Roguelike vs. Metroidvania: What’s the Difference?

As new indie video games continue to be developed every day and hit the catalogs of your favorite video game stores, labels such as roguelike and Metroidvania have become commonplace.

For those old enough to remember, roguelikes and Metroidvanias were once a force to be reckoned with in the gaming industry. This changed when the industry made the transition to 3D, opening up many more possibilities than the otherwise limited 2D technology.


But what is a roguelike? What is a Metroidvania? And what are their similarities and differences? Let’s find out.

What is a Roguelike?

A roguelike is a video game that, as its name suggests, closely resembles, or at the very least has a gameplay heavily influenced by that of the cult 1980s video game, Rogue. At its core, Rogue is a dungeon-crawling adventure game, but it introduced several gameplay mechanics considered so revolutionary that it spawned a whole new genre.

The main game mechanics of the Roguelike genre

As a dungeon crawler, Rogue’s gameplay mainly consists of exploring a multi-level dungeon, with each level of the dungeon being more difficult than the last, while fighting your way through a multitude of enemies in turn-based battles. round. Although the main objective is to reach the lower level of the dungeon, the game rewards exploration, as you can collect a variety of items, such as weapons, armor, potions, scrolls, and more. who can help you throughout the game.

But Rogue is best known for two other gameplay mechanics. First, it introduced permadeath, meaning if you die you can’t respawn and have to start over from the beginning, making every decision you take into account. Second, every game of Rogue is unique, as all 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 game mechanics from other genres, such as upgrading from the RPG genre. In contrast, in some other cases, newer titles have dropped other mechanics, such as permadeath or turn-based combat.

Titles that drop the mechanic are usually referred to as “roguelites”. Diablo, for example, features most of the genre’s game mechanics except permadeath, making the influential dungeon crawler a roguelike. This fact alone can give an idea of ​​the impact the genre has had on the video game industry.

What is a Metroidvania?

A portmanteau of the names Metroid and Castlevania, the term Metroidvania was originally used to refer to Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, which capitalizing on the popularity enjoyed by some of the mechanics present in the Metroid series decided to incorporate them into its own gameplay. .

The main game mechanics of the Metroidvania genre

Metroidvania games are essentially action-adventure games, but have a few gameplay mechanics that set them apart from other genres. Typically two-dimensional, side-scrolling, these games take place inside a single, large map of the world that the player can explore from the start of the game, though parts of the world are often inaccessible until later. acquisition of certain weapons or objects.

Although the genre name wasn’t coined until the release of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, it wasn’t the first title in the genre. Moreover, even when it was the Metroid and Castlevania series that popularized the genre, the main gameplay mechanics associated with it predate both video game series.

The 1985 video game Brain Breaker, released a year before the original Metroid, already featured all of the gameplay mechanics associated with the genre. The Castlevania series, however, took those mechanics, refined them, and adding some RPG mechanics, it was widely agreed to be the best Metroidvania with Symphony of the Night.

Roguelike versus Metroidvania

As we have seen, the roguelike and Metroidvania genres have been a big driving force in the video game industry. Not only do new roguelike and Metroidvania titles continue to be developed, but the influence of both genres is easily noticeable in modern adventure titles. This is the case of the Souls series, for example.

Even when the Souls series doesn’t actually feature permadeath, it does an impressive job of penalizing death with its experience system; if you die, you lose all the experience you’ve accumulated so far, which means every decision you make matters.

The Souls series world maps are also a great example of Metroidvania’s legacy. They are large open-world games that let you explore from the start, except for some areas that you can access as you level up and progress through the game.

However, even when the two genres share many gameplay mechanics and a single video game can fit both categories, as is the case with the Souls series, they differ in how they approach the genre. larger adventure, of which they are both subgenres. While roguelikes take place in various dungeons or levels within a dungeon, Metroidvanias takes place on a single, large world map.

Also, in roguelikes you can’t, or just don’t need to, go back, unlike Metroidvanias which actually encourages players to go back and explore the game world further, providing a feeling of no -linearity. Although the two genres can be very similar, they offer two different approaches to the adventure genre, with roguelikes taking a more linear approach, while Metroidvanias takes a non-linear approach.

Different approaches to adventure games

The reason these two genres are so closely associated with each other is that they both belong to the spectrum of adventure games. And while they share many similarities, such as leveling up, weapons, and special gear that enable character development and exploration, they have one key difference: their world maps.

Because roguelikes feature different dungeons or levels of a dungeon, their gameplay feels much more linear. Unlike Metroidvanias, which features a single, large map that you’re meant to explore throughout the game. The two genres are just two different approaches to adventure games.

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