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Cave Story is a jumping-and-shooting action game.
Explore the caves until you reach the ending.
You can also save your game and continue from where you left off.
— Author's description of the game

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You wake up in a cave. You shoot your way out of the cave, so you can get to a village in another cave. Then you have to go to a different cave, followed by...

Well, it's aptly named. You might just come for the fun, Mega Man-style gameplay, but the story is what you will end up staying for.

Cave Story is a freeware Metroidvania game by Daisuke Amaya, aka Studio Pixel. The game thrusts you into the action with no explanations, forcing you to figure out the plot by yourself as you go. There are robot soldiers, bunny people called Mimigas, and a Mad Scientist with a magic helmet and a Morally Ambiguous Doctorate trying to Take Over the World.

This game was created entirely by one man in his spare time. Daisuke Amaya wrote the scenario, drew the artwork and scenery, animated the sprites, designed all of the levels, composed all of the music, and programmed the entire game engine, all by himself over the course of five years.note 

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Its breeding ground on the English-speaking Internet is here. While the source code for the game was never officially released, it's extremely easy to reverse engineer and disassemble. That, as well as its freeware nature, has led the game to become the 2D platformer equivalent to Doom in terms of sheer ubiquity - ports are available for Mac, Linux, PSP, Xbox, Amiga, Mega-Drive/Genesis, and much, much more. Multiple source ports note  also exist, pushing said ubiquity even further.

The game has also seen quite a few commercial re-releases over the years - First on WiiWare, which added an updated graphics option, dubiously remastered music, multiple difficulty levels, the ability to play as Curly Brace, and a Boss Rush mode. This version was then brought to DSiWare, Steam, the 3DS eShop, and Nintendo Switch, with each version stacking on extra modes, levels, soundtracks, and tweaks along the way - the Nintendo Switch version in particular adds full widescreen support and Co-Op Multiplayer. There's also a Video Game Remake for Nintendo 3DS (in addition to the standard port that's on the eShop) entitled Cave Story 3D. It's (unsurprisingly) been given a 2½D overhaul, but otherwise is identical.

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Pixel has gone on to create Kero Blaster, which can be seen as a Spiritual Successor.


This game provides examples of:

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    Tropes # to C 
  • 2.5D: The 3DS remake of the game uses polygon graphics instead of pixel art, without changing the side-scrolling gameplay in any way.
  • Ability Required to Proceed: In the first cave, the door that would allow you to proceed grows a monstrous red eye and prevents you from opening it. You will need to find and steal the Polar Star gun and blast the door open.
  • Accidental Pervert: There's a hidden chestWhere?  in Curly's house that yields her panties. They don't do anything in the original game, but in the ports they unlock Curly Mode.
  • Achievement Mockery:
    • The Steam version of the game has an achievement for being killed by Toroko. As in, the harmless little Mimiga who "attacks" by running back and forth waving a stick that only does 1 damage per hit. if you have more than 1 HP, you have to deliberately stand still and wait to die. "Toroko Wins!"
    • Also in the Steam version, if you get the Bad Ending, by accepting Kazuma's offer to run away from the island, then you also earn the achievement called "Coward".
  • Action Girl: Curly Brace. Thanks to being a Robot Soldier, she's more than competent in battle. Momorin Sakamoto also fits the trope, but without being physically special in any way.
  • Adaptation Dye-Job: Misery's portrait has blue hair instead of green in the 3DS remake. This was done because her actual sprite always had blue hair.
  • Adult Fear: There's a lot of it. The Sakamoto family mounted a scientific expedition to a remote place, only to have the medic who went with them turn out to be a complete sociopath who has no trouble killing anyone who gets in the way of his lust for power. The Mimigas recently survived an attempted genocide, which makes most of them quite willing to believe the Doctor when he tells them that the surface plans to attack them, and that only Red Flowers can save them. After Arthur's death, King devoted himself to protecting Arthur's little sister. He failed. Curly Brace adopts four Mimiga children and raises them as her own. They are taken from her and are never seen again.
  • Advanced Movement Technique: On the ground, your speed oscillates rather than staying capped at a maximum, but once you go airborne, your horizontal speed stays constant until you touch the ground again—so you can travel slightly faster with a lot of carefully timed jumps than with walking. Later in the game, you get a machine gun that can recoil you upwards if you fire downwards. This allows speedrunners to avoid having to touch the floor for even longer. So for them, Cave Story becomes a game about dodging the floor as much as you can with whatever you have.
    • Damage boosting is a really precise trick where you hit certain enemies at just the right angle so that it will bounce you horizontally faster than you can walk. And of course, you maintain that speed boost even longer if you stay in the air. It is mostly used in Tool Assisted Speedruns though, because of how precise it is to pull off. Fortunately, there is one spot where speedrunners could pull it off, and that is in the Reservoir section of Mimiga Village. Even then, it is really difficult, and most runners don't even get the boost.
    • With the Booster 2.0, you can boost into a slope before your fuel runs out and then jump to preserve your momentum. You can also preserve your momentum by boosting horizontally adjacent to the top of the block, and then jump once you can jump on top of the block.
    • If you have both the machine gun and the Booster 2.0, you can preserve Booster 2.0 speeds by boosting forward and then using the machine gun recoil to get you back to the ground while you are still boosting forward. Then you can jump once you are on the ground and you will get the same speed if you just kept boosting forward. Then you can use the recoil from the machine gun to go upwards in the air while you still have the speed.
    • A fast way to get to maximum falling speed without wasting fuel from the Booster 2.0 is to use a very short amount of fuel to boost downwards. The Booster 2.0 already lets you get to maximum falling speed by boosting down already. Boosting downwards for a long time is the same speed as boosting downwards for a very short amount of time.
  • Aerith and Bob: Jack, King, Arthur, Igor, Sue, Booster, Kazuma, Momorin, Toroko, Chie, Kanpachi, Mahin, Sandaime, Megane, Curly...
  • Affably Evil: Balrog. As it turns out, he doesn't even want to be evil. He has no choice due to the Demon Crown's influence.
  • Air-Aided Acrobatics: Toward the end of Bushlands/Grasstown, you're required to make these kinds of jumps after activating the necessary fans.
  • All There in the Manual: invoked The names of many NPCs and enemies are only given in the end credits. The writing on the player character's hat (only mentioned once, by someone who doesn't understand what it says) is revealed in Pixel's artwork from the Beta version of the game. It doesn't seem to have an explanation. And that's all there is—in spite of many clues hinting at a large, interconnected backstory, Pixel has said of everything beyond what's shown in the game: "It is up to the player to decide".
  • Almost Dead Guy: There's a Robot Soldier in the Core chamber that live just long enough to warn the player of a powerful entity that killed his team. Professor Booster becomes this in the Labyrinth.
  • Always Check Behind the Chair: There's plenty of hidden items in this game: Easter Eggs, secret pathways, weapons you can't get by simply progressing the story, and so on.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Averted with Ballos, whose right eye is always red while his left eye is always white. Malco does fall for this trope, though.
  • American Kirby Is Hardcore: Zigzagged; while the Japanese version of Cave Story 3D's box art is a lot more cutesy than the North American version, it is the latter that came out first, and both versions actually avert Covers Always Lie by depicting a cave scene and representing different aspects of the actual game, with the Japanese version being more of a Call-Back to the original game's art style, and the North American version placing more emphasis on the context of the game.
  • Amnesiac Dissonance: Quote and Curly think they are combat robots from a past war who helped kill countless Mimigas. The guilt they feel over this provokes them to help the Mimigas avoid another genocide. However, when Curly's memory returns, she remembers that their original mission was to destroy the Demon Crown, and that they didn't kill any Mimigas in the process, ultimately subverting this trope.
  • Androids Are People, Too: Zett, an elderly Mimiga in the Plantation who clearly remembers the war with the surface, recounts that among the robots, there were some that "understood speech". He then voices his belief that those particular machines had souls.note  Later, when Misery holds Sue hostage, and Mister Traveler backs off, she admits surprise that a machine can care for another.
  • Another Side, Another Story: In the WiiWare version and Cave Story+, it's possible to unlock "Curly Mode" or "Curly Story", which essentially asks the question of "What If? the roles of Curly Brace and "Mr. Traveler" were reversed?" The story goes pretty much the same way, the only differences being the fact that you get to see what Curly Brace would say if she was in "Mr. Traveler's" shoes (unlike him, she's not a Silent Protagonist) while he remains silent apart from one brief moment (with Curly providing the rest of the dialog for him).
  • Antepiece: The game heavily relies on this to teach new players various game mechanics they would encounter throughout the game. Even the room the player starts in is designed to allow them to get a feel for the in-game jumping mechanics (and the fact that it's possible to drown within the game).
  • Anyone Can Die: If you haven't played the game yet, be warned that it's nowhere near as cute and innocent as it looks. War, genocide, sociopathy, and Character Death (including several children) are all major tropes in this story. Curly Brace gets special mention here. In actual gameplay she is invincible, but she has no Plot Armor.
  • Apocalypse How: The island's backstory is pretty harrowing. Upon learning about the Demon Crown, humanity sent battalions of robot soldiers to the island to obtain it, slaughtering countless Mimigas in the process. This provoked many Mimigas to eat the Red Flowers, sacrificing their sanity to obtain enough power to fight and survive. After that, the enraged Mimigas descended to the surface, never to be seen again.note  In addition, Mimigas manipulated by the Doctor could easily lead to societal collapse, because he is smart enough and insane enough to wipe out civilization as we know it.
  • Arc Words: "The surface," "soldier from the surface," and "killer robots." All of these topics are greatly important to the plot, and the characters in it.
  • Armies Are Evil: The armies from the surface aren't portrayed in anything resembling a sympathetic light. The first and only thing they managed to accomplish was the near-genocide of the Mimiga species and a lot of generalized destruction besides. The Mimigas retaliated with their own, equally evil army - by deliberately eating the red flowers, turning themselves into a raving horde of superpowered beasts, all driven to irrevocable bloodlust by the everlasting hatred of a crazed wizard with inhuman power.
  • Artifact of Doom: The Demon Crown is evil magic concentrated into a tangible, easy-to-use object.
  • Artificial Human: Quote and Curly Brace are so ludicrously human-like that most of the characters in the game don't realize that they're anything less than human until the truth is revealed by Professor Booster, and even he had to look twice before he believed it. They sleep, their injuries can be healed by medical doctors, they can eat and digest food including medicine, can have sex, and even drown in water. Yet, despite all of their human-like limitations, abilities and appearance, they are robots. Specifically, they are combat scouts, so they are not by any stretch Three Laws-Compliant.
    Kazuma Sakamoto: So you're one of the... I hadn't even noticed. My my, you certainly are well-built.
    A Mimiga: [to Mister Traveler] Man, these's sprinklers just... Whoops. Not supposed to talk to humans.
  • Artistic License – Biology: As pointed out by the author of a walkthrough, the "Jellyfish Juice," which is presumably made of, well, jellyfish juice, is oddly kept in jars in treasure chests inside the jellyfish. Wouldn't things be interesting if people kept their blood and internal organs in jars in treasure chests inside of them?
  • Art-Style Dissonance: What appears at first to be a simple Platform Game filled with endearingly cute creatures - including a race of friendly and hospitable rabbit people - is actually a story about war and genocide, topped with horrific evils that rival the tone and style of H. P. Lovecraft.
  • As Lethal as It Needs to Be: Sometimes, the player's guns hurt only as much as the plot needs them to.
    • The Colons supporting Curly during her battle with you cannot be killed or permanently disabled; shots only stun them for a period of time.
    • Similarly, Toroko only gets briefly stunned when you have to shoot her. Unfortunately, her luck runs out when the red flowers turn her into Frenzied Toroko. Much like Igor, you can't stop the transformed Toroko without killing her.
    • Sue and Misery in the fight against the Undead Core. You can knock them down with sustained fire and knock them out with enough damage, but Sue gets back up after the fight ends, and it is eventually revealed in the good ending that Misery also survived.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Balrog clumsily attempts to ambush you about five times and hilariously fails every time. ...except for the time when it actually works, though Quote might've been a bit distracted by the sudden horrible deaths of two of his friends. It doesn't help that he tends to yell "HUZZAH!"/"Oh Yeaaah!" whenever he jumps out at you.
