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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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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\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Nov 24 '17 at 13:31
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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.

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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.

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