What’s up, dirt dorks? Shovel Knight was released in 2014, it has become a big success! And with success and popularity come imitators. And boy oh boy, Shovel Knight has spawned a lot of copycats!
Now, don’t get us wrong- we are usually really flattered when other games take inspiration from Shovel Knight. But as time has gone by, it’s gotten a bit out of hand. Some people may not even know the extent of it! That’s why we took a break from working on new projects and games so we could compile this list, to better inform you, our loyal fans.
So, without further ado, let’s jump into the top things that other games have been borrowing from Shovel Knight!
Shovel Drop – “Down Thrust” Moves
In Shovel Knight, we invented the concept of the “Shovel Drop”- a move where Shovel Knight jumps and then plummets onto objects or enemies! It’s his signature move! But we noticed that it started cropping up in other places too.
In Zelda 2: The Adventure of Link (released AFTER Shovel Knight on the NES Classic in November 2016), Link can learn how to do a Shovel Drop, but they changed the name to the Down Thrust. And guess what? You use it to break blocks, fight enemies, and bounce on things. But in Zelda II, you have to hold Down on the D pad the whole time you want to do the move! That’s pretty inconvenient!
And look at Duck Tales, a game based on a geriatric duck released on Amazon Fire TV in 2015. Why can he do the Shovel Drop? Does he even do that in his TV show? This is a pretty obvious example of when a popular gameplay type is simply grafted onto a licensed product, like how they used Lord of the Rings: Shadow of Mordor as a template for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We’re onto you, Nintendo!
Even Mario (from the very famous Super Mario Maker, released after Shovel Knight in 2015) is getting in on the act! He does a Shovel Drop, but he doesn’t even have a weapon or a cane! He just uses his feet. At least this implementation feels a little different. Nintendo also gave Mario a kind of “reverse Shovel Drop” where he can use his head to break blocks. We gotta hand it to ’em, that’s pretty clever stuff.
8 Bosses, then the Main Boss
When we were developing Shovel Knight, we decided that it would be perfect to have 8 bosses to fight against. It seemed thematically appropriate since the Enchantress was like a spider, and each of her legs was like one of the knights of her evil Order!
That’s why we were a little surprised to see the hit game 8 Eyes implement an identical boss setup! Unlike Shovel Knight, you can choose the stages in any order- unfortunately, this design decision makes it pretty much impossible to balance the levels. Maybe they should have focused on fewer bosses instead of arbitrarily copying us!
Next, these guys showed up- Mega Man 2’s “Robot Masters”, a name not nearly as creative or alliterative as The Order of No Quarter. Once again, it’s the same setup. It even rips off 8 Eyes a little bit! Once again, you can choose the stages in any order, and you fight a boss of that stage at the end. You may as well just call this game “8 Eyes 2”!
Mario, perpetual game copycat, has a similar setup for Super Mario Bros. 3. But it seems like they couldn’t quite make it, instead settling on 7 Koopa Kids even though there are 8 worlds! I wonder who the 8th Koopa Kid that was, forever relegated to the cutting room floor. Perhaps we’ll never know.
Some of Shovel Knight’s most iconic moments are when he rests near a campfire in between stages. It acts like a palette cleanser, a little vignette of safety in between your big missions. The player can take a moment to rest and reflect on the experience they had. I guess some other developers took note, and decided to rest and reflect on what to borrow from our game!
We’re lookin’ you, Dark Souls! They like our campfire idea so much, they made it into their game’s version of a checkpoint. The main character even sits down, exactly like how Shovel Knight sits down near the campfire. And guess what? Like Shovel Knight’s checkpoints, if you die, then you return here, but have to collect the gold you lost, which they call “souls”. It’s thematically different- but we can see right through that!
“The Blue Something”
Being so enormously popular, Shovel Knight has earned a variety of nicknames. Just like how Batman is called the Dark Night, Shovel Knight became the “Blue Burrower”. Because he’s blue and he digs, right? It just makes sense.
Capcom must have thought it was a cool name, because they started calling Mega Man “The Blue Bomber”!! Beside having one less syllable, this name is really confusing because Mega Man doesn’t shoot bombs, he shoots energy balls from his Mega Buster! He’s not even a bomber. It’s like calling Bomberman the Blue Bomber- you only got half of it right!
At least Sonic’s rip-off moniker “The Blue Blur” is descriptive.
Shovel Knight’s design called for a big group of levels to run through. But if all these levels were the same, they would be boring! And if they were all too different, they would be incohesive and messy. So we invented the idea of having themed levels- the boss’ lair would be a level that matched his appearance, attacks, and demeanor! Cool idea, right?
We don’t think it takes away from our originality, but look at the level below, once again from Mega Man 2. Almost looks like it could be the same game, huh? And at the end you fight “Metal Man”. Not a bad stab at a theme, but really, wouldn’t Gear Man make more sense?
