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In wilds beyond they speak your name with reverence and regret
For none could tame our savage souls yet you the challenge met
Under palest watch, you taught, we changed, base instincts were redeemed,
A world you gave to bug and beast as they had never dreamed
From "Elegy for Hallownest" by Monomon the Teacher

Hollow Knight is a hand-drawn 2D action Metroidvania developed by Team Cherry and released on February 2017 for PC on Steam after a successful Kickstarter campaign, with a Nintendo Switch port released on June 12th 2018, and a version with the subsequent free updates called Hollow Knight: Voidheart Edition releasing on Playstation 4 and Xbox One on September 25th 2018.It has had four free expansion packs released over the course of its update history:

  • The first, Hidden Dreams was released on August 3rd 2017, being mostly a slight tweak to the base game that added in some new bosses and features.
  • The second, The Grimm Troupe was released on October 26th, 2017. It added a side quest that can be explored in the middle of the game as well as several new items and characters.
  • The third, Lifeblood, was released on April 20, 2018. It focused entirely on optimizations to the game and some quality of life updates to features, such as allowing players to place their own map markers.
  • The fourth and last free update, Godmaster, was released on August 23, 2018. It adds a new area explicitly devoted to difficult Bonus Bosses, and two new endings associated with completing the challenges within.
  • Additionally, future content, including a paid DLC as a second campaign focusing on Deuteragonist Hornet is forthcoming but has no set date as of yet.

As an enigmatic Knight, players journey through the depths of Hallownest, a vast and ancient kingdom buried deep underground. Though long fallen to ruin after a dimly-remembered catastrophe, explorers and thieves still brave its dark roads, its caverns and towers, searching for riches and wonders. Lately though, something has changed. Villagers and explorers venturing into the caverns have stopped returning. The caverns throb and tremble with a savage energy that sends creatures mad with rage and robs explorers of their memories.

The game is a platformer focused on exploration. It features simple but fairly hectic melee combat and the ability to equip a number of ability-enhancing Charms. The world is very open ended, and acquiring a new power often opens up several new areas to explore. There are also over a dozen extra bosses in obscure places, and extra challenges for the dedicated player.

The plot of the game, focusing on the fall of the Kingdom of Hallownest is explained via Story Breadcrumbs, with many details about the world and characters being either vague or up to interpretation. With that in mind, take entries detailing the lore of the setting with a grain of salt.


This game provides examples of:

  • A Dog Named "Dog": Subverted with Hornet, who is more akin to a spider than an actual hornet, although she does pack a nasty sting with her needle and thread. It turns out she hails from a village of spiders and is the daughter of Herrah the Beast. In earlier design documents, she was called the "Child of Three Queens", with her being Herrah's biological child, loved by the White Lady, and trained by the Hive Queen Vespa, which is where her name came from. This ended up being cut and reworked in the game proper, making her name The Artifact from that early draft.
  • Adam Smith Hates Your Guts:
    • Salubra the charm vendor will sell you several Charm Notches, which allow equipping more charms at once, but each one is more expensive than the last, despite being identical. She will also refuse to sell them until you've collected enough charms.
    • Sly will sell you several Mask Shards that start out cheap but ramp up price quickly—the fourth costs 10× as much as the first. He initially thought they were worthless, but since the protagonist keeps buying them, he figures they must be valuable.
    Sly: I feel bad charging you so much for the previous shards, especially because it means I have to charge even more for this one.
    • The most expensive thing Sly sells is a humble lantern, made of a glass globe with one of the common glowing flies inside. The thing has the price of several magical trinkets or reforging your weapon a couple of times—but because it's an item that grants access to new, dark areas, you have to pay up.
      • Sly also subverts this after you've collected all the Nail Arts, and gives away a charm for free as the Great Nailsage, though he mentions he'd rather charge the Knight for it.
    • Divine from the Grimm Troupe will make you pay out the nose if you want to make your Fragile charms unbreakable—but since this isn't needed to use them on dream bosses, it's not as bad as it could be.
  • Advancing Wall of Doom: A heroic version in the True Final Boss battle—when the Radiance is on her last legs, the ghosts of other Hollow Knights form a cloud of darkness allowing the player to grab it and finish it off.
  • Antagonist Title: "Hollow Knight" also refers to an antagonist, while also being a Protagonist Title. That antagonist, the final boss.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you beat the boss of an area after failing to find Cornifer's location, or if you've destroyed all three Dreamers, he'll move away and leave the map he would've sold you in his store at Dirtmouth Town.
    • You'll find signs pointing the directions for nearby benches and stag terminals.
    • You'll lose all your Geo if you die and fail to kill your Shade, so there's a bank headed by a lady named Millibelle where you can deposit your cash. However, it is a scam. If you deposit 2500 Geo, she'll have fled to the City of Tears when you next come back.
      • And double subverted, as you can knock her around to get the money back, plus 2500 extra.
    • Use a Simple Key to open the door at the edge of Dirtmouth and you'll find a service that moves your Shade to you in exchange for a Rancid Egg, which saves you the trouble of going through potentially dangerous or distant territory to recover your Geo. These have no other use, and an NPC in the City of Tears' sewers will even sell them to you (albeit not for cheap) if you somehow use up all of the pre-placed ones.
    • If you exhaust all of his other situational dialogue, Elderbug will always describe in passing the area of Hallownest you currently need to search in order to move the plot forward.
    • The Grey Mourner's quest gives the impression that you need to take her "one of a kind" flower all the way across Hallownest in one attempt without taking any damage or her reward will be impossible to get. If you fail, she is incredibly distraught but gives you another flower, and will do so endlessly, while insisting each one is just as unique and special as the last. This is done at least in part because she gives you a Mask Shard, which is required for 100% completion. Further more, even after finishing the quest, you can get flowers from the grave where you put it, allowing you to do stuff like give one to elderbug or Get the second godseeker ending even after finishing it, though respawning it may require a reload.
    • As an unusual display of mercy, if you've finished everything you need to get to that final fight, even if battling the Hollow Knight left you in awful shape, you'll be restored to full health before you clash with The Radiance. You're going to need it.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Fragile set of charms give powerful effects but will break upon death and can only be repaired by returning to Leg Eater and paying a small fee. Two of them become very practical on the three Dream Bosses, and also Grey Prince Zote, the White Defender and Nightmare King Grimm, because the Knight doesn't die if it fails these difficult bosses, and so it can use the Fragile charms freely. You can also turn them into the Unbreakable set which never break, for a very steep cost.
  • Arc Symbol: The King and the Hollow Knight's distinct horns.