  • Asteroids Monster: The Polishes in the Sand Zone split up into smaller versions of themselves when they take enough damage.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: All of the game's nastiest bosses also happen to only be vulnerable by shooting them in the face/mouth/eyes during a specific part of their attack pattern, always the part where they are spamming a ridiculous number of bullets onto the screen. Always. Also, Ballos's second and third forms, though the weak points don't disappear at any point.
  • Background Music Override: While getting Life Capsules and Missile upgrades are usually accompanied by a jingle, they are not in the Sacred Grounds. "Running Hell" plays there non-stop until the fight with the Heavy Press, at which point "Eyes of Flame" kicks in.
  • Back-to-Back Badasses: Curly gets strapped to your back when raiding the Brutal Bonus Level.
  • Badass Adorable:
    • Due to the art style, nearly all the badasses in the game are like this, but "Mr. Traveler" and Curly Brace really take the cake.
    • Monster X could qualify for this trope, once you see its true form. Meow!
  • Bait-and-Switch Boss:
    • After Malco is reactivated, he declares you a threat...right before he gets huzzahed into the ground by Balrog. This is made even more amusing by the fact that the music normally played during most boss fights starts when Malco appears, but then abruptly cuts out the moment Balrog lands on top of Malco.
    • This is invoked by Misery a lot, as an indication of her pragmatism and love of using resources on hand to kill you, rather than fighting you directly. This includes powering Balrog into a giant frog to fight you, provoking a gigantic monster from beneath the sand, and simply teleporting you into the Labyrinth, where you spend a third of the game trying to escape. It's cathartic when you finally get to take her on.
  • Baleful Polymorph:
  • Ballistic Bone: Some skeletal enemies shoot bones as projectiles. Additionally, you fight the True Final Boss of the game on a floor made of bones. In the first two parts of the fight, he frequently performs a Ground Pound which sends out a shock wave of bones capable of hurting you. In the third part of the fight, he drops flaming skulls on you.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Mimigas go barefoot, likely because their feet are so huge.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Both Curly and Misery wear tank tops that show it off.
  • Battle Couple: Curly Brace and Mister Traveler.
  • Battle Cry: Balrog's "Huzzah!", which was changed into "Oh Yeeeah!!" in Nicalis' translation.
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Misery turns Balrog into a giant frog for a boss battle.
  • Big Damn Heroes:
  • Big Entrance: In Balrog's first appearance, there's an ominous pounding on a door, then he smashes down the door and the wall around it, shouting (depending on the translation) either "Huzzah!" or "Oh Yeaaah!!"
  • Big Ol' Eyebrows: Santa has massive eyebrows compared to other Mimigas.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Both the Normal and Best endings are bittersweet thanks to the fact that not everyone lives to see the end, but the Best ending is called "best" for a reason.
    • The Normal ending shows that the Sakamoto family and several Mimigas escape in a helicopter, while the island was decimated when it crashed to the earth. However, the epilogue shows that much of the place actually survived the landing intact. In particular, the Labyrinth, Jenka's house, the Power Supply Room, and the Mimiga Cemetery all seem none the worse for wear. Balrog becomes a doctor in the Labyrinth, but Misery is nowhere to be seen, implying that she is dead. Curly Brace is also absent, and very likely dead.note 
    • invoked The Best ending shows the Island still floating in the sky. The Sakamoto family escapes the island in the helicopter, taking a few Mimigas with them to the surface. The epilogue shows that Misery is alive, and quite possibly reformed, and Balrog - no longer bound by the Crown - carries both Quote and Curly on his back as he flies off to find a nice, quiet place for the three of them to retire. Everyone who survived essentially lives Happily Ever After. However this ending contains a caveat that reveals the "Normal Ending" is actually pretty screwed. See, in this ending, Ballos - who regenerates the Demon Crown as long as he is alive - is dead, so the Demon Crown is gone forever. In the Normal Ending, he may not be dead, which means that this tragedy will very likely happen all over again, despite your best efforts. Good thing you didn't get the normal ending... right?
  • Black Bead Eyes: The game's art style lends itself to the characters all having really beady eyes. That said, their dialogue portraits invariably show more normal-looking eyes.
  • Bleak Level: There are several of these. The Labyrinth is a desolate "trash heap" full of dead and dying robots. Even worse, Mimiga Village becomes this trope when you return there after escaping the Labyrinth.
  • "Blind Idiot" Translation:
    • invoked The Aeon Genesis translators didn't notice that the secret password in the Plantation was the game's original Japanese title spelled backwardsnote  The translator missed the intended meaning and transliterated it phonetically, resulting in "Litagano Motscoud". In other respects, the translation is generally very accurate, since Aeon Genesis had Pixel himself assisting them. The NICALiS translation changes it to "yrotS evaC" in keeping with the original intent.
    • The NICALiS translation uses "Ravil" to describe a Mimiga that has gone crazy from eating Red Flowers. The original word was "ラビル"note ,which is an obvious transliteration of the English word, "rabid".
  • Blown Across the Room: In the Sand Zone warehouse, King finds the Doctor and voices his intent to kill him. In reply, the Doctor very casually summons a lightning bolt that blasts King all the way to the opposite wall. The impact kills him.
  • Body Motifs: You will see a lot of red eyes. All of them are connected to the rampaging magic of Ballos, whose right eye is bright red.
  • Boisterous Bruiser: Balrog. He's an all-around fun loving dude with a generally pleasant and lax attitude, who takes to his every action with a lot of enthusiasm. Huzzah!
  • Boisterous Weakling: Sue. She's convinced that she's a fighter, and claims to never have lost in a fight with her brother (which isn't saying much). In the first (of three) times that you have to rescue her, she grossly overestimates her fighting abilities, and grossly underestimates a raging Mimiga more than four times her size... in a fist fight. Then she gets rather pissed if you admit that you rescued her. Or even if you don't.
  • Bonus Boss:
    • Ma Pignon and the Red Demon are completely optional bosses when you're going for the normal ending, but they have to be fought in order to get to the real final level. Also the Sisters, Skippable Bosses who guard a missile upgrade in the Egg Corridor(?).
    • The bonus level Wind Fortress has G-CLONE, a mysterious machine that makes Curly clones.
  • Bonus Feature Failure: Curly mode in the WiiWare/Steam version simply changes some dialogue and the places of the main character and Curly, and Sanctuary Time Attack denies you the use of missiles (although it lets you use both the Blade and the Nemesis, which is more than a fair trade in B3).
  • Bookends: The area you start in at the start of the game is titled "First Cave". The last cave before the Final Boss is titled..."Last Cave".
  • Boss Arena Recovery: Due to how the game's weapon energy system worksnote , most Cave Story bosses are Mook Makers, Flunky Bosses or have item-dropping projectiles to allow you to take the drops.
  • Boss Bonanza:
  • Boss Corridor: The outdoor bridge to Ballos' room.
  • Boss Rush: The WiiWare version and Cave Story+ both have a Boss Rush as an unlockable.
  • Boss Tease: Misery will occasionally appear just to stir up trouble and get the player wondering if they can shoot her yet, only to leave and let someone else fight instead. Oddly, the player can do this to themselves with Balrog - a dialog option in your first encounter will mean that you won't need to fight him there, though you will have to later on.
  • Bowdlerise: The NiCALIS releases and accompanying translations often edit parts of the game in dialogue and in other ways.
    • If Mister Traveler chooses to sleep in Chaco's bed at a specific moment, it results in a very thinly disguised one-night stand: he will wake up to find her sharing the bed with him, and with her lipstick in his inventory.note  This was rather clumsily bowdlerized in the 3DS version: he'll wake up to find her sleeping on the floor instead of next to him, presumably because she had nowhere else to sleep with him in her bed. However, he still gets her lipstick, so someone was not paying full attention. Later releases on other systems leave the easter egg untouched.
    • Later on, Mister Traveler can acquire Curly Brace's panties. While that in and of itself wasn't considered too much of an issue, in the original game, the panties share their color and heart-shaped emblem with the Iron Bond, which she gives the player as a symbol of their connection. The NiCALIS releases had this Bowdlerised by changing the emblem on the panties into a red bow, though the description of the item still mentions the emblem.
    • In one of the prisons near the Plantation, it's possible to speak to a certain incarcerated Mimiga. What they say changes depending on the translation:
      Aeon Genesis translation: Doctor dumb can go screw himself!"
      NiCALIS translation: The Doctor can eat it!
  • Brains and Brawn: Misery and Balrog. Misery is the brains, Balrog is the brawn.
  • Breakable Power-Up: You collect yellow triangles to level up your weapons and make them more powerful. You lose a few of these points every time you take damage, and it's possible to de-level your weapons this way.
  • Broke Your Arm Punching Out Cthulhu: As per their mission directive, Quote and Curly Brace both fought against and killed the previous owner of the Demon Crown. Unfortunately, they were both severely damaged in the fight and lost their memories. Also, the Demon Crown survived the fight, ensuring that all of this would happen again...
  • Brutal Bonus Level: Hidden Last Cave and the Sacred Grounds in the main game, as well as the Nemesis Challenge and Wind Fortress in the Steam and 3DS eShop versions. If you want practice on the first two, you can play Easy Mode (provided you're not playing the original game) and practice for when you do them for real. If you're playing the 3DS eShop version, you can do this for the other two, but your best time is only saved on Classic/Normal.
  • Bullfight Boss: The first fight against Balrog is one of these, while Monster X quite a threatening take on the same trope. The Muscle Doctor is an even more threatening example.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • It is impossible to leave the First Cave without stealing the Polar Star.
    • While speaking to Ma Pignon to get a cure for Curly's amnesia, he will say, "But in reality, you don't really want this, right?" Upon answering no, he'll say, "You really want it that bad?" Answer yes, and he says, "Are you sure you want it?" Answer yes, and he says, "But in reality, you don't really want this, right?" Answer no, and he'll finally give you the Mushroom Badge. Examining the item reveals that it isn't what you want. However, you still have to get it before you can get what you do want.
    • Averted during the very first boss fight. Balrog asks if you want to fight him with that "pea shooter of yours". If you say no, he'll leave.
  • The Cameo:
    • The boss of the Waterway, Ironhead, and his Porcupine Fish minions are characters from Ikachan, an earlier Pixel game. Beating the boss without taking any damage will cause a swarm of Ikachans to swim across the screen as well.
    • The protagonist and Curly Brace themselves cameo as fully-playable classes (though on opposing teams) in Gang Garrison 2.
  • Can't Refuse the Call Anymore: The end of the Sand Zone. You can only watch, horrified, as Toroko and King are murdered in front of you, and then you are effortlessly defeated and cast into the Labyrinth by Misery. Then everything gets much worse.
  • Captain Ersatz: Some enemies are shout-outs to classic video games. For example, Sandcrocs appeared in a Mega Man (Classic) game, and enemies looking like Basil were found in the Metroid series. Also, the Muscle Doctor looks a lot like the Cyclops summon from Final Fantasy Tactics.
  • Cast of Snowflakes: The entire named cast is unique, with no two characters looking or being alike. Quite a few unnamed characters are unique as well.
  • Catchphrase: Balrog's "Huzzah!", which got changed to a Kool-Aid Man-style "Oh Yeaaah!" in the NiCALIS translation, and can be either/or in the Cave Story+ version due to a mod that returns the original translation.
  • Cats Are Mean: Monster X's true form is a gigantic cat.
  • Cephalothorax: Critters and Balrog both have no separation between their body and their head.
  • Chain Reaction Destruction: Bosses tend to explode violently.
  • Challenge Run:
    • In the various updated rereleases, the Hard Mode removes all but one of the Health Capsules (and palette-swaps your character), making it a game-enforced low-health run.
    • Clearing the Brutal Bonus Level in less than three minutes unlocks a special song heard nowhere else in the game.
  • Character Portrait: Every major character except Mister Traveler has one (and even then, he gets one for his single line in Curly Story), and they are generally used if there's more than two NPCs talking.
  • Character Tic:
  • Charged Attack: The Spur can be charged to Wave-Motion Gun levels.
  • Checkpoint Starvation: The Sacred Grounds area wouldn't be half as frustrating if it weren't for this trope.
  • Climax Boss: The Core battle, which comes after a minor plot revelation and is followed by a more important one, and has its own background music.
