Shovel Knight

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Shovel Knight
Shovel knight cover.jpg
Developer(s)Yacht Club Games
Publisher(s)Yacht Club Games
Director(s)Sean Velasco
Designer(s)Alec Faulkner
Michael Herbster
Sean Velasco
Programmer(s)David D'Angelo
Ian Flood
Artist(s)Morgan Guyer
Erin Pellon
Nick Wozniak
Composer(s)Jake Kaufman
Manami Matsumae
Genre(s)Action, platform
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer

Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platform game developed and published by Yacht Club Games. Following a successful Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign,[6] the game was released for Microsoft Windows, Nintendo 3DS and Wii U in June 2014. The game was ported to OS X and Linux in September 2014, PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita and Xbox One in April 2015, Amazon Fire TV in September 2015, and Nintendo Switch in March 2017.[3][7] Shovel Knight is inspired by gameplay and graphics of platformer games developed for the Nintendo Entertainment System.[8]

The game has received critical acclaim, won various awards and is considered one of the best games of 2014. Following the release of additional campaigns, the original story received the retronym Shovel of Hope. The full game is referred to as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove, which includes two other campaigns: Plague of Shadows and Specter of Torment. A third bonus campaign, King of Cards, and a multiplayer fighting game, Shovel Knight Showdown, are scheduled for release on December 10, 2019.[9][10] On August 28, 2019, a spin-off sequel to the original game entitled Shovel Knight Dig was announced.[11]


Pre-release screenshot of Shovel Knight, featuring graphics inspired by various 8-bit games.

Shovel Knight is a 2D side-scrolling platformer with an 8-bit graphical style in which players control the eponymous protagonist as he collects treasure and fights against the Order of No Quarter.[8] Shovel Knight's main means of attack is his shovel, which he can either use to attack enemies head on and dig up treasure, or aim below him whilst jumping to bounce on enemies, similar to the pogo jump from DuckTales or the downward thrust from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link.[12] By finding a salesman named Chester hidden in most levels, the player can purchase secondary items known as relics that can be used with a limited supply of magic. These include long-range projectiles, gloves that can punch through dirt blocks, and a locket that makes the player invincible for a brief period.

Aside from the main quest, which involves fighting through each level and defeating the boss at the end in order to progress through the world map, players are encouraged to collect as much treasure as possible. Treasure can be obtained by defeating enemies, finding chests, digging through the environment, and finding note sheets which also unlock music tracks. Any money earned can be spent in villages on various items, such as upgrades to health and magic, secondary items sold by the salesman, and armor and shovel upgrades that grant bonus skills. While the player does have infinite lives, dying will cause the player to lose some of their money, though the player can recover it by collecting the flying sacks that appear around where the player last died. For added challenge, players can also choose to destroy checkpoints to earn more treasure at the risk of being sent back further should they die.

Completing the game opens up a New Game Plus mode, which increases the overall difficulty of the game by doubling the damage Shovel Knight takes, as well as limiting the number of checkpoints in a stage, though the player retains any relics and health and magic upgrades collected during their first playthrough. There is also a password system allowing players to input codes to unlock various cheats.

Version-exclusive features[edit]

There are some gameplay features unique to certain versions of the game. Both the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U versions allow players to use their respective touch screens to switch between secondary items without pausing the game. The Nintendo 3DS version features an exclusive mode known as StreetPass arena. This involves the player recording a short section of movement, with the goal of collecting as many gems as possible, which is then distributed to other players via StreetPass, where they can fight against that player's recorded character. Additionally, a Shovel Knight Amiibo figure, released on December 11, 2015 in Europe and January 8, 2016 in North America,[13] allows players to unlock a co-op mode in the Wii U version, as well as challenge stages and customizable gear in Wii U, 3DS, and Nintendo Switch versions.[14] Additional Amiibo figures based on Plague Knight, Specter Knight, and King Knight have been announced which, along with the Shovel Knight Amiibo figure, also unlock in-game fairies that accompany the player in certain campaigns and an additional armor for Specter Knight.[15] The PlayStation versions of the game feature an exclusive boss battle against God of War's Kratos, while the Xbox One and PC versions features a fight with the Battletoads.[16] In the Wii U version, the player could access Miiverse functions via the touch screen on the game-pad, though this feature is no longer available.

