Bloodstained may be the metroidvania on everyone’s minds as of late, but anyone at E3 2015 would surely have seen it’s far from the only game coming out with that particular mindset. A retro resurgence is in full effect, and anyone who stopped by the PlayStation Booth or Indiecade is sure to have felt the presence of the genre made famous by Castlevania and Metroid.
I first noticed the trend upon entering Sony’s booth and being bombarded by games that tasked me with going through a 2D world to complete various objectives. The first to cross my path was one that I had been watching since its appearance on Kickstarter – Heart Forth, Alicia. It was making its PS4 debut at E3 2015 with a playable build. In the title, people venture forth as the titular Alicia as she attempts to grow in strength as a witch to protect and preserve all that she holds dear. It’s pixelated. It’s got power ups. It’s presenting the sort of challenge that dares someone to attempt to look beyond and see what might be hiding around the next corner. Put simply, it seems the sort of game that metroidvania fans are going to absolutely enjoy.
While not quite a metroidvania, Salt and Sanctuary’s E3 2015 demo offered a similar approach. It is a 2D action adventure game with objectives. Not to mention the same sort of haunting appeal as a Castlevania title. Going with a watercolor approach, players follow a sailor trapped on an island, searching for sanctuary and only finding otherworldly and unnerving monstrosities. He can level up. There are areas that can only be reached via extensive exploration, allowing accesses to switches that make it easy to backtrack. A variety of weapons are available to him. It scratches the right sort of itches for people yearning for that sort of adventure.
Then there’s Chasm. It’s labeled as “procedurally generated platform adventure,” but this is a metroidvania and everyone knows it. The characters are descending into a mine filled with eldritch abominations, growing stronger and more capable as they do. Again, it’s 2D and embraces the classic mentality of a game that is tough, knows it is tough, and will make you tougher by playing it. Which is exactly what you want from such a game.
I know, three may not seem like much. Hardly enough to declare E3 2015 the year of the indie metroidvania, but it adds up when you consider the variety of genres on display this year. To see so many that fall within the same grouping is odd, to be sure, especially after the sudden success of Bloodstained on Kickstarter. It’s a reassuring resurgence which hopefully people will appreciate. Factor in Shantae: Half-Genie Hero, which wasn’t at the event but is getting closer to a finished product, and it’s clear that indies are starting to head down a particular course. One can only wonder how they’ll be received, once there’s a bounty of them available to buy.