The Path of Pain is the cruelest, most despicable creation yet devised by Team Cherry. The amalgamation of buzzsaws, spikes, and wingsmoulds work together to produce the most harrowing platforming challenge in all of Hollow Knight, requiring countless hours to beat.
In this Hollow Knight Path of Pain guide, I’ll be going over the most optimal way to beat the Path of Pain and save you hours of needless deaths. As a bonus, I’ll explain my interpretation of the Path of Pain’s reward to make our shared suffering worth it.
Bottom Line Up Front Summary:
Use Hiveblood and Grubsong together to outwait the massive loss of masks you’ll endure. Once you reach the final section of the platforming challenge, a vast horizontal area rightward over thorns, heal to full before each run (two kingsmoulds are waiting at the end to kill you). Finish this challenge, and you’ll witness a special cutscene between the Pale King and the Hollow Knight.
- Quest Location: Ancient Basin – White Palace
- Quest Giver: Stone Tablet
- Requirements: Awoken Dream Nail
- Length of Quest: 2-4 Hours
- Difficulty: Extremely Difficult
The Path of Pain Synopsis:
After using our awoken dream nail on the corpse of an ancient basin bug, we enter the challenging dream world of the White Palace. Halfway through the White Palace, we encounter a breakable wall that leads to a hidden corridor. At the end of the hall lies a stone tablet inscribed: “To witness secrets sealed, one must endure the harshest punishment.” If we choose to continue, we’ll face the most challenging platforming section in all of Hollow Knight. Our reward is a special cutscene that recontextualizes the Pale King.
- Hiveblood – (4 notch cost): Regenerating a mask of health every twelve seconds, Hiveblood is crucial for surviving the Path of Pain. In practice, equipping Hiveblood enables you to infinitely retry obstacles you’re struggling on without fear of death. If you only have room for four notches, this is the one charm you need to complete the path of pain.
- Grubsong – (1 notch cost): Generating soul every time we get hit, Grubsong enables us to heal after every 2-3 mistakes. While there are some Hollow Knight statues we can whack for soul throughout the Path of Pain, Grubsong ensures we’ll have at least some soul to heal with through this challenge run.
- Hiveblood – Grubsong: Although you can get through the Path of Pain without Grubsong, using it along Hiveblood enables you to be more reckless, so you don’t have to wait 12 seconds following each mistake. In short, using these two charms together allows us to finish the Path of Pain quicker by spending less time waiting to heal and time on each attempt.
- Mark of Pride – (3 notch cost): Significantly lengthening the size of your nail, Mark of Pride makes it substantially easier to perform pogo jumps from a safer distance from each buzzsaw. While pogoing was a helpful strategy for progressing and taking shortcuts through the White Palace, the Path of Pain demands your pogoing competence for every challenge. Long nail, requiring a two-notch cost, is also a viable alternative for those who cannot afford the three notch cost of the Mark of Pride.
- Fragile/Unbreakable Heart – (2 notch cost): Fragile Heart gives you two more masks of health. While the Path of Pain is primarily a platforming challenge, the presence of two kingsmoulds at the path’s end, that individually deal two mask damage, is still enough to kill you if you’re unprepared. Therefore, having extra health on you is a great way to ensure you survive the Path of Pain’s final onslaught.
- Sprintmaster – (1 notch cost): Sprintmaster is an excellent charm for evading a few fast-moving horizontal buzzsaws by increasing your walk into a sprint. Although it is only applicable for a few obstacles, its one notch cost makes it an excellent choice to fulfill your last charm slot.
- Selectively pogo: While your first instinct may be to stay as far away from the buzzsaws as possible, thorns comprise much of the ceilings within the Path of Pain and will punish you for getting too much height. Counterintuitively, Pogoing as close as possible to a spike or buzzsaw is the safest way to proceed through these tightly-packed rooms.
