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  • Alternative Character Interpretation: The ambiguity of the game's story makes it rife with different character interpretations. Here are some of the most prominent ones:
    • After you rescue all of the Grubs, does the Grub Father really eat all his children? Or is he, as suggested by the charm description, allowing them to "move to the next stage of their lives" by serving as a living cocoon? Hitting him with the Dream Nail gets you the message, "Happy...happy...happy!!", which could be coming from him, the Grubs, or both.
      • Playing off this, is the Collector just a lunatic, or is he a Well-Intentioned Extremist trying to save the Grubs from a terrifying fate at their father's own jaws? The Godmaster expansion implies the latter.
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    • In regards to the Hollow Knight and the player's own actions: if you use the Dream Nail on the "ghosts", are you basically destroying a lost soul and taking its power for your own? Or are you simply absorbing a lingering old shadow, a memory with no true sentience, and in a way ensuring that it will live on in you?
    • Is the player character merely an emotionless vessel as its creators meant it to be, or has this one developed sapience beyond its given motivations due to explicitly stopping to help people with their problems despite being completely unrelated to its mission?
    • Is the Seer who gives you the Dream Nail actually a servant of the Radiance? Is it all part of an elaborate gambit by the Radiance to be set free?
    • Why does the Hollow Knight start stabbing itself during the last phase of its boss fight? Is it desperately trying to free the infection to stop the player, attempting to kill the infection before it loses itself completely, or trying to help the player by killing itself to expose the infection to the player's attacks?
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    • Were Zote's parents really abusive, twisting him into the Jerkass he is today? Or is he exaggerating their mistakes in his own mind, in the same way he tends to exaggerate his supposed mighty deeds? Or perhaps a combination of the two?
    • Are the Husk soldiers that defend Isma's Grove simply more of the same mindless creatures that the player encounters elsewhere, or have they retained some level of sentience that allows them to keep defending the grave of their former master, even in death? The Hunter's Journal claims that they're just reanimated pieces of armor, but nothing asserts that he really knows what's going on, either.
    • Does Quirrel die after the player's last talk with him, his mission and dream fulfilled, or does he leave for somewhere beyond Hallownest? According to the lore tablet at the Howling Cliff, it could essentially be both...
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    • Is Grimm truly benevolent, or is he hiding darker ulterior motives? Either of the endings for the campaign can be taken to support both sides, although the Nightmare King may say a lot about what his true agenda may be.
    • Is the Pale King truly a benevolent ruler? While his subjects worshiped him and his Queen dearly loved him, he was also willing to take very extreme measures to defeat his enemies and safeguard his subjects. In particular, his treatment of the beings that became the Vessels stands out as cruel, and the Dung Defender voices his disapproval of the plan on ethical grounds. Similarly, the context surrounding his usurping of The Radiance's position is vague, leaving it difficult to determine whether or not he was a true improvement over her, and if replacing worship of The Radiance with worship of himself isn't just more of the same.
    • Is The Radiance wholly evil? This is a difficult question to answer due to the efforts of Hallownest's own King. Because he attempted (and very nearly succeeded) in rendering the Radiance an Un-person, there is very little lore available on what The Radiance was like before the Pale King took over. Adding to the confusion, there are friendly characters that play a prominent role in bringing about The Radiance's eventual demise that strongly imply that their true loyalties still belong to her (The Seer most prominent among them). While The Radiance is certainly responsible for the plague that kicks off the events of the game, the specifics are never fully explained and The Radiance's motivations are never completely understood.
    • Just what happens in the Godmaster endings? Did the Hollow Vessel willingly decide to undergo a Face–Heel Turn to kill the Radiance at its full power, becoming a Eldritch Abomination personification of the abyss? Or was it unable to handle the godly powers it unwittingly fed to the void it was connected to in the course of trying to get rid of the Radiance's very essence and overcome by the darkness? Also, is its subsequent attempt to consume the world in shadow a willingly initiated Assimilation Plot, or a massive fit of void-corrupted Power Incontinence?
  • Anti-Climax Boss: Happens a few times in the game:
    • The Dreamers play an important role in the story and there are achievements for defeating them. You'd think they would be major bosses, but they actually willingly let you kill them without dishing out a single blow in return. At least some of them have associated bosses guarding them. Herrah the Beast doesn't even get that much, though Deepnest itself may be boss enough.