  • Asshole Victim: Zote the Mighty, the self-proclaimed knight, regularly finds himself in need of rescue from the player character. He insists that he needs no help and belittles the player for "getting between him and his prey". If you keep him alive until the end of the game, you have the chance to get back at him in the Colosseum of Fools, at which point he returns to Dirtmouth claiming to be the new champion and slanders the player character to Bretta.
  • Bee Afraid: There's a honeybee Hive hidden on Kingdom's Edge. It has its own boss and a several persistent types of bees that are difficult to fight off. The area is optional, but mandatory if you want to collect the charm, mask shard and grubs hidden in it.
  • Beneath the Earth: Hallownest is an ancient kingdom buried deep below the Earth's surface, and so most of the game takes place underground.
  • Benevolent Architecture: Various alien-looking idols are found tucked into out-of-the-way nooks and alcoves across the breadth of Hallownest; they refill the player character's Soul gauge if hit with a nail, permitting them to use their spells without farming enemies. Justified In-Universe because these idols are associated with The Abyss much like the knight, and will only light up when they approach them.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Most of the critters met in the game are bugs.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The true ending. The Hollow Knight defeats the Radiance, eradicating the plague once and for all, but to do so has to sacrifice their physical form and become one with the Void, leaving Hornet to mourn them in front of their shattered mask. Their purpose fulfilled, the shades of the Hollow Knights fade back into the Void. But with the Radiance gone, bugkind can now finally rebuild and recover from the horrors of Hallownest.
  • Blackout Basement: Several areas like the Deepnest, the Royal Waterways, and the Abyss are pitch-black and you'll need the Lumafly Lantern to explore them safely.
  • Bleak Level: This game is far from a happy one, but some of its levels are darker and more desolate than others. Most prominently the Deepnest area with all its claustrophobic horrors and the Abyss below the Ancient Basin, where you come across pools of black liquid that are the source of beings like the protagonist as well as a massive tomb of failed experiments, one of which is the protagonist.
  • Blood Knight:
    • The Hunter has a self-explanatory name. He gives you a journal and tasks you with killing or defeating every living thing you come across.
    • Tiso only came to the kingdom in search of the Colosseum of Fools and once there he's excited for a good fight, promising to beat the tar out of everyone including you. The poor guy then dies offscreen like a chump.
  • Body Horror: The advanced effects of the infection plaguing Hallownest cause pus bubbles to take over the victim's body. Some characters are rooted to the ground by the weight, while others become abominations specialized in splattering orange goo around.
  • Bonus Boss:
    • Several spirits can be challenged as bosses once you get the Dream Nail. Take note of which bosses leave corpses behind, for example. Defeating them to collect their essence is mandatory for the good ending, but depending on how you play, you can skip at least one.
    • Certain bosses like Nosk and the Collector are found in side areas and don't guard mandatory items.
    • The two bosses added by the Hidden Dreams update (Grey Prince Zote and White Defender) are completely optional, and can be fought repeatedly with increasing difficulty.
    • Likewise for the two Grimm Troupe bosses (Grimm and the Nightmare King). The latter is particularly notable for being a traditional Bonus Boss superboss. Like all the Dream Nail rematches, the Nightmare King is substantially harder than the first fight. Grimm wasn't exactly a pushover to start with, but Nightmare King is both faster and deals TWO masks of damage per hit. Eek.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • The Grubsong is a charm accessible relatively early in the game that gives you Soul each time you take damage. It's ludicrously cheap for its effect, only costing a single charm notch, and while it shines in spell-heavy builds and damage-sponge builds, it's hard to find an area where it isn't useful.
    • Wayward Compass is by far the most useful travel pin; for one charm slot, it actively marks where you currently are on the map. For those who aren't the best at keeping track of where they are, this is really useful.
    • Weaversong is a two charm slot that summons three small spiders that will fight alongside the player. Although they aren't the strongest, they are also invincible and can pierce shields. This makes them incredibly useful for dealing with shielded enemies, as well as good for crowd controlling weaker enemies.
    • Most of the charms that focus on the Nail, such as Long Nail, Mark of Pride and Quick Slash, aren't very flashy but are highly effective. The Longnail/Mark of Pride charms extend the reach of your nail, and Quick Slash makes you attack with it faster.
  • Boss Rush: The Godmaster update adds a series of boss rushes, each made up of some combination of bosses you fought previously. In-story, the place you fight them at contains inhabitants looking to attune to the "Gods", which happen to be the bosses of Hallownest.
  • Boss Subtitles: Areas, NPCs and bosses all get a subtitle on the screen.
  • Bragging Rights Reward: The first two challenges in the Colosseum of Fools (the Trials of the Warrior and the Conqueror, respectively) task the player with surviving lengthy gauntlets of unique endgame enemies and award Geo along with a Charm Slot and Pale Ore, which are required for character progression. The third and final gauntlet, named the Trial of the Fool, is longer than the first two put together, ends in a difficult Dual Boss and awards nothing except a single Hunter's Journal Entry and Geo at a point in the game when the player is unlikely to have anything left to buy. And, of course, an achievement titled "Fool".
  • Breakable Power-Up: One of the merchants sells you three charms (extra HP, extra Geo drops, and extra power) that will break if you die with them equipped. If that happens, you can still buy replacements from him. They also won't break if you lose inside a dream. The Grimm Troupe update offers a way to make the Fragile charms permanent so that they are not lost on death, but it costs a hefty amount of Geo and the inability to use that charm until you scrounge up the cash for the unbreakable version.
  • Brought Down to Normal: The price for leaving Hallownest is forfeiting the intelligence bestowed upon insects by the Pale King, according to a message from the Dreamers.
  • Bury Your Gays: The Grey Mourner and the Traitor Lord's daughter were a lesbian couple, but the latter is dead and the former's gender is only explicitly stated if you open the inventory and look at the item she gives you. The Grey Mourner also dies after you successfully deliver the flower to her lover's grave. Subverted with the Nailsmith and Nailmaster Sheo, who only meet if the player ignores the Nailsmith's request to kill him, and who are very happy together.
  • Cap: Millebelle's bank caps at 4500 Geo. The real cap is around 2950. She'll steal it all if you deposit more than that.
  • Cash Gate: You'll need to pay small sums of Geo to unlock certain paths, checkpoints, transports and even the maps for each area. The light bug appears to be a more substantial example at first, costing a whopping 1800 Geo, but that amount proves trivial as early as midway through the game.
  • Charged Attack:
    • You can learn three from the Nailmasters hidden around the world, all of which require you to charge your attack.
    • The Dream Nail's normal attack is a charged one. It deals no damage but still fills a good chunk of the Soul gauge. It is difficult to use in combat because it requires you to stand still while performing it.
  • Check Point: Benches will heal you to full health and serve as your respawn points. You can only update your maps and swap Charms while sitting on one. One of the last unlockables makes them refill the Soul gauge as well.