- Remember to Heal: While this should be obvious, it’s easy to forget to heal with Hiveblood’s regeneration active and the impulsive need to retry obstacles you’ve just failed. Make sure to wait for your masks to regenerate and apply focus you’ve acquired from Grubsong when your health gets low.
- Final Area Heal-to-full: In the last section of the Path of Pain, two Kingsmoulds are waiting for you and can quickly kill you if you are low on health. While it may be tedious, healing to full before every attempt in the finale is the best way to guarantee your safety against these two foes.
- Don’t give up: There’s no getting around how brutal this section of Hollow Knight can be. While it is undoubtedly painful, you can triumph over Team Cherry’s nightmare so long as you keep moving forward and never give up.
Warning: Before we begin, I must warn you that the Path of Pain is excruciatingly challenging, entirely optional, and has no benches to save your progress. Quitting the game removes any progress you’ve made, and dying here on a steel soul run is permanent. Despite its cruelty, the Path of Pain also offers a heartbreaking revelation to those who overcome it. If you crave an unforgiving trial with a worthy reward at the end, you’ve arrived at the right area. Let’s begin.
Part 1 : The beginning
After entering the White Palace, continue progressing until you unlock the 2nd elevator. Following the elevator ride up and a small platforming section over a few spikes, we’ll spy a small nook leading to a dead end. This dead-end is a breakable wall hiding the Path of Pain. Breaking the wall and worming your way through will deposit us into a corridor with a small tablet at the end with the words: “To witness secrets sealed, one must endure the harshest punishment.”
Part 2: Barrier to entry
First, monarch hop up to the rafters above, using the small lips on the wall’s left side to wall-climb up. After the first two lips, we’ll encounter two buzzsaws. The first buzzsaw is stationary and can be monarched over in one jump. The next buzzsaw is roving up and down. As the buzzsaw descends, jump into the space left of buzzsaw, monarch upwards, then quickly reattach to the wall and dash left.
Next, we’ll encounter several Wingsmoulds we’ll have to pogo to stay airborne. Keep heading left and up until we have to dash through a small crevice. Following this movement, we now have two options, use the wingsmoulds to pogo jump upwards and head down or speed through a tight opening for a shortcut to the other side. In my experience, the shortcut is the easier route to take.
After making it to the next side, we arrive at a small junction with a buzzsaw baring entrance downwards. Wait for the buzzsaw to descend, attach to the right wall’s left side below, then fall as the buzzsaw ascends. Next, we’ll have to worm our way through a narrow gap of buzzsaws and thorns, being sure to pogo the buzzsaws when appropriate until we reach the bottom floor.
Part 3: The only easy room
Enjoy the only easy section of the Path of Pain; this should only take a few tries to get right. Attach to the right wall’s left side below and crystal dash leftwards. Once we impact the wall, jump up and dash leftwards for the next few walls, avoiding each wall’s thorned roof. Following our movements leftwards, we’ll encounter several wingsmoulds we’ll need to pogo to stay airborne. After pogoing left and upwards, we’ll reach a checkpoint.
Part 4: Buzzsaw-induced claustrophobia
After a short, thorned-climb up, we’ll enter a small room packed with buzzsaws. As the bottommost buzzsaw heads left, fall, dash left, and monarch up to the middle pillar’s left side. Next, we’ll have to wall-climb up and over the central pillar’s buzzsaw, taking care to stop ourselves from falling straight down. After the bottommost buzzsaw heads right, immediately fall and dash left, followed by a monarch hop onto the wall above. Climb upwards, and we’ll reach a small checkpoint.
Part 5: Bloodthirsty-buzzsaws
While short, this next area can be particularly tricky with the thorned ceiling. Once the buzzsaw roaming the floor heads right, quickly follow it, jump up, and pogo across the pit. Be sure to restrain your jump height; going too high will throw you into the ceiling’s thorns. Following this maneuver, jump down into the fast-moving buzzsaw’s path, waiting for it to head left, then immediately dash right and jump up to safety.
