Few Metroidvanias have managed to live up to the potential and promise of Hollow Knight. The bug-themed adventure’s excellent combination of world exploration, emotional storytelling, and decisive combat work to create a game like no other. Whether we were failing into the depths of Deepnest, enduring the Path of Pain, or besting a devil-turned-troupe performer, Hollow Knight offered a fantastic journey.
However, this excellence has only exacerbated the wait for its sequel, Hollow Knight Silksong, as desperate players have had to turn to other cheap knockoffs to get their Metroidvania fix. Luckily several imitators have succeeded in creating games inspired by, or similar enough to, Hollow Knight to keep us sane before the Radiance consumes our minds.
Bottom Line Up Front:
Check out Ender Lilies and Blasphemous for two unique takes on Hollow Knight’s expansive world and gameplay. Both game’s combat and story are enough to match and surpass Hollow Knight. Here’s how we selected the best games like Hollow Knight.
Before we start our bug-tastic comparison, let’s lay out a few ground rules for what constitutes a game like Hollow Knight. While Hollow Knight can be considered a soulsborne game with its intense challenge, checkpoint system, and death mechanics, its distinct identity as a 2D Metroidvania overrules recommending any FromSoft titles.
Instead, we’ll focus more on 2D-style indie games that emulate the creative appeal that made Hollow Knight unique. So henceforth, our selection criteria are as follows:
- It’s a 2D action adventure sidescroller with Metroidvania elements (ie abilities open up new paths, collectibles benefit gameplay, expansive world) and platforming.
- It challenges or teaches us mastery of the game’s mechanics and combat. By the end of the game, we have become the world’s apex predator against every enemy variety and platforming challenges.
- All games selected should have a 70% aggregate rating or higher on Metacritic.
- Preferably Indie with a distinct identity and premise.
- Developer: Phobia Game Studio
- Genre: Metroidvania, Reverse-Horror
- Metacritic Score: 75
For those of us clamoring for a Radiance playthrough, Carrion pits us as the monster in a science fiction experiment gone wrong, determined to escape the facility at all costs. This unique “reverse horror” game forces us to hunt through the facility imprisoning us, searching for new abilities and powerups that trivialize anything those scientist eggheads have to throw at us. While Carrion’s story is relatively light, it’s primarily told through flashbacks and environmental storytelling; we’ll enjoy Carrion primarily for roleplaying as the monster rampaging through scientists and the facility.
In terms of gameplay, Carrion is fast and cathartic. Moving around feels fluid and natural, and soldiers and scientists die quickly to our tentacled onslaught. I particularly enjoyed watching injured scientists crawl away as my tentacles advanced; it was like an organic recreation of The Thing. Unfortunately, Carrion suffers from a lack of direction. I was constantly lost throughout my playthrough and had to halt my horrific rampage as I backtracked, looking for the right way to proceed. While this forced us to get better acquainted with the facility, I would’ve appreciated a map or fast travel system, so I didn’t have to retread areas I’d been through countless times before.
Carrion’s fantastic premise and fluid gameplay fall short when we inevitably get lost and spend hours struggling to look for the next room. While I still think Carrion’s concept of a reverse-horror game is a fascinating idea, however, its poor level design is enough to push this title to the bottom of the list.
Overall I recommend Carrion if you’re looking for a compelling take on a Metroidvania with fast movement and graphic combat. If you’re willing to endure a confusing mess of rooms and puzzles from time to time, Carrion offers us an exciting, if horrific, adventure.
- Developer: Ska Studios
- Genre: Metroidvania
- Metacritic Score: 72
A combination of Soulsborne and Monster Hunter elements, Salt and Sacrifice offers an updated sequel to Salt and Sanctuary with revamped graphics and fine-tuned mechanics. Instead of a washed-up hero, we play as criminal turned inquisition’s pet, sent to carry out the order’s dirty work and slay several mages threatening the realm.
While the combat is less clunky than its predecessor, we’re still better off focusing on characters with increased speed and dexterity to avoid fat rolling. Unfortunately, the bloodborne-style health system of grinding enemies for consumables can mean wasting hours fighting against regular enemies to retry the boss again. While the sequel has some drawbacks compared to the original, it generally offers enhanced gameplay compared to the original.
Even though Salt and Sacrifice improves its visuals and decreases its input lag, the game suffers in its boss design, world, and story. While the game is still enjoyable and earns its 9th position on the list, I advise player’s interested in Soulslike games to check out its predecessor (Salt and Sanctuary) instead.