    • The God Tamer at the very end of the Trial of Fools is a cakewalk compared to the rest of the trial. Somewhat justified, given its position at the end of an absolutely infuriating That One Level. If the boss was equally hard, many people would just have thrown their controllers and keyboards in rage, so the Tamer is effectively a Breather Boss.
    • Even the final boss, The Hollow Knight, is surprisingly easy. Its attacks are not too hard to avoid, occasions to heal are aplenty, and it actually hurts itself to help you! This is your first cue that this may not be all there is to the end of the game. Somewhat justified again, since you have to face The Hollow Knight every time you attempt The Radiance, so fighting a hard boss on top of another hard boss would quickly get really infuriating. Also justified from a story perspective, since The Hollow Knight is actively trying not to fight you...
  • Award Snub: At The Game Awards 2017, it lost the Best Debut Indie Game award to Cuphead.
  • Awesome Art: The hand-drawn 2D atmospheric backgrounds and creative character designs are just gorgeous to look at.
  • Awesome Music:
  • Base-Breaking Character:
    • The Pale King. While many agree that killing his children to create the Vessels was wrong, some feel sympathetic towards him due to his desperation to save his people, while others condemn him because of it.
    • Zote qualifies. His Jerkass behavior makes a lot of fans hate him, but there's also a camp who find this and his antics hilarious.
  • Breather Boss: Nosk, an optional boss in the Deepnest, has an extremely terrifying introduction, but he uses simplistic attack patterns, and there are safe spots for healing next to a raised section of the floor in the center of the arena. However, the Hidden Dreams update added a few extra attacks to make the fight more unpredictable.
  • Broken Base:
    • The Hidden Dreams update brought up debates about whether it was too small a content pack (only adding a new item, two new bosses, and a new Stag Station) or if it was alright, seeing as larger ones were still on the way.
    • The Godmaster expansion has been similarly divisive. Is it little more than a glorified Boss Rush, or is it meaningful for its other additions and how said Boss Rush ties into the main story? The extremely high difficulty and repetitiveness of Godmaster has similarly split the fanbase: see Scrappy Mechanic below.
    • In a broader sense, the focus on new content in the form of new Bonus Bosses is contentious. While a certain hardcore component of the fanbase likes the added challenge, others feel that adding new bosses only appeals to the hardcore fans, since many or even most players will be put off by the intense difficulty of some of these challenges, especially the Godmaster content.
  • Complete Monster: The Radiance is the cause of all suffering within Hallownest. She created a race of highly intelligent moths to build an empire; however, she did this with the cost of keeping them stuck in a Hive Mind. When the Pale King appeared, he led them away from her and gave people freedom. Out of jealousy and contempt for the King, the Radiance ended up creating the Infection as a side effect of her anger. When she saw the suffering the plague had caused, turning the denizens of Hallownest into mindless, zombie-like beings in constant agony, she did not care and influenced it further, eventually deteriorating the mind of the vessel she was trapped in, turning him into a Tragic Monster. Driven by utter envy and loathing for the Pale King, the Radiance completely destroyed a thriving kingdom simply because she was no longer in control.
  • Creepy Cute: A lot of the characters and enemies. They are skull-headed, empty-eyed, bug-like creatures, yet they are just so damn adorable.
  • Demonic Spiders:
    • There are enemies with explosive attacks that deal 2 damage. Their attacks are usually very fast and have some way of tracking your position.
    • Soul Twisters frequently teleport around to either avoid or pursue you. And when they're not, they're still floating out of your range anyway. They're protected by an orbiting projectile and can fire a homing one when you're close, so taking them on is nearly guaranteed to be a damage race if you're out of MP for your own bullets. Even after opening all the shortcuts at Soul Sanctum, you'll still have to face one of them on your way to the Soul Master.
    • The Giant Hoppers aren't particularly prepossessing — but they are big, fast, and relentless, and they have a ludicrous amount of Hit Points.
    • Crystal Hunters are flying enemies that fire a crystaline projectile, which sprouts a damaging crystal upon impact with any surface. Although the crystals can be destroyed with a single nail hit, they persist for a while otherwise. Crystal Hunters are often found above lethal pits where you typically have to rely on small platforms to stand on. Woe is you if the hunter hits and covers these platforms with crystals, which will happen frequently. To make matters worse, they like to hover out of reach, aren't always alone and providing you do not have damage boosting charms equipped, can survive at least one hit from any nail.