  • Colony Drop: In his final attempt to kill himself and stop his out of control magic, Ballos tries to crash the island into the Earth. In the Golden Ending, Curly and Quote kill him and stop the island.
  • Cool Bike: A rather nifty hoverbike can be found in the Grasslands. Then, Kazuma takes a crack at riding it.
  • Credits Montage: Done in reverse chronological order — and it's a bit longer if you beat the True Final Boss.
  • Creepy Cave: As the title suggests, the majority of the game takes place in a massive cave system. Most of the caverns are spacious and well-lit, and some even feature vegetation and farmland. They'd probably be a nice place to live if the local wildlife wasn't inexplicably out for your blood. However, there are several areas that are genuinely creepy. The Core Chamber is dark, partially flooded, and littered with the bodies of destroyed combat robots, serving as an ominous buildup to a Climax Boss fight. The Last Cavenote  is full of lava, Spikes of Doom, tricky platforming, and stronger enemies. The secret final level, the Sacred Grounds,note  is the most extreme: it's filled with One-Hit Kill spikes, insane platforming challenges, and new, much more aggressive enemies, and the scenery looks like you're descending into Hell itself.
  • Crosshair Aware: One of the True Final Boss's attacks uses this trope. Multiple crosshairs form on the ground where lightning bolts are about to strike.
  • Cutscenes: Probably the only thing you'll hate about this game is the fact that these are unskippable and you'll have to watch them every time you retry a boss battle. Though at least the Scrolling Text speeds up a bit on subsequent viewings or if you hold down the Jump or Fire button.
  • Cutscene Incompetence:
    • There's a room with a Green Ogre in it, the same type as those you may have fought and killed several of in the past area; it guards a teleporter, but you can't hurt it or interact with it at all. If you walk right past it and try to use the teleporter, it knocks you out and throws you in prison.
    • The player character standing right there, with a weapon in hand, while the second boss (the first if you skip Balrog's first fight) punches Sue in the face repeatedly and then carries her away.
  • Cute 'em Up: At level 1, the Nemesis fires flaming bolts of lightning. At level 3, the Nemesis fires rubber duckies that do almost no damage.
    Tropes D to F 
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!:
    • In most PC games, pressing the Escape key will pause the game and bring up a save/load/quit menu or similar, and pressing Escape again will close the menu and send you back to the game. In Cave Story, pressing Escape brings up the menu — and pressing Escape again quits the program without confirmation. Averted in Cave Story+, where you are prompted to go to the main menu instead of quitting the game (and "No" is highlighted by default).
    • Also, if you upgrade from the DSi ware version to the 3DS version, the programmers switched the jump and fire button for no apparent reason. Averted in the 3DS eShop version, where there's an option to unflip the jump and fire buttons.
    • Used to pressing up to enter doors? Or a non-directional button to speak or interact? Too bad. Pressing down serves both those actions in this game. Somewhat justified in that during a shootout around scripted objects, you may have to aim up to shoot enemies, and the last thing you'd want is to accidentally interact with them and screw up your flow. Especially around doors, as entering them will respawn all enemies.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Mr. Traveler, Curly Brace, and Toroko all have one. The Mimigas share one as a race. Also, Ballos.
  • Dark Fantasy: As cute as this game is, the actual story definitely fits into this trope, regardless.
  • Darkest Hour: The bit between the Iron Head fight and the Outer Wall. All your allies are either dead, kidnapped, injured and lost, or telling you that it's hopeless to keep fighting and that you should run away. The unexplained destruction of the Egg Corridor (and the music accompanying it) certainly reinforces this.
  • Dark Reprise: Compare the tempo and drumline of "Mischevious Robot" to that of "Scorching Back".
  • Death of a Child: Several children can and do die during the course of the game.
  • Death Seeker: Ballos has been waiting for someone to come and kill him, because he cannot off himself, but knows he has to go due to his Sanity Slippage.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: For Toroko, Curly Brace, and eventually Balrog, with the latter being a particularly notable case as he assisted both Quote and Curly once, even while under the influence of the Demon Crown.
  • Deflector Shield: Curly Brace has one that deflects missiles.
  • Degraded Boss: Igor. He appears as a regular enemy at the Balcony. He's even more powerful than before, shooting more energy balls at once and having more HP. However he never uses his punch attack, and you have more powerful weapons and more HP.
  • Desert Skull: Sand Zone is full of bones, including animated ones.
  • Destructible Projectiles: Many projectiles can be shot and drop hearts, energy crystals, or ammo, allowing Boss Arena Recovery.
  • Developers' Foresight:
    • If you beat the game with Mr. Little still in your inventory, he interjects "...Aren't you forgetting something?!" after the last cutscene.
    • If you try to take the sprinkler from the Mimiga Village (in order to deliver it to Momorin), you'll get the message "It's fixed firmly to the ground!".
    • The Beast Fang is in the item files of the remakes, still being Dummied Out. However, its original description has been changed to saying that you're not supposed to have it.
    • Curly's Panties are called "Your Panties" in Curly Story.
  • Difficulty Spike: Things up to Plantation are relatively easy with save and refill points scattered around. However, Last Cave, especially if you're going for the best ending, ramps up the difficulty a lot. You do get a little breather at the Balcony with its one save and healing point before having to fight three bosses in a row with essentially no refills in between. This is not counting the Brutal Bonus Level and four/five-stage True Final Boss that await you if you want to actually see the best ending....
  • Dirty Coward: Kazuma. After spending the whole game generally being useless, he plans to abandon his captured sister and missing mother to save his own skin. Agreeing to join him results in the game's worst ending.
  • Disk One Nuke: If you remember a certain fireplace from the beginning of the game, you can acquire the Bubbler quite early, and it is really useful all the way up to the endgame (where you would obtain it if you didn't pay enough attention).
  • Distressed Damsel: Sue ends up needing rescue more than once. Sometimes, it's her own fault.
  • Double-Edged Answer: After the events in the Labyrinth and Waterway, Kazuma reveals there's a way to actually reverse the Red Flowers' corruption: destroy the island's Core! The only problem is, if you do that, the island drops out of the sky like a brick.
  • Downer Ending: If you complete the game without taking any extra effort (aka. the bare minimum), it ends with Professor Booster and Curly dead, the sky island crashing to earth, causing devastation to those on it and possibly the people below, and since you did not find the true source of its power, the Demon Crown will rise again one day, thus you have failed in your mission to destroy it for good.
  • Down the Drain: The Waterway is a massive and complicated piping system that transers water throughout the island.
  • Dracolich: Upon returning to the Egg Corridor in the late game, the place will have been destroyed, and the dragon eggs have hatched into "Dragon Zombies". It's unclear if they're actually undead or just malformed due to hatching prematurely. Or both.
  • Dual Boss: The Sisters fight together and share a health bar. There's also trio boss, Undead Core, with a mutated Misery and Sue. They don't share a health bar.
  • Dub Name Change: invoked As a result of having two different translations in common use, a small number of things in Cave Story's will have different names depending on which translation you use.
    • In the original Japanese version of the game, the password to enter the Safe House is "ritaganomo tsukuudo", which is Doukutsu Monogatarinote  with the kana in reverse order. This became lost in the Aeon Genesis translation and ended up as "Litagano Motscoud". In other respects, the translation is generally very accurate, since Aeon Genesis had Pixel himself assisting them.
    • In the end credits, as all the enemies in the game are listed, the Aeon Genesis Translation used the word "rabil" to describe a Mimiga that has gone crazy from eating Red Flowers - the later NICALiS translation uses the word "ravil" instead. The original word was "ラビル"note  which is an obvious transliteration of the English word, "rabid".
    • The second area accessed by teleporter ("クサムラ") is called "Grasstown" in the Aeon Genesis Translation, and renamed "Bushlands" in the NICALiS translation.note 
    • The only purple Mimiga in the game is named "Chaco" in the Aeon Genesis translation, and "Chako" in the NiCALIS translation.
  • Dummied Out:
    • The character portraits displayed during dialogue include one for Sue as a human. Since Sue doesn't turn back into a human until the end credits, the sprite goes unused.
    • There's unused sprite sheets for a Mimiga soldier, a Mimiga watching a TV or computer, a Mimiga with a yellow shirt, and a guy smoking a cigarette.
    • There is one dummied out area in the game listed as Cook.pxm in the game's files. It is an empty room similar to many of the Mimiga houses. What makes this more interesting was that it was last modified August 7, 2002, two months before Pixel restarted development.
    • You can find an unused weapon by modifying any of the game's scripts to give you said weapon at some point.
    • One can also find the Beast Fang hidden under the Heart Container in the plantation area of Mimiga Town. It's still in the remakes, and its description has been changed to say that you shouldn't have it.
    • There are instruments assigned to melodic channels "0" and "5" within the song "Zombie" that correspond to the instruments exclusively used within the expanded portion of the song from both Guxt and Kero Blaster. Said channels are unused within the Cave Story version of the song due to it lacking the aforementioned expanded portion.
    • The Nintendo Switch port has unused button mapping icons for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Play Station Vita, and Wii U, none of which got a port of Cave Story, but they may have originally been planned to.
  • Dying as Yourself: A dying Mimiga who is suffering from the effects of Red Flowers will change back into their normal self right before they expire. This is especially heartbreaking when it happens to Toroko.
  • Easter Egg: There are an astounding number of them.
    • Finding a hidden corridor in Curly's House and inspecting the chest inside will yield her panties, which do nothing at all in the PC original. They unlock Curly Mode in the remakes.
    • When first visiting Chaco's house, should the player decide to use the bed after checking the fireplace, and before leaving her house, Chaco will be sleeping on the bed next to them when they wake up. Additionally, they will have Chaco's Rouge/Lipstick in their inventory, which has... implications. Like Curly's panties, they do absolutely nothing.
    • Beating the Ironhead boss in the Waterway area without taking any damage will cause multiple Ikachans to swim across the screen and give the player the Alien Medal. Again, it has no use.
    • Cave Story+, adds another reference to Ikachan: an abridged version of that game's theme music replaces the main menu theme on Pixel's birthday.
  • Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: Bizarrely enough, on Hard Mode (3 HP, No Missiles), this is what happens. Most of the levels don't get as much of a difficulty increase as the bosses, especially the Core. Formerly easy bosses such as some of the Balrog fights and Puu/Pooh Black will destroy you mercilessly. The Sacred Grounds is the big exception.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Picking easy mode will make the player character wear a yellow costume (as opposed to the normal Red). When this costume was first announced, there was great public outcry because many fans did not realize that various difficulty modes had been implemented for the game.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: The path to the Golden Ending is far more hazardous than the path to the bittersweet one. If you're playing blind, it is nearly impossible get the good ending on your first try unless you're clairvoyant.
  • Emergency Energy Tank: The Life Pot. You can only carry one at a time, and you only get two over the course of the whole game (unless you backtrack), so you'd better make good use of them.
  • Empathic Weapon: The Blade, at its maximum level, summons King's spirit, who slices and dices up anything near whatever it hits first.
  • Enemy Roll Call: The credits list shows the names of all the characters, then all the bosses, then all the regular stage enemies.
  • Energy Ball: Energy balls seem to be the default ranged attack of everything in the game. They can be fired both by you and enemies... moreso by your enemies.
  • Equipment-Based Progression: The game has you collect various guns, each one leveling up and down individually as you collect XP triangles and take damage.
  • Equipment Upgrade: In addition to each weapon being an Evolving Weapon, there's a sidequest which allows the player to upgrade the Polar Star into a powerful charging weapon with infinite ammo (assuming they didn't trade it away).
  • Essence Drop: When defeated, enemies drop hearts that refill your health, energy crystals that increase your weapon power, or missile ammunition.
  • Event Flag: Jellies? Never seen 'em before, but now that you mention it, they're right out the door!
  • Everything Fades: In most videogames, dead enemies just disappear. The Original PC version of Cave Story uses this as part of its storytelling: any living thing that is fatally injured will disappear in a puff of smoke when it expires. Anything that doesn't disappear in this way is still alive. Cave Story+ changes this so that characters important to the plot do not disappear on death, presumably to heighten the drama. Case in point, note the contrast between the deaths of King and Toroko in the Original PC game, and Cave Story+. Compare to Igor being rendered unconscious and returning later on in the original game. Notably, dragons break this rule, as dead ones don't fade.
