Hollow Knight is a long journey. With nearly 40 different bosses, 15 different areas, and DLC that can last longer than the base game, we can easily find ourselves spending dozens of hours dying at the White Palace or trying to escape Deepnest to no avail.
And yet, for players that know their way around the bug-themed world, we can beat Hollow Knight in a mere few hours. Through careful charm placement, flawless pathfinding, and an abandoned grub or two, we can conquer the Hollow Knight in a single afternoon.
In this Hollow Knight speedrun guide, I’ll review how to beat the game in under 5 hours for the Speedrun I and Speedrun II achievements. As a bonus, I’ll detail the various skips we can perform to access the Resting Grounds and City of Tears.
Bottom Line Up Front: Gather every ability besides Shade Dash, then confront each Dreamer in the City of Tears, Deepnest, and Fog Canyon, then fight the Hollow Knight at the top of the Forgotten Crossroads.
Types of Speedruns
Hollow Knight currently has achievements for three types of Speedruns regarding speed and completion. While none of these achievements come with a mechanical reward that alters our gameplay or Hollow Knight adventure, they’re still admirable achievements we can rub in Zote’s face!
Speedrun 1 (Under 10 Hours)
The easiest speedrun and a consolation prize for players who attempted Speedrun 2 and failed, this speedrun requires the least amount of skill and allows us to make several mistakes before completion.
I advise pushing for this achievement before trying for the others; it’s good practice for Speedrun 2, and we can earn the Speed Completion achievement if we can collect enough charms in time.
Speedrun 2 (Under 5 Hours)
Difficulty: Very Hard
An excellent challenge for Hollow Veterans, Speedrun 2 is a worthy test of combat, platforming, and memory for dedicated players.
While we can follow a strict path to shorten our playthrough, we’ll still need a healthy amount of skill to conquer most bosses with few mask shards and a weaker nail.
I strongly advise practicing against bosses in Godhome or a in a separate playthrough before attempting Speedrun 2.
Speed Completion (100% Completion Under 20 Hours)
More of a fetch quest than a speedrun, Speed Completion tasks us with finding every item, obtaining each ability, and defeating every boss.
While this is more of a laundry list of chores for hardcore completionists, we only have to achieve 100% completion instead of the game’s total 112% completion, including DLC.
I advise going after DLC bosses like Grimm if we’re struggling to find a final mask shard or we don’t want to backtrack for a single charm.
- Nail Arts
- Equipment (ie Mothwing Cloak, Dream Nail, etc)
- Regular Bosses
- Warrior Dreams
- Dream Bosses
- Godhome Pantheons (excluding Pantheon of Hallownest)
- Colosseum of Fools
- Seers Final Words (we need 2400 essence)
Before you Begin
Godhome: A Righteous Practice Grounds!
Before we begin, we’re better off familiarizing ourselves with Hollow Knight’s bosses to avoid wasting hours of our time on a playthrough only to finish 10 minutes over the time limit.
I advise practicing on bosses in Godhome’s practice area if we’re struggling with a particular boss. We can access Godhome in a secret passage at the left of the Royal Waterways with Simple Key and dream nail.
Unfortunately, Godhome can leave us unprepared when facing off against bosses without the Monarch Wings double jump or Shade Cloak. I recommend familiarizing yourself with these bosses in a separate playthrough to get ready to fight them while severely underpowered.
Ignore Nonmerchant Characters
While it may be heartbreaking to leave Elder Bug or Bretta to their fates, I advise ignoring the vast majority of nonessential characters. Their dialogue can consume precious minutes we may need if we’re running against the clock.
However, I recommend saving Sly and Zote for a vast amount of geo and items and talking to the moth Seer to reap the benefits of her essence quest. Besides these characters, though, we should proceed through most of Hollow Knight utterly alone.
Avoid Collecting Items
Excluding a few valuable items like King’s Idols and Pale Ore, we should avoid going out of our way to mine most geo caches, collect mask shards, and save grubs. These items take too much time to gather and derail our speedrun.
As long as we focus on gathering high-value geo items and increasing our Nail’s strength, we can bypass the need for collecting altogether.
Become BFFs With the Nailsmith
While we’ll have to proceed through most of the late-game areas with a weaker nail to save time, we can always return to the Nailsmith to strengthen our Nail to deal with combat. While reinforcing our Nail only makes most fights slightly more bearable, equipping the Fragile Strength charm that amplifies our damage output allows us to one-shot most enemies when used together.