On January 11, 2017, it was revealed that the co-op feature, previously exclusive to the Wii U release, would become available on all platforms, excluding the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita.[7]

Downloadable content[edit]

Free post-release expansion DLC gives players additional campaigns starring different playable characters. These are available either as part of the Treasure Trove edition or as standalone titles.[17] Expansions also contain additional challenges for Shovel Knight, co-op mode, and a mode that allows the player to choose the gender of major characters in Shovel of Hope, called Body Swap mode.[18]

The first expansion, Plague of Shadows, puts players in the role of Plague Knight, who uses bombs in place of Shovel Knight's shovel. Players can customize the properties of Plague Knight's bombs by changing the casing, which affects how they are thrown; the powder, which affects what happens when they explode; and the fuse, which determines when they explode. By holding down the attack button, Plague Knight can perform a Burst move to launch himself in the air. Players can also unlock arcanas containing helpful spells by finding Shovel Knight's items and trading them with Chester the salesman. Additional items can be unlocked by collecting green coins hidden throughout each level. Plague Knight's levels are similar to Shovel Knight's, but his different and more technical moveset makes playing the game significantly different.

The second expansion, Specter of Torment, allows players to control Specter Knight who is able to briefly run up walls. When Specter Knight is close enough to an enemy, he can perform a diagonal slash launching him upwards or downwards, allowing him to reach new areas. Collecting red skulls hidden throughout each level can unlock Curios (items similar to Shovel Knight's relics) that Specter Knight can use.[19]

The third expansion, King of Cards, will be released on December 10, 2019[10] and will feature King Knight as its protagonist. King Knight is able to use a bash attack and spinning jump to attack enemies and conquer obstacles. The campaign will also feature a strategic card battle mini-game, Joustus, with players able to acquire new cards as they progress and build their own decks.[9][20][21]

The final expansion will be Shovel Knight Showdown, a competitive fighting game for up to four players that will be released on the same day as King of Cards. Players compete to collect a set number of gems within a time limit while attacking their opponents and attempting to deplete their health. Showdown will feature a roster of around 20 playable characters, multiple battle types, and a single player story mode.[9] Showdown will not be available for the Nintendo 3DS and PlayStation Vita versions due to their lack of local multiplayer functionality.[22]


Shovel of Hope campaign[edit]

Prior to the game, adventurers Shovel Knight and Shield Knight journeyed across the world alongside one another, but while exploring the Tower of Fate, a cursed amulet takes over Shield Knight and leaves Shovel Knight stranded outside of the sealed tower. Grieving for his beloved, Shovel Knight gives up adventuring and goes into self-imposed exile. During his absence, the Enchantress rises to power, spreading evil across the land. Upon hearing that the Enchantress has unsealed the Tower of Fate, Shovel Knight begins his journey back to it, hoping to find and rescue Shield Knight. In order to do so, Shovel Knight must fight the members of "The Order of No Quarter," who have been dispatched by the Enchantress to impede him.[23]

There are eight members of the Order; King Knight, Specter Knight, Treasure Knight, Mole Knight, Plague Knight, Polar Knight, Propeller Knight and Tinker Knight. Furthermore, Shovel Knight's rival, Black Knight, attempts to keep Shovel Knight from reaching the Tower of Fate but does not answer to the Enchantress. After beating certain knights, Shovel Knight may enter a dream sequence, in which he must catch a falling Shield Knight. Upon defeating each member of the Order, Shovel Knight reaches the Tower of Fate, where he faces Black Knight again. It is revealed that the Enchantress is actually a dark spirit inhabiting the amulet that cursed Shield Knight, possessing her body. Black Knight, who held romantic feelings for Shield Knight but lost her hand to Shovel Knight, had been protecting her in an effort to keep Shovel Knight from harming her.

While ascending the tower, Shovel Knight unwittingly falls into the midst of the members of the Order of No Quarter as they eat dinner. They demand a rematch, and Shovel Knight duels each knight one by one atop the banqueting table. Emerging victorious over them once again, Shovel Knight may help them up, reeling in the chain onto which the defeated knights are clinging.

Reaching the top, Shovel Knight faces the Enchantress and battles her. He manages to exorcise the evil spirit, turning her back into Shield Knight. After being separated from Shield Knight, the Enchantress transforms into a powerful specter, known as the Remnant of Fate, which Shovel Knight and Shield Knight defeat together. In a desperate final maneuver, the Remnant of Fate attempts to kill the two knights, but Shield Knight holds the attack at bay as Black Knight comes in and carries the wounded Shovel Knight to safety before the tower collapses.

In the aftermath, Black Knight leaves the unconscious Shovel Knight by his campfire and departs, fulfilling his promise to Shield Knight to save him, as the credits show the eventual fate of each member of the Order of No Quarter. A post-credits scene shows Shield Knight, who managed to escape the tower's destruction, limping towards the campfire before lying down next to Shovel Knight as he sleeps.