    • Primal Aspids fly, follow you relentlessly throughout the room, frequently gang up on you, and are encountered most often in vertical rooms where you'll inadvertently climb straight up into their ambush. In a game focused on melee combat, they have a long-range spread-shot projectile that's just unpredictable enough that you can easily dodge into it.
    • Stalking Devouts are large, elongated spiders that only take damage from the front in the split-second before they attack. They're often found blocking corridors that you need to progress in Deepnest, of all places, deal 2 damage per hit, and are very fast for their size. The trick is to approach them from behind or get them into a larger room where you can bounce repeatedly on their head.
    • Furious Vengeflies are one of the most aggressive enemies in the game, quickly charging you on sight, with your base attacks doing so little pushback against it that it's likely to reach you before you can kill it. And if that wasn't bad enough, its corpse explodes for 2 damage.
    • While Great Husk Sentries can easily be cheesed to death by baiting them into attacking and then jumping up and hitting them with aerial down attacks (or just dashing behind them and hitting them from the rear,) until you figure that out they're nigh-unstoppable juggernauts that leave you in a world of hurt with every hit until you learn their patterns, and even if you do figure them out, any and every little mistake is sorely punished.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • A lot of people really like Quirrel.
    • The Dung Defender is generally acknowledged as one of the most amusing bosses in the game because of how fun he is, providing a fair and entertaining fight and being a very welcome break from the bleakness. It helps that whoever voiced him was clearly having a blast.
    • Myla is very popular, even though she never leaves her starting location and adds little to the game's story besides being an adorable miner.Probably because her transition from a happy, cute character to an insane zombie is considered one of the best examples of just how tragic the game can be.
    • Grimm. His design, personality, boss music and mysterious motivations quickly gained him a large following.
    • The Hollow Knight, due to its sympathetic backstory.
  • Epileptic Trees: Since most of the lore are presented in text-based Story Breadcrumbs, it is rife with theories and wild mass-guessing within the community. Some of the quick theories ask whether Zote is a failed Knight, if Hornet is made out of Void, if the playable Knight is an Alternate Self of the Pale King, etc...
    • Theories regarding Zote can be rather blown out of proportion and Played for Laughs, such as the idea that he could be the very first Vessel, but was so noisy that the Pale King decided to ditch him and made sure that the next Vessels in line won't have the ability to talk, something that applies to the current, playable Knight.
    • Thankfully, there are players like mossbag who make in-depth lore discussions and explanations to clarify, debunk and fix all these theories.
  • Evil Is Cool
    • The Radiance is awe-inspiringly giant and majestic, with brilliant white plumage and a regal bearing accentuated by her sharp outline. She also wields terrifying power, firing massive light beams, homing orbs, and conjuring golden-white spears and arrows out of thin air. It's not difficult to envison her as the former god-queen of the entire world, and is still perfectly capable of ruling it again.
    • Though it's debatable as to whether or not he's truly "evil", Grimm's resemblance to vampires and more obscure bugs, wide variety of powers (including shooting fireballs, curling himself into a spear-like shape to dive, teleportation, and a wicked uppercut), amazing music, and mysterious-yet-respectful demeanor has cemented him as one of the most popular characters in the game.
  • Foe Yay Shipping: One of the popular ships with the Player Character is The Knight shipped with Hornet. Later in the game, they become allies, although since The Knight and Hornet might be considered siblings it may actually be Incest Yay Shipping.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • With Hyper Light Drifter. Both are completely different games but their respective lores have a main similarity: The player characters, the Drifter and the Knight, have a goal of defeating a character who is the cause of an illness or plague, Judgement and the Radiance. Their stories end with some manner of self-sacrifice. Both player characters never speak as well.
    • This is also the case with Dead Cells. Both are 2D platformers known for their difficulty and have the similar premise of a ruined kingdom besieged by a horrible plague.
  • Game-Breaker: Kingsoul + Glowing Womb = Technically infinite hatchlings that can do all the fighting for you even if you idle in battle. All of these for 7 Charm slots.
  • Game-Breaking Bug:
    • At launch, the game was reported to run incredibly poorly for a lot of people, with regular frame drops, stutters, and failure to respond to input at critical moments. Even people with good hardware could find the game gasping from things as simple as taking damage or hitting enemies.
    • Another launch issue was that GOG buyers were given an outdated version, 1.0.0.5, in which the Colosseum of Fools fails to grant the rewards for each challenge.