I advise stocking up on Pale Ore and geo if we struggle with fights and returning to the Nailsmith when we can upgrade our Nail again. Make sure to stop at the Nail’s 2nd or 3rd rank; upgrading our Nail to its maximum rank takes too much time.
Speedrunning Hollow Knight
From here, we’ll cover beating Hollow Knight in under five hours. While we can continue collecting items for the Speed Completion achievement after finishing, this playthrough shall net us both Speedrun 1 and 2 achievements. Ready, let’s begin!
Kindom’s Edge to Forgotten Crossroads
Step 1 Ignore Everything (Including Elderbug)
This first stage of Hollow Knight will remain much the same as other playthroughs. While there’ll be some environmental challenges, most of the enemies are relatively easy to kill or avoid
To begin, head straight from the start of Kingdom’s edge to Dirtmouth. Before we drop down, however, look for a set of floor spikes that leads to a hidden area.
I advise pogoing the spike with a downward slash to find ourselves Fury of the Fallen, a unique charm that increases our nail damage by 75% when at one mask shard. While this charm is horrible for platforming and makes regular mobs incredibly dangerous, it’ll allow us to speed through the first two bosses.
Following the charm’s acquisition, we can proceed through Dirtmouth and the forgotten crossroads, dropping down from the well, heading left, far downwards through the platforms, and right across the moving worms.
From here, we can rest and open up the nearby stag station, then head upwards and leave through a detailed room to reach the boss.
Step 2 The False Knight Gets Audited
If you feel confident with your skills against the first boss, I recommend equipping the Fury of the Fallen charm to drastically cut down the fight’s length.
The False Knight is a relatively easy Boss to fight, so we can confidently take this gamble even if we aren’t Hollow Knight veterans.
After dispensing with the easy False Knight fight, heading left to the Ancestral Mound, and acquiring the Vengeful Spirit spells, we can remove the armored enemy guarding Greendpath to access the vibrant new area.
Step 1 Revenge of the Gardner!
Greenpath offers a generally more linear pathway for reaching the next boss. While we can proceed downwards to check out hidden items, new characters, and mask shards, we’re better off sticking to the higher section of Greenpath for a quicker path to reach Hornet.
In the room where we first encounter Hornet, we can perform a small skip to save us about 5 minutes of platforming. While the ledge Hornet is standing on is just out of reach, we can make it if we pogo off a flying insect after luring it to the top.
Lure the squit toward the passage where Hornet absconded and jump while performing a downwards slash to cut out an unnecessary part of Greenpath.
As we progress upwards and left over Greenpath, we’ll run into a few Mossy Vagabond Knights and a giant Vengefly munching on Zote. Save the fake knight for a heaping of geo, then head downwards to reach the entrance to Hornet’s boss fight.
Before accessing the fight, we can rest at the nearby stag station to save our progress. We can also get enough geo to open up the station by fighting the two Mossy Vagabonds guarding a giant stash of geo.
Step 2 Sibling Fight!
Greenpath Hornet is one of the less challenging bosses we’ll face. Her predictable moveset and slow attacks encourage us to apply Fury of the Fallen and abuse Vengeful Spirit to bring the fight to a quick end.
After beating Hornet and acquiring the Mothwing Cloak, we can take a stag ride from Greenpath back to the Forgotten Crossroads.
Shaman Stone and Save Geo
Before heading towards the Fungal Wastes in the bottom left of the Forgotten Crossroads, we can head to Salubra’s to purchase charms and charm slots. While I recommend saving geo for the Lumafly Lantern (1800 geo specifically) necessary to progress through Deepnest, the Shaman Stone charm enhances our spells, allowing us to speed past most enemies and lower-tier bosses quickly.
Also take care to talk to Sly in a house nearby to send him back to Dirtmouth, we need him for the Lumafly Lantern.
Step 1: The Wonderful Mister Leg Eater
As we descend into the Mushroom biome, we’ll notice a section that opens up to the left. While this path does not ultimately lead us to our intended destination, fighting the two mushroom enemies rewards us with a charm slot, bringing our total available charm slots to three.
Following that brief skirmish, head back to the other pathway and look for an outcropping that leads to Leg Eater. This blind praying mantis sells us the fragile strength charm that increases our nail damage by 33% but breaks after death.