  • Evolving Title Screen: Beating Sacred Grounds and the True Final Boss quickly enough will change the cursor on the title screen (normally in the shape of the player character) into a different character and also changes the music that plays. Interestingly, this is the only way to hear the songs "White" or "Toroko's Theme" in the game.
  • Evolving Weapon: Every weapon (except the Spur) changes slightly as it collects experience points, especially the Blade and the Bubbler.
  • Eyes Always Shut: Kazuma is always depicted with both eyes closed. The Sky Dragon is as well.
  • Face of a Thug: King has a massive scar on his face and his eyes are constantly red from eating cooked red flowers. He's a good guy.
  • Fetch Quest: There are several, one of which involves puppies.
  • Final Boss: Misery, The Doctor, and the Undead Core. See also True Final Boss below.
  • Fireballs: You can fire them from the Fireball weapon.
  • Fission Mailed: After the fight against the first Load-Bearing Boss, the room floods, leaving you trapped underwater with your Air Meter ticking down to zero. Curly gives you her air tank after you lose consciousness, saving you at the cost of her own life if you haven't taken the proper steps towards saving her.
  • Flash of Pain: All enemies in Cave Story will shake, flash, or otherwise react on being hurt to let you know that you are damaging them.
  • Flawless Victory: Defeating Ironhead, the Waterway boss, without taking any damage awards the Alien Badge, which does nothing besides look cool in your inventory.
  • Flunky Boss: Many, many boss battles are of this type, primarily because your weapons lose experience points each time you take damage; destroy the flunkies, collect experience crystals, keep your weapons up to level. Most of the bosses which don't summon minions have projectiles you can shoot for powerups.
    • The battle with the Undead Core actually has two levels of this - It already has two minions, and one of them is a Mook Maker.
    • Special mention goes to G-CLONE from the Secret Level, Wind Fortress, in Cave Story+. The battle consists of a stationary computer that does nothing but sporadically shoot bullets and send naked Curly clones to do most of its dirty work. You have to focus on attacking the computer to do damage.
    • The Heavy Press has, in addition to regular enemies, two Invincible Minor Minions fighting with it.
  • Floating Continent: The cave you wake up in at the beginning of the game is part of an interconnected series of caves inside a floating island — the setting for the adventure.
    • The game actually does a fairly good job of hiding the fact that the island's floating for quite some time. It's easy to assume that you're in an underground network of caves until the nature of the island is spelled out for you.
  • Floating in a Bubble: Misery's (and the Doctor's) favoured method of capturing and transporting people.
  • Foe-Tossing Charge: Mimigas (especially the ones mutated by the demon flowers) and Balrog love to do this.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • After Grasstown/Bushlands, if you find Jack and talk to him, he'll mention why Arthur was a hero: He drove away a demon that was eating Mimigas, making him a true hero. If you're on the path to the True Ending, you'll have to finish what Arthur started and defeat it in the Hidden Final/Last Cave, becoming a true hero yourself. As the credits say, true heroes fight him, and both you and Arthur are/were.
    • A room in Grasstown has a bed with red flower petals scattered around it. Should you open the chest inside, a rabid Mimiga jumps out of the empty fireplace. This foreshadows the true nature of the red flowers, and what they do when fed to the Mimigas.
  • Friendship Trinket: Curly Brace gives the protagonist the Iron Bond after regaining her memories as a sign of friendship.
    • The silver locket you find early on was a gift from Sue to Toroko for Toroko's kindness to her.
  • From Bad to Worse: Most of the plot does this, even the opening screen.
  • Fungus Humongous: The Mimiga Graveyard is festooned with various walking mushrooms. The small ones already come up to your chest, while the singular big one just barely beats you in height.
  • Funny Animal: The Mimigas. They stop being so funny when they eat red flowers, though...
    Tropes G to J 
  • Game Mod: The original PC freeware version became rather easy to mod once the tools were developed. Also, Curly Mode in the Wii version is based off a well-known sprite hack for the PC version.
  • Gameplay Ally Immortality: When you tag-team with Curly deep in the Labyrinth, Curly takes no damage whatsoever from enemies or spikes. The same also applies in the Brutal Bonus Level, which has Curly strapped to the player's back.
  • The Ghost: If you don't get the Booster 2.0, you only get an optional reference to the Red Demon/Ogre and, consequentially, Ballos.
  • Giant Mook: Giant Pignon, Basu (giant beetle), Power Critter, and Kulala (giant jellyfish).
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Several bosses in this game seem to serve no purpose aside from providing a boss fight. Puu Black, Monster X, Ironhead, and Heavy Press are all examples. This trope does not apply to the Red Demon/Ogre, who IS foreshadowed if you talk to a certain NPC at a certain point.
  • Glass Cannon: King. He defeats Balrog in a single slash, but gets defeated himself with a single attack from Misery and bleeds out several minutes later. This is reflected in the weapon you get from him, which contains his soul. At level 3, it is very powerful but any hit will immediately drop it back down to level 2.
  • Graphics-Induced Super-Deformed: Cave Story's graphics basically insist that all the characters are represented as very simplified sprite images. As it turns out, this is quite deliberate, and used for storytelling purposes: The limited graphics are used to obscure the fact that the main character is a robot: he has two, hard-to-notice antennae on the sides of his head that act as visible Foreshadowing. The difficulty of noticing this detail is somewhat exacerbated by the color scheme of the protagonist's head, which, to the untrained eye, may appear as a sideburn, an eye, and a nose, rather than two eyes and part of an antenna, since the character appears in semi-profile. This trope is deliberately preserved with later releases: Cave Story+ retains very small antennae despite having substantially larger sprites, and the characters of the 3DS remake are still fully Super Deformed despite being 3D polygon renders.
  • Great Offscreen War: Ten years before the events of the game, humans sent an army of lethal military androids to the island to steal the Demon Crown. They killed countless Mimigas on the way in. One human, named Miakid, eventually got his hands on the crown and instigated another huge war between the Humans and the Mimigas by feeding red flowers to the remaining Mimigas and using the crown to make them fight for him in a bid to Take Over the World. The Mimigas lost, and were almost wiped out as a species.
  • Green Hill Zone: Grasstown/Bushlands is a fine example of this trope. However, it is not the first level.
  • Ground-Shattering Landing: Downplayed with Balrog. Although his off-screen entrances from the ceiling never does any visible damage to the ground, the entire screen always shakes whenever he lands, and it is shown a few times throughout the game that anything that happens to be standing beneath him feels the full weight of his bulk.
  • Guest-Star Party Member: Curly accompanies you like an Attack Drone throughout Labyrinth M. If you save her life and restore her memory, she will rejoin you in Sacred Grounds as a Badass Back.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • You will very likely not get the best ending on your first playthrough.
    • Getting certain gear will also fall under this. Want to get the best version of the starter gun? You have to turn down the offer to trade it for better (than the starter gun) weapons two separate times and then return to where you first got it late in the game without prompting.
  • Half-Dressed Cartoon Animal: Several Mimigas wear only a shirt to cover their torsos, leaving their bottom half completely bare. Some of them subvert this trope as their their bottomwear is either one pixel tall in the original game or the same colour as their top, hence easily missed, while others avert this, such as the Colons and Igor, as they are clearly shown fully dressed.
  • Harmless Enemy: The Chinfish (or Egg Fish) is a Unique Enemy in the Mimiga Village fishing hole who never attacks or interacts with the player character, but can still be destroyed for XP.
  • Hate Plague: Ballos gets this from Sanity Slippage due to being Driven to Madness and deciding that Murder Is the Best Solution.
  • Hat of Power: The Demon Crown, the source of the Doctor's power.
  • Head Pet: The Fetch Quest to collect Jenka's dogs. "Puppyhat!"
  • Heal the Cutie: Curly Brace is a friendly, upbeat girl who takes motherly care of a group of rabbit-creatures, but loses all of them to the Mad Doctor. She then makes a desperate attempt to help the protagonist fight back, and is forced to sacrifice herself to save him. With some Videogame Caring Potential and a good deal of Guide Dang It!, you can change the ending and bring about this trope. When Quote initially saves her, she's left an unresponsive amnesiac, but after her memory is restored, she remembers her and Quote's original mission, and returns to her former self.
  • Healing Checkpoint: Most save points are accompanied by life refills or beds.
  • Heartbeat Soundtrack: The song "Pulse".
  • Heart Container: Although could be changed to Energy Tank, considering its appearance and the Metroid-style riff that plays when you pick it up.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Balrog, and Misery as well. Balrog reveals that she was the one who sent him to rescue you after you defeat Ballos.
  • Heli-Critter: Flying Critters.
  • Heroic Mime: From context, it can be induced that the protagonist is speaking, but the player isn't privy to most of his lines.
    • And in Curly Story mode, in the scene where the two meet, he is STILL a heroic mime, while Curly says what our hero presumably said originally. Except when you force-feed him the Ma Pignon — and it's ONE line.
      Quote: Curly? It's me! Quote!
  • Heroic Sacrifice: After the fight with the Core, you drown. Curly gives you her oxygen tank to save you, drowning in your place. You do have a chance to save her, but getting that chance is not in the least intuitive. It's a remarkably sad moment if you fail to save her, and as you leave the room where she lies, the door clangs ominously shut behind while some of the game's saddest music plays.
  • He Was Right There All Along: Monster X and the Core are completely inert and harmless until the boss music kicks in.
  • Holiday Mode: Playing on Christmas or Halloween in the Wii version will change your sprite.
    • The Holiday Mode for the PC versions is frankly insane. Nearly every asset in the game is altered, including the music, sprites, backgrounds, and enemies, though it's a bit less so for Christmas.
  • Hope Spot: Just as Toroko is being force-fed the Red Flowers, Mister Traveler and King both arrive to save her... just seconds too late. King gets there first and is promptly murdered by the Doctor. Mister Traveler arrives just as Toroko starts transforming into a rampaging beast, and has no choice but to put her out of her misery and be present for King's final seconds alive.
  • Hub World: Mimiga Village is connected to almost everywhere else by a teleporter.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: "Humans can be terrible creatures indeed..." Just to make it clear, a human king who was jealous of Ballos' popularity imprisoned him and subjected him a very, very, cruel torture, leaving Ballos insane and unable to control his magic. Even worse, his own neice forced him to make the Demon Crown, a powerful tool that humanity tried to obtain through war, very nearly destroying an entire sapient species in the process. This is however nuance to this. Quote and Curly were both made by humans to destroy the crown, and - excepting the Doctor - the entire scientific expedition that came to the island are reasonably decent human beings.
  • I Cannot Self-Terminate: Ballos.
  • I'll Kill You!: What King vows to the Doctor, just after finding that Toroko has been force-fed red flowers... Also what Ballos says before fighting you.
    Ballos: Long, long have I waited... Waited for the one who would finally subdue my magic's fury. Now, kill me! Or I — shall kill YOU!!
  • Impact Silhouette: Balrog tends to leave these wherever he enters.
  • Impossible Item Drop: Monsters of all kinds can to drop experience crystals, floating hearts and missiles.
  • Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Balrog tries so hard.
    Balrog: Are YOU even listening to ME?
  • Incoming Ham: Everytime Balrog appe- HUZZAH! (or "Oh Yeaaah!" on the WiiWare/Steam version)
  • Inexplicable Treasure Chests: There are treasure chests scattered all over the place, including inside a few monsters. Why they aren't opened already is up to imagination.
  • Infinity -1 Sword: The Machinegun is the first weapon you can get in exchange for the Polar Star, and is still quite useful despite the ease of obtaining it. It does damage at a reliable rate and, at maximum level, you can fire down to use it as a makeshift jetpack, giving you extra mobility until you get either version of the Booster.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Spur. Getting it requires skipping both previous opportunities to replace the Polar Star (trading for Curly's machinegun, combining the Polar Star and Fireball into the Snake), but once you get it, you get a weapon that is EXP-independent and uses charge instead; at zero charge it's a permanent level 3 Polar Star and at full charge it's a Wave-Motion Gun.
  • Intelligent Gerbil:
    • Mimigas are essentially sapient rabbits with opposable thumbs. They have powerful jumping legs, and live in large burrows beneath the Earth. Their diet primarily consists of various flowers, though they can also eat fish. They are quite friendly, hospitable, and docile. That is, as long as they don't eat Red Flowers, in which case they go rabid, becoming murderously insane monstrosities that don't understand fear.