  • Chest Monster: Not chest monsters, but fake Grubs instead. When freed, grub mimics grow legs, sprout an eye on a stalk, and attack, shrieking the whole time..
  • Collector of the Strange: The reason behind all those bottled grubs is one of these, a creature literally named Collector that enjoys preserving bugs inside bottles.
  • Collision Damage: Enemies deal damage on contact. The Knight can do the same with the Thorns of Agony charm.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Each zone is strongly associated with a particular color, which helps remind the player where they are.
    • Ancient Basin: Warm gray
    • City of Tears: Dark blue
    • Crystal Peak: Pink
    • Deepnest: Cool gray
    • Dirtmouth: Neutral gray
    • Fog Canyon: Light purple
    • Forgotten Crossroads: Light blue (later orange after being infected. Orange is used to represent the plague throughout the game.)
    • Fungal Wastes: Green-brown
    • Greenpath: Green
    • Howling Cliffs: Dark gray
    • Kingdom's Edge: Pale yellow
    • Queen's Gardens: Blue-green
    • Resting Grounds: Orange-brown
    • Royal Waterways: Dark green
    • The Hive: Golden yellow
    • The Abyss: Black
    • White Palace: White.
  • Comedic Sociopathy: An NPC in City of Tears, a former member of Hallownest's upper class, resents her fellow nobles for casting her out and is incredibly amused to see them all turned into mindless Husks.
  • Continuing Is Painful: Dying spawns a Shade of yourself with all the cash you had and reduces your Soul gauge by 1/3. You have to return to where you died and defeat it in order to restore your cash and your gauge.
  • Contractual Boss Immunity: Poison charms don't work on the final boss.
  • Crashing Dreams: At the end of a certain dream sequence, you arrive at a platform with a giant moth head looming in the background. The protagonist then wakes, being tended to by an actual moth.
  • Dark Is Evil: From the Grimm Troupe, Grimm is a Satan-like Nightmare King who perpetuates himself and his children by feeding on the remains of fallen kingdoms.
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The titular Hollow Knight is associated with shadows and ghosts, and is a being spawned from the Abyss. The Abyss itself is at worst, a neutral force that the King misused, and via the Hollow Knight, helps to save Hallownest in the True Ending.
  • Dead Person Impersonation: The Nosk creature disguises itself as the loved ones of the wanderers it is preying upon. Curiously, to attract the protagonist, it takes the guise of a Hollow Shell just like them. And it has worked before, given the few Hollow Shell corpses hanging on its nest.
  • Dark Reprise: The Soul Sanctum shares the City of Tears' melody, turned into a haunting song. The music for the Soul Master boss fight also shares this melody, making it a Dark Reprise of a Dark Reprise.
    • The music for the White Defender is an interesting mix of this trope and Triumphant Reprise, because it is a combination of the upbeat and silly Dung Defender theme, with the melancholic White Palace one. It is ultimately a Dark Reprise however, as it represents the Dung Defender's longing for his fellow knights and a past long gone.
  • Defeat Means Friendship
    • The Mantis Lords acknowledge your strength and let you proceed to the Deepnest. The other mantis villagers won't attack you anymore either.
    • The Dung Defender can be met after his boss fight. He apologizes for thinking you were yet another zombified husk and praises your skill.
    • Averted by Zote, who tarnishes your reputation in Dirtmouth after you defeat him.
  • Determinator: The Hollow Knight on account of literally having no will to be broken.
    • The player Knight is exceptional even among his kin. It of course won't give up if the player doesn't, but even in the cutscenes it refuses to be left for dead in the piles of Vessels in the Abyss. It nearly climbs out of the Abyss only to see the Pale King seal the Abyss away with the Knight still inside. Offscreen it still managed to find a way out and carve its way back to Dirtmouth.
  • Disturbed Doves: There are flocks of tiny creatures that fly off when you come close. They're harmless, but you can actually catch up and kill them with the super dash.
  • Downer Ending: The normal ending. The Hollow Knight defeats their failed predecessor, but in turn has to become the new vessel for the plague.
  • Down the Drain: The Royal Waterways below the capital are a series of dark and twisting sewers.
  • Dual Boss: Several mini bosses are a pair of Elite Mook enemies that wouldn't be too threatening on their own.
    • Also the God Tamer (found in the Colosseum of Fools) qualifies in that you have to simultaneously fight both the rider and her mount.
    • The Watcher Knights are notable for being 6 entities, the first of which you fight alone, and after which they are constantly resurrected so you're always fighting 2 at once. If you're having trouble you can crush one corpse permanently before entering the arena.
  • Dug Too Deep: Implied that something like this happened at Crystal Peak, though ironically it's the highest point in the kingdom. A statue of the Radiance can be found at the top of the peak, out of reach of the Pale King's attempts to remove her from history, and this was enough for bugs to remember her and begin the infection.
    • Played with in the Ancient Basin: at the very bottom there is a sealed door, with an ominous warning before it. It is the entrance to the Abyss, a place that is dreaded by a number of entities. The trope is averted however, the Abyss did not destroy Hallownest and in fact was instrumental in the Radiance's containment (or destruction, in the best ending).
  • Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: The levels, while difficult at times, are your typical Metroidvania fare. The bosses on the other hand, are very dangerous and complex, requiring the the player to master movement and combat.
  • Elite Mook: Several enemies are tougher versions of minor mooks.
  • Escaped from Hell: Cruelly subverted when you witness the Knight's birth and attempt to rise out of the Abyss. It climbs its way out little by little as several bodies hit the ground, all while hearing the Pale King's explanation of its goal and just what makes it capable of achieving it. Once the Knight makes the final jump, however, they find another has already been chosen. Losing its sense of purpose, it falls back into the depths.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: Not dogs per se, but summoned companions will try to attack Millibelle if you bring them to her "bank."
  • Fake Ultimate Hero: After you defeat him in the Colosseum of Fools, Zote returns to Dirtmouth claiming to be the new champion, and at least Bretta falls for his lies.
  • Fantasy Counterpart Culture: Godhome from the Godmaster DLC has an Egyptian theme. The inhabitants wear golden masks and their cloaks have a mmmy bandage like stripe pattern.
  • Fearless Fool: Zote thinks he can take on anyone and isn't afraid of anything, even when he's on the verge of being killed by some beast. Being afraid is a waste of time to him.
  • Final Boss: The Hollow Knight who contains the infection. Radiance, the incarnation and source of the infection itself, can be fought as the True Final Boss.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • While fighting the three Mantis Lords, notice the fourth throne broken in the background, hinting at the existence of the Traitor Lord.