    • It's possible for the Shade to glitch up and become completely invincible. There goes all your hard-earned cash.
    • The arena for Soul Tyrant has spikes on the roof to the right. If you get knocked on them, the game respawns you outside the arena. Thankfully, you can still return to the fight by bouncing off the spikes from the right side of the building.
    • If you take damage while one of the menus is up, some of its graphics can get stuck on the screen, even between areas. If this happens, do not open the menu again, because it will break completely and prevent you from exiting it. This will force you to close the game with Alt+F4.
    • The Switch version generally holds up well, but some parts of the game with lots of moving parts (such as Crystal Peak or the White Palace) can still run very poorly without hardware resets, especially in handheld mode.
      • The latest update, which brings the game up to the standards of the Void Heart Edition released for the PS4/Xbox One, improves this significantly.
  • Goddamned Bats:
    • The Shade enemy that pops out of your body upon death is pretty easy to beat, but it can be something of a distraction depending on where it spawns. It could come up in the middle of an obstacle course, appear on the wrong side of a wall you died close to, or even right on an active mini-boss room! The thing also gets stronger as you collect upgrades through the game.
    • Several flying enemies are coded to keep hovering just far enough from your slashes.
    • Dirtcarvers seem to designed with this trope in mind. They're everywhere in the Deepnest, are surprisingly bulky, can climb up walls, and can even respawn.
    • Belflys look like bats, but emit an extremely high pitched shriek when disturbed, right before diving into you and exploding for 2 masks of damage. The best part? If you try to hit them, they will still explode and you still take 2 masks to the face.
      • The Colosseum has sections of nothing but bats being dropped on you,often when fighting something else. The explosion lingers for a few seconds, and space can get so tight there that this matters (and, of course, deal 2 mask damage).
  • Goddamned Boss: The Collector. While its attack patterns are reasonably simplistic, it's also rather fast, doesn't stay still, and often leaps into the ceiling, making getting consistent damage on it a hassle. The fact that it's a Flunky Boss doesn't help; while the enemies it summons can be easily dispatched provided the player has enough nail upgrades, they're also very good at dealing unexpected damage if not taken out immediately (especially the balders, who are both the fastest of the summoned enemies and whose color scheme blends into the background of the arena). As the cherry on top, its introduction is especially long.
  • Good Bad Bugs:
    • If your Shade attempts to use a stomp attack and lands on swimmable water, it stays stuck on that action.
    • If you're lucky, you might suddenly become invincible while fighting certain bosses (this can happen against Flukemarm and Broken Vessel). This glitch disables all actions other than moving around and doing normal attacks. And if it happens at zero HP, you will die when you leave the room, but progress won't be lost.
      • The Colosseum of Fools is among the places this glitch may happen for no apparent reason, and at first it seems like a good thing to cheat out a victory from the place where the game's irritating performance issues tend to bare themselves the most. However, once any of the three challenges ends, you find out even picking up items is disabled by the glitch. You must pick up the reward to leave, so you're forced to quit the game.
  • Ho Yay: Nailmaster Sheo with The Nailsmith.
  • Memetic Loser:
    • Players often make fun of the Pale King, who apparently has an obssession with sawblades (the dream vision of White Palace is full of them, among other traps, possibly to illustrate his paranoia) and ended up botching his own plan to seal away Radiance by treating the Hollow Knight like a son out of guilt for all the dark experiments and sacrifices he had performed in the process. The player is even required to usurp the King by knocking his corpse out of his throne.
    • Zote also qualifies, for reasons involving the fact that... well, he's Zote.
  • Memetic Mutation: Despite the somewhat grim atmosphere, the game's got plenty of memes going strong in the fandom.
  • Moe: Several characters, including the player character and the grubs.
  • Moment of Awesome:
    • CHALLENGE. Both times.
    • The Knight getting their own statue in the Hall of Gods.
      Inscription: Not bug, nor beast, nor god.
  • Most Annoying Sound:
    • The Shrumal Warriors make an annoying nasal "Wah!" sound whenever they spot you, and then continue to babble as they attack you.
    • The sound of sawblades in a certain incredibly difficult area.
    • As if the fights against Hornet weren't infuriating enough, you have to listen to her yelling the entire time. "SHAH! IDINA! GARAMA!"