Overall, if you enjoyed the Salt and Sanctuary and yearn for more, this game is an excellent way to satiate our desire for more brutal 2D action adventures. However, I recommend caution if playing the game primarily for its story and bosses. The sheer difficulty at the game’s end can leave players frustrated and dissatisfied. Consider calling it quits if we get to the end and aren’t having fun anymore, there’s no shame.
- Developer: Moon Studios GmbH
- Genre: Action Platformer
- Metacritic Score: 88%
A colorful, heartwrenching adventure through a world brimming with nature and magic, Ori and the Blind Forest places us in the role of a newly orphaned fox creature on a quest to save the forest. While the animals and story are entirely alien, Ori succeeds in crafting a beautiful world brimming with environmental wonder and aesthetic charm.
Unfortunately, Ori’s combat and platforming were dull and frustrating. Rather than controlling our attacks, we press a button and watch nearby sparks from our character fly out and damage our enemies. Also, platforming constantly felt like a crapshoot, forcing us to perform ultraprecise movements that usually resulted in our death. All in all, the lack of control usually got in the way of what should’ve been an unrestrained journey through a magical world.
While Ori succeeds in crafting an emotionally heartwrenching journey, I can’t in good conscience of its frustrating gameplay, place it any higher than 8th place. I recommend players check out the sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps for refined combat and platforming.
Overall I recommend Ori and the Blind Forest if we’re in the mood for an emotional journey and can endure subpar movement controls and combat mechanics. If nothing else, the world of Ori is worth it to get to stare at the obscenely detailed surroundings and art style.
- Developer: Extremely OK Games, Ltd.
- Genre: Difficult Platforming
- Metacritic Score: 88%
For those lunatics that enjoyed the White Palace and Path of Pain (like me), this game presents the ultimate platforming test of terror. In Celeste, we play as a young girl on a quest to climb a treacherous mountain and overcome her fears. While we meet several foes on our way, including a ghostly hotel owner and our evil twin, our main obstacle is typically ourselves and finding the determination to push on. Though the game is devoid of violence, the same feeling of catharsis Hollow Knight offers from beating the Radiance lies within finishing a single stage.
Besides its expansive platforming challenges and a few secret arcade trials, Celeste offers a magical world brimming with quirky characters and glowing neon environments. Although the game pushes for a more optimistic outlook as opposed to Hollow Knight’s melancholy mood, Celeste succeeds in capturing our desperate struggle for survival, whether we’re retrying a ledge jump or running from a bloodthirsty ghost.
Celeste is a fantastic game visually and mechanically, but players looking for Hollow Knight’s combat or an interconnected world may feel let down. Still, I have to hand it to Celeste for making me enjoy platformers again and conquer my Path of Pain PTSD, so I’d have to rank Celeste as 7th place on the list.
Overall, I recommend this game if you crave a supreme platforming challenge with lovable characters and a heartwarming story. Even if we’re awful platformers, Celeste’s assist mode allows us to speed through challenging platform sections by following a virtual representation of ourselves. If we want a fair challenge that rewards exploration and renders itself accessible, we’ll be right at home with Celeste.
- Developer: Moon Studios GmbH
- Genre: Action Platformer
- Metacritic Score: 88%
For fans of the original that preferred Hollow Knight, Ori and The Will of the Wisps delivers with improved, hack-and-slash combat alongside nimble platforming. In terms of story, Ori and the Will of the Wisps focuses on the friendship between our foxy avatar and a young owl. While the story beats don’t hit nearly as hard (losing a parent still trumps finding a lost friend), it still retains that mystical nature of playing through an ancient misremembered parable.
In terms of gameplay, Ori and The Will of Wisps offers a substantially improved experience from the original. Hacking through enemies feels much more rewarding, and platforming feels fair and realistic. In all, the developers considered the original’s failings and Hollow Knight’s successes to make a game everyone would love.
While I still prefer Hollow Knight’s gameplay and Ori and the Blind Forest’s story, this game’s improved gameplay and platforming control earned its spot as 6th place on the list. While diehard fans of the original may disagree with my assessment, I expect playing through the first game’s enemy encounters and boss battles should be enough to convince them.
Overall, if you loved the original mythical world and don’t mind retreading the same type of Metroidvania with improved combat mechanics, you’ll adore this new addition to the franchise.
5. Salt and Sanctuary
- Developer: Ska Studios
- Genre: Metroidvania
- Metacritic Score: 84
Players that prefer the Soulsborne qualities of Hollow Knight over its cutesy art style will enjoy this grim adventure through a dismal wasteland. Salt and Sanctuary offers a more traditional Dark Souls experience with RPG-esk mechanics, decayed enemies, and brutal boss battles. The story follows our wayward avatar tasked with ending an era of violence and war through rescuing a princess and slaying an Eldritch evil.
