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Title screen of the original Windows game
Developer(s)Mossmouth, LLC
Designer(s)Derek Yu
Programmer(s)Andy Hull
  • Buzinkai
  • Jonathan Perry
  • Eirik Suhrke
EngineGameMaker Studio
  • WW: December 21, 2008
  • WW: August 8, 2013 (remake)
Xbox 360
  • NA: July 4, 2012
  • EU: July 5, 2012
PS3, PS Vita
  • NA: August 27, 2013
  • EU: August 28, 2013
PlayStation 4
  • NA: October 7, 2014
  • EU: October 8, 2014
Q2/Q3 2021
Genre(s)Platform, roguelike
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer (remake)

Spelunky is a 2008 source-available 2D platform game created by independent developer Derek Yu and released as freeware for Microsoft Windows. It was remade for the Xbox 360 in 2012, with ports of the new version following for various platforms, including back to Microsoft Windows. The player controls a spelunker who explores a series of caves while collecting treasure, saving damsels, fighting enemies, and dodging traps. The caves are procedurally generated, making each run-through of the game unique.

The first public release was on December 21, 2008.[1] The source code of the Windows version was released on December 25, 2009. An enhanced version for Xbox Live Arcade was released on July 4, 2012. The enhanced version was later released for Windows and PlayStation 3 in August 2013, and for PlayStation 4 on October 7, 2014.[2] The remake was also made available on Xbox One via backward compatibility in December 2015.[3] A Chrome OS version of the original game was made as well, titled Spelunky HTML5.[4] A port for Nintendo Switch is planned for release in summer 2021.[5] A sequel, Spelunky 2, was released in September 2020.[6][7]

Spelunky was one of the first games to borrow concepts from roguelikes and combine them with real-time side-scrolling platformer elements. Due to its popularity, it was the influence for many later roguelike games.[8] Spelunky received critical acclaim for its gameplay, atmosphere and design, though some controls and multiplayer elements polarized critics. Many critics and publications regarded it as one of the greatest video games of all time.


The player controls an unnamed adventurer, known as the spelunker. The aim of the game is to explore tunnels, gathering as much treasure as possible while avoiding traps and enemies. The spelunker can whip or jump on enemies to defeat them, pick up items that can be thrown to either attack enemies or set off traps, and use a limited supply of bombs and ropes to navigate the caves. Levels are randomly generated and grouped into four increasingly difficult "areas", each with a distinctive set of items, enemies, terrain types and special features. Later areas contain more valuable treasures, secret locations, and items. If the player loses all their hearts or runs into an instant-kill trap, they will have to start from the beginning.

Enemies include animals like bats, snakes and spiders of varying sizes, other characters, and monsters like yeti, man-eating plants and ghosts. The player can collect many items, mainly gold and jewels which add to the player's score, but also useful objects including bombs, guns, climbing gear and archaeological artifacts. Some of the latter have supernatural abilities, including kapalas, hedjets, crystal skulls and golden ankhs, though many of these special items can only be gained through secret methods, like combining other items together. Some items may be purchased or stolen from shops scattered about the caves, though the shopkeepers become powerful enemies if you steal from them.

The player can also encounter damsels in distress trapped in the caves, who can be picked up and carried to an exit. Successfully doing so returns health to the player. It's possible to unlock the damsel as a playable character; gameplay is identical, except that the player encounters spelunkers to rescue. Another unlockable character is the "Tunnel Man", who possesses a mattock instead of a whip.

The Xbox Live Arcade, as well as the PlayStation Network versions of the game feature local multiplayer (co-op and deathmatch) for up to four players.[9] There are 9 different characters to play as.

The original Spelunky also includes a level editor, in which players can create their own non-random levels to share with others.


Spelunky screenshot comparison of the original version from 2008 (left) and the HD remake from 2012 (right).

Spelunky was created by Derek Yu and released as freeware for Microsoft Windows on December 21, 2008.[1] The source code of the 2008 Windows version was published under a software license permitting noncommercial distribution and modification on December 25, 2009.[10] Based on this source code the game community created a community patch which added support for Mac OS X.[11][12] Since the game source code became available community members have created many modified versions, or mods, of the original game.[13] Most of these are available via the forums on the website for Derek Yu's video game company, Mossmouth, where a list is maintained of finished mods.

An enhanced remake version for Xbox Live Arcade was released on July 4, 2012. The enhanced edition was also released on PC on August 8, 2013 and for PlayStation 3 on August 27 and 28, 2013.[2]


Spelunky draws from La-Mulana, Rick Dangerous, and Spelunker for its visual styling, character design, gameplay elements and general mechanics. Essentially a dungeon crawl, it also adds elements from the roguelike genre,[14][15] including randomly generated levels, a lack of save points, frequent and easy death, and discovery mechanics. It draws equally from the 2D platformer genre,[14] including real-time interactions with enemies. According to Yu, the Super Mario series of video games was one of the game's biggest inspirations, especially in "feel and physics."[16]


IGN gave the XBLA version a score of 9.0 and an Editor's Choice award, calling it "a superb 2D platformer that's as easy to hate as it is to love."[24] GamesRadar gave the game 5/5, praising its gameplay and constant sense of discovery.[22] GameTrailers gave the game a score of 8.3, praising its design but criticising some control quirks and throwaway multiplayer.[23] 1UP.com gave the game an A ranking, saying "it offers the same immediate, pick-up-and-play fun of Geometry Wars, but demands much more than the simple reflexive reactions of your lizard brain."[21]

