With new indie video games constantly being developed and included in most users’ favorite game store catalogs, brands like Rogolike and Metroidvania have become familiar.
For gamers old enough to remember, Rogolike and Metroidvania games were a force to be reckoned with in the video game industry. But that all changed when the industry moved to 3D, which opened up far more possibilities than the limited 2D technology.
But what are roguelike games? What are Metroidvania games? What are the similarities and differences between them? Let’s find out.
What are roguelike games?
Rogue is an RPG, often set in random dungeons that contain enemies, gadgets, and other things like a staircase leading to the top floor or out of jail. Its gameplay is heavily influenced by the classic 1990s video game Rogue. At its core, Rogue was an adventure game with a dungeon crawler, but it introduced so many gameplay mechanics that it was considered so revolutionary that it spawned a whole new genre of its own.
The main game mechanics of the roguelike genre
As a dungeon crawler, Rogue’s gameplay mainly consists of delving into multi-level dungeons, where each dungeon level is more complex than the previous one, as you make your way through a series of enemies in turn-based combat. Although the main objective is to get to the lower level of the dungeons, the game rewards exploration, where you can collect various items, such as weapons, armor, potions, scrolls, etc., to help you during the game.
But Rogue is best remembered for two other gameplay mechanics. First, permadeath, which means that if a character dies, you can’t revive them and have to start over, and every decision you make counts. Second, every time you play a Rogue is unique, as all the dungeon levels, monster encounters, and treasures you find are procedurally generated as you play.
Since the release of Rogue, new titles in the genre have incorporated gameplay mechanics from other genres, such as RPG-like leveling. Conversely, in other cases, the new labels have abandoned other mechanics, such as the permanent death function or turn-based combat.
Titles that drop mechanics are usually referred to as “roguelike.” Diablo, for example, features most of the game mechanics of this type, except permadeath, which makes it a roguelike game. This fact alone can provide insight into the genre’s impact on the video game industry.
What are Metroidvania games?
Metroidvania is an action-adventure game genre. This term is a plural of a Metroid and Castlevania string. The Metroidvania games use similar game design and mechanics to the techniques of these two series. Specifically, the term comes from Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which took advantage of the popularity of some mechanics present in the Metroid series and incorporated them into its gameplay.
Main game mechanics of the Metroidvania genre
Metroidvania games are action-adventure games at their core, but they have specific gameplay mechanics that set them apart from other genres. These are usually 2D games, taking place within a large interconnected world map that the player can explore from the start of the game. However, some parts of the world are often inaccessible through doors or other impassable obstacles until certain weapons or items are obtained.
Additional character perks can also be obtained to help the player defeat more difficult enemies and locate shortcuts and secret areas, often including retracing a person’s steps on the map. Metroidvania games include tighter integration of story and level design, careful design of levels and character controls to encourage exploration and experimentation, and a means for the player to invest more in the player character. Metroidvania games are often side-scrolling platformers but can include other genres.
While the genre name was coined when Castlevania: Symphony of the Night was released, this wasn’t the first title within the genre. Furthermore, even when the Metroid and Castlevania series popularized the genre, the main gameplay mechanics associated with it predate the two video game series.
The 1985 Brain Breaker video game, released a year before the original Metroid, showcased all the game mechanics associated with the genre. However, the Castlevania series has taken and refined these mechanics, and by adding a couple of RPG mechanics, it was in agreement that the best Metroidvania game out there would be Symphony of the Night.
Comparison between Rogolike and Metroidvania games
As we have seen, both the Rogolike and Metroidvania genres have been a massive driving force in the video game industry. Not only do new Rogolike and Metroidvania game titles continue to be developed, but the influence of both genres is easily discerned in modern adventure titles. This is the case with the Souls series, for example.
Even when the Souls series doesn’t feature permadeath, it does an impressive job of punishing the player upon death through its experience system; If the character dies, you give up all the experience you’ve collected so far, so every decision you make will have consequences.
The Souls series world maps are an excellent example of the Metroidvania legacy. It is an enormous open-world game that lets you explore from the beginning, except for some areas you can access as you level up and progress through the game.
However, even when the two genres share many game mechanics, and a single video game can fit into both categories, as in the Souls series, they differ in how they approach the giant adventure genre, both sub-genres. While roguelike action occurs in several dungeons or levels of dungeons, Metroidvania occurs on one large world map.
Also, in Rogolike, you can’t or don’t have to, undo your steps, unlike Metroidvania, which encourages players to step back and explore the game world further, providing a sense of non-linearity. While both genres may be very similar, they offer two different adventure genres, with Rogolike taking a more linear approach and Metroidvania taking a non-linear process.
Different types of adventure games
These two genres are so closely related because they fall into the realm of adventure games. And while it shares many similarities, such as leveling up, special weapons, and gear that allows for character development and exploration, it has one significant difference: its game maps.
Since the roguelike game features different dungeons or dungeon levels, its gameplay feels more linear, unlike Metroidvania, which features a large map you should explore throughout the game. The two genres are just two different approaches to adventure games.