While it's a fun game, even a game like Shovel Knight can have very sad and serious moments.
- The original ending of Shovel of Hope had Shield Knight die for good from her Heroic Sacrifice and Shovel Knight using his trusty shovel to bury her. Quite depressing.
- Setting that aside, we still have the dreams that Shovel Knight keeps having every so often, which always ends with him jumping awake. It's just him, in a seemingly endless void, fighting an ever-increasing horde of enemies while desperately trying to reach the falling Shield Knight as the words "CATCH HER" keep flashing on, as if they were echoing inside his mind. And then, just as he was very close to reaching her, he wakes up. The somber music playing throughout the sequence really helps to set the mood.
- Partway through Shovel Knight's campaign in Showdown, he comes across Shield Knight. She insists that she is truly who she appears to be, but at this point in the timeline, Shovel Knight is still suffering from her disappearance, so he angrily tells her to keep away believing she's another nightmare sent to haunt him. For the final part of his campaign, he realizes that Shield Knight is not merely a figment of his subconscious and that he must best her in combat so he can shatter the cursed mirror and wake up. Once he does so, he vows to find Shield Knight in the real world, setting up the events in Shovel of Hope.
- In addition, we get to see Shield Knight's perspective on the events of the story through her campaign in Showdown. Even after defeating the Enchantress twice and breaking the mirror, she still finds herself trapped by the curse of the amulet. All she can do is grit her teeth and refuse to give up, as she knows that Shovel Knight would never give up on her.
- Mona temporarily rejecting Plague Knight when she's led to believe he was manipulating her all along in Plague of Shadows. Made worse when the ending reveals that Plague Knight really did love her, and everything he did in the campaign was part of his desire to make himself into someone worthy of her through the Ultimate Potion.
- It gets worse when you consider that Mona has loved Plague Knight the entire time. To Mona, it seems Plague Knight has been taking advantage of her, waiting to cast her aside once she outstayed her usefulness. Plague Knight tries, and fails, to explain to her why he's making the Ultimate Potion in the first place. Unfortunately, his flustered sputtering only confirms her suspicions, leaving him looking like he's trying to cover his ass. When Plague Knight enters a depressive funk as a result of Mona leaving, the player is likely right there with him.
- The ending to Specter of Torment: While Specter Knight is able to free Reize from the Enchantress' control, he is forced to join the Order of No Quarter in Reize's stead and condemned to be the Enchantress' servant for eternity, helpless to watch as the Order begins its plans of conquest.
- King of Cards has one of the least ambiguous Downer Endings of the bunch because of Foregone Conclusion. King Knight is unable to resist the Enchantress's offer of his life goal: being a true king. He squanders the love and respect of his gathered friends — ones he earned thanks to his own accomplishments — just to be wilfully spoonfed an immediate, ultimately superficial reward. After the credits, despite becoming unanimously hated, he's pontificating on how he's achieved his dream of being a "King" in a gilded castle. It's difficult to tell how he truly feels, either trying to psych himself up or just depressingly unaware of how hollow his title really is... Suddenly, Shovel Knight steps in to challenge him, knock him out and put King Pridemoor back on the throne. Add Shovel of Hope's credit montage, and it's very clear that King Knight lost everything to his greed.
It looks like you finally got your kingdom, King Knight... I hope it was all worth it.
- Throughout the game, King Knight's mother never failed to call him as "son" no matter how much he protested. Her final words to him?
- It was implied that King Knight's mother and King Pridemoor were growing closer (She even allows the deposed Pridemoor to stay in K.K.'s old room). They were well on their way to getting married... which would have made King Knight a prince, and heir to the throne. Had he been just a bit more patient, he would have not only gotten his dream but kept it as well, alongside the adoration of his people.
- It gets worse when you realise two things: One, King Knight's mom has always had a crush on King Pridemoor before they ever met, as evidenced by her gushing about him when she appears on the airship, which probably means King Knight was probably so motivated to become a king because his mom wouldn't shut up about Pridemoor. Two, usurping the role of king was probably the only way King Knight could stop Pridemoor from marrying his mom. Considering King Knight betrays everyone after Pridemoor brings up his mother, it's very likely their romance motivated King Knight's betrayal more than anything!
- To throw a little more salt in that wound, King Knight's campaign in Showdown ends with King Knight snapping awake in his throne, and thinking the whole thing must've been the result of "those double servings of turkey". Why does he have so much surplus turkey to eat? Because he's been holding continuous galas at Pridemoor Keep, sending out invitations every time. Nobody has shown up — not even once. Not even any members of the Order. King Knight mitigates this by simply convincing himself his mail carriers aren't doing their jobs.
- One of his victory quotes in Showdown becomes depressing after finishing King of Cards, especially when compared to his other victory quotes. He calls out for his mother if she's watching and if she's proud of him. This King Knight is from after siding with the Enchantress, which means he's alienated and lost her at this point. The quote implies he's still disheartened and in some denial over it. Ouch.
- It is implied that King Knight's compulsion with becoming true royalty stemmed from being born and raised in a dingy, rat infested hovel, and that he allowed his dreams of a better life twist themselves into an obsession. Throughout the game (and even after his betrayal), he's still just a sad little kid feebly trying to fool himself into believing that he's a greater man than he's allowed himself to be.
- Black Knight's story in Showdown has a surprisingly rough Shut Up, Kirk! moment coming from Polar Knight. Right before their final duel, Polar Knight once again refuses to turn back to the side of good, reasoning that life is one big battle, and he's already chosen his side. He then caps it off by saying that at least he can protect his friends, which leaves Black Knight completely shaken and speechless. At this point in the story, Shield Knight's possessed, Terrorpin's been thrown off the Tower of Fate by Specter Knight, Polar Knight has turned to evil, and Shovel Knight went into seclusion due to Shield Knight's disappearance. Plus, if the opening stage to Specter of Torment is any indication, Black Knight was well-acquainted with Donovan as well. No wonder it hits so hard—Black Knight seems to be the only one of his friend group left.