Yacht Club Games took the indie game scene by storm when they released Shovel Knight back in 2014. The game would go on to sell over two million copies to date and usher in a new wave of challenging 2D platformers modeled after classic 8-bit NES games. Graphics aside, Shovel Knight has been widely praised for its memorable characters, robust combat system, and superb platforming mechanics.
Since its release, Yacht Club has continued expanding the Shovel Knight universe with new expansions such as Plague of Shadows, Specter of Torment, and King of Cards. Even with all this content, Shovel Knight fans may still find themselves craving more retro-inspired adventures once the credits roll.
Here, we’ll be highlighting the best games like Shovel Knight to check out after you’ve completed your quest to defeat the Order of No Quarter. Make sure to check back as we continue to update this list with new games and while you’re here, consider reading through our other curated lists:
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Developer: Cellar Door Games – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | PC | iOS
Rogue Legacy is a fast-paced 2D action platformer that helped popularize the video game subgenre known as roguelikes and is therefore regarded just as highly as Shovel Knight. The game’s central component is its genial-based character creator, which sees you controlling an infinite amount of heroes belonging to the same family tree.
Upon each character’s death, a new one will spawn with a chance of inheriting one of many traits from their ancestors, including hindering ones like colorblindness or dyslexia. Since each trait can impact one or more parts of the game, there’s a lot of room for discovery, particularly when mixing and matching the game’s nine character classes.
Developer: Thomas Happ Games – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | PC
One of the best aspects of Shovel Knight is its updated take on the 8-bit graphics of the 1980s. Another game that’s not afraid to show its admiration for old school graphics is Axiom Verge. This 2D side-scroller borrows heavily from games like Contra, Metroid, and Bionic Commando while adding a couple of modern amenities, namely its fluid movement controls.
In it, you control Trace, a research scientist who suffers a crippling injury during a failed lab experiment only to awake in an ancient civilization brimming with technology and deadly creatures. The game focuses heavily on combat and exploration, featuring 60+ unlockable weapons, gadgets, and power-ups to help Trace defeat enemies and reach new areas.
SteamWorld Dig Series
Developer: Image & Form – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | PC
The SteamWorld Dig games are some of the best Metroidvanias around and can easily give Shovel Knight a run for his money when it comes to gardening tool weaponry. Each game sees you controlling a steam-powered robot miner (Rusty in SWD and Dorothy in SWD2) as they venture further into massive underground mines littered with precious metals and dangerous enemies.
As you gather resources, buy new equipment, and unlock upgrades, you’ll be able to explore new areas for longer periods before returning to the surface. The result is a satisfying gameplay loop that’s further complemented by a cast of distinct characters with unique motivations rivaling that of Shovel Knight’s eccentric cast.
Developer: Matt Makes Games – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | PC
Switching gears, Celeste is a more story-driven experience that still delivers as a challenging 2D platformer. The game is played from the perspective of Madeline, a young woman who is struggling to cope with her depression. Looking for an escape from her problems, Madeline sets out to climb a massive snowy mountain.
Her journey is represented by a series of platforming levels that introduce progressively harder mechanics, the closer you get to the mountain’s peak. Similar to Shovel Knight, the game demands precise platforming maneuvers if you have any hopes of making it to the end.
Developer: Team Cherry – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One Switch | PC
Much like Yacht Club Games in 2014, developer Team Cherry caught the world by surprise when they released Hollow Knight back in 2017. The 2D action platformer has you controlling its titular hero, a silent sword-wielding knight on a quest to unlock the mysteries of Hallownest, a dark and dangerous kingdom offering treasures to any brave enough to explore its treacherous environments.
The game is very much the yang to Shovel Knight’s yin, offering the same caliber of challenging platforming only in a much more thematically dark setting. Atmosphere is arguably Hollow Knight’s greatest strength, evident by its stunningly hand-drawn environments and characters as well as its immersive sound design.
Enter The Gungeon
Developer: Dodge Roll – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | PC
Enter The Gungeon is a bullet-hell rogue-lite that sees you controlling one of four protagonists as they descend into “The Gungeon,” a procedurally-generated labyrinth brimming with fierce foes, environmental hazards, and valuable loot. As you progress, environments become increasingly hostile as new traps and enemies are introduced.
Flexibility is at the heart of ETG, as each character introduces unique modifiers that can change up how the game is played, such as gaining the ability to lock-pick chests, reload weapons faster, and or dodge further. This is then complemented by an arsenal of bizarre weaponry ranging from handguns with bouncing bullets to cactus-powered rifles.
Developer: Sabotage Studio – Platform: PS4 | Switch | PC
The Messenger sees you controlling a ninja who’s been tasked with delivering an ancient scroll to the top of a mountain, with an assortment of evil monsters and traps looking to get in your way. In many ways, the game feels like a love letter to classic 2D side-scrollers like Ninja Gaiden, evident by the decision to include platforming maneuvers like cloud-stepping.
Combine it with a mix of 8 and 16-bit graphics, and you have the recipe for a fantastic modern retro game. However, things don’t just stop there as developer Sabotage has provided a variety of upgrades to encourage exploration, such as a grappling hook and glide ability, bringing it a lot closer to Shovel Knight territory.
Developer: Motion Twin – Platform: PS4 | Xbox One | Switch | PC | Android | iOS
Dead Cells is a 2D rogue-lite with Dark Souls-inspired combat that revolves around exploring procedurally-generated dungeons in search of blueprints that allow you to craft better gear. However, finding these schematics is no easy task, thanks to mobs of tough-as-nails enemies that can be found wandering the dungeon’s numerous levels.
Following each death, the game returns you right back to the start, only with slightly more resources than you had at the beginning of your last run. This is at the core of the game’s formula and leads to an addictive gameplay loop that will see you risking it all just to see how far you can make it without dying.