Part 6: Buzzsaws, buzzsaws, everywhere
After escaping the ravenous clutches of the last buzzsaw, we’ll have to wall climb up the left side of the right wall and then dash left through the gap between the two buzzsaws. Immediately after dashing, pogo the buzzsaw beneath you to regain your dash and follow up with another dash, taking care to monarch over the two buzzsaw high wall. As we reach the end, we’ll encounter a vertically-moving buzzsaw. Just as the buzzsaw starts to ascend, pogo it halfway up its ascent and monarch upwards.
Wall climb upwards to reach a set of two horizontally moving buzzsaws. Position yourself in the row of the higher buzzsaw and crystal dash rightwards halfway through the upper buzzsaw’s departure rightwards. Just as you pass the small buzzsaws marking the midsection of this room, cancel your dash and monarch for brief airtime. As the topmost buzzsaw begins to head leftwards, fall, pogo the buzzsaw running beneath you, dash right and monarch up. Pogo the bottommost buzzsaw one last time, and monarch jump followed by another dash to reach the exit.
Part 7: Ruthless verticality
This next section is ruthless. Enter a room with several sets of vertically moving buzzsaws. As the nearest buzzsaw ascends, jump to the right wall and wall climb in place until it repeats its ascent. Following the buzzsaw’s ascent, wall climb up and dash rightwards between two thorned pillars. Wall climb in place until the buzzsaw above ascends and climb up, then quickly fall and dash left to reach the small safe space.
Climb upwards until the buzzsaw just to our right ascends, dash rightwards, and wall climb in place on the middle pillar until the buzzsaw reaches its descent. Take care to dash right, monarch up, and wallclimb upwards as the middle buzzsaw ascends and follow it upwards. Jump right over the wall’s thorned top and pogo the buzzsaw beneath, dash rightwards, and repeat this set of actions until you reach the right wall. Perform several diagonal jumps, and we’ll arrive at this malevolent section’s end.
Part 8: High Up
Following that incredibly challenging section, this next one should be much more forgiving. Crystal Dash leftwards (DON’T FALL) and cancel your dash just as the ceiling above opens up. Monarch up to the right wall above, then jump and dash leftwards, following up with a pogo to the wingsmould beneath us. Keep performing this set of pogo actions leftwards until the ceiling opens up a third time.
Monarch up to the right wall above and dash leftwards as each buzzsaw descends, then pogo the wingsmould beneath you and repeat until we reach a thorned corridor with buzzsaws dotting the floor. Pogo the buzzsaw beneath you, fall beneath the buzzsaw to your left, dash leftwards, and immediately monarch up before touching the thorns. Repeat this action for the next set of buzzsaws, then dash left over a bramble of thorns, pogo the buzzsaw beneath you, monarch upwards, and pogo the wingsmould nearby to reach the end of this section
Part 9: The finale
**Warning – Two kingsmoulds are waiting at the end of this room. Ensure you heal to full at the start of each attempt to prepare for this challenging encounter. If you’re worried about running out of soul, there’s a Hollow Knight statue you can whack for infinite soul at the room’s start. Also, don’t jump too high, or this room’s thorned ceiling will end you.
We’ll begin by crystal dashing rightwards into the nearby pillar and monarch jumping, followed by a dash over the pillar to reach the next one. Repeat the same process for the following two pillars, alternating between jumping over or dashing under them. After the last pillar, we’ll encounter three sets of spikes jutting out from the floor. Fall forward, monarch jump to stay airborne, then pogo the last spike until the right buzzsaw reaches the bottom.
Following the buzzsaw’s descent, pogo the buzzsaw and dash right to reach a horizontally moving buzzsaw. Follow the buzzsaw left until it returns right so we can make it to the next buzzsaw to our right. Repeat this process of following the buzzsaw until it heads right until we reach a much longer buzzsaw lining the floor. Preceding this buzzsaw is a moving spike we can pogo to stay above the thorned floor until the buzzsaw returns our direction. Make sure you add a monarch jump to your pogo to keep time with the spike’s rhythm.