    • At the very top of the kingdom, there is a winged statue with a three-horned crown. The memory in it begs people to "remember the light". The statue depicts Radiance, the source of the infection and the real final boss of the game.
    • Sly's dialogue when you first meet him foreshadows his identity as the Great Nailsage.
    • At one point in the Ancient Basin, you fight what appears to be an infected version of the Knight, called the Broken Vessel. On its defeat, you can Dream Nail it to fight a more powerful version in the Dream world. Its name? Lost Kin.
    • Quirrel's hat seems to look an awful lot like a Dreamer mask. It's actually the key to Monomon the Teacher's shield, which allows the Knight to Dream Nail and then end her.
  • Gainax Ending: The secret post-credits scene. You meet a character named Mr. Mushroom in a series of rooms and he tells you some very vague, cryptic stuff before suddenly flying off from Howling Cliffs. After the credits, you see him still flying over Dirtmouth, looking kind of ominous. Then a To Be Continued screen comes up, but whatever that means is anyone's guess.
  • Gladiator Games: The Colosseum of Fools is an optional endgame area to challenge the player's combat prowess, complete with cockroach gladiators, captive wildlife, and a bloodthirsty audience. Interestingly, a dried-out husk of a corpse is seated in the throne suspended over the arena, implying that there is no longer any figure of authority overseeing the fights.
  • Glowing Eyes of Doom: An orange glow in a creature's eyes is a sure sign they're overcome by the plague and will attack you. Lack of it doesn't necessarily mean you're safe, though…
  • A God Am I: The King of Hallownest was revered by his people as a deity, and the Knight does recall him calling himself one. Born from a wyrm's corpse, the Pale King did everything in his power to replace the old light of Radiance with his own and rule over Hallownest forever.
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: The game uses specific colors for special meanings.
    • Orange is evil. All enemies have glowing orange eyes and orange blood.
    • Lifeblood is light-blue, and a Good Counterpart to the orange.
    • The Grimm Troupe are themed around a dull red, and are sinister if not outright evil.
  • Gotta Catch 'Em All:
    • A bunch of caterpillar babies called Grubs are trapped inside bottles and scattered all over Hallownest. Their father will give rewards for each one you rescue.
    • Once you obtain the Dream Nail, you must look for a series of odd trees that you might or not have seen previously. Hitting one tree with the Dream Nail reveals a handful of Essence items around the room the tree is in. On top of that, this opens Dream Warriors and Dream Bosses, which give you 100 and 300+ Essence each respectively. You need about 1800 Essence to work towards the real ending, and 2400 to unlock some crucial context for the True Final Boss.
  • Gotta Kill Em All:
    • Filling out the Hunter's Journal requires you to kill every enemy and then do it over a dozen times again on those who aren't unique.
    • You must kill all three Dreamers—Monomon, Lurien, and Herrah—before you can enter the Black Egg and face the Hollow Knight.
    • Defeating all dream bosses is mandatory to collect enough Essence for the Seer's last words, worth one point on the Completion Meter. However, upgrading the Dream Nail and unlocking the true ending requires only 1800 (of 2600 possible), giving you some leeway.
  • Green Hill Zone: Greenpath, the second area of the game, is a luxurious maze of plants with a soothing music playing in the background. Compared to other areas, Greenpath is relatively easy to navigate through and to explore, with easy enemies to fight and not too much hazards (beware of the acid though). On the other hand, it is also where the player fights for the first time Hornet, known for being quite the difficulty spike.
  • Ground Pound: An ability you get from the Soul Master, which can be upgraded. It is useful for breaking delicate floors.
  • Guest-Star Party Member:
    • Quirrel helps you fight a boss that is immune to your attacks.
    • Cloth also helps you out against the Traitor Lord.
  • Guide Dang It!:
    • A basic gameplay mechanic that seems to fly over the head of several players for a good chunk of the game is that by attacking downwards while jumping, you can bounce off enemies and spikes. They end up learning it while messing with the bouncy mushrooms or observing sections that only look doable if one were to Cranium Ride on enemies.
    • The existence of the Hive is indicated by a few bees surrounding it from the outside, but the entrance is blocked by a breakable wall over a set of spikes.
    • Figuring out how to get the true ending is basically a puzzle spanning the entire game, requiring you to awaken the Dream Nail by defeating close to every single Dream Boss in the game, going through an optional area and defeating the boss there to meet the White Lady and acquire one half of the Kingsoul, using the awakened Dream Nail on the soldier corpse in the Palace Grounds to go to the White Palace, and surviving its Platform Hell to get the second half of the Kingsoul. Finally, having the complete Kingsoul unlocks a secret area in The Abyss that allows the Hollow Knight to confront its past as a being of the Void, turning the Kingsoul into the Void Heart. With all that done, you'd think you're good to go, right? Wrong. You have to use the Dream Nail on the final boss as he is being pinned down by Hornet, allowing you to confront the true source of the infection.
    • There is no indication that there are two endings for the Grimm Troupe DLC. One path requires you to collect one extra flame in a faraway location on the map that's easy to miss, and then follow obscure directions to return to the start of the DLC. The other requires you to fight an extremely difficult boss. And taking one path permanently prevents you from getting the rewards and story development for the other.
    • Likewise getting the second ending for Godmaster has nothing to allude to it and is Nintendo Hard. You have to deliver the Delicate Flower to the Godseeker, which means going through a gauntlet while having to take no damage. Though this may end up harder for some in that people don't realize that even after finishing the Grey Morner's quest, one can take the flower from the grave without ill effect.
  • Heal Thyself: As the game lacks health pickups and benches/hot springs can be a trek away, the protagonist can heal by using their Soul gauge to focus, but they're left defenseless in the process. This can be partially offset with certain charms, like Quick Focus and Shape of Unn.
  • Heart Container: Your health and soul meters can be extended by a series of fragmented items. And so can the amount of slots you have to equip charms.
  • Hell Is That Noise:
    • Flukemons constantly emit disgusting slurping noises, which crescendo if they notice and start chasing you. When killed, they split into two parts—one which continues with the slurping, and another which starts screeching loudly.
    • Entombed husks, who are essentially buried and half-decayed bodies that were reanimated by the infection anyway, make horrifying groans that sound like a person in pain gasping for air. Fortunately, they only appear in one small area. Unfortunately, it's dark, maze-like, and claustrophobic, and you will hear them before you find them.
    • The fight against The Collector is constantly accompanied by his maniacal, high-pitched laughter, and as if this wasn't enough, the usual boss music theme is heavily distorted during this battle.
  • Hero of Another Story: You meet several other adventurers during your journey, like Quirrel, Cloth, Tiso, and Zote.
  • Heroic Mime: The Knight cannot speak, so the command to interact with people is "Listen". Even trying to hit a Shade with the Dream Nail doesn't produce any thoughts from them. This is part of the King's design for the vessels.