    • The Moss Prophet babbles constantly in an incredibly nasal and annoying voice. Almost makes you glad when she is overcome by the infection and die. It doesn't help that some of her Simlish sounds like "Go on, go on," making her sound like Mrs. Doyle.
    • Gorb sounds like he's doing a very poor Zoidberg impression as you fight him.
    • If you fail the Grey Mourner's quest, she will scream loudly "WAAIII?!" for taking damage and destroying her one-of-a-kind flower, before giving you another one. It doesn't help that her text dialogue also writes it out, every time you fail. And you will fail, probably several times.
    • And, of course, anything related to flukes.
    • When you approach Salubra's hut, you can hear her incessantly laughing. After a while, it starts to grate on one's nerves to the point where they just want to buy her charms and leave as soon as possible.
  • Most Wonderful Sound:
    • Myla singing to herself in the mines. Enjoy it while it lasts.
    • Marissa's song in the Pleasure House. Hope you didn't Dream Nail her.
    • Cornifer's humming, which means you're close to picking up a map of the area.
    • The Dung Defender sounds so hammy during his battle that it's hard to not laugh along with him.
  • Narm: While the scene where the Hollow Knight is stabbed in the head by Hornet, bringing the Knight into the fight with Radiance is very poignant, many people have noticed that the shout Hornet makes during it sounds like "get good", bringing to mind less the indicator to hit it with the Dream Nail and more a meme from Dark Souls.
  • Narm Charm: The Infected Balloon enemy resembles a bright orange Bedsheet Ghost with a goofy expression. However, given where it spawns and the noise it makes while it flies, it still manages to be decidedly unsettling.
  • Nightmare Retardant:
    • Corpse Creepers have a creepy design, spawn in the Deepnest, meaning you can hear their skittering long before you can actually see them, and they sometimes have a habit of dropping down on you from above. They also sound like they're furiously tapdancing while they move, which can take the edge off.
    • The Broken Vessel is likely to be the first real sign of just what you're up against, in all of its visceral glory. However, the blob on its head bears a strong resemblance to an afro.
  • Player Punch:
    • The singing girl you meet early in the Crystal Peak mines goes insane later on and begins attacking you. While still singing in her mind. What really stings is that even though you can help Sly and Bretta from getting zombified no matter how long you take, you can't do anything for Myla.
    • There are several points in the game where someone talks fondly about a friend or relative to you, but ironically you already know or will find that unknowingly to them those people are actually dead. Several spells you learn are from dead relatives of the Snail Shaman, for example, and you can't even give the bad news because the protagonist can't talk.
    • At the Royal Waterways, a guy named Tuk sells you Rancid Eggs for cheap. That would be game-breakingly handy in Steel Soul mode, in which you can sell those for Geo instead of moving your shade to you, right? Well, nope. Tuk is already rooted by the plague when you find him in this mode, having never found whoever he was looking for. He does have one Rancid Egg for you, though.
    • Cloth dies at the end of the Traitor Lord fight, which is scripted to end in a Mutual Kill between the two. You then get to see her ghost thanking you for the help and saying she's going to meet a certain person later, seemingly oblivious to her own death like other ghosts you'd seen by then. However, if you indirectly save Cloth by fighting the Traitor Lord before meeting her, you find this Nola she wants to reunite with is dead and that she really is deliberately looking to die in combat.
    • You get rewarded for saving all those Grubs, but only after the horrible realization that their own father has eaten them. You can even hear them wiggling inside him and suddenly realize that's what the Collector was trying to prevent. Bizarrely, though, you get a charm that suggests this is part of their life cycle. Players have interpreted it as the Grubfather acting like a cocoon for the babies, who'll merge into a single butterfly entity and burst out of him.
    • During your travels, you meet a warrior named Tiso who's looking for a good fight at the Colosseum of Fools. He looks like he will be a boss you'll get to fight in there, but that time never comes. After meeting him in the Colosseum's rest room, you never see him again... until you happen to find his corpse lying on some cliff below. What a damn shame.
    • Subverted with Zote, who is a NPC who you can choose to rescue over the course of the game, even though he remains an ungrateful insufferable jerkass through and through. After he's defeated in the Colosseum as a Bonus Boss, however, he steals your fangirl in Dirtmouth as revenge.
  • Scrappy Mechanic:
    • Similar to La-Mulana, keeping a map is oddly complicated when compared to other 2D metroidvanias. First, you must find where Cornifer is sitting on each area and buy maps from him. Then you see the maps don't update as you go along until you sit on some checkpoint bench so the Knight can write it down. The icon that shows your current location also doesn't appear by default. It is one of the charms that you must buy and equip.