As the buzzsaw lining the floor returns, float right, pogo the buzzsaw, fall beneath the protruding pillar, then dash right and monarch up so we can pogo the stationary buzzsaw attached to the right side of this pillar.
Once the buzzsaw returns rightwards, dash right to meet the buzzsaw and pogo it so we can dash through a set of two buzzsaws and into a narrow vertical chasm.
After falling through the thorned chasm, we arrive at a pit with two kingsmoulds guarding each side. Prioritize ending the fight early with spells instead of using soul to heal. These two enemies can individually deal two mask damage and quickly kill you if you delay the battle.
First, head in either direction, in my case left, to lure the other kingsmould over. This tactic makes it easier to send several spells at both enemies. Deliver a descending dark followed by several shade souls once you have both foes in your crosshairs to bring them near death. After a few more slashes from your nail, the kingsmoulds will die, and you’ll be left victorious. If you’re still struggling with kingsmoulds, consider checking out the White Palace Guide, where I give a more detailed look at the kingsmould’s move set and appropriate responses to beat them.
Congratulations, you’ve completed the cruelest, most despicable challenge in all of Hollow Knight. Take a few deserved monarch hops to cement your momentous victory over buzzsaw-kind and head rightwards to witness a special cutscene between the Pale King and the Hollow Knight.
We’ll see the Pale King and a child-sized version of the Hollow Knight sitting alone in the White Palace as we head right. Upon reaching the two, we have the option to “watch.” Triggering this option causes the Pale King to glace left towards his child and the Hollow Knight, in turn, to glance right at their father. Following this shared moment, the two burst into white moths, and the scene fades to white, throwing you out of the Path of Pain and back into the White Palace Proper.
Interpretation: The Pale King Killed Hallownest
As meager as this cutscene first appears, we can use this knowledge to understand that the Pale King’s plan to save Hallownest failed because he cared for the Hollow Knight. This ounce of paternal affection ruined the Hollow Knight, giving them emotions the Radiance exploited to project herself into Hallownest. The Seal of Binding, which we obtain after completing the Path of Pain, reinforces this conclusion, stating that the Pale King both cared for the Hollow Knight and was personally ashamed for demonstrating such affection.
Well done, you’ve conquered the most sadistic challenge Team Cherry had to throw at you and emerged a buzzsaw-pogoing master. The rest of Hollow Knight’s platforming pale compared to this ultimate test of skill, so you may be surprised to find you’ve attained platforming mastery. Regardless of your ascent to platforming-godhood, I commend you on your triumph over this monumental challenge of skill and patience. Now go forth and slay the Radiance. Your final test awaits.
Path of Pain Rewards:
Seal of Binding
Question: When and where can I access the Path of Pain?
Answer: You can access the Path of Pain after entering the White Palace, which you’ll need an awoken dream nail to enter. Halfway through the White Palace, you’ll encounter an invisible breakable wall that leads to the Path of Pain.
Question: Do I need to beat the Path of Pain to finish the Hunter’s journal?
Answer: No, the Seal of Binding you obtain in the Hunter’s journal following the Path of Pain’s completion is not required to get the Hunter’s mark.
Question: Can I reenter the Path of Pain after completing it?
Answer: No, the Path of Pain can only be completed once per playthrough. After beating the Path of Pain, the invisible entrance you used to access it is permanently blocked.
Question: Is there a reward for beating the Path of Pain?
Answer: Aside from a brief bit of lore regarding the Pale King, there is no material reward for beating the Path of Pain; it is optional.
Question: How long does the Path of Pain take?
Answer: Usually around 2-4 hours. Experts can beat the Path of Pain in about 15 minutes, while those struggling with platforming can exceed 4 hours.>