasphemous leans into the violence and centers around the well-developed combat system. It’s a solid game, but it’s not without fault.
5) Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight
Momodora: Reveries Under the Moonlight was released in 2016 to widespread acclaim for a superb art direction that blended the retro style of NES graphics with smooth animations and a tight combat similar to Souls games.
You play a priestess named Kaho in this epic tale who must travel to the Kingdom of Karst to stop the spread of a curse before it devastates and decimates her village. Wielding her trusty maple leaf– yes, I said “maple leaf”– Kaho braves a colorful collection of baddies and bosses to save her village from certain doom.
The 4th installment of the Momodora series, this indie Metroidvania really delights the old-school gamer in each of us with an attractive art style coupled with smooth animations that keep it competitive with its contemporaries. However, the difficulty also harkens back to the classic era. Each room is less of a battle and more of a puzzle, as failing to strategize will often result in your doom.
The bosses pose a similar threat as well, and Momodora rewards patience by presenting openings during each boss’ patterns. You often won’t be able to facetank your way through. That patience and precision that it demands of the player, however, also creates immense satisfaction as you move your way through Karst.
Overall, Momodora is an amazing game, a top-tier Metroidvania, and an underrated gem.
If you were super into the 1989 original or constantly played Strider in the Marvel vs. Capcom games, you were probably super stoked when you first found out that Strider was getting a reboot in the form of a frenetic hack-and-slash Metroidvania type adventure in 2014.
With no context to the plotline whatsoever, our titular hero comes hang gliding into the fray and immediately slicing up fools with no remorse. His incredible speed and agility makes him an absolute delight to play, and the unlockable abilities you uncover during the course of Strider’s journey make the experience even more satisfying.
Strider’s abilities are referred to as Cyphers which, beyond adding directional attacks, projectiles, and spell-like casts to Strider’s repertoire, are color-coded to assist in targeting enemy weaknesses and simplifying combat. This mechanic does well to keep you experimenting and switching up tactics regularly to avoid the combat getting stale.
The great art direction, smooth gameplay, super satisfying combat mechanics, and colorful collection of bosses and enemy types make the game an above average entry in the genre. Despite this, Strider seemed to generate no buzz whatsoever upon release and faded into obscurity almost immediately.
The game received “generally favorable” reviews and was acknowledged as a good update to the 1989 classic but, beyond that, Strider far from received the recognition it truly deserved.
3) Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights
There’s a lot to love about 2021’s Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights, which drops you into the dark fantasy world of Land’s End as Lily, the last surviving priestess, to purge a devastating dark force called the Blight.
What’s unique about Ender Lilies is that your character actually does not have any fighting abilities whatsoever. Instead, she summons the spirits of undead knights who have been purified. Indebted to Lily, they swear fealty and assist her in combat, each newly cleansed knight adding another maneuver to Lily’s arsenal.
As Lily unlocks double jumps, ground pounds, aerial maneuvers, and other skills that augment her combat and add new ways to traverse terrain, she will also encounter Relics which provide passive abilities to her as well. Since you can only accommodate a finite number of Relics and each has its own corresponding cost, players have to prioritize passive abilities and customize the loadout that fits their playing style best.
Let’s not leave out the art design and atmosphere, where gloomy environments are juxtaposed with splotches of watercolor pigments. The score is exceptional as well, often building from an isolated piano track to an orchestral crescendo during the game’s more tense moments.
What we get is an immersive gaming experience that puts a twist on the tropes and begs the player to push farther to uncover more and more. Overall, Ender Lilies is a great Metroidvania that’s deserving of a play by all fans of the genre.
2) Guacamelee! 2
The original Guacamelee! was well-received as one of the most colorful and fun-filled Metroidvania games of the decade. Whereas so many of the genre’s entries double down on that somber, grim atmosphere and sense of unease as originally created by Metroid and Castlevania, Guacamelee! has fun with it by keeping the color schemes bright and the jokes coming in full force.
2018’s follow-up Guacamelee! 2 improved on the experience even more, but inexplicably received less attention than the original. We pick up the story of luchador Juan a few years after he defeats Calaca, and now he must save the Mexiverse from a new threat, another luchador named Salvador along with his band of miscreants.
The plot is zany and wild, but never incoherent or convoluted. The jokes and humor lands and makes subtle nods and conspicuous mentions of other indie games throughout the game’s progression. Add in a very catchy Mexican mariachi musical soundtrack, and you’ll be laughing and humming the whole way through.
But what makes Guacamelee! 2 better than your average Metroidvania is that, despite having all of the fun and humor inserted, it’s a really tight gaming experience as well. The combat is simple enough to learn quickly but detailed enough to take time, patience, skill, and concentration to truly execute flawlessly. The game’s many varied enemies with different colored shields and weaknesses will constantly test your ability to call on your knowledge and react accordingly while under assault from the vast hordes.
And while the combat shines, the platforming is a true test as well. Most casual players will be able to white-knuckle their way through the vanilla game with only some frustrating areas, but there are additional optional challenges that will have you beating your head against a wall after the umpteenth try.
The platforming is seriously tough in this one, but it makes the victories all the more sweet!
If you’re looking for a Metroidvania that’s loads of fun, presents as a top-tier game, and also lets you turn into a chicken, then Guacamelee! 2 will surely rank among your personal favorites.
1) Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
When famed Castlevania producer Koji Igarashi departed Konami in 2014, he vowed to create a game that would act as a spiritual successor to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. After raising an unprecedented $5.5M on Kickstarter, Igarashi more than delivered on that promise by bringing us one of the best games in the genre since the OG itself, Symphony of the Night.
Bloodstained is very similar, from the atmosphere to the world design to the actual game title which follows the game’s name plus noun “of the Night” so that you may even mistakenly call Bloodstained by the wrong name if you’re not careful.
We play as Miriam, a budding “Shardbinder” who must stop an out-of-control fellow Shardbinder, Gebel, from unleashing demons on 19th century England and decimating mankind in the process. Leading up to his nefarious plot, Gebel holes himself up in, you guessed it, an intricate castle, Hellhold, which Miriam must infiltrate and traverse to challenge and defeat him to save the world.
Igarashi nails the feel of the original while tweaking things to cater to modern audiences. The result is a fresh take on what made Symphony of the Night so great in the first place. We have an endlessly interesting environment that begs for further exploration at every turn of the road, all supplemented by a great soundtrack that punctuates game moments with precision and emotion in each area and situation.
In addition, there’s a monumental amount of customization that adds depth to the experience. We can equip numerous “shards” that give Miriam magical powers, passive abilities, and more to cater her abilities to our unique playing styles. Miriam also has her choice of floating familiars that help assist her in battle, from a floating suit of armor to a levitating book.
The game has an enormous inventory system and crafting that involves item creation, equipment creation, and even cooking. There are various weapon types from shoes to daggers, rapiers, spears, whips, and even guns. The sheer magnitude of what you can wield and how you can supplement your melee with magic makes for a near infinite number of loadout permutations, and you can always find a new way to approach the game on subsequent playthroughs. With multiple endings, the prospect of playing multiple times is even more enticing.
Tie the whole experience together with an intriguing array of characters and encounters, bosses with considerable depth, and enemy types that will keep you on your toes throughout the game’s moderate-length campaign, and you’ve got one of the best Metroidvania titles on the PS4.