PC Gamer UK chose the remake of Spelunky as its 2013 game of the year.[25] Eurogamer ranked Spelunky third on its Games of the Generation list.[26][27] In 2015, Rock, Paper, Shotgun ranked the original Spelunky 1st on its The 50 Best Free Games On PC list.[28] A difficult challenge run of Spelunky HD, known as an "eggplant run", was reported on by various video game news websites.[29][30][31][32] In 2019, Spelunky was ranked 36th on The Guardian newspaper's The 50 Best Video Games of the 21st Century list.[33]

The spelunker, the main character of Spelunky, is one of several indie game characters who can be unlocked and played in Super Meat Boy.[34] Referred to as "Spelunky" in Super Meat Boy, the character has the special power of explosive jumps (referencing the bombs he carries in the original game),[34] and he is exclusive to the Xbox Live Arcade version. He also makes an appearance in Runner2 as a DLC character.[35]

Spelunky was a commercial success, selling over one million units by 2016. The Steam launch was noted to be particularly successful by Derek Yu, with 61,408 units sold within the first week, and 577,185 units throughout the game's lifetime.[36]

See also[edit]


  • "Spelunky". The A.V. Club. 2009-02-02.
  • "Infinite Lives: Neo-nostalgia". Vue Weekly. 2009-01-29.


  1. ^ a b Yu, Derek (21 December 2008). "Spelunky v1.1 (and Source)!". TIGForums. TIGSource. Archived from the original on 7 August 2015. Retrieved 7 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b "Major Nelson Xbox Live Marketplace Release Schedule". 26 June 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-26.
  3. ^ Langley, Hugh (December 17, 2015). "16 more games just got added to Xbox One's backwards compatibility list". TechRadar. Retrieved December 16, 2020.
  4. ^ Spelunky HTML5 – Chrome Web Store
  5. ^ Ramée, Jordan (December 15, 2020). "Spelunky And Spelunky 2 Release On Switch Next Year". GameSpot. Retrieved December 15, 2020.
  6. ^ Dayus, Oscar (October 31, 2017). "Spelunky 2 Announced For PS4 And PC, Watch First Trailer Here". GameSpot. Retrieved October 31, 2017.
  7. ^ "Spelunky 2 launches September 15 for PS4, "shortly after" for PC". Gematsu. 2020-08-06. Retrieved 2020-08-06.
  8. ^ PC Gamer staff (January 1, 2016). "The 50 most important PC games of all time". PC Gamer. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  9. ^ Derek Yu (2011-04-23). "Multiplayer!". Spelunky World. Retrieved 2011-10-19.
  10. ^ Spelunkyworld.com
  11. ^ Sarkar, Samit (2012-10-12). "Spelunky unofficially patched with Mac OS X support". polygon.com. Retrieved 2014-08-07. Spelunky, Mossmouth's renowned roguelike platformer, is now playable on Mac OS X, thanks to an unofficial patch from the game's community.
  12. ^ "Spelunky v1.3 (and Source) – Now for Mac OS X and Windows". 2012-09-12. Retrieved 2012-10-05.
  13. ^ Spelunky SD Mod Adds Co-Op To Free Original Version by Graham Smith on Rock, Paper, Shotgun (July 7th, 2014)
  14. ^ a b Matthew Kumar ("Best Worst Games you've Never Played"). "One Life Left". Resonance 104.4 FM. Season 4. Episode 91. 39:30 minutes in.
  15. ^ Frushtick, Russ (2012-06-22). "Spelunky: The everlasting Platformer". Polygon. Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  16. ^ Robinson, Nick (2015-08-26). "Watch Spelunky's creator build a hellish stage in Super Mario Maker". Polygon.
  17. ^ "Spelunky for Xbox 360 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  18. ^ "Spelunky for PC Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  19. ^ "Spelunky for PlayStation 3 Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  20. ^ "Spelunky for PlayStation Vita Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 2019-07-27.
  21. ^ a b Mackey, Bob. "Spelunky Review for 360, PC from". 1UP.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-21. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  22. ^ a b "Spelunky Review". GamesRadar. 2012-07-05. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  23. ^ a b "Spelunky Article Review and Ratings". GameTrailers. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  24. ^ a b "Spelunky Review". IGN. Retrieved 2012-08-22.
  25. ^ "Game of the year 2013: Spelunky". PC Gamer UK. Future plc. 1 January 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  26. ^ Robinson, Martin (November 4, 2013). "Eurogamer's Games of the Generation: The top 50". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on November 4, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  27. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (October 30, 2013). "Games of the Generation: Spelunky". Eurogamer. Gamer Network. Archived from the original on November 1, 2013. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  28. ^ "The 50 Best Free Games On PC". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. October 16, 2015. Archived from the original on October 9, 2016. Retrieved October 9, 2016.
  29. ^ Smith, Graham (2013-11-14). "Spelunky Completed In The Hardest Possible Way". Rock Paper Shotgun. Archived from the original on 2016-06-24.
  30. ^ Matulef, Jeffrey (2013-11-12). "Man makes Spelunky history by recording the first successful solo eggplant run". Eurogamer. Archived from the original on 2015-09-24.
  31. ^ Angus, Morrison (2013-11-15). "Spelunky's first solo eggplant run completed, makes for a tense hour of platforming". PC Gamer. Archived from the original on 2016-01-16.
  32. ^ Wilson, Douglas (2013-12-23). "A breakdown of 2013's most fascinating video game moment". Polygon. Archived from the original on 2017-09-14.
  33. ^ "The 50 best video games of the 21st century". The Guardian. 19 September 2019. Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  34. ^ a b "Character roster update!". Official Team Meat blog. 2010-09-18. Archived from the original on 2010-10-23. Retrieved 2010-01-10.
  35. ^ Cowan, Danny. "Portal 2, Spelunky characters join Runner 2's DLC cast". Joystiq.
  36. ^ Yu, Derek (2016). Spelunky. Boss Fight Books. p. 166. ISBN 9781940535111.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]