    • Gaudis are giant, intelligent cockroaches. They are also carnivorous - at least a few of them have a taste for Mimiga flesh. Unlike Mimigas, they are very tough, and quite violent, which is why Jenka sent them to the Labyrinth to protect the Core from intruders. Despite this, they aren't all violent or dangerous, and several of them run shops.
  • Interface Spoiler: Double-subverted. The number of puppies you bring back is one more than the number that would fit between Jenka and the door.
  • Invincible Minor Minion: Basil and Rolling cannot be destroyed by any means.
  • It Amused Me: Presumably the reason why Misery also banished Balrog to the Labyrinth.
  • Item Amplifier: The machine gun has limited ammo, but automatically replenishes itself. The Turbocharge item increases the rate at which this ammo replenishes.
  • Jump Physics: Really weird ones at that, but they're wonderfully intuitive. You more float/glide than jump. This can prevent some new players that are used to NES-style platformers from even leaving the first cave.
    Tropes K to O 
  • Kaizo Trap:
    • The Heavy Press boss in the final zone will fall through the floor after it's defeated. Better not be in the way when it does. It's fairly obvious if you've met a similar fate from its smaller brethren.
    • Minor example: contact with Puu Black still damages you after it's defeated.
    • When going for a normal ending, after defeating The Doctor and surviving a rain of stone blocks from the sky, all you have to do is leap off the side of the screen to trigger the final cutscene. It's still possible to die if you don't jump far enough and fall off the bottom of the screen instead.
  • Killer Rabbit: Mimigas become this when they eat the innocuous-looking red flowers.
  • Kill the Cutie: Toroko, after she is fed a red flower. An achievement on the Steam version has Toroko put you in the scrap, by weakly flailing a stick.
  • Kill 'Em All: By the end of the regular ending, there are more dead supporting characters than live ones, not counting the ones presumed dead after the island crashes.
  • King Mook: Heavy Press
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Mister Traveler doesn't seem to have a problem with stealing things and not returning them. He steals the Polar Star—the first gun he gets at the beginning of the game—from a hermit blacksmith. Later, he can take the Bubbler/Bubbline from Mimiga village, and later on, Curly's panties. The player doesn't have to return any of it. However, in the case of the Polar Star, returning it to its owner comes with a very substantial reward.
  • Laser Cutter: The Spur fires penetrating lasers and only when it is fired between Level 2 and 3. Firing it with a MAX charge unleashes a blast of Wave-Motion Gun proportions. The Steam Achievement for earning it is named "Freakin' Lazer Beams!"
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: The fact that the main character is a strangely humanlike heavily armed scout and recon robot named Quote is supposed to be revealed in the course of gameplay. Unfortunately, everything from zealous fans to official advertisements seeks to spoil it for newcomers.
  • Leitmotif: Balrog, the Doctor, and Ballos have them.
  • Lethal Joke Weapon: The Nemesis. On its lowest power level, it fires devastating bolts at very high speed. But as it gets powered up, it gets weaker! On its highest setting? It shoots rubber duckies. To add insult to injury, to get it you have to trade a powerful weapon that has sentimental value to the player character. On the other hand, it's quite powerful as long as you DON'T power it up. Gets quite tricky when one crystal is enough to take it up a level and you're paying attention to things other than the swarms of little bouncing triangles. Which is all the time.
    • The Bubbler/Bubbline. It shoots bubbles, producing four shots at 1 or 2 damage each. At level two, the bubbles act as a machine gun, a bit slower than the actual machine gun you can get later in game. But on level three, the bubbles float around you to form a shield, and when they burst, they shoot projectiles in the direction you're facing. You can either tap the fire button to spam single shots or hold the button down to create a shield of floating bubbles that will eventually begin to fire automatically at different heights, allowing players to hit enemies on lower or higher levels.
  • Let's Meet the Meat: Ma Pignon doesn't want to be eaten. Thankfully, he's a complete prick about it, so most won't feel too bad about feeding him to Curly.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Curly assumes you're there to kill the Mimigas and attacks you before you have a chance to explain yourself.
  • Level Drain: Happens twice on the path to 100% Completion: "You feel a black wind blow through you. All weapons dropped to Level 1!" Though you're almost guaranteed to have at least one weapon — the Spur, the Nemesis, or the Blade — that still deals out good damage at Level 1. Arguably, the de-leveling in Sacred Grounds is an equalizer, so that your chance of success isn't affected by how well you fared in the preceding boss fight.
  • Level-Map Display: There's a map item that can be acquired in the Mimiga Village. It can be handy, as it shows all hidden passages in your current room.
  • Lift of Doom: Two are present in the Labyrinth: the first requires utilization of the hovering Jump Physics to avoid either death by spikes or death by falling platform; the second, arguably simpler lift comes immediately after, and only needs to be tricked into rising without you in its path.
    • Also present when ascending to the Final Cave, though in a much more deadly fashion: watch out for those Presses!
  • Living Structure Monster: The exit from the Noob Cave is blocked by a cyclopean door that hurts on contact, but is easily dealt with.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: The Core. When it is almost completely defeated, the villains swoop in and inform you that it's the only thing keeping the island airborne; they then zombify the Core to save the island. Near the end of the game, when the Doctor possesses the Undead Core, you're forced to destroy it for good, and the island begins falling. Then Ballos inverts this; since Ballos was the one pulling the island down, defeating him saves the island from destruction.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Cave Story 3D is prone to this due to the entire game being rendered in full 3D on the 3DS's hardware, which results in the game taking about a second or two longer to load every location. It is also exaggerated as 3D has an actual loading screen compared to the original game and +, which don't. The amount of loading required is thus especially noticeable during Sue and Kazuma's conversation when you return to Arthur's House from Egg Corridor, since it switches between Sue's and Kazuma's perspectives several times, requiring the game to load Arthur's House or the shack in Bushlands nearly every other time you advance the conversation.
  • Locked Out of the Fight: On two separate occasions, Curly Brace gets knocked out just before a boss fight. (On the second occasion, after a short while she does get up and help you.)
  • Long Song, Short Scene: "White", a scrapped theme for King which can only be unlocked by beating Sacred Grounds in three minutesnote . "Toroko's Theme" as well, but not to as great an extent.
  • Low-Level Advantage:
    • The Nemesis actually weakens if you level it up. At Level 1, it's the strongest weapon in the game with massive damage, accuracy, and firing rate. At Level 3, it shoots rubber ducks that have pitiful range and do 1 damage.
    • The Blade is a possibly unintentional example. At Level 2, the shots disappear instantly. At Level 3, it can pierce through multiple enemies. Since the only limit to how fast you can use the Blade is that there can be only one shot on-screen, keeping the blade at Level 2 can be preferable since getting right next to an enemy will make the projectile disappear instantly after shooting, meaning it can be fired ridiculously fast and shred most bosses.
  • Luck-Based Mission: There's a corridor in the Sacred Grounds/Bloodstained Sanctuary, where blocks, both large and small, rain down upon you completely randomly. Regardless of size, they all do ten damage, which can add up pretty quickly. To make matters worse, the corridor is also filled with angels. If you take five damage from the angels and run/use the Booster 2.0 as fast as possible, it's significantly easier.
  • Magikarp Power: Technically, almost every weapon in the game is this, but special mention goes to the very first weapon you get: it's a tiny pistol with a very short range that is quickly outclassed by every weapon in your arsenal, even at Level 3. You have two opportunities to trade or upgrade it into something better; if you refuse both of them, you can get it remodeled into the game's most useful gun... hey! Why are you kicking yourself all of a sudden?
    • The Bubbler, which at the first level shoots pathetically weak bubbles at short range, and has limited, slowly-auto-reloading ammo to boot. It upgrades to a moderately useful rapid-fire stream of bubbles that reloads faster, and upgrades again into an awesome all-rounder weapon which can hit at long range, shield you from enemies, and charge up for a hail of bullets.
    • The Machine gun, one of the possible trades for the Polar Star, is nothing to get excited about when you first take it (although the damage output is better than the Polar Star, given the continuous fire). When fully upgraded, firing it downwards propels you into the air, and you can use it as a limited form of flight; later on, when you get an upgrade that speeds up your ammo recovery, you can stay airborne almost indefinitely. The downside is that if you get used to moving around like this, doing a run with the Snake or the Spur is so much harder.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Balrog uses this in one of the fights with him, and you can get a miniaturized one of your own via the level 3 Missile Launcher.
  • Mad Doctor: The Doctor, natch.
  • Malevolent Architecture: Chaco's fireplace is a passageway to the deeper parts of Grasstown. And why does Santa have a deathtrap in his house?
  • The Man Behind the Man: The way to the best ending of the game reveals that the Tragic Villain Ballos was the one responsible for both the creation of the Demon Crown that The Doctor and his predecessors sought after, and for the curse of Misery and Balrog to serve whomever bears the Demon Crown.
  • Marathon Boss: The last five bosses play more like two massive Sequential Bosses. And the last of them is a Marathon Boss on his own.
  • Masquerade: The red flowers will supposedly kill any Mimiga who eats them in an instant. That is actually true, just not in the expected way. Any Mimiga who eats red flowers will unlock their true strength, growing incredibly huge and powerful, but at the cost of losing their mind and entering a never-ending murderous rage in the process. It can be argued that this is effectively "death", as the Mimiga's original personality is gone.
  • Meaningful Name: Misery sure loves making others... well, miserable.
    • Throughout the game, Professor Booster provides you with special jetpacks called... Boosters.
    • Mimiga is the Anglicanization of the Japanese word for "ear". Mimigas have very large ears.
    • Quote, Curly Brace, and the Colons are all named for keys used commonly in programming.
  • Melodrama: invoked As in, drama set to music. Cave Story's deliberate use of Leitmotif to create moods and connect characters, areas and events is notable among videogames in general. For a few examples, The music heard in the first room of the Labyrinth is the same as the theme that plays in Jenka's house, as she is the one who made the Labyrinth to protect the Island's core. Also, the theme that plays in the Egg Corridor is replaced with a moodier melody using the same baseline when the place is destroyed late into the game. Musical tropes like this are used throughout the game, and because the game's writer, programmer, and composer are all the same man, the music always reflects exactly the mood he wanted to convey. Note that the original soundtrack was recomposed by other people with each of the NiCALIS releases, with varying results. Cave Story+ includes all of the official soundtracks.
    • Cave Story OST: The entire original soundtrack Pixel made. Notably, he didn't just program the music into the game: he programmed the software that the music was programmed in, using a similar method to the one used to make soundtracks for classic 16-bit games.
    • Cave Story Famitracks: composed by by RushJet1, this is essentially the original Cave Story soundtrack as it would sound coming from an NES.
    • Cave Story Remastered: First composed for Cave Story 3D by Danny Baranowsky and Dustin Kulwicki, this is a re-orchestrated version of the soundtrack with new, higher quality samples and embellished notation.
    • Cave Story+ Ridiculon: A Heavy Metal version of the soundtrack made by Ridiculon.
    • Cave Story Wiiwarenote  by Yann van der Cruyssen and Nicklas Nygren. Curiously, they chose a minimalist interpretation with deliberately lower quality samples compared to the original game.
  • Melting-Pot Nomenclature: Kazuma Sakamoto, and his sister, Sue.
  • Metroidvania: While Cave Story is definitely heavily influenced by Metroidvanias, it's much more story-oriented than almost every other game in that genre. As a result, the game is fairly linear by necessity, with very few sidequests. Additionally, the game is separated into four broad areas that that don't obviously interact except via teleporter.note 
  • Missing Secret: In the inventory screen, there are six spaces for weapons, yet the most weapons you can have in the game at one time is five; this could probably be explained by saying that there was supposed to be another weapon originally, but it was Dummied Out.
  • Modular Epilogue: During the Normal ending, there's a montage of various places on the island just before it crashes, with one change based on your actions: Curly Brace's body is shown in the underwater chamber if you failed to save her. Both the Normal and the Best ending feature a "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue over the end credits, with slight changes between them, such as Professor Booster appearing if you saved him, and Puu Black taking Balrog's place at the hospital if the latter leaves with you.