Plague of Shadows campaign[edit]

Running parallel to Shovel of Hope, Plague Knight plots his own scheme, planning to steal essence from Shovel Knight and the other Order members to use as ingredients in the ultimate potion, capable of granting any one desire of its user. He is aided by several other characters from Shovel Knight's campaign, such as Mona the witch, who pursues alchemy in secret due to the rest of the world fearing and rejecting it.[24]

One by one, Plague Knight steals each of the others' essences before moving on to the Tower of Fate. As Plague Knight obtains the Enchantress's essence and begins to finish the potion, Black Knight and Mona arrive and try to stop him. Plague Knight reveals that his intention was always to use the potion to win Mona's heart, but she confesses she already loves him. Plague Knight attempts to stop the reaction, but it goes out of control, creating a dark version of Plague Knight.[25]

The real Plague Knight defeats the shadow and stabilizes the potion, but realizing he already has everything he could ever want in Mona, the two decide to use the potion to destroy the Tower of Fate. As a result, the villagers hail Plague Knight and his alchemists as heroes, finally accepting them. In a post-credits scene, Plague Knight and Mona are seen sharing a dance together in the laboratory.[26]

Specter of Torment campaign[edit]

Prior to the events of Shovel of Hope, Specter Knight is sent to recruit knights to join the Enchantress's Order of No Quarter. As he recruits the knights, he experiences memories of his former life: Before dying, he was an adventurer named Donovan, who adventured alongside his partner, Luan. The two scaled the Tower of Fate and found the amulet within, but they ran into Shield Knight, who tried to stop them. In the skirmish, the floor beneath them collapsed and they fell, killing Luan and leaving Donovan mortally wounded. Shield Knight, now corrupted into the Enchantress, offered to save Donovan in exchange for gathering eight knights for her. He agreed, and the Enchantress killed and resurrected him into the undead Specter Knight. She presented him with a locket, telling him that with each knight that joins the order, it would be imbued with power, with a fully powered locket capable of bringing him back to life.[27]

Partway through his quest, a boy named Reize Seatlan breaks into the Tower of Fate, hoping to defeat the evil within. Seeing his potential, the Enchantress fills him with dark energy, corrupting him like herself despite Specter Knight's protests. Once seven knights have been recruited, Black Knight breaks in and reveals that the Enchantress is Shield Knight. Seeking revenge and hoping to save Reize, Specter Knight goes after the Enchantress. Upon his arrival, the Enchantress summons Reize and fills him with more dark energy, turning him into a giant phantom. Specter Knight defeats Nightmare Reize, but the Enchantress decides to make Reize her eighth knight. Specter Knight demands he is made the last knight in Reize's place, and uses the locket to restore Reize to life instead.

With the full Order assembled, the Enchantress's forces begin their siege and take over the land, while Specter Knight returns Reize to his village, where he will be safe. Now bound to the Enchantress, he laments to Black Knight that he fears she will never be stopped. In a post-credits scene, Specter Knight reminisces over the locket, revealed to have been a keepsake given to him by Luan, who asked Donovan to protect his son, Reize.

King of Cards campaign[edit]

Prior to the events of Shovel of Hope, a tournament is announced for the popular card game Joustus, with the three presiding Joustus Judges offering a great treasure and the title of "King of Cards" to whoever defeats them. King Knight decides to enter the tournament in the hopes of being recognized as a true king and gaining his own kingdom.[21]


Designer Nick Wozniak stated that the idea for the game started out as "sort of as a joke conversation over lunch that kind of got too serious."[28] The team had already planned to make a game in the style of the NES classics that they grew up on, and eventually the sword-thrust move from Zelda II: The Adventure of Link was brought up as a move that both designers liked. They soon thought that this move would be better suited in their game for a shovel as opposed to a sword, and the idea of Shovel Knight was born.[28] Besides Zelda II, other specific inspirations include Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse, DuckTales, Super Mario Bros. 3, and the Mega Man titles. The game is also influenced by U.N. Squadron and Dark Souls.[29][30] The game was announced on March 17, 2013 alongside the launch of a Kickstarter campaign to fund development, with a minimum funding goal of $75,000. The campaign reached this goal in late March and went on to collect a total of $311,502, fulfilling all announced stretch goals for additional features, by its end on April 13.[6][31] Additional features earned through Kickstarter stretch goals include a four-player battle mode, a mission-based challenge mode, an additional mode that swaps all the characters' genders, and additional playable story campaigns for three boss characters. To promote the Kickstarter, Yacht Club distributed copies of their initial Penny Arcade Expo demo to several prominent gaming personalities on YouTube, including Two Best Friends Play and Game Grumps.[32][33]

Shovel Knight features a chiptune soundtrack in the style of older video game titles from the NES era and were composed by Jake Kaufman, with two contributions by Mega Man composer Manami Matsumae. The game's soundtrack was released for download via Bandcamp on the same day as the game, as was a separate album featuring variously arranged versions of the game's tracks.[34][35]

