Hello and welcome! My name is Katosepe and I’ll be your host for today’s Video Game of the Day.

Metroidvanias are a dime a dozen these days. That doesn’t mean they are low quality, no, there are plenty of fantastic metroidvanias that just don’t see much attention because they don’t stand out from the pack. New developers have to do a lot to get any attention. Today’s game is one of those games that did everything just right and garnered praise as one of the best modern metroidvanias. Today’s game is Hollow Knight, developed by Team Cherry and released in 2017 for PCs.

Hollow Knight puts players in the role of the Knight, an unnamed, nondescript and silent protagonist who makes their way to the nearly abandoned town of Dirtmouth. The surface city is nearly all that remains of the once great kingdom of Hollownest, a kingdom that went silent many ages ago under mysterious circumstances. Without a clear goal stated for the player and without a set path, the Knight must venture into the depths of Hollownest.

Hollow Knight’s plot is left intentionally vague and while there is a deep level of lore to be uncovered, it is up to the player to discover what that is and what it means. This narrative philosophy applies to gameplay as well. Most metroidvanias have an open world but they typically use gatekeeping techniques to force players down a primary path, perhaps with a couple avenues of choice available, if the player explores. Hollow Knight uses gatekeeping extremely sparsely, giving a high amount of nonlinearity to the game. Whole areas of the map can be explored in any order the player wishes. If one area proves to be too difficult, the player can opt to go explore a different direction until they can handle the challenges elsewhere. Many of the bosses can be skipped entirely if the player chooses to not explore in those directions.

Even finding the end of the game is something that the player will need to discover for themselves. The end boss can be defeated relatively early in the game, if the players seek out the correct objectives, but exploring Hollownest and discovering the Knight’s place in it pushes players on because discovering the reason for fighting is as important as actually doing it.

No conversation about Hollow Knight would be complete without talking about the art direction. The hand-drawn aesthetic gives a cartoonish look to the characters and enemies while creating striking, and usually dark, environments. It’s a game that really must be seen as the level of detail is truly remarkable. What makes all of this even more amazing is that Hollow Knight is about a kingdom of bugs. That’s right, bugs. Every character in this game is based on a real-life insect and the kingdom of Hollownest is an underground kingdom of bugs. And still, they made it a gorgeous world that anyone would want to explore.

If it sounds like I’m gushing about Hollow Knight, it’s because I am. This game is tough as nails and can be frustrating at times but the movement, art style and excellently crafted world makes it impossible to put down. No matter how many times a boss beat me down, I kept struggling onward, even though I’ve put down other games for far less. When I finally finished my time with Hollow Knight, the controls in other games just felt stiff by comparison. I’m not alone in this love for the game either. Hollow Knight received high critical and commercial praise and has been ported to the Xbox One, Playstation 4 and Nintendo Switch as a result. In 2019, it was announced that Hollow Knight would be receiving a sequel, Hollow Knight: Silksong.

Thank you so much for listening! If you want to hear more about Hollow Knight or perhaps want to try and piece together the lore with me, follow me on Twitter @vg_oftheday. Archives and transcripts are available on videogameoftheday.com. Don’t forget to check back here tomorrow for another Video Game of the Day!

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Devin "Katosepe" Sloane is a long time gamer and host of the show Video Game of the Day. He firmly believes Darklands is the pinnacle of gaming achievement and this is a hill he will die upon. Where his nickname came from is a secret to everybody.