While this game may look somewhat dated, its Dark Souls-esk gameplay and roleplaying elements translate well to the 2D medium and deliver satisfying world exploration and boss encounters. Unfortunately, the gameplay can sometimes feel clunky and slow with unresponsive input controls in tense situations. Still, if we can endure this minor lag and invest in a fun character build (I advise a kickflipping monk), we’ll experience an expertly crafted combat system for confronting foes in a vast set of playstyles.
I enjoyed my time with Salt and Sanctuary, but its graphics haven’t aged well compared to other Metroidvanias like Ender Lilies and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This disparity led me to put Salt and Sanctuary at 5th place on the list for players willing to enjoy an excellent RPG with dated visuals.
In total, I advise Salt and Sanctuary for players that enjoy dreary RPGs dripping with atmosphere and dread. Though more players may gravitate toward faster-paced titles like Dead Cells or Ender Lilies, this game offers a grand adventure for those that have the patience to persevere.
- Developer: ArtPlay
- Genre: Metroidvania, Anime
- Metacritic Score: 83%
For a more quirky take on Metroidvania’s with anime-style characters and storytelling, Bloodstained offers a silly action-packed adventure into a demon-infested castle. While I found Bloodstained’s story much more lacking and the characters little more than confused anime tropes and walking caricatures, it’s hard not to giggle at the silly enemies and character designs. Dressing our character as an army general with a tribal mask as we fight flying painting of Kickstarter backers and their dogs was a hilariously good time that left me hungry for more absurdity.
Bloodstained’s best selling point is its sheer variety of weapons and abilities. We can wield over 50 different weapons (swords, guns, kung-fu boots, etc.), and each enemy drops a unique ability that can function as a passive boost or an active ability. This level of depth can be nauseating when we’re limited to upgrading a few upgrades, but I always relished trying out a new power that lets me shoot flying pigs or turn my arms into squirt guns.
While Bloodstained Ritual of the Night is a visual, mechanical masterpiece, the late game grinding and searching for the proper path to proceed was enough to push it to its 4th place on the list. That’s not to say that Blood Stained lacks variety or visual appeal, but the game falls apart towards the end until the climactic finale.
Overall, if you want a version of Hollow Knight with more depth to its gameplay but less emphasis on the story, Bloodstained is the experience for you. We’ll soon find ourselves wolfing down curry to heal as we roundhouse a demon bunny girl to smithereens!
3. Dead Cells
- Developer: Motion Twin
- Genre: Roguelike
- Metacritic Score: 89%
If you enjoyed Hollow Knight’s vicious hack and slash gameplay and crave more, Dead Cells is an excellent follow-up to the hit indie game. This action-adventure Roguelike puts us in the shoes of a misshapen blob on a quest to save/destroy the kingdom and restore our bodies. Even though it bears some similarities to Hollow Knight’s disease-ruined world and opens up the more abilities we gain, Dead Cell’s tone focuses more on humor than melancholy. Instead of confronting the disease and saving our island, we get to flip off our enemies and curb-stomp our way to the throne.
While the procedurally generated maps can often feel repetitive hours in, the sheer variety of biomes for us to explore ensures we face diverse bosses, enemies, and challenges. The ability to summon vines, teleport and wall climb open up the world of Dead Cells just as Hollow Knight’s abilities did. Also, if we’re clever enough, we can exploit the biome progression to gain more power and unlock more endings for our silly blob monster.
Although Dead Cells is less like Hollow Knight than many of the games on this list, its ultra-smooth gameplay easily pushes this game to number three. Even after years of playing, Motion Twin’s continual release of new content for Dead Cells, (including enemies, maps, and story) makes it a new treat every time I return.
Overall, if you want a story-light action-heavy take on a 2D sidescroller with hour-long runs, Dead Cells is just the game for you. Just prepare for some frustration when playing on challenging difficulties; dying in 3 hits to a regular mob at the game’s end was enough to make me scream.
- Developer: The Game Kitchen
- Genre: Metroidvania
- Metacritic Score: 77%
Those looking for a more faithful recreation of Hollow Knight’s world exploration and combat style shall feel right at home in this violent Metroidvania with dark, theologic undertones. Blasphemous puts us in the role of a religious wanderer sent to rid Spanish-inspired Cystodia from the dark influence of the Miracle. Though the story is confusing and appears like nonsense throughout much of the game, its vast set of lore and bittersweet conclusion ties it together by the end.
