The immortal charm of the metro genre (Topic)

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The immortal charm of the metro genre


Metroprop. What comes to your mind when you hear this word? Super Metroid? Castlevania: Symphony of the Night? Or a newer independent title like Axiom Verge?

1986's Metoid and its SNES sequel were the origins of the metro genre as such. The first game in the series presented gamers with the idea of a large 2D world to explore. In 1994 Super Metroid refined this concept and added an interesting storyline. Three years later, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night has evolved every aspect of the genre, adding complexity and depth at every turn. Gamasutra editor-in-chief Christian Nutt discusses this in his great material, in which he talked to many developers working in this genre. We have selected highlights from it.

“I didn't like the state of action games at the time,” said Koji “IGA” Igarashi, co-creator of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, when asked about how he got the idea to create the game - “Back then , as a rule, consisted of levels, where each subsequent became more and more difficult. This led to the fact that professional players quickly finished the game, and newcomers get stuck at a certain point. Another important role was played by the fact that I, and many of our team members loved The Legend Of Zelda very much and wanted to create something similar. ”


Unsurprisingly, the game spawned a whole genre; it was a clear attempt to break out of the box and create a large, cohesive game for a wide audience.

While fans of retro games might argue that there are a huge number of Symphony of the Night-like games out there, Igarashi and the team were the first to come up with this repetitive design and quickly took the path trodden by Super Metroid to establish itself as a formula.


“I think that after the release of games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night there was a classification of games that could be described in words:“ A side scrolling action adventure game with obstacles on a continuous map that you can only overcome after finding certain items and backtracking, "says Tom Happ, author of Axiom Verge, one of the most promising new games in the genre.


The next major milestone in the genre's development was Cave Story, created by Dayisuki "Pixel" Amaya alone. It wasn't just a creative evolution of the genre. The game created by Amaya has become a title in its own right, continuously associated with the development and birth of indie games, and the art in level design has proved so influential that it has been borrowed more than once.

Shadow Complex 2009, developed by Entertainment for Microsoft, is also worth mentioning. Its huge commercial success saw the console market for independently developed games begin to grow and showed that the genre had a viable future.

As Donald Mustrad said, Super Metroid was the pinnacle of level design in a 2D game. I think this was the first time someone intentionally made a game of the metro genre, ”says Tom Happ.


Now that the genre is long established, I decided to talk to the developers to understand why they are so attracted to it, and how the genre is so established.

Why metro production?

First of all, I was interested in what made the genre so popular today, because before the indie boom it was quite a niche?

“This concept is universal,” says Eric Umenhofer, developer of Temporus. James Petruzzi, developer of Chasm Discord Games, also agrees: “I think the core mechanics are timeless: exploration, character enhancement, platforming and combat.

“I believe the reason for the success is fun adventure and gameplay that is fairly easy to learn. Exploration elements make you feel like you are moving through the story much better than when the game is divided into levels. I think that having elements for character development allows players to enjoy the story until the very end. ”-Igarashi Kouji.


“You are making history. You are creating an adventure. It's up to you where to go and how to uncover the secrets of the world you're in, ”says Jules Watsham of Renegade Kid, who recently launched his own Metroidvania, Xeodrifter. He sees the genre as a way to offer players a game that focuses on “exploration, freedom, self-improvement, and overcoming previously impossible challenges.”


The Power of Research

Exploration of the world is the main attraction for players, according to all these developers.

“In this genre, the phrase“ knowledge is power ”, which is familiar to us all from childhood, literally works to its fullest,” says Androi Bado, author of Legend of Iya, “At least that's why I love this genre - to explore, discover and learn something about the world that surrounds me. ”

On our own, we add that half-open cards give the player the impression that he is directly developing the world around him, and not just moving along a prepared scenario, where everything works on scripts, regardless of your actions. What is more interesting, to go to the door and it will open itself, or to go a long way to find the key to this door on your own? Then, what will be behind this door will become more desirable. It is for these things that I personally have always liked the first parts of Resident Evil, working on the same principle.


In metro development, we can say that your main opponent is the level itself, since you can only overcome it by constantly progressing.

Genre favorite by designers

Developers are very fond of creating games of this genre also for the reason that designing a level is one sheer pleasure. It is painful at times, difficult, but very fun.

This is an excuse to draw lots of paper diagrams, create maps, and create spreadsheets that balance all the moving parts that Metroidvania has, says Chris McQuinn, game designer at Guacamelee.


In addition, according to many of the developers with whom the author of the material spoke, they especially enjoy designing secret rooms. It's like creating one big hyper-puzzle that can suck all the life force out of you. However, the genre remains flexible and full of creative freedom: to get to the exit in this room, you need boots that will allow you to double jump, you can get them only after passing one of the most difficult parts of this floor, and you cannot defeat the opponents there without a new one. weapons behind a locked door, etc.

Of the modern projects that were able to "play" with this genre, we can recall Dark Souls - in fact, this is one big metro in 3D and brought to a high level of complexity.


“From the point of view of the games themselves, of course, the ways of implementation you can think of are limitless. If developers can find more new ways to represent the genre, they can do more cool stuff. I think there is a huge space for new ideas, ”says Igarashi.

Looking for inspiration

But how to find these new ways and solutions so that the genre does not run out of steam?

“I think we can continue to create new Metroidvania projects that stay true to our roots while still delivering something fresh, and I also think there is even more room for melding the genre's strengths with other genres to create interesting and immersive experiences. ”

For example, remember at least Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. As we told in the last article, the developers openly call their action about the Jedi in a galaxy far, far away, classic metrodoving.


Tom Happ believes that like any creative work, inspiration for Metroidvania can be found anywhere - “Books, films, things in nature, things that happened in my life. What makes me curious? What is my concern? What situations made me feel helpless? What situations made me feel triumph? This is Axiom Verge feed. " - he says.

However, one should not overdo it with nostalgia. It's cool to play games like Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, but players are always looking for new experiences.


There is no doubt that the genre will live on for a long time and in the future we will see more projects using its legacy.

The Topic of Article: The immortal charm of the metro genre.
Author: Jake Pinkman