It’s time to rub that magical lamp and conjure up a badass half-genie hero, as we check out the best Shantae games of all time!
Since Shantae first appeared in her first game – way back in 2002 on the Game Boy Color – she’s proven to be a hugely popular character.
The games themselves are always beautifully designed, gorgeously animated 2D platformers with bags of charm – and a level of challenge that can be surprising given the cute aesthetics that the series is known for.
Having appeared on numerous platforms over the years and with many of the games in the series having been re-released or even remastered, we thought it was high time to let readers know which Shantae games are the most highly regarded – so let’s take a look at the best Shantae games of all time!
5. Shantae (2002)
Though Shantae isn’t a bad game by any means, it’s most definitely the least enjoyable game of the series – but only because of the limited hardware it was released on.
WayForward really pushed the limits of what the aging Game Boy Color was capable of, but there’s a few issues with Shantae that do cause it to show its age somewhat. The camera is pretty zoomed in on Shantae – which shows off her design and animation beautifully – but also causes the view to be a bit limited, leading to the occasional leap of faith where jumps (or the outcome of them!) can feel somewhat unfair.
The lack of a map – particularly considering that Shantae is a Metroidvania style title – makes things an awful lot more challenging than they should be too. Despite these issues, it must be said that Shantae is still one of the best Game Boy Color games ever – which is why you’ll find it on our best Game Boy Color games list!
A Switch re-release (which emerged in 2021) added save game support, making the game an awful lot easier to complete, yet it still ended up featuring some of the more dated design elements.
A Game Boy Advance enhanced edition also featured on the Switch version, which has beautiful pixel art visuals – but again, those niggling elements still remain unfortunately.
4. Shantae and the Seven Sirens (2019)
Shantae’s fifth – and latest – adventure is an absolute treat from a technical point of view, with the gorgeous animation and highly polished visuals that we’ve come to expect from the series.
Shantae’s ability to transform into other creatures can now happen at the press of a button rather than having to be selected on a menu, her dancing can be used to reveal secrets and she can now collect monster cards from defeated enemies in order to enhance her own abilities.
Though criticised for being too short and easy upon release, four new game modes were later added as free DLC – one of which (Definitive Mode) allowed players to take on a more challenging playthrough.
3. Shantae: Risky’s Revenge (2010)
Originally released on Nintendo’s DS download service in 2010, Shantae: Risky’s Revenge was almost certainly one of the best games available on DSiWare. Since then, it’s become available on a bewildering number of formats, as you can see above.
Shantae’s nemesis Risky Boots gets her name in the title of this game, which sees our half-genie hero using her familiar belly dancing powers to transform into various animals as she makes her way through Sequin Land.
The Metroidvania style gameplay is excellent, though the map system still wasn’t perfected by the time this game arrived – and it’s incredibly short too.
Still, it’s fun while it lasts and is definitely an improvement over a few other games in the series – with a Director’s Cut adding a few notable improvements, such as the ability to warp to different overworld locations – planting itself pretty much dead centre in the list of the best Shantae games!
2. Shantae: Half-Genie Hero (2016)
Despite Shantae not exactly being a household name, her fanbase is incredibly loyal – and that’s never been more apparent than with the crowdfunding campaign for Shantae: Half-Genie Hero.
By the time WayForward stopped allowing backers to donate to the game’s funding, they’d raised more than $900,000 – a mind-blowing amount for an indie Metroidvania game series, especially one that had never seen huge mainstream popularity.
Half-Genie Hero was an excellent entry in the series too, which moves away from the pixel art style of previous games and features 2D vector sprites in 3D environments. It’s an absolutely beautiful game, even by the standards of the series.
Extra story campaigns were also added as DLC: Pirate Queen’s Quest puts players in the shoes – or perhaps boots – of Risky Boots herself, with Friends to the End putting players in charge of three characters with their own unique abilities: Sky, Bolo and Rottytops.
Even the Costume Pack DLC, which sounds like a lazy bundle of cosmetics if you just go by its title, features three unique campaigns – one of which is a crossover with another WayForward game: Mighty Switch Force!
1. Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (2014)
A change of pace for the Shantae series, Pirate’s Curse shakes up the formula to hugely successful effect.
Having lost her genie powers at the end of Risky’s Revenge, Shantae ability to change into different animals is gone – but instead, she makes use of various pirate items that she finds on her adventure.
These pirate items can be used in combination with each other in numerous fun, inventive ways – and this just never seems to get old!
Along with the excellent mechanics that the pirate items bring to the game, Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse has fantastic level design, beautiful visuals and a stunning soundtrack – making it a clear choice for the top of the best Shantae games list.
This one also occupies another number one spot on Retro Dodo, as the Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse Collector’s Edition features at the top of our rare Switch games list!
Jason – who lives in the UK – has had a lifelong interest in video games, which all started when he discovered Space Invaders in the early 80s. The first game he ever completed was Wonder Boy in Monster Land on the Sega Master System – which remains one of his proudest gaming achievements. Jason is a passionate writer – and has been writing about gaming since the late 90s. He currently runs pop culture blog midlifegamergeek.com, which he updates on a daily basis (and has written more than 700 articles on the blog alone!).
Outside of video games, Jason is a keen tabletop gamer, film buff and comic book fan.