    • The downward slash has a noticeable delay to it and has to have its strikes timed when used repeatedly, making the Shovel Knight-esque platforming sections, as well as certain fights, much more frustrating.
    • If you die at any point during any of the Boss Rushes introduced in Godmaster, you have to start over from the very beginning. For the first three and arguably the fourth, this is irritating but recoverable, but the final one, the Pantheon of Hallownest, requires you to defeat every single boss in the game on a higher difficulty level before fighting two new bosses that are That One Boss in their own right, in one sitting and with no checkpoints (besides the occasional Hot Spring and Bench, which don't actually save your game).
    • If you die with a lot of Geo on hand, you can either go back to kill your Shade yourself or use Confessor Jiji's help, but if you die again on your way to the Shade or Dirtmouth, your new Shade will overwrite the previous one. In other words, you can kiss all of your hard-earned money goodbye. Thankfully, there's a bank where you can deposit your money safely! Unfortunately, if you deposit more than a certain amount there, the owner will run off with all your money. If you track her down, you can get it back, plus some, but you obviously won't have access to a bank anymore.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: While the Delicate Flower Delivery to the Queen's Gardens may serve as That One Sidequest where players are recommended to take the safest routes possible to avoid getting damage, there are those who even try to up the difficulty by traversing through the most hazardous routes in the game before going to the Queen's Gardens. Take this player for example, who brought the flower all the way to the Abyss, the Path of Pain and Deepnest, all without taking damage! Not impressed yet? He doesn't even open the map nor have the Wayward Compass equipped!
  • Squick:
    • Grimm refers to the Grimmchild he gives to the Knight as "our child" and says that it matures due to their "passionate dance". Even more so, considering that he refers to the Knight as a child as well.
    • Flukemarm's statue in Godhome refers to her as the "Alluring god of motherhood". Yes, apparently the Godseeker thinks of a gigantic, wriggling, constantly babbling maggot-like thing as alluring.
  • That One Boss:
    • Soul Master is effectively a mashup of the worst from Soul Twister and Soul Soldier enemies. He's vulnerable when firing a homing projectile at ground level, but will sometimes throw you off by charging ahead instead. He can also feint a ground pound into another ground pound that tends to be unavoidable. He'll teleport away unless hit during his own attacks and takes quite a beating, only going down after getting stunned three times. (This assumes you're fighting him when the game intends, after just one nail upgrade.) What's worse is that he's got a second form on top of that. One easier than the first, but that can still squeeze a couple losses from you.
      • To elaborate, he has a fake death animation and leaves behind a fake powerup that will even trigger the usual powerup collected animation, before he comes out of nowhere and rapidly spams his ground pound at you. It's a simple matter to dash to the side if you know it's coming, but that first time will definitely leave you in shock long enough to die. It doesn't help that the music, previously a bombastic and ominous organ piece, is replaced entirely with a Scare Chord.
    • The Flukemarm is big, stationary, and has only one attack: spawning flying flukes to attack. Why is it a difficult fight? Because those flukes are excessively fast and unpredictable, the platforms are placed in such a way that you always need to jump to damage the Flukemarm (even with reach upgrades), if you happen to be knocked into the water you'll be a sitting duck until you get out, and the spawn rate of the flukes is obscenely fast.
    • All of the bosses that can be rematched upon acquiring the Dream Nail have their difficulty increased tremendously. Failed Champion deals 2 points of damage on every direct hit, while its projectile attacks become bigger and harder to avoid. Soul Tyrant utilizes Teleport Spam to an insane degree, giving you very few chances to hit him while trying to avoid his projectiles. Finally, Lost Kin has its aggression increased tenfold while also spawning flying mobs that harass the player.
    • On the subject of Dream Nail bosses. We also have Grey Prince Zote. While he doesn't offer any rewards outside essence for beating him once, he is necessary for players wishing to see closure to Breta's story arc. First off, he is insanely unpredicable and fast, with moves such as running through the arena flailing his nail and leaping into the air and sending huge shockwaves at the player. He also spits out mooks (including exploding ones that scaled in damage with Grey Prince Zote himself) that can overwhelm the player if not taken care of. And to top it all off, every time you fight him he grows stronger. By the