  • Hidden Depths: Reading people's minds with the Dream Nail will often reveal them, even the shady ones, to be concerned about something important.
    • Zote at one point laments being trapped when he has a promise to fulfill: a promise to himself, a promise of success and glory! ...that's not a very good example.
      • However, during his Colosseum fight, one of his Dream Nail quotes is "I'll kill a thousand more... Will that be enough, father?" Some of his Precepts imply that his parents may have been abusive or at least neglectful in some way, but since they're never seen, there's no way of knowing whether that's the truth or just the way Zote sees them.
    • Tuk, a big bug that's sorting through trash in the royal waterways, seems to be a greedy hoarder who will sell you rotten food for absurd prices. But his thoughts reveal he's actually searching for a person and he's desperately hoping they will wash up in the dump eventually.
  • Hidden Elf Village: Distant Village. Its inhabitants rejected the rule of Hallownest's king and secluded themselves in the furthest corner of Deepnest. They also have a tendency to kill any visitors who happen by.
    • The Mantis Village. Hidden at the bottom of the Fungal Wastes, and inhabited only by warriors who'll kill anyone who intrudes.
  • Hive Mind: As explained by Bardoon, during the time of Radiance's rule, people were united in mind with no individuality of their own and acted on their base instincts. This changed once the Pale King sealed Radiance and brought enlightenment to them. During the game proper, if you check the miner girl near Crystal Peak at a certain point and read her mind, you catch Radiance urging her to hunt the "Empty One".
  • Homage: Draws a lot of inspiration from Dark Souls in terms of the story and some gameplay elements, with a lot of the gameplay coming from Metroid and Castlevania.
  • I Call It "Vera": Zote named his sword "Life Ender" because names have power. Ironically but predictably enough, it can't actually end anyone's life; it's made of the same wood shields are made from, so it does zero damage, and even if it was useful for parrying Zote sucks too much with it to try.
  • Idle Rich: Cowardly socialites are a common recurring enemy in the City of Tears. They don't pose much of a threat, and are as likely to flee from the player character as they are to actually attack. A swing with the Dream Nail reveals them to be obsessed with hoarding Geo and avoiding the filthy lower class.
  • Immortality Immorality: The Soul Sanctum is an academical institution that serves as home to the Soul Master and his pupils; they sought to stop the plague and achieve immortality by harvesting and twisting Soul to aid their research. Considering that without a Dream Nail, the only method of collection is to inflict harm on other living creatures...
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: Any Simple lock can by opened by any Simple Key, but all Simple Keys are so shoddily made that they break after one use. So they're more like Simple Lockpicks.
  • Interface Spoiler: If you beat a boss or a mini boss and the Hunter's comment on them doesn't unlock on the Journal, then you haven't seen the last of them.
    • Stag Nest only unlocks if you find every Stag Station, and the blank space on the tunnel map will clue you in on where your missing stations are. But then subverted, a station (Hidden Station in Ancient Basin) was added after release, so the Nest actually unlocks on your second-to-last station. This can result in a pleasant surprise if you find, say, the Deepnest station, last.
  • It's Raining Men: At Kingdom's Edge, there are areas where dozens of corpses are being dumped from the Colosseum of Fools into the acid pits below.
  • Jerkass: Zote is rude to everyone and not exactly competent despite his arrogance. He gets in big trouble at certain points and whether he lives or dies is up to you. If you do save him, however, you get to beat him up in a duel later. Pissy at this, he badmouths you to your fangirl back in town and she starts obsessing over him instead. What an ass.
  • Joke Character: One really has to wonder how Zote even gets around from room to room. His moveset when fought as a boss consists of ineffectually swinging his "Life Ender" sword like a child and missing the landing of his small, predictable jumps. He can't even damage you!
  • King Mook: The Soul Master is this to the Soul Twisters and Soul Warriors. It has the teleportation power and the arcane bolts of both, the Twisters' orbiting magic shield and the Warriors' melee skills, including a teleport + downward attack combo.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: It is said that the people of Hallowest are forbidden to leave into the desert to the left of Howling Cliffs and will pay with their memories if they do so. Quirrel, for example, comes from parts unknown but comes to remember he once studied under Monomon.
    • It's implied that the Knight and several other failed Vessels managed to escape the Abyss even after it was sealed. The Knight wandered into the wastes and lost its memory, which is why the game starts where it does.
  • Light Is Good:
    • The King and Queen of Hallownest were both said to dress in white and were associated with light.
    • The White Lady is literally glowing, and is integral to guiding you towards the best ending.
  • Light Is Not Good: The disease that drove many of Hallownest's inhabitants to insanity and reanimates the husks of dead bugs is strongly associated with light and radiance, and using the Dream Nail on people that are infected will often show them to be obsessed with light. The source of the infection is also a being of pure white simply called "The Radiance".
  • Locked Door: One is in Dirtmouth, but all others are in the City of Tears. Three doors require a Simple Key (which breaks on use), one door in the Soul Sanctum requires the Elegant Key and leads to a path where you can upgrade one of your spells, and the Tower of Love requires the Love Key to open and leads to an optional boss (and a Grub).
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: On the route to some of the endings it's revealed, somewhat offhandedly, that both Hornet and the Final Boss are the protagonist's siblings, with Hornet being the daughter of Herrah and the Pale King, and both the Knight and Hollow Knight being creations of the Pale King's, though only the Hollow Knight was actually adopted. It's also heavily implied that the protagonist is an "offspring" of the King and Queen of Hallownest, which is presumably why they can read ethereal messages intended for "higher beings" and also acquire the King's Brand. In one of the lines added in The Grimm Troupe DLC, the White Lady outright calls the protagonist her spawn.
  • Mask of Power: It is suggested that wearing a mask can change the nature of a bug.
  • Malevolent Architecture: The bugs of Hallownest were quite fond of spikes on their roofs and elevators. These harm you the same as boiling acid, ravenous worms in Deepnest, or the grasping hands of the Void itself.
    • Taken to an almost comical extreme in the White Palace, where it often seems that every hall and chamber is decorated in undulating buzzsaws and most of the surfaces are occupied by thorns or retracting spike traps.
    • Even worse in the optional Path of Pain route added by the Grimm Troupe DLC. Your reward for this extended and hellish platforming gauntlet is... a five-second cutscene of the Pale King and original Vessel.
  • Mercy Invincibility: Very short by default, but there's a Charm to help with that. Coupled with the one for rapid-firing the Nail, it's possible to kill a couple of bosses more easily through careful damage races.