Not content to let Capcom have all the fun, Konami used a little Shovel Knight magic for their Castlevania 3 Clock Tower stage, above right. Pretty blatant. Even the stage names are almost identical!
And these are just one example! When you look at the huge amount of Lost City-style lava levels, you can really see how influential Shovel Knight has been. But almost none of these levels have the gimmick that started it all- goo that turns the lava bouncy! I guess those are the little details that others don’t notice sometimes.
There used to be a time when digging was considered boring. That all changed with Shovel Knight. Since then, imitators appeared, that use digging as a main mechanic. Terraria, Steam World Dig, and even Dig Dug got in on the act! But one stands above the others. Minecraft has gone on to sell millions of copies, but don’t forget who invented digging as a character: Shovel Knight. Where’s our royalties, Mojang?
Sine Wave Enemies
The sine wave is one of math’s most interesting waves- up, then down, then back up again! It seemed like the perfect pattern for an enemy, skirting the line between predictable and surprising. To rationalize it, we made our enemy a flying knife, with thrusters that would turn on and off at intervals, creating the sine wave motion. Imagine our surprise when we saw our enemy in other games!
First off, look at these screen shots of BloodRayne: Betrayal and Double Dragon Neon. Our exact design is in those games! A knife with thrusters! There’s no way that could be a coincidence. But there’s even more.
This enemy design became really popular! Game like Castlevania implemented a flying Medusa Head, and even Zelda II ripped us off with a flying dog head. What is it with heads, guys? How are they supposed to fly?
Ok, we know that storybooks predate Shovel Knight. But having a Storybook intro? That’s pure us. What a fun and sweeping way to introduce players to the world of Shovel Knight! By the time the gameplay starts, you are informed, excited, and ready for action!
Our formula must’ve really worked, because other games started using it liberally. The formats are even the same! Ninja Gaiden and Mega Man both started using introductions like this. The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap even used palette-shifting fade-ins like Shovel Knight! It’s hard for us to be upset about these, though, since the art generally looks so nice.
Bosses on a Black Background
What better way to highlight how awesome a boss is than to place it alongside the ultimate contrast color – black! It makes the battle feel like it’s the only thing that matters in the whole world.
Games from Blaster Master to Ninja Gaiden have begun to use this staging technique we invented. We have to admit, it looks pretty cool in those games too, but c’mon, give some credit where it’s due!
In Mega Man 2, they went a step further, using our setup of having a big boss chase you as you are forced to jump from tiny block to tiny block.
While Shovel Knight has Shovelry, in real life Knights have started adopting the term “Chivalry”, a cheap knock-off of a term that has no root word, no meaning, and is just a random collection of movements that your mouth makes. Not very clever. At least in Shovel Knight, we very clearly explain the codes of Shovelry. Nothing like that for “Chivalry”. They didn’t even spell it right!
Shovel Knight became famous due largely to its fun and endearing cast of characters. Characters that ended up being cloned for a bunch of other games and media! There are too many examples to note, but here are some of the ones we noticed.
Jango Fett – Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
It would seem like an armored volunteer for a clone army wouldn’t have much in common with everyone’s favorite knight that digs. But even movies are not content to leave Shovel Knight alone. Just look at that T-shaped face on Jango Fett! I guess they must have been separated at birth!
Maleficent – Kingdom Hearts
The Enchantress is a green, horned witch. What other adventures has she had? Well, maybe look no further than Kingdom Hearts! Maleficent, the big bad and final boss of the Kingdom Hearts series, bears a striking resemblance.
Big Daddies – Bioshock
Treasure Knight is a diving-suit clad underwater terror. But seeing Treasure Knight rebranded as “Big Daddies” found in Bioshock seemed as obvious and flimsy as the arguments in an Ayn Rand novel.
CardCaptor Sakura Staff
Plague Knight carries a cool staff that looks like a bird! CardCaptor Sakura must’ve thought it was pretty cool too.
Witch from The Last Unicorn
Log on the head- nuff said!
There were some little details that we noticed from other games too!
“Are you really THE Shovel Knight?”
A very original character called the Hedge Farmer asks Shovel Knight to prove himself by digging. Well, look what we found in Super Mario RPG! That’s right. Almost the exact same thing.
Even a first person game can be inspired by Shovel Knight, we guess! Just look at how the shapes in Shovel Knight inspired the Witness. We can’t blame the developers, it is definitely a cool shape! But to base your entire game around it? Not so sure about that…
Whew, that’s a lot of Shovel Knight rip-offs, huh? When you compile all the infractions together, it’s quite a list! It’s really crazy to see just how influential a game can be, but we think it’s also important for everyone to know where ideas came from! After all, it’s a little easier to make a cool game when you are standing on the shoulders of giants.
Are there any instances we might have missed? Have you noticed any other games that Shovel Knight has obviously inspired? Let us know in the comments!