I advise delaying equipping the charm until we reach the City of Tears; we’re more likely to die from the environment than the enemy attacks. Also, if we can’t afford it, the Mantis Lords’ fight will offer enough geo to make it fit our budget.
Step 2: The Violent Village
As we descend, we’ll head toward Mantis Village to acquire the Mantis hooks, allowing us to climb walls and reach new areas. As we navigate the area’s rafters, look for a secret switch behind a set of spikes.
This switch opens a path to the Mantis Lords’ fight below. While the challenging fight remains optional, the battle rewards us with a large quantity of geo we can spend on the Lumafly Latern and reinforcing our Nail.
If we feel confident fighting the Mantis Lords, head below, equip the Shaman Stone charm, and prepare for a tense battle. Otherwise, return to Salubra’s store so we can access the Resting Grounds.
Step 1: Shade Skip
While the game expects us to use our Mantis claw to access the City of Tears through the Fungal Wastes, we can instead perform a shade skip to reach the Resting Grounds early.
This pathway grants us the Dream Nail early on without spending 1800 geo on a Lumafly Lantern to bypass a darkened section of Crystal Peaks.
To perform the Shade skip, rest at the bench near Salubra’s house, then proceed to the nearest enemy and let it kill you. After we respawn, lure our shade to the rightmost wall and proceed to jump off the wall, pogo off our shade, Dash rightwards, and climb up to reach a path to the Blue Lake.
Step 2: Dream Warrior
From here, proceed rightwards, taking care to open up the shortcut to the Resting grounds in the next room’s upper floor, then walk to the Dreamer’s shrine for the obligatory cutscene.
After awakening with our new dream nail, we can fight the easy dream boss zero for 100 essence.
Step 1 Time for an Upgrade
Following our meager victory, proceed downwards from the resting grounds graveyard, take the lift to the second section of the City of tears, then proceed leftward until we reach the Naismith. We should have enough geo for the first upgrade and can redeem any items we’ve collected with Relic Seeker Lemm up ahead.
After upgrading our Nail, we can proceed through the City of Tears after dashing across the nearby lift and jumping across several platforms to reach the rightwards passage.
Following the entrance, we can head downwards to open up the shortcut to Lemm and then head upwards through a short puzzle to the Soul Sanctum.
Step 2 The Soulless Soul Sanctum
Strangely the regular enemies within the Soul Sanctum are more challenging than the bosses, so I advise resting at the nearby bench to save our progress.
While following our battles against several spellcasting bugs, undead aberrations, and a violent warrior mage, we’ll reach the Soul Master boss.
Despite its bold battle intro, this boss is relatively slow and easy to predict, so we can expect an easy fight for our trouble. Upon our victory, we’ll obtain the Desolate Dive ability necessary for accessing the Crystal Peaks from the Forgotten Crossroads.
From here, head back to the City of tears and upwards to reach the nearby stag station. However, in the room before the station, look for a side passage to the area’s upper right to find a simple key for opening up the royal waterways.
Regardless, take the stag station to the Forgotten Crossroads so we can access the Crystal Peaks.
Optional: Tough Fight for Pale Ore
With our Dream Nail at hand, we can reenter the defeated boss’s room and Dream Nail the Soul Master to fight a more challenging battle for several hundred essence.
While the fight is tough, long, and has a fierce second phase, we can obtain enough essence for a Pale Ore to upgrade our Nail.
If you feel confident, give the dream boss one attempt but leave for the next objective if we die; retrying the fight takes too long and can risk ruining our speedrun.
Step 1 Beware the Pink Crystal Cavern!
After we’ve returned to the Forgotten Crossroads, approach the mineshaft-decorated door on the right side of the ruins and proceed to a crumbling floor.
Upon Desolate Diving into the floor, the bottom collapses, throwing us into the industrial biome of Crystal Peaks.
From here, head up until we reach a side passage on the right with the Crystal Guardian resting on a bench. Fight the Guardian for a quick but relatively easy fight, rest at the bench, then keep heading up to reach Crystal Peak’s roof.
Step 2 A Pink, Shiny Heart
From here, head rightwards and head down to get to the area before the Crystal Heart (Super Dash) ability. This challenging platform area is brimming with several lasers, and devious platforms, so take care traversing this unforgiving area.
At the area’s end, we’ll acquire the Super Dash ability to access several new areas throughout Hallownest.
Instead of proceeding backward, exit to the main menu and reload our save file to respawn at the Crystal Guardian bench so we can forgo a painful, pointless amount of platforming.