  • Metal Slime: If you break the sign at the entrance to the Crossroads, just below the Dirtmouth well, there's a small chance you'll find the guy in charge of fixing all the stuff you break when you next enter the room. You can kill him before he flies off, but all that does is unlock the door to his house, where you can read his diary and feel like the scum of the earth.
  • Mini-Boss: At certain rooms, you get locked into a cage and must face an unique or souped-up enemy.
  • Mirror Boss:
    • Although it is not a boss, your Shade will use all the moves you had when you last died.
    • The Broken Vessel uses attacks similar to your own, except they're corrupted in nature due to its infection, which isn't really surprising given that the player character is also a Vessel.
    • Likewise, the Hollow Knight is one of your own kind, and fights in a similar way to the protagonist.
    • Hilariously subverted by Zote, who resembles the Knight but displays very underwhelming skills when you finally see him in action.
  • Mighty Roar: Bosses will typically let out a huge roar when the battle starts, keeping you from immediately being on their face.
  • Monster Compendium: The Hunter's Journal. It provides alternate flavor texts for each enemy once you kill a couple dozens of them.
  • Mook Maker: Flukemarm, a boss whose only defense is to cough a constant stream of flying, biting offspring at you.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has five different endings, depending on whether or not you acquired the Void Heart as well as your actions in the final battle, though two are just small variations on other ones. There's also a hidden post-credits scene that involves looking for a mysterious mushroom NPC in several different places, in order.
    • Hollow Knight: Acquired by defeating the final boss without the Void Heart. The protagonist defeats the Hollow Knight and absorbs the infection leaking out of it, before getting sealed inside the Black Egg as the new container for the plague.
    • Dream No More: Acquired by using the Dream Nail on the Hollow Knight when Hornet holds it down, and then defeating The Radiance in the Hollow Knight's dream. The protagonist rallies the Void against Radiance and consumes it, destroying the infection once and for all the cost of their own life.
    • Sealed Siblings: Variation of the first ending. Acquired by not using the Dream Nail on the Hollow Knight when Hornet holds it down, resulting in her getting knocked off and the Hollow Knight starting another round of combat. Much like the regular ending, the protagonist becomes the new container for the plague, this time getting sealed into the Black Egg alongside Hornet, whose mask appears on the Black Egg, indicating she's become a Dreamer. With Hornet gone and unreachable, there is no longer a way to eradicate the infection. Ordinarily, this would mean that Hallownest is doomed, except for the testimony of various characters that suggests that with the Void Heart, the protagonist will be able to contain the infection. Whether or not they're telling the truth/are correct is left unanswered.
    • Godmaster adds two more endings:
      • After conquering all of Godhome's trials the player takes the fight to the Radiance in her own realm instead of the dreaming. Once it strikes her down, instead of the souls of the Siblings and Hollow Knight helping you drag her into the abyss, some monstrous looking thing that may or may not be the player character itself transformed by the godly powers they've gained grabs her by the head and brutally murders her before consuming Godhome and the Godseekers into the abyss, which also begins to spread the void into the outside world. The final scene is a Sequel Hook for the Hornet campaign later on and has Hornet outside of the Black Egg watching as Radiance's corruption is snuffed out by the void before turning and seeing that the Hollow Knight has broken free and putting up her guard.
      • The second ending is more of a variation on the above than its own ending: If you give a delicate flower to the Godseeker, instead of the void erupting from the Godseeker's corpse and beginning to spread across Hallownest, its body instead Disappears into Light, leaving the flower behind and protecting the world from the Void while also completely ending the Radiance's threat. The rest of the ending plays out the same as the first one.
    • The Grimm Troupe DLC has two mutually exclusive endings as well:
      • Ritual: Acquired by absorbing all flames around Hallownest, then defeating Nightmare King Grimm in his dream. The ritual is complete, Grimm is gone, but the Grimmchild charm is fully awoken and matured.
      • Banish: Acquired by backtracking to the lantern, and destroying it with the help of a repentant troupe member. The troupe vanishes, taking Grimmchild with them. You can get a new charm instead, and the embers of the kingdom remain.
  • Mushroom Man: There are mushroom creatures of varying sizes on the Fungal Wastes area.
    • Mister Mushroom is an Easter Egg character who claims to have existed long before Hallownest. Meeting him in several locations across the game world adds a post-credits stinger to the ending once you defeat the final boss.
  • Mutual Kill: Cloth kills the Traitor Lord after being fatally injured herself. The only way to prevent it from happening is to fight this boss before meeting her.
  • New World Tease: Although you're able to enter Fog Canyon relatively early in the game (it's adjacent to the second zone the player character is required to visit), you'll be unable to progress any further than the first couple of rooms until after you've obtained the Mantis Claw and the Monarch Wings much later in the game.
  • Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: Acid pools and spike fields act as this, dealing 1 HP of damage and setting the Knight back to the last safe spot they stood on. The player can eventually find a powerup that lets the swim through acid and subverts that.
  • One-Woman Wail: Applies to the melancholic yet hopeful City of Tears song, contributing to making this place all the more special. You can even come across said woman (Songstress Marissa) in the Pleasure House. However, you can lose her singing permanently. She's dead already, existing only as a ghost, meaning you can Dream Nail her for Essence, which causes her to disappear.
  • Orange/Blue Contrast: Almost all of Hallownest is dark blue or blue tinted, providing a very sharp contrast with the bright orange plague.
  • Overly Long Gag: If Zote survives all the way to the end of the game, you find him listing to Bretta a series of 57 precepts, ranging from surprisingly sound advice to utter nonsense. And once he's finally done, he starts over again.
  • Peninsula of Power Leveling: After you beat the dual Shrumal Ogres at Fungal Wastes, a single one will remain on later visits to the room. It is worth 45-56 Geo, is a sitting duck on its own (do bring a long sharpened nail to beat it quickly), and always respawns. Plus, the route between it and the closest save point and stag room is rather easy to navigate.
  • Permanently Missable Content: Nothing critical or necessary for 100% completion can be missed, but there are some little things and interactions that can.
    • Once you deposit 3000 Geo or more at Millibelle's Bank and sit at a bench, she will run off with the money to the Pleasure House in the City of Tears. You can slap her around to make her drop the money, but the cardboard bank will be lost for the rest of the game.
    • In the Abyss, there is a room accessed by having 15 Lifeblood Hearts as a life meter, and said room yields the Lifeblood Core charm before throwing you out and never letting you back in. There is also an Arcane Egg in there, but if you fail to pick it up before grabbing the charm, you will be unable to go back in and retrieve it.
    • There are speakers playing music in the tramways and on a save room in Queen's Gardens. If you break them, you'll find they, of all things, are background objects that don't respawn.
      • For the save room in Queen's Gardens, if you skip the bench unfolding animation by leaving the room, the speaker doesn't even spawn to begin with.
