As the title says, where did roguelike and metroidvania genre games get their names from? All other genres (that I can think of) have pretty self-explanatory names like:

  • First Person Shooter: You shoot and it's first-person perspective.
  • Role-Playing Game: You role-play as another character.
  • Massive Multiplayer Online: The game is online with multiplayer and supports a lot of players.

But roguelike and metrodvania doesn't seem to relate to any core gameplay element like the other genres do. So why are they called roguelike and metroidvania?

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1 no research effort. Two simple google searches would have answered this question. \$\endgroup\$ – Vaillancourt Nov 23 '17 at 12:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt considering OP also posted the answer, I hardly think you can accuse them of not having looked for it. \$\endgroup\$ – Chris H Nov 23 '17 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt I thought we strived to be the #1 result on google? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – Charanor Nov 23 '17 at 12:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ @AlexandreVaillancourt it's a self-answer, though this fits better on arqade.SE (and both have been answered there already) \$\endgroup\$ – ratchet freak Nov 23 '17 at 12:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ Stay tuned for the next episode where we'll explain what IDDQD and BFG stand for and why those words became so popular in gaming! \$\endgroup\$ – undercat applauds Monica Nov 23 '17 at 14:02

Roguelike and Metroidvania have pretty unconventional names but they do in fact describe the gameplay elements of the game, just not as straight-forward as the other genres.

Roguelike originates from the game Rogue released in 1980, hence the name roguelike. However some claim that there are earlier occurrences of roguelike genre games such as Beneath Apple Manor and Sword of Fargoal. Some main characteristics of the Roguelike genre are:

  • Procedural generation
  • Character progression
  • Permadeath.

Metroidvania much like roguelike originates from gameplay characteristics of a specific game – or in this case two: Super Metroid and Castlevania. Koji Igarashi is often credited with establishing the foundation of the genre. Metroidvania is a bit more difficult to define but in this specific case I believe Wikipedia did an excellent job:

Metroidvania games generally feature a large interconnected world map the player can explore, though access to parts of the world is often limited by doors or other obstacles that can only be passed once the player has acquired special items, tools, weapons or abilities within the game

Metroidvania games are sometimes described as "open world" and are often side-scrolling platformers that heavily rely on some sort of story. Koji Igarashi also noted that Metroidvania games make a key point to guiding the player through the game – often with visual cues and landmarks of some sort.

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    \$\begingroup\$ It's true, but it raises the interesting question of why those genres are named for their ancestors and not others. We don't refer to "Doomlikes", "D&Dlikes", or "Ultimalikes". \$\endgroup\$ – pjc50 Nov 23 '17 at 11:56
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    \$\begingroup\$ @pjc50, well, we actually used to! I was going to post this as an answer but unfortunately the question's protected. First-person-shooters used to be called "doom clones" until the late 90s, despite Wolfenstein 3d coming out in 1992: i.stack.imgur.com/U12vk.png \$\endgroup\$ – ymbirtt Nov 23 '17 at 11:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ To maybe address why the naming scheme doesn't adhere to the FPS/RPG/MMO mechanics-based formula: "Roguelike" and "Metroidvania" simply refer to a collection of mechanics too complex to encompass in 3 words, so the corresponding acronym would be unwieldy. \$\endgroup\$ – Pahlavan Nov 23 '17 at 14:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ As it stands, this answer really has brought up more questions for me than it answered. If the defining element of Metroidvania is "open world, interconnected map, access limited by e.g. doors", and not side-scrolling 2D (cf. Polygnome's Metroid Prime mention), is the STALKER series metroidvania? Fallout New Vegas would be very much metroidvania, right? Please clarify. \$\endgroup\$ – Felix Dombek Nov 23 '17 at 17:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ To me the essence of the metroidvania is capabilities-as-keys. You get the high-jump boots, now you can access new areas that were too high before. Gun that shoots through walls? Now you can trigger gates that open when shot with the lock on the other side. The actual doors are in fact the laziest instance of that (since they simply only open for particular weapons, without actually making use of the mechanics of those items). Metroid Prime 1 stuck to that formula even through the transition to 3d; Metroid Prime 2 had a lot more keys that were purely plot tokens. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Nov 24 '17 at 4:45

In some cases, videogame genres are named initially based on the games that popularized them. "Doom-clone" was a fairly common term before the more generic "FPS" was de-facto standardized. This despite the fact that Doom was not the first FPS. DOTA-clone was the standard name for that genre until LOL came along and invented the more neutral term "MOBA". Roguelike and Metroidvania are named for the games that popularized that particular style.

But there's more to it than that. They don't have more generic terms because they're not big enough genres to warrant having a term for them. Indeed, they're not necessarily "genres" at all; they're styles of gameplay.

For example, Metroid Prime is Metroidvania, but it's also an FPS. There have been Roguelike FPS games. These terms tend to describe very specific mechanics or ideas used in a game than generic terms like "RPG" or "platformer".

A Roguelike is a general combination of several elements: permadeath, significantly randomized content, etc. It describes games as diverse as Nethack and FTL: Faster than Light. The core gameplay of these games have pretty much nothing in common, but they have the general style of Roguelikes.

Metroidvania is a general combination of a single world, mobility-based navigation impairment (aka: the ability to reach areas is frequently determined by movement abilities rather than locks), frequent back-tracking, and a few other things. It's not as broad of a concept as Roguelike, but it still represents something beyond the standard genre conventions.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Fun fact - FPS is not even as standardized as it seems. Eg in German speaking languages it's "ego-shooter" and in at least Poland it's FPP - First Person Perspective. \$\endgroup\$ – Agent_L Nov 24 '17 at 16:58

Both terms describe game genres (or subgenres) by associating the with a very well known game that invented or coined these gameplay elements.

A really good and extensive explanation along with the question if we need the term "soulslike" can be found here: Do We Need A Souslike Genre?

Originally I just wanted to comment on the already given and really good answer but I don't have enough reputation yet.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You had enough reputation to answer but not to comment? \$\endgroup\$ – Bálint Nov 24 '17 at 7:15
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Vincent, Asking and answering questions is what SE wants us to focus on, while comments are supplementary, and not always necessary. I think the idea is to train new users on answering questions first. Plus comments don't give you rep. You can always comment on your own questions/answers without having any rep. \$\endgroup\$ – tyjkenn Nov 24 '17 at 8:14
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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't know much about metroidvania, but roguelike doesn't describe a game genre. It describes some mechanics which are incorporated in games from wildly different genres. The defining feature imo of a roguelike game is that it's above all other things: hard. \$\endgroup\$ – Pieter B Nov 24 '17 at 8:49
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Pieter, Wikipedia has it listed as a sub-genre of RPG, and defines a "game genre" as a "classification assigned to a video game based on its gameplay interaction", which sounds like the term "genre" would fit. I'd argue, though, that a single game could be classified as more than one genre. \$\endgroup\$ – tyjkenn Nov 24 '17 at 8:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @tyjkenn both "spelunky" and "FTL: faster then light" are often considered modern "roguelike" games (though purists reject that) while the only thing they share is: permadeath and procedurally generated. (and they're hard). If "permadeath" is a genre, then I agree with you. \$\endgroup\$ – Pieter B Nov 24 '17 at 10:44

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