In terms of gameplay, while the hack and slash mechanics are nearly identical to Hollow Knight, we can now parry foes and deliver scathing rebukes to charge up our devotion bar for special abilities. Even exploration feels just as rewarding as we uncover more health and tears of atonement or get to marvel at a vile room design or enemy type. Overall, Blasphemous succeeds in making every room feel unique and rewarding in its own way, only serving to make me more curious to see what lies ahead.
While I loved Blasphemous’ world, story, and theme, its overly cruel platforming, and exploration was enough to push it to the 2nd of this list. While veteran players eventually overcame these issues, it was frustrating enough to drive me to quit the game more than once.
My only word of caution to this nearly perfect Metroidvania would be the challenging world exploration and the highly graphic depictions of violence and torture. Some of the scenes of enemies flagellating themselves or our character delivering a righteous execution was enough to make even a veteran of horror games like me queasy.
Even world exploration can get dull if we find ourselves stuck repeating the same sections because of insta-kill spikes. Still, if we push through the pain and take time to unravel this masterfully crafted world, we can enjoy an almost flawless take on Metroidvania.
- Developer: Live Wire, Adglobe
- Genre: Metroidvania
- Metacritic Score: 86%
Perhaps one of my favorite Metroidvanias of all time, Ender Lilies is a delightfully sad take on a ruined kingdom. For our part, we play the role of a lost little girl determined to purify her kingdom from the all-consuming blight. From its beautiful music to its dreary environments and story, Ender Lilies excels at provoking emotion and capturing our hearts.
In terms of gameplay, Ender Lilies plays much like Bloodstained as we unlock new abilities based on a specific enemy time. However, unlike Bloodstained, these abilities feel more like quality than quantity. The game never forces us to grind for materials or EXP and offers various exploration boosts to assist players stuck on a boss or biome. Even upon returning to a previous area to look for a missing collectible, I rejoiced at listening to the delightful soundtrack punctuated by a ceaseless rain.
I placed Ender Lilies as my number one pick for the emotional payoff and fine-tuned combat throughout the game. While some of the other games mentioned tended to have incongruous themes or drastically unfair bosses, Ender Lilies never deviated from the story it wanted to tell or the challenge we had to endure.
Overall, I highly recommend this fantastic experience for players looking for an emotionally rewarding adventure through a masterfully crafted environment. Getting attached to our character and having to bid her farewell at the journey’s end was a heartwrenching experience that left me beyond satisfied.
Before we finish, there are a few more games that didn’t make the mark, either lacking comparative elements, a high Metacritic score, or any other noteworthy features. For further gaming suggestions like Hollow Knight, we can take a look at:
- Rain World
- Shovel Knight
- Axion Verge
- Dark Souls
- Cave Story
- Bug Fables: The Everlasting Sapling
Question: What is the best game like Hollow Knight?
Answer: Ender Lilies offers a masterfully crafted world, story, and gameplay that’s as rewarding as Hollow Knight. As a bonus, Ender Lilies’s melancholy tone and fantastic score are enough to match Hollow Knight’s soundtrack and put its story to shame.
Question: When will Hollow Knight Silksong Come Out?
Answer: While there’s no definitive release date for Hollow Knight Silksong yet, the game’s presence on Xbox’s Gold Pass suggests that the game will be out before the end of the year.
Question: Did Ori and the Blind Forest Rip Off Hollow Knight?
Answer: No, Ori and the Blind Forest came out before Hollow Knight. However, its sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps, took inspiration from several of Hollow Knight’s combat mechanics, like its hack and slash style combat.
Question: What Inspired Hollow Knight?
Answer: Hollow Knight derives several gameplay mechanics, like bonfire-style benches and bloodstain-style shades, from FromSoft’s Soulsborne titles like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. However, Hollow Knight’s expansive world takes more inspiration from Metroidvania classics like Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night with 2D visual inspiration from Shovel Knight.
Hollow Knight’s success has generated a ravenous hunger for new Metroidvanias and 2D action adventure platformers. Even if Silksong takes three more years to come out, we can expect there’ll be plenty more content to fill in the gap left from the hit game.
Although I don’t expect there’ll be an imitator adopting the same bug-aesthetic Hollow Knight went for, excluding Bug Fables, there’s still plenty of worthwhile worlds waiting for us to explore.
I hope this list has given you some ideas for upcoming steam sales and holiday splurges. Thanks for reading; I’ll see you next time.