From here, we can proceed up and leftwards across a vast horizontal chasm to reach Dirtmouth. After dropping down a ridiculous height, locate the stag station and head to the resting grounds stag station.
A King’s Idol for your Trouble
Before heading across, we can pogo off this single barrel to reach a King’s Idol we can redeem for 800 geo with Lemm. Pogo off the prop, dash to the ledge, and climb up for the rewarding discovery.
Step 1 Slither into Sewer
After returning to the Resting Grounds, we can make our way back to the first section of the City of Tears and look for a device adjacent to a keyhole for the simple key. Upon using the simple key, we obtained in an earlier area of the City of Tears, proceed into the damp depths of the Royal Waterways.
From here, continue heading rightwards until we reach a dung-infested corridor. Following this dung leads to a fight with the Dung Defender, who we can efficiently dispatch by juggling with our Nail. Beating the boss leads to a switch that opens up a nearby section of the Royal Waterways.
Following that brief fight, head back to reach a new non-dung-covered corridor that leads rightward. Using Super Dash, we can cross a vast, acid-covered pool and proceed through a shortcut to Ancient Basin to a battle room.
Step 2 Isma’s a Crybaby
Take care to heal before entering the room, then focus on the flying enemies so we can safely use the small arena’s upper area. After slaying the last bug and heading into the new room, we’ll find Isma’s Tear, a powerful ability that makes us immune to acid.
With almost every ability at hand, proceed back to the Ancient Basin shortcut with Super Dash so we can get the double jump ability and start taking care of the Dreamers.
Step 1 Dark Descent
On our Super Dash back from Isma’s tear, pause our Dash in the middle of a large, vertically expansive room to reach the bottom of a dilapidated elevator.
From here, head leftwards across a dismal corridor brimming with bugs and flying foes to reach the passage at the room’s end that leads to a tram station with an opening to the Ancient Basin.
Upon entering Ancient Basin, look for an exit at the room’s bottom. This passage leads to a linear room we can follow through several mawlurks to reach the Broken Vessel guarding the Monarch Wings.
Upon aggravating the boss, prepare for a rough fight with a fast-moving foe.
Step 2 Breaking Broken Vessel
I recommend prioritizing dealing damage over healing and only focusing when we stagger the boss. If you’re still struggling with the boss, I recommend checking out my Broken Vessel Guide for tips on dealing with this formidable foe.
Following our victory, we can proceed downwards to obtain the Monarch Wings, head back to the central Ancient Basin Area, and keep dashing right to reach a stag station that will take us back to the City of tears. Now we’re fully prepared to confront the dreamers.
1st Dreamer Lurian – City of Tears
After taking the stag station back to the City of Tears, head to the bottom middle of the biome until we reach a large inside with several wealthy bugs. At the top left of this room, we can use the Monarch Wings double jump to get to the Dreamer.
Keep heading upwards, taking care to rest at the nearby bench, then proceed to fight the Watcher Knight. This boss can prove a rather challenging foe so take care only to heal when dealing with one of the Watcher Knights.
Upon our victory, we can take the small elevator to reach the first Dreamer. Dream Nail the Dreamer, then kill the Dreamer and focus their essence. With one Dreamer down, we can proceed to the bottom left of the Forgotten Crossroads to reach the Monomon in Fog Canyon.
2nd Dreamer Monomon – Fog Canyon
Step 1 Foggy Canyon of Doom
Starting from an acid lake in the bottom left of the now infected Forgotten Crossroads, head downwards to reach the dangerous jellyfish land of Fog Canyon. This area is brimming with Jellyfish that deal two-mask shard damage so take special care to avoid enemies.
Upon entering the new biome, proceed to the very bottom of the chamber and head left. After passing through a small antechamber, we’ll find ourselves at the entrance to the Teacher’s Archives.
Step 2 Violent Lessons
While reaching Monomon only requires us to follow the path downwards, I advise resting on the bench at the chamber’s top to save our progress. After equipping charms that increase our damage and range, ideally Fragile Strength and Mantis Pride, proceed through the minor platforming challenge ahead until we reach a large chamber. Upon entering, the room shakes, and giant Jelly boss Uumuu rises from the depths.
We can avoid most of Uumuu’s attacks by hugging the wall, running about the room, and finishing the boss relatively quickly after relying on Quirrel to weaken them for us. After relishing our victory over a probably non-sentient creature, we can proceed to the Dreamer Monomon.