Shovel Knight's graphics, similar to its music, mimics the style of older video game titles from the NES era and even limited itself to the NES color palette (although the game does include four extra colors not present in the NES color palette) and animation count. This meant that larger sprites were superimposed on a black background to keep the limit of colors available on a screen to a realistic maximum. Other trickery to properly honor the NES limitations include camera shakes that only act on a single axis and a game interface that acts as a background layer instead of being overlaid on top of the gameplay. In other aspects, Shovel Knight permits itself to ignore some limitations of NES era consoles.[36]


The game was originally slated for release in September 2013, but was delayed into early 2014.[37] After various further delays,[38][39] Yacht Club Games announced on June 5 that the game would be released on June 26, 2014.[40] The game was eventually released on several additional platforms including both the PlayStation 4[41] and Xbox One; both versions feature exclusive boss battles, with Kratos from God of War in the former[41] and the Battletoads in the latter.[42][43] A physical release for various platforms occurred in October 2015.[44]

Prior to 2017, the game was sold under the name Shovel Knight, with various additional campaigns appearing as free downloadable content. However, an update in April 2017 made the original story campaign and additional downloadable campaigns available for standalone purchase on certain platforms, with the original campaign adorning the subtitle "Shovel of Hope".[45] A compilation containing all three campaigns known as Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove was also available, with all owners who purchased the original game prior to this update having their game updated to the Treasure Trove edition. [45]


Aggregate score
Metacritic(Vita) 92/100[46]
(NS) 91/100[47]
(3DS) 90/100[48]
(PS4) 90/100[49]
(WIIU) 88/100[50]
(XONE) 86/100[51]
(PC) 85/100[52]
Review scores
Nintendo Life9/10 stars[54]

Shovel Knight received positive reception by critics, according to review aggregator Metacritic.[46][47][48][49][50][51][52] IGN editor Colin Moriarty awarded the game a 9/10 rating, calling it "arguably the best game released so far in 2014."[53] called it "a brilliant homage to a bygone era, yet an equally fresh, captivating and innovative game"[55] and Nintendo Life praised the 3DS version's "excellent controls, gorgeous graphics, an incredible soundtrack and endearing characters ... top-notch level design, varied gameplay, hidden rooms, optional challenges and a deceptively rich combat system."[54]

Including Kickstarter backers, Shovel Knight sold 180,000 copies within a month of the North American launch. 49,000 copies were sold on Wii U, 59,000 were sold on 3DS, and 66,000 were sold on Steam.[56] By December 4, 2014, it had sold more than 300,000 copies across all platforms.[57] As of June 30, 2015, the game had sold more than 700,000 copies.[58] The game had sold 1.5 million copies by December 14, 2016.[59] Yacht Club Games revealed in April 2018 that Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove had sold 2 million copies.[60] The game had sold 2.65 million copies by September 2019.[61]


List of awards and nominations
Year Awards Category Result Ref.
2014 The Game Awards Best Independent Game Won [62]
GameSpot's Game of the Year 3DS Game of the Year Nominated [63]
Overall Game of the Year Nominated [64]
Wii U Game of the Year Nominated [65]
Giant Bomb's 2014 Game of the Year Awards Best Debut Nominated [66]
Best Game Nominated [67]
Best Music Nominated [68]
Nintendo Life's Reader Awards 2014 3DS eShop Game of the Year Won [69]
Wii U eShop Game of the Year Won
Nintendo Life's Staff Awards 2014 3DS eShop Game of the Year Won [70]
Wii U eShop Game of the Year Won
National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards Original Light Mix Score, New IP Nominated [71]
Game, Original Action Nominated
2015 IGN's Best of 2014 Best 3DS Game Won [72]
Best Music Won [73]
Best Overall Game Nominated [74]
Best Platformer Won [75]
Best Platformer – People's Choice Won
Best Wii U Game Nominated [76]


Shovel Knight appears as a playable guest character in Indie Pogo, Runbow, Blade Strangers, Cook, Serve, Delicious: Battle Kitchen, Move or Die, Dino-Run DX, Runner3, Riverbond, Rivals of Aether, Blaster Master Zero, and Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night.[77][78][79] He appears as a secret boss in Azure Striker Gunvolt 2, accessible only through the use of the Shovel Knight Amiibo.[80] He also has made cameo appearances in Yooka-Laylee and Sun Creature Studios' animated series The Reward: Tales of Alethrion.[81][82] Plague Knight makes a guest appearance in the indie title Creepy Castle.[83] Multiple Shovel Knight characters appear as skins in Brawlhalla.[84]

Shovel Knight will be a playable character in the games Hex Heroes, Road Redemption and Indivisible.[85][86][87][88] Shovel Knight also appears as an Assist Trophy in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and multiple characters from the series appear as collectible Spirits that can change fighters' stats.


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