  • Mood Whiplash: Towards the end of the Sand Zone, things get a little dark.
  • Morally Ambiguous Doctorate: The Doctor.
  • Most Gamers Are Male:
    • One Easter egg has an Optional Sexual Encounter with Chaco.
    • Later on, Mister Traveler can acquire his new female partner's panties. They don't actually do anything; they just sit in your inventory for you to look at. Why a robot would need panties, we may never know... though considering what Quote can do with Chaco, It's pretty easy to infer that both he and Curly completely avert Barbie Doll Anatomy.
    • Obtaining the Ma Pignon mushroom is necessary to to restore Curly's memories. Upon actually giving it to her, this happens.
  • Multiple Endings: Several characters may die or survive depending on your actions, and the results will be reflected in the cut-scene at the standard ending. It's even possible to get a Bad Ending by accepting one character's offer to run away in the middle of the game. Overall, there are three main endings total, with slight variations depending your actions.
    • One variation is beating the game while still wearing the Mimiga Mask. Misery comments about how ridiculous the character looks, and the end credit illustrations are tweaked to reflect the character wearing the mask.
  • Mutually Exclusive Powerups: There are three possible upgrades to the Polar Star, your first weapon: the Machine Gun, the Snake, and the Spur. You can only get one of them. Similarly, you can only get the Booster 2.0 if you don't acquire the Booster 0.8.
    • If you can locate a certain NPC, he'll offer to exchange your Blade for his Nemesis gun.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Misery, Balrog, and Cthulhu. The former two are an Affably Evil Quirky Miniboss Squad, and the latter ... are a race of harmless, friendly NPCs.
  • Nerd Glasses: Jack wears these.
  • Nice Hat: The protagonist, who miraculously keeps it on throughout the entire game. According to official art, it has "Curly Brace" written on it. note 
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: After defeating the Core near the middle of the game, the protagonist discovers that its main purpose was to keep the floating island afloat...Thankfully, Misery and the Doctor swoop in to save the Core and zombify it. However, this can happen a second time when the Doctor possesses the core, forcing the player to destroy it. The island crashes, the ending cutscene features a slow pan over the different areas over the island accompanied by slow music, featuring all the creatures who were trying to kill you, as well as Curly's dead body in the Core. Some of the monsters, such as the Hoppers, are even cute. Nice job killing them all, hero. This is, however, avoidable if you go through the Bonus Level of Hell.
  • Nintendo Hard: Things are quite bearable until you get to Misery or Last Cave, depending on your booster version in which case it becomes this. And then there's the Brutal Bonus Level, which is Platform Hell at its finest, and the last two bosses, the Heavy Press and Ballos. UGH. Plus the aptly named "Hard" mode in which your protagonist becomes a One-Hit Point Wonder.
    • Monster X is no walk in the park either.
    • Hard Mode in the various ports is a minimal HP, no Missile run. This actually ends up being a case of Easy Levels, Hard Bosses barring the Sacred Grounds; the levels aren't that bad (except for maybe Labyrinth M in Cave Story 3D), but the bosses are horrifyingly difficult. Especially the Core.
  • No-Gear Level: Oddly averted. When the protagonist is captured at one point in the Plantation, he gets thrown in jail, but his captors don't bother to take any of his weapons away—nor the letter in his pocket that shows him how to escape from the cell.
  • Non-Standard Game Over: A simple "You were never seen again." if you fall off the Outer Wall. The worst ending can be considered a Non Standard Game Over, since rather than a series of scenes followed by credits, there's one scene, narrated with a "You have died"-like box, followed by nothing.
  • Noob Cave: First Cave is a particularly good example of this trope due to its excellent use of the Antepiece as a tutorial, without actually using a tutorial. To break it down:
    • When you first wake up, before you even enter First Cave, you are given no weapons or tools of any kind: just a pool of water beneath you, two bright red items in an otherwise gray-blue room that you can interact with, and a door located well above you. Getting to that door requires some slightly complex jumping, familiarizing the player with Cave Story's rather unique Jump Physics. It's likely the player will slip and fall into the water, which is just deep enough to activate your Oxygen Meter - safely introducing you to the possibility of drowning - and the red items save your game and refill your health, respectively. When you see them again, you will remember what they are.
    • invokedFirst Cave itself has very uneven terrain, and your first damaging foes: bats that will ignore you, but hurt if you touch them, and spikes protruding from odd points on the ground, forcing the player to get a lot better at gauging their jumps to avoid hitting things. The path to the right - the only way out - is barricaded by unusual looking blocks, while the far left wall contains another highly conspicuous red item with a heart on it that will trigger fanfare and permanently increase your Hit Points upon interacting with it.
    • The very bottom of the cave has a room with a sleeping man in it, and a chest that contains the first gun you can ever acquire. You must steal it from him to proceed, because those blocks near the exit door can only be destroyed by a gun. If you feel a bit bad about that, GOOD - this game has a hidden moral systemnote  that ties into the plot, and can strongly affect the game later on. Once you shoot through the blocks and approach the exit door, it suddenly grows a red eye and hurts you if you touch it. Kill the door, and remember its eye: it's very important.
  • No Plot? No Problem!: Subverted. The game starts in a typical platform cave with no plot information given, and the author's description of the game (see quote at the top) seems to be written with the purpose of making people believe it has no actual plot. Then the player encounters more and more actual characters and exposition until there's a detailed story.
  • Novelization: A fan-made one here.
  • Number Two: Jack is King's second-in-command. Also, Misery serves as the Doctor's second.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: This makes sense - teleportation is something the Demon Crown explicitly allows its wearer to do to both themselves and others. That said, some characters really do get around the map fast, especially Curly.
  • Oh, Crap!: The dying robot tells you and Curly: "Current forces insufficient. Retreat! RETREAT!" Then the door slams shut, and the boss wakes up.
  • One Bullet at a Time:
    • Most weapons have a limit on the maximum amount of shots that can be onscreen — three polar star bullets, four Snake shots, two Nemesis bolts or one high-level Spur laser can exist at once. Only one Blade shot can exist at a time, but each blade deals a great amount of damage and (unless on level 3) the shot disappears when hitting an enemy, making it the deadliest weapon at point blank.
    • Averted with the global bullet count, which has no limit.
  • One-Hit Kill:
    • The Blade is strong enough to one-shot most enemies, even at its lowest level.
    • The Spur's charged shot will kill and over-penetrate any non-boss enemy in a single shot.
    • On the enemy side of things, the Press kills you by falling on top of you for 100 HP of damage, which is just under double the max HP than you can ever have, though in 3D it's barely above the possible max HP of 98 thanks to the increased Life Capsule count. The Heavy Press in the Sacred Grounds attempts the same after you've depleted its lifebar.
    • There's also the Basil that slides around the bottom of the Egg Corridor. Like the Presses, it deals 100 damage.
    • Finally, there are the massive Spikes of Doom (not to be confused with the smaller ones that do 5 damage), which deal 127 damage if touched.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Hard mode removes all Heart Containers from the entire game except for the one given by the puppy in the Plantation, which is worth 5 HP, forcing you to survive with only 3 HP. Against enemies and bosses that frequently do much more damage per hit. Monster X and The Core have literally no attacks that do less that 4 HP of damage, meaning getting hit once is death.
  • One-Hit Polykill: A charged-up Spur attack can pass through numerous Mooks, though most bosses stop the shot after one hit. The Fireball can hit two targets, and Blade lvl 2 can hit three targets. The Snake can even pass through terrain!
  • One-Winged Angel: Many bosses have stronger forms, sometimes multiple phases of them.
  • Optional Sexual Encounter: One of these exists as an Easter Egg (by way of Sexy Discretion Shot). At one point while you're working through Grasstown, Chaco will step forward and stand next to her bed. If you go to sleep in her bed at that point, then she'll be sleeping in the bed next to you when you wake up, and her lipstick will be in your inventory. Exactly how a robot is implied to have sex with a rabbit is left as an exercise to the reader. In the 3DS remake, if Mister Traveler sleeps in Chaco's bed, he'll wake up to find her sleeping on the floor instead of next to him: presumably, she had nowhere else to sleep with him in her bed. However, he still gets her lipstick, so someone was not paying full attention.
  • Out of the Frying Pan: The Core attacks you. When you defeat it, Misery and the Doctor show up, having been alerted to your presence by the fight. They take the Core, flood the chamber, and teleport away, leaving you to drown in a locked room.
  • Oxygen Meter: One of these appears whenever you go underwater. It disappears when you get Curly's Air Tank.
    Tropes P to T 
  • Palette Swap: invoked Puu Black, a recolored form of Balrog's earlier existence in the game's beta as Puu.
    • In the WiiWare/Steam version, the protagonist's costume is a different color, depending on what difficulty level you're playing. In Easy mode, the red tones in his outfit are now Yellow and in hard mode, they are now Blue, his skin is Tan and is blonde.
    • The enemies you encounter in First Cave reappear in multiple colors throughout the game.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: The Mimiga mask, which tricks half of the characters, including Professor Booster. Misery and The Doctor have special dialogue if you manage to get there without trading the mask back to Momorin for your jetpack.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": Averted, partially by accident; see the Blind Idiot Translation example above.
  • Path of Most Resistance: If you don't have this in mind, you probably won't get the Good Ending.
  • People Puppets: The Doctor intends to use the Mimigas this way after having them eat the red flowers. He also uses Misery and Sue like this during the Undead Core battle.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Aside from the Mutually Exclusive Powerups, there are several items that you only ever get one chance to collect. Most of them (such as the Tow Rope) are necessary only to get the best ending, while others (such as Chaco's lipstick and the Alien Badge) don't do anything and seem to only be there for the sake of 100% Completion. Some of them come with a note that actually tells the player that they don't do anything.
  • Phrase Catcher: "You're a soldier from the surface, aren't you?"
  • Physical God: Jenka and her brother Ballos, are "far beyond the power of mortals", capable of powerful magical feats and having lived for what seems to be several times longer than normal human lifespans. However, they are never stated to be gods, and Jenka hints that she will eventually have to die if you visit her late in the game.
  • Planet Heck: Although its official name is "Sacred Grounds" (or "Sanctuary"), a sign hidden near the entrance clearly says "Welcome to Hell!" And the "angels" turn into demons when they die and drop the illusion entirely when they surround the True Final Boss.
  • Platform Hell: The Last Cave. Good luck landing on that single safe spot between dozens of deadly spikes. The Sacred Grounds are even worse.
  • Player Punch: invoked When you defeat most bosses, a block of text comes up on the screen comes up saying "You defeated [insert boss name]!" along with an accompanying jingle. When you defeat Frenzied Toroko, the exclamation mark is replaced with a period (or in the Nicalis translation, an ellipsis...) and the music cuts out completely.
  • Plot Device: The Demon Crown is a magical helmet that grants its user vast magical powers. At least one genocidal war has been fought to obtain it, and now a complete madman has it. To end the conflict forever, the Demon Crown must be destroyed.
  • Point of No Return:
    • Gameplay-wise, there's only one true point of no return: If you save in the shack before the Brutal Bonus Level, you can never return to the caves. There's a book on the shelf that offers to "rewind time" so you can go for the normal ending instead, but it only takes you back to the moment just after you defeated the Final Boss and started causing the island to plummet.
    • There's a temporary one if you save in the Labyrinth after defeating Toroko. There's no way to get to the rest of the caves by going back, but by pressing forward you eventually escape and find a new way to Mimiga Village.
  • Poor Communication Kills: Jenka keeps the key to her storehouse so that no one will be able to abuse the Demon Flowers within. She doesn't clue into the fact that Mister Traveler is there to destroy the flowers. Jenka's hesitation buys the villains enough time to accost her for the key before Mister Traveler can plead his case, and everything quickly goes to shit.
  • Power Incontinence: This happens to the Doctor after his first form is defeated. This foreshadows Ballos, who lost control of his magic by being tortured by an unnamed king.
  • The Professor: Professor Booster. He acts as the general planner for the good guys, and spends the most time monitoring and organizing attempts to undo the Doctor's plans as they unfold.
  • Psycho Serum: The red flowers, which turn the delicate Mimigas into homicidal, hulking monstrosities when eaten.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Jenka's theme is a Finnish dance called "Letkajenkka".
  • Punny Name: One of the enemies is named BuyoBuyo Base, which kinda sounds like Bouillabaisse.
    • Balrog's frog form is given the title of "Balfrog" in the credits.
  • Purposely Overpowered: The Spur, the Blade, and the Super Missile Launcher.
  • Rainbow Speak: ·Interpuncts· are used to highlight item names in dialogue.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Misery and Jenka. And Ballos, Jenka's brother.
  • Recoil Boost: The machine gun at level 3 generates enough recoil for the player to use it as a jetpack.
  • Recoiled Across the Room: The level 3 machine gun can propel you into the air (and even lets you hover indefinitely) when you shoot straight down. For some reason, it doesn't recoil that hard when you shoot horizontally. It makes sense when you find out Mr. Traveler is a combat robot.
  • Recollection Sidequest: Downplayed: you reconstruct the Amnesiac Hero's backstory as you complete the game — but you're just learning about it through dialogue with various NPCs, and there are no flashbacks or other implications that he's regaining any memories from it.
  • Recurring Boss: You will fight Balrog more than once.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: A massive amount of the enemies in the game have red eyes. Everything with red eyes is connected to the power of Ballos, either directly, or indirectly through the Demon Crown. This is without exception: Misery (who is slave to the bearer of the crown), Enraged Mimigas (who consumed the Demon Flowers that arise from his uncontrolled magic), even the monster door you encounter in the First Cave. The Presses make this into a warning; when they open up their mechanical red eye, they're about to crush you. Make sure you remember this after beating the Heavy Press.
    • Also averted with Professor Booster. He wears signal red, opaque glasses and doesn't look too friendly, seemingly putting him in the role of The Mole. Fittingly, he is in fact only a Red Herring Mole. If you meet him in the Labyrinth after he's been wounded, one of his lenses is broken, revealing that his eyes have a regular, dark-shaded iris.
  • Red Herring Mole: Professor Booster. Evil Eyebrows? Check. Signal red glasses that hide the eyes underneath? Check. Potential Mad Scientist acquaintance of The Doctor? Check.
    Nonetheless he never switches sides, and even stays loyal until his death in one continuity of the game, giving away the Booster 0.8 to you with his last bit of strength that he could otherwise have used to save himself
    .
  • Red Sky, Take Warning: With very few minor exceptions, whenever you encounter anything in a bright red shade in this game, it's bad news— namely in that it's corrosive to the touchnote , does huge amounts of damage in a hurrynote  or is just going to kill you outrightnote . It's a case of Gameplay And Story Intergration with the Red Flowers, the Red Crystal and etc. above, as they're all indicative of Ballos' influence leaking out.
  • Reduced to Ratburgers: Kazuma says that if he isn't rescued soon he'll have to eat cockroaches. He's kidding. But if he has to, he really will...
  • Remixed Level: The "Egg Corridor (?)". Yes, the question mark is part of its name.
    • Also, Last Cave is different when you're on the path to the good ending.
  • Respawning Enemies: Whenever you move between "rooms", the enemies will respawn. A couple of areas, such as the Egg Corridor, will also periodically throw flying enemies at you.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: First you fight your way through Hell/The Sacred Grounds, then once you kill Ballos, Balrog falls/smashes his way into hell to get to you, then flies you and Curly out of there. Honestly, a Deus ex Machina like that was preferable to another escape sequence after fighting Wizard Satan.
  • Restraining Bolt: The Core isn't what it seems. By the Doctor's belief, it's what's keeping the island in the sky, and while in a sense that's true, it's specifically just keeping the island from falling. This isn't a distinction without a difference; the source of the Hate Plague on the island, Ballos, wants very much to die, and without the Core, he'll send the island careening into the earth to see his wish granted, collateral damage be damned. The only way to truly set things right is to get rid of both of them.
  • Retraux: Low-res pixel art graphics and a Chiptune soundtrack for a computer game released in 2004. Unlike a lot of Retraux games, Cave Story doesn't just superficially look this way, but is retro-styled to its very core, being structured in the same way that allowed NES and SNES games to fit onto tiny cartridges, and itself weighing in at under 5 Megabytes for a full-length game.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: An extreme majority of the creatures in the game are really, really cute, even the ones that want nothing more than to kill you in horrible ways.note  Mimigas stand out the most.
  • Ridiculously Human Robots: Kazuma didn't even notice that Mister Traveler was a robot until Professor Booster pointed it out to him. It's likely that a first-time player (and perhaps, Mr. Traveler himself) wouldn't either: after all, an "Air" counter appears whenever you go underwater, and if it hits zero, you drown. At one point you're directly informed "you can breathe", which indicates that Mister Traveler has a working and essential respiratory system. He can sleep to repair damage (and for other reasons), receive medical care from physicians, takes medicine by mouth, and can regain his memories by eating a special mushroom. Despite all of that being true, he's a robot. At very least, the fact that he can drown does get an in-game justification.
  • Robot Girl: Curly Brace, natch.
  • Robot Hair: Both Quote and Curly Brace respectively have black and blonde hair, making them stand out from other, less humanoid robots.
  • Robot Soldier: An army of these was sent to the Island during the War to kill the Mimigas. The player character is one of them, although both he and Curly Brace were sent to stop the war by eliminating the cause of it, and not the Mimigas.
  • Robot War: The Mimiga race was nearly wiped out when humanity sent an army of robot warriors to exterminate their species and take their island.
  • Rushmore Refacement: Those statues of the Demon Crown wearers can be revisited right before the fight with the True Final Boss — shooting them turns them into statues of you, King, Toroko, and Curly Brace. And you get powerups for doing so!
  • Sacrificial Lion: King and Toroko, both of whom have been around since the very early game, are killed off in the same scene, one right after the other. Curly Brace and Professor Booster will also die unless the player makes the right decisions. They don't come back.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: Mister Traveler wears a green one.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: The Doctor's eyes are always obscured by the glare of his spectacles.
  • Scenery Porn: The 3DS version of the game contains wonderfully detailed backgrounds.
  • Scenery Gorn: The Egg Corridor after it gets damaged.
    • The room in which you fight Ballos is carpeted in skeletons. During his final form bloodied spikes grow from the floor.
  • Schmuck Bait: A sign placed next to some Spikes of Doom clearly warns "One touch means instant death!" Unfortunately, the swathes of spikes littered throughout the rest of the game do not have a similar warning — neither are they so easy to avoid. When you first see them, ANYTHING kills you instantly.
  • Schrödinger's Gun: There's a number of plausible explanations for why your decision to talk to Professor Booster determines whether he lives or dies. For example, if you talk to him, you can take his invention, the Booster v0.8, from him so you can use it. Using it is the only way to get out of the pit he (and now you) have fallen intonote , and you can't take him with you when you use the Booster v0.8 to escape. However, your decision to talk with Booster also determines whether a tow rope in the very securely locked room adjacent is loose or stuck which affects whether you can get the good ending or not.
  • Screen Shake: The whole game shakes after defeating the Undead Core.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: Two-thirds of the way through the game, one of your allies gains a means of escape and encourages you to run away with him rather than staying to fight. You can take him up on this offer; however, doing so gets you the worst ending.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: Ballos, although he's not completely evil.
  • Self-Destructive Charge: King attempts one of these, but unfortunately fails miserably.
  • Sequential Boss: The Doctor, who is the second of a three-part Boss Rush. Also, the True Final Boss. To a lesser extent, Monster X, who can't even be hurt until its turrets are destroyed.
  • Send in the Clones: As you progress through Cave Story+'s Wind Fortress, the only enemies you'll be fighting through the last end of the level are naked clones of Curly.
  • Senseless Sacrifice: King's death does not prevent anything.
  • Shared Life Meter: The Sisters get their health from the same life bar.
  • Shield-Bearing Mook: The Gravekeeper is invulnerable from the front unless he's preparing to attack or has just attacked.
  • Shoot the Dog: Toroko is a friendly and cute little Mimiga who is utterly harmless... until she is force-fed some read flowers and transforms into a deranged monster, requiring you to put her down.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Situational Sword: invoked Every single weapon in Cave Story has a situational use, and as they level up, they may gain more or different uses than they had before. So, don't get too comfortable using a single gun.
    • The Polar Star is your backup handgun. It consumes no ammo, and fires weak projectiles at a short-to-moderate range. At max level, it's a reliable general-purpose weapon.
    • The Missile Launcher is best saved for targets with higher HP, like bosses. It has limited ammo and its projectiles do significant Splash Damage. At max level, each shot will fire three standard missiles in a wide range, making it also good for crowd control.
    • The Machine Gun is everything the Polar Star was, but much better. It continually fires similar projectiles over a far longer range. It carries 100 rounds of ammo, which regenerates when you aren't firing. At max level, each shot will propel you into the air if you aim down, causing it to function like a jetpack.
    • The Fireball shoots bouncing spheres of flame that are extremely useful for clearing enemies on the ground.
  • Skippable Boss:
    • In your first encounter with Balrog, he actually asks you if you're going to fight him. It looks like a But Thou Must! situation at first, but if you say no, he just shrugs at it and leaves without any fuzz.
    • It's more of a "Skippable Miniboss" example (considering the miniboss in question has less HP than the first Balrog fight), though considering the game still plays a boss theme, it still counts — there's a house in the Grasslands that has a missile expansion inside. Grabbing it causes a rabid Mimiga to jump out from the fireplace, though the player can just leave through the same way they came in; if the player enters the house again, [[spoiler:the Mimiga is gone.
    • The Sisters are a less obvious example. They only show up if you grab a specific missile upgrade, so you can skip the fight just by not touching that chest. (Or, as demonstrated in this Speedrun, by grabbing the upgrade anyway and boosting away before the fight can begin.)
  • Spam Attack: The Bubbler's Level 3 shot allows you to do this if you hold down the fire button for a few seconds first. Also, the Super Missile Launcher, particularly when used as the definitive way of defeating Heavy Press and Ballos.
    • In the boss battle with the Doctor, his second form has an attack which shoots out a huge amount of red bats.
  • Spikes of Doom: Spikes with varying levels of lethality are present from the very start of the game; the basic variety just causes damage, but Grasstown introduces another version that causes a One-Hit Kill. Last Cave and the Sacred Grounds are filled with them.
  • Smashing Hallway Traps of Doom: The Presses, especially later on in the Plantation, both versions of the Last Cave, and a few in the Sacred Grounds, which also has their boss. In the case of the Plantation, you can bypass the trap early by using an exploit (taking damage and using Mercy Invincibility), but the door past them still won't open (claiming it's too early to come here.)
  • Speed Run Reward: If you collect the Nikumaru Counter, it records your time to beat Sacred Grounds and displays your best time on the title screen. If you can beat it in less than 6 minutes, a different character appears on the title screen, and different music plays.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Classic Mode in the 3DS version does this, retaining the original character, enemy and item sprites but using 3D backgrounds.
  • Stalactite Spite: Revisited Egg Corridor. Stalactites hurt enemies too, though.
  • Stationary Boss: The Heavy Press and Ballos' last form, though in the latter's room everything you can step on either moves or damages you.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • To craft a bomb, you need to get coal. You find the coal in the fireplace of a Mimiga named Santa.
    • There's a Fetch Quest that involves dogs.
    • Also, Jack - self-proclaimed Number Two of Mimiga village - is locked in the Number Two jail in the Plantation.
    • If you play on Easy Mode, your outfit is yellow.
  • Stupidity Is the Only Option: Halfway through the game, you will witness Dr. Booster falling into a chasm. Major spoilers ahead: Going down the chasm to help him will have him reward you with the Booster 0.8 with his last breath. What happens if you do not go down the chasm and ignore him entirely? He is perfectly fine a couple of levels later and will provide you with the vastly improved Booster 2.0. Merely having this version of the Booster triggers the existence of an object required to save Curly, and it's required for reaching the Bonus Dungeon.
  • Sugar Apocalypse: Once you reach the end of the Sand Zone, it becomes obvious fairly quickly that this game isn't completely sweet and cuddly. Unlike many examples of this trope, the destruction isn't played for laughs in any way.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Initially the Traveler sinks like a rock and has roughly 15 seconds to surface before drowning. Once Curly sacrifices herself and gives you her oxygen tank, you can stay underwater indefinitely.