    • Colleting the reward for clearing the White Palace sends you out of the dungeon. Since it can't be returned to, people often miss the secret message to the right of the final room and don't realize they can sit on the King's throne. If you went through the trouble of clearing all that Platform Hell, then you'd better sit on that like a boss.
    • If you don't locate the Moss Prophet in the Fungal Wastes before killing the Broken Vessel and triggering the Infected Crossroads, he and his Mossy Vagabond audience will be long dead by the time you reach them in the adjacent Queen's Gardens. You'd still get the entry for mossy vagabonds though.
    • After beating up the Dung Defender, you can call and interact with him by stomping on the boss room, which is something that can be easily overlooked. At a certain point, he'll go to sleep on the hidden room below and you won't be able to interact with him anymore.
    • Ending 1 cannot be seen after you reach the requirements for the other ones.
      • Related, The Hollow Knight's Hunter's Journal entry will only unlock if you defeat him in either the first or second ending. Since you don't technically kill him in ending 3, it doesn't count.
    • If you go for the Banishment ending during the Grimm Troupe storyline before you upgrade all your fragile charms to their unbreakable versions, you will permanently lose the opportunity to do so. Fortunately, if Divine has eaten any fragile charms before you had the chance to upgrade them, she'll leave them behind, so you don't lose those, at least.
  • Piñata Enemy: The Gorgeous Husk is very easy to beat and drops over 400 Geo upon death.
  • Platform Hell: The game features tough platforming sections every now and then, often in dead ends that contain grubs or some item as a prize. What tops them all is the White Palace, where the game goes full Super Meat Boy with several lengthy sequences of spikes and sawblades. Having the Hiveblood charm is practically mandatory in there.
  • Player Death Is Dramatic: An inversion that's played for laughs when you defeat Zote in the Colosseum of Fools. When you land the finishing blow, Zote will be knocked backwards, grimacing as the entire screen fills with white...only to harmlessly land on one of his horns and get stuck.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • The King of Hallowest was a reclusive man and nobody knows what became of him, but his influence lingers on. You come to find that the infection is a sad consequence of him overthrowing Radiance and that he imposed countless sacrifices on others in his research to seal the goddess away for good. But it was all for nothing. The Hollow Knight couldn't contain Radiance's will and the kingdom crumbled anyway. Eventually, you finally find a memory figment of the King seemingly lying dead on his throne, believing to the bitter end that "no cost was too great".
    • It is said that the King had five elite knights under his command, but few people in the setting remember who they were. The Dung Defender is the single one who you find to still be alive and well after all this time. His White Defender fight suggests that another Knight is alive: Ze'mer, the Grey Mourner. She won't say anything about that herself though.
  • Power of the Void: The upgraded versions of all spells are void-themed, as the Knight is originally a being born of the Abyss.
  • Powers as Programs: You collect a variety of Charms over the course of the game that grant abilities to the Knight. However, you have a limited amount of slots to use, starting at 3. The good stuff will usually use two slots at minimum. If you have at least one slot unused, you can force a Charm that requires two or more to fit. However, doing that will halve your defense.
  • Power Crystal: The violet diamond found protruding at odd intervals around the Crystal Peak emits a constant glow that corrupted the miners excavating it and turned them into violent Husks. According to the Essence Tree found here, the diamonds absorb and refract light from The Radiance.
  • Protagonist Title: The player character is the titular Hollow Knight. But it's played with, in that the final boss is also a Hollow Knight, making it also a case of Antagonist Title.
  • Puppeteer Parasite: The physical manifestation of the plague bears more than a passing resemblance to certain strains of the cordyceps fungus, which are known for their bright orange hue and their penchant for infecting and zombifying insects to act as carriers for their spores.
  • Religion of Evil: The bug known as the Moss Prophet has started a cult worshipping the plague itself in an improvised chapel. If you don't find them in the (brief) window where you can, they move into the Queen's Gardens, and then all die to unknown causes (though it's implied the Infected Mantises offed them).
  • Remixed Level: Later in the game, the Crossroads become infected by the plague and several rooms are partially blocked off by huge pus blobs. The enemies also mutate into more aggressive forms.
  • Respawning Enemies: Minor enemies always respawn after leaving a room. Tougher ones only respawn after you rest on a checkpoint.
  • Rule of Three: Not quite to Arc Number extremes, but triads appear quite a bit over the course of the game.
    • Three main characters (the Knight, Hornet, and the Hollow Knight)
    • Three Dreamers (Harrah, Monomon, and Lurien)
    • Three known vessels (the Knight, the Broken Vessel, and the Hollow Knight. Nosk's buildup may hint at more)
    • Three rulers of Hallownest (The Pale King, the White Queen, and the Radiance)
    • The three Mantis Lords though a fourth was corrupted by The Infection and was banished to the Queen's Gardens).
    • Three spells
    • Three Nailmasters
    • Three tiers in the Colosseum of Fools.
    • Most music that involves the main motif or motifs of major characters is set in 3/4 or 6/8 time.
  • Sanity Slippage:
    • Early on, you meet a miner singing to herself next to the Crystal Peak entrance. The further you go into the game, the more unstable the poor girl gets until she goes insane and attacks you like everyone else. She doesn't go insane; she is corrupted by the Infection.
    • There are a couple of NPCs that are on the verge of turning crazy when you meet them, but they come to their senses and go back home when talked to.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The infection is contained by a vessel that itself is canned inside the Black Egg Temple just below Dirtmouth town. The Moth Seer eventually reveals Radiance was the original deity of the locals. The infestation is how it manifests itself after being sealed for so long by the Pale King.
  • Sequential Boss:
    • Soul Master has two forms. And one heck of a fake out between them.
    • There are three Mantis Lords. You fight the first alone and then the other two at once.
    • The Watcher Knights are also fought in pairs. About 7 large rolling beetles in total. You can insta-kill one before the fight by dropping a chandelier from the hidden room above.
    • To obtain the best ending, you must fight Hollow Knight and Radiance back-to-back, and the latter one has 5 phases in total.
  • Shmuck Bait: How nice it is for those people at Distant Village to have a bench for you to rest on. A bench covered in webbing in the heart of spider land, a ruined, completely cocooned town. The exact place you need to fight one of the Dreamers on. A nearby house has several corpses whose last thoughts call them liars, and the villagers give no response when hit with the Dream Nail. Nevertheless, you can't proceed until you fall for the trap. Actually, you CAN proceed without sitting on the bench by entering the room above via a secret opening.
  • Shout-Out: The False Knight is likely a nod to Makaku from Gunnm, a similarly insane, man-faced maggot who takes over the body of a heavily armored champion. They both hide their parasite heads under helmets with giant, curved horns.