Dream Nailing the Dreamer requires interacting with Quirrel first so take care to speak with the friendly bug after interacting with the empty vessel. Once we’ve slain another dreamer, proceed to the Mantis Village for the final, most challenging Dreamer.
3rd Dreamer Herra – Deepnest
Step 1 Descent into the Deepnest
Finding Hera requires us to tread through the dark undergrowth of Deepnest. While we could have accessed the dark area right after beating the Mantis lords, the latter section of Deepnest requires a Lumafly lantern, so take care to purchase one from Sly in Dirtmouth before entering.
I also advise unequipping the fragile strength charm, as we’re much more likely to die in this area than in any other game section. We can reequip the charm for fighting the Hollow Knight shortly afterward.
To begin, head to the Mantis Lords’ boss room in the lower section of Mantis Village. Beating the trio of sisters allows us to proceed to the dim cave with a cowering Cornifer in the background.
While exploring the network of labyrinth caves can feel rather daunting, so long as we generally proceed towards the bottom left of the area, we should find ourselves in the right direction. Once we find a hole with rounded sides, jump down to arrive at the refreshing hot springs.
Step 2 Arachnophobia in Minutes
From here, continue heading leftwards, past a giant scooting enemy, and up a dimly lit area to arrive at another platform challenge. After navigating the various traps and spikes, we’ll find ourselves in a vast room with a stag station at the top right and a Herra’s resting place in the middle top room.
To reach Herra, we’ll have to sit on a bench beside several nicely dressed bugs, get knocked unconscious, then escape from our imprisonment to find Herra at the room’s top. Quickly deal with Herra, then proceed out of the room, towards the stag station, and back to Dirtmouth. It’s time for the final boss!
Once we’ve dealt with all three dreamers, we can find the Hollow Knight just beneath Dirtmouth’s well to the right inside a giant Black Egg Church. I advise refraining from equipping Fragil Strength outright so we can familiarize ourselves with the Hollow Knight’s moveset and apply charms that increase our range and spell damage.
Also, if we find ourselves struggling with the boss, I advise quickly gathering Pale Ore and reinforcing our Nail so we can cut down the fight’s length. Spending any extra geo on mask shards can help out too.
Regardless of our preparation, once the Hollow Knight begins to stab themselves, we can rest assured that we’ve nearly won the fight. After a brief melee, the Hollow Knight explodes, forcing us to focus their plague energy. While this grants us the bad ending of Hollow Knight, we can rejoice at having earned the Speedrun I and Speedrun II achievements with nearly two hours to spare.
Question: How Long is Hollow Knight?
Answer: While Hollow Knight can take around 25-30 hours to beat on a first playthrough, the extra DLC content and optional challenges can bring that playthrough to 100+ hours. However, players that know what they’re doing can easily beat Hollow Knight within 2-3 hours.
Question: Is the White Palace Required for Speedrunning?
Answer: No, we do not have to complete the challenging platforming area to speedrun Hollow Knight. Speedrunning Hollow Knight only requires confronting the three dreamers and then defeating the Hollow Knight shortly after.
Question: How Do I Shade Skip?
Answer: After acquiring the Mantis Claw and Mothwing Cloak from the Fungal Wastes and Greenpath, we can access the Resting grounds and City of Tears by performing a jump and Dash at the bottom right of the Forgotten Crossroads. Performing the maneuver requires killing ourselves to create a whackable shade, jumping in the middle of the wall, then hitting the shade and dashing right to jump up to the nearby ledge.
Question: What’s the Easiest Way to Speedrun?
Answer: Immediately upgrading our Nail and equipping the Fragile Strength charm reduces the difficulty of Speedrunning Hollow Knight. Also, neglecting most character interactions and focusing on gaining every ability first can afford us valuable time and allow us to access the late-game areas of Hollow Knight fairly early on.
Well done, brave bug! We achieved a significant achievement that very few players have managed to earn!
Even if we failed to save Hallownest, I’m confident Hornet and our imprisoned siblings would be proud of our hard-earned achievement. While Hallownest may never get a true hero, at least it’ll have a quick ending.
From here, we can work towards fighting the Radiance for the good ending or seeking out Godhome for an even greater challenge. Whatever the case, Hallownest will never forget the Speedrunning bug that bested its world in a few hours. Keep running, speedy bug!