  • Superpowered Evil Side: Mimigas are naturally a very weak and docile species. However, all of them have the ability to become fantastically strong and incredibly hard to kill berserkers, at the cost of losing every semblance of their sanity. All they have to do is eat the Red Flowers.
  • Superweapon Surprise: The red flowers' actual effect is this trope. It's so secret, the Mimigas no longer know the truth about them.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: King's blade combines this trope with It Was a Gift, just as the plot takes a turn for the worse. Upon entering the Sand Zone Storehouse, Mr. Traveler gets there just in time to witness the murders of King and Toroko. As he is dying, King hands him his sword, asking to be avenged with his dying breath.
  • Talking Is a Free Action: Lampshaded if you talk to Santa during the fight with the doctor.
    Santa: Interesting priorities you've got.
  • Tears of Blood: The zombie dragons in the wrecked Egg Corridor.
  • That Makes Me Feel Angry: Misery's "Heavens, that felt good!" while nobody is around.
  • Teleport Spam: When you fight the Doctor's first form, he'll frequently send a double-helix energy ray at you, and by the time you jump over it to get to him, he just teleports again. Yay.
  • Theme Naming: "Curly Brace" and "Quote" are (computer programmers' terms for) the { and " symbols, respectively. Also on a keyboard, the curly brace key is directly on top of the quote key. Curly's adopted Mimiga children were given the last name Colon.
    • Also, the leader of the Mimigas is named King and the second-in-command is named Jack, as in the cards. The former leader of the Mimigas was named Arthur.
    • The two guardians of the Mimiga Village are King and the now-deceased Arthur.
    • The angel enemies in Sacred Ground appear to be named for flat-topped hills: Bute (one letter off from Butte) and Mesa.
    • Jenka, and Ballos have names taken from dance styles.
  • There Was a Door: But it was just too small for Balrog, so he has to bust through the wall, door included. Likely why his catch phrase got changed to a Kool-Aid-Man-style "Oh Yeaaah!" in the WiiWare/Steam release.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: "You feel a black wind blow through you. All weapons dropped to level 1!"
  • This Was His True Form: The defeat of Monster X. Blink and you might miss it. It's a kitty!
  • Through a Face Full of Fur: Toroko has absolutely adorable blush stickers.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The Blade is only used like this. When it's used at full power, King physically manifests himself, shoots from the sword and slashes every enemy in and around his path to ribbons.
  • Tin-Can Robot: Malco and the robots in the Labyrinth fit this trope.
  • Tomato Surprise: The main character is revealed to be a Ridiculously Human Robot Soldier one-third into the game. The surprise of this revelation depends entirely on whether you noticed the robot ears on his sprite before this point — they are small and easy to miss. At least one of the NPCs didn't notice them either.
  • Too Awesome to Use: The Life Pot, to the point you'll forget you have it when you really, really need it. You'll want to save it 'till the Brutal Bonus Level anyway. Played with because, thankfully, you can go back and get another any time you use it up so long as you haven't passed the Point of No Return.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Misery in the final fight. Defying and trying to attack the Doctor, even if he is technically dead, is a very bad idea. Unless you're Quote.
    • Also, the king who imprisoned Ballos. Torturing an immortal person with powers you cannot comprehend? Bad idea.
  • Took a Shortcut: No matter where you go, Curly Brace will get there ahead of you. However, the shortcuts appear rather tough on her, since she's usually heavily injured by the time you get there.
  • Tortured Monster: The True Final Boss. He's a Physical God who lost control of his immense magic powers under torture, and had to watch himself kill and destroy everything he loved. Afterwards, he was entombed inside a floating island for god-knows-how-long... and he can't naturally die, no matter how hard he tries.
  • Tragic Monster: Every speaking villain except the Doctor has a tragic, or even sympathetic backstory, but this trope is especially obvious with Toroko and Ballos, both of whom became psychotic monsters through circumstances entirely beyond their control.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The video interview for the WiiWare version has the game playing in the background, showing off several areas. This includes the Sacred Grounds. IGN's one-paragraph description of the game spoils the player character's name, which you only learn on the path to 100% Completion. The fact that Quote and Curly are both robots was originally a huge reveal, deeply buried under their astonishingly human-like existence. Now, it's openly spoiled by the cover art of almost every commercially released version of the game, because the artists just cannot resist adding obvious robot details to him. For contrast, this is how his close-up actually looks in the game.
  • Trauma Inn: Beds just restore health. Computer screens also restore missiles.
  • True Companions: Curly and Quote, but only if you get 100% Completion.
  • True Final Boss: The Heavy Press and Ballos, found at the end of The Sacred Grounds, constitute five forms in two bosses. In short, a Boss Bonanza.
  • Tube Travel: It helps you get out of Plantation's reservoir faster (possibly in case you fall in without the jetpack equipped).
  • Turns Red: Virtually all bosses unveil new attacks at lower HP, most notably Omega, who changes his whole attack pattern, and the Undead Core, who, at low health, sticks to a new attack. The elephant-like Behemoths from the Egg Corridor also turn red and stampede if they take enough damage, though this is rarely seen because they're not hard to defeat in the first place.
    Tropes U to Z 
  • Uncanny Family Resemblance: Thanks to (most) Mimigas lacking Tertiary Sexual Characteristics, Jack and Toroko look very much like gender-bent versions of each other.
  • Underground City: Mimiga Village. To a degree, the entire island is this, having both shops and homes scattered from the Bushlands to the Labyrinth and everywhere in-between.
  • Underground Monkey: The Critters and Bats have variants that work like this.
  • Unexpected Shmup Level: The boss fight against Ironhead is one of these, sort of, thanks to the underwater physics.
  • Unique Enemy: There's a few of them, like the Chinfish, The Door, Gravekeeper, Giant Pignon, and Basil (which is more of a stage hazard than an enemy, considering it's invincible).
    • There's also the Time Bomb that appears in the Egg Corridor?, though 3D adds two more.
  • Vent Physics: Most notable in Grasstown, but fans can be found elsewhere too.
  • Videogame Flight: Both versions of the Booster, and the Level 3 machine gun all provide the player with the ability to fly in different ways.
  • Villain Override: The Doctor does this to both Misery and Sue in the ending.
  • Villain Teleportation: Misery and the Doctor use this heavily.
  • Violation of Common Sense: During the Undead Core battle, Possessed Misery will ignore you if you can avoid damaging Frenzied Sue. The battle is still tough, but in a different way.
    • At one point in the game, you enter a room and see Booster fall into a pit below. The logical choice would be to go down and check on him. Doing so causes you to to receive the incomplete jetpack from him just before he dies. HOWEVER, if you just ignore him, jump over the pit, and continue on your way, he later shows up unhurt and gives you the superior completed jetpack, which by extension unlocks the true ending.
  • The Voiceless: Your main character has virtually no dialogue of his own. Even when you're playing the game as Curly. In the WiiWare/Steam version, he does talk, but only if you get the mushroom and meet with him in the Plantation, and even then it's only a single line.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Speaking of the Vent Physics, anyone who hasn't mastered them is very likely to get their butt kicked by Balfrog several times on their first playthrough. Other factors play a part, but it's usually the fans that screw one up.
    • Frenzied Toroko is also one as well. Her attacks are surprisingly difficult to dodge and do almost-unseen levels of damage at that point in the game, and she's also pretty fast.
    • For Hard Mode (or a 3 HP, no Missile run), it's the second fight with Balrog. He can kill you in one to two hits, the Fireball is near useless, and the Polar Star still has to get past his energy balls.
  • Walk, Don't Swim: Mister Traveler sinks like a rock in water. Since he is a robot, he is likely too heavy to swim.
  • Wall Master: Sand Crocs! And that infamous killer door! The moving, crushing eye blocks known as Presses count as well.
  • The Walls Are Closing In: The walls of Ballos' chamber close in when the hero and Curly Brace defeat him for good. They would be crushed if not for Balrog.
  • War Is Hell: The War between Humanity and the Mimigas very nearly ended the Mimiga race. If and when the player feeds Curly Brace the Ma Pignon, she remembers the war, and her description is extremely unpleasant:
    Curly: Back then, a huge number of robots were sent to this island from countries on the Earth's surface. Their target was the awesome power kept within this island... the Demon Crown. But you and I, we were different. The two of us were sent in order to destroy that power. When we got here, the island was in a shambles. The robots had torn it all to pieces... and countless Mimigas had been slaughtered... it was... terrible... Finally one man got the Demon Crown in his possession. The robots' work was done and the island fell silent. But that was just the beginning of the tragedy. With the Crown in hand, the man turned the Mimigas into killers and began his assault on the Earth. I tried to stop him. You were there too. ... That's as far as I can remember. I'm pretty sure we were able to wound him. But we seemed far out of our league...
  • Wave-Motion Gun: The Spur, if you fire it when its EXP. bar is at maximum, will release a large white beam that will pierce through and completely reduce any non-boss monster in the game into its component atoms. There is no better example of There Is No Kill Like Overkill in this game than this alone.
  • Welcome to Corneria: Averted. Most NPCs will say different things depending on how far you've gone through the game.
  • Welcome to Hell: A sign reads this, verbatim near the beginning of the end-game Bonus Dungeon, the Sacred Grounds.
  • Wham Episode: The entirety of the Sand Zone and the surprise of the Labyrinth. Toroko dies, thus making your entire adventure to rescue her up til now all in vain, King dies, thus your only Mimiga ally is gone, you get chucked to the deepest pit of the island with no teleporter back, and to top it all off, you learn you can't put hard brakes to the Doctor's plan because doing so will drop the island out of the sky and kill everyone.
  • Wham Line:
    • Misery drops one after the Core fight, explaining that you almost pulled a Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
      Misery: Do you even know what this thing is!?!
      Curly: Huh?
      Misery: This is the reason why I HATE ROBOTS!!! This is the heart of the island! The island will fall if THIS stops!!
    • A relatively unassuming NPC in the Labyrinth drops this:
      Have you ever seen the outside of this island? This island is floating high in the skies.
  • With This Herring: You begin the game with three hit points and no weapons. Presumably something bad happened to you beforehand. As it turns out, you are an elite combat android sent to destroy an artifact that gives its wearer unthinkable power, on an island populated by rampaging monsters. Once Curly gets her memory back, it's heavily implied that the previous wielder of the Demon Crown beat the robotic crap out of you; also, other robots are found near the Core and are in really bad shape.
    Analysis complete
    Current forces insufficient
    Retreat
    RETREAT!!
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Ballos. Poor, poor Ballos.
  • World of Weirdness: Hold onto your butts - a common recurring boss is a sentient brick of soap that can fly by flapping its arms, and attacks by spitting bubbles at you. It only gets loonier from there. The plot involves seemingly harmless bunny people, that commonly eat fish, who can turn into monsters when they eat a magic flower that acts like Psycho Serum. A murderous, house-sized house cat can apparently drive a tank that uses rocket-propelled fishes as a weapon. A gun that shoots a stream of bubbles that turn into deadly energy blasts is just randomly sitting in someone's fireplace. An intelligent mushroom must be found and eaten to cure amnesia. And the protagonist - who is a robot - can have a one-night stand with one of the bunny creatures.
  • Wreaking Havok: Cave Story makes use of a unique momentum system that intuitively affects its Jump Physics in a way unlike any other platform game. Here's some examples of this momentum in action: you can use the booster to make a long jump using a hill or even using a level platform by jumping just as you make contact.
  • You Bastard!: The text the game displays in the worst ending has shades of this. It's worth noting that the only way to get that ending is to flee the island and let the Doctor win. The Steam Achievement goes further, and directly calls you a coward.
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: It seems green hair is a Sakamoto family trait. The Doctor has green hair as well.
    • Misery has blue hair, except for her dialogue portraits, where her hair is green. The later releases correct the portraits so that her hair is consistently blue.
  • You Have Failed Me: Misery ultimately decides she's had enough of Balrog, and teleports him into the Labyrinth along with the protagonist.
  • You Mean "Xmas": This trope is parodied in Cave Story+, in which the achievement for playing the game in Christmas Mode is "Merry Holiday Happy Euphemism" with the description "For the rest of us!"
  • "X" Marks the Hero: Sue Sakamoto has two perfectly intersecting scars on her nose that form an "X".
  • Zigzag Paper Tassel: The boulder that blocks the entrance to Labyrinth M is decorated with shide.

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