    • Uumuu is awfully familiar, as is its background music.
    • One of the spirits in the Glade of Hope claims to have a 'dark soul' and a habit of going berserk in battle. He doesn't think you have the guts to face him.
    • When Hornet assists you in the True Ending, she yells something that sounds suspiciously like "git gud!" Considering the game's heavy Dark Souls inspiration and the difficulty of the boss you are about to face, this may not be a coincidence.
    • The Grubberfly's Elegy, which makes you shoot Sword Beams from your Nail but only while at full health, is a pretty unsubtle reference to The Legend of Zelda, in which Link can do the same in some games. And if you equip both Grubberfly's Elegy and Fury of the Fallen, you also gain access to a Peril Beam, only usable when you have one health left.
  • Sigil Spam: The four-pronged symbol of Hallownest is everywhere. This is an intentional act by the Pale King, who wanted Hallownest's citizens to rever him as a god. He also wanted to destroy all traces of his rival, the Radiance, and he was very nearly successful. Unfortunately, even that wasn't good enough...
  • Slaying Mantis: There's a whole village of mantis warriors who have survived the plague that befell Hallownest. They will become peaceful towards you once you beat their lords in a duel. There are also a group of exiled infected mantises living in the Queen's Gardens.
  • Snow Means Death: Kingdom's Edge is a snowy area directly beneath the Colosseum of Fools, and serves as a dumping ground for the many corpses that originate there. Plus, that 'snow' isn't snow at all. The flakes are peeling off the massive, decaying husk of the Wyrm.
  • Speedrun: The game has three achievements for speedruns (under 10 and 5 hours, plus under 20 hours with 100% completion). The game has been cleared in under a hour with glitches.
  • Speaking Simlish: Characters have voice acting but they all speak in gibberish.
  • Spiders Are Scary:
    • The savage bugs of Deepnest are mostly variants of spiders.
    • Hornet, despite her name, uses Razor Floss skills to attack and get around. You later find out her mother is Herrah the Beast, a spider person.
  • Spirit Advisor: The former kingdom of Hallownest is home to a number of restless spirits, of both the passive and combative variety. They can't be perceived by anyone who isn't wielding the Dream Nail.
  • Springy Spores: Bouncy mushrooms appear as a gimmick in a few rooms. And remember that to use them you don't just jump on them—you point the nail downwards and hit them.
  • Stop Poking Me!: Some characters know the Dream Nail and are either amused or annoyed at you trying to read their minds.
  • Story Breadcrumbs: Talking to NPCs and reading their minds, as well as using the Dream Nail on certain objects, will reveal several interesting details about the setting and the origins of the King and the infection. Of course, everyone that's not overly cryptic about it is either very hidden or only spill the beans if you interact with them in some specific way.
  • Straight Gay:
    • After crafting the Pure Nail, the Nailsmith will beg you to cut him down, as he has nothing left to live for. If you refuse, he will instead leave his home, meeting and moving in with Nailmaster Sheo. Although none of their dialogue together is explicitly romantic, the achievement you get for doing this seems to indicate that their relationship is indeed romantic: "Happy Couple". Awww. A player-driven subversion of Bury Your Gays.
  • Summon Magic: The game at launch had the Glowing Womb charm which summons kamikaze flies at the cost of soul energy. The Grimm Troupe added Weaversong (pack of baby spiders) and Grimmchild (single familiar that grows through the DLC's storyline.)
  • Sword Beam: Your reward for rescuing all the imprisoned grubs is Grubberly's Elegy, a charm that allows you to fire waves of energy from your nail while at full health.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The Dream Nail, getting it is mandatory to complete the game and to get the true ending.
  • The Undead: The Hunter's Journal reveals the taller, more sapient bugs are dead husks animated by the orange miasma.
  • Toilet Humor: The Dung Defender, true to his name, defends an enormous cavern filled with dung. His attacks all involve him swimming through it and/or hurling giant balls of it at you. On defeat, he 'explodes' like most bosses, but rather than falling apart or simply disappearing, he gets flung into the background where he slowly sinks, face first, into his own... home, legs wiggling as he does. To top things off, the charm he drops makes the Hollow Knight emit an aura of toxic brown gas.
    • Certain NP Cs will remark on the charm's smell. Most of them react poorly to it, but Leg Eater likes it enough to give you a discount, Dung Defender himself thinks it's the smell of justice, and the White Lady remembers the "potent smell" of her Knight Ogrim, the Dung Defender.
  • Turns Red: Some bosses will use new moves when low at health.
    • Subverted by the Hollow Knight. He does get new, dangerous moves, but because he begins stabbing himself to get the infection to burst out of his body. Towards the end of the battle, he can barely swing his nail before keeling over, and the soundtrack reflects his miserable state.
  • Vendor Trash: The various relics of Hallownest's past which the player can discover during their journey. Their only purpose is to be sold to an antiquity collector for Geo. Considering you lose all your Geo if you die twice without killing your shade, they can be pretty useful for making up for such a mistake.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential:
    • You can collect Essence from harmless ghost NPCs, though they give only a single Essence each and it isn't necessary to collect them at all to get the final achievements associated with collecting essence. More than one player has absorbed them by accident while trying to read their minds with the Dream Nail, and in the Spirit's Glade at least, doing so will trigger Revek to constantly attack the player until they leave the area.
    • Zote will be trapped and killed at a certain point if you don't help him. There's an achievement—"Neglect"—for letting it happen.
    • The mantises from Mantis Village, the bees from the Hive, and the siblings will eventually become friendly towards you, but you can still harm them. They will fight back if you do, but the other mantises will still be friendly even though you just slaughtered their friend. Granted, they're a tribe of born warriors, with battle and killing being integral to their culture, so it makes some sense they would respect your combat superiority and your right to fight anyone at will.
  • Video Game Cruelty Punishment: Try to absorb any of the ghosts in the Glade of Hope, and Revek will relentlessly pursue and attack you (dealing two masks of damage per hit) until either you escape from the Glade or die. Being the first ghost you will encounter in the Glade, he'll warn you not to tamper with the graves.
  • Video Game Dashing: The Mothwing Cloak allows you to dash both on ground and on the air. Later on, you'll get a super dash ability that enables "flight" on a straight horizontal line until you hit a wall (or press jump to stop short). An upgrade to the normal dash will allow you to phase through enemies and with a certain Charm you'll deal damage while doing it. The Crystal Heart also allows for the Super Dash, though it's mostly for traversing terrain than being used in battle.
  • World of Silence: What would happen to bugkind if The Radiance wins.

No mind to think
No will to break
No voice to cry out suffering
Born of God and Void
You shall seal the blinding light that plagues their dreams
You are the vessel
You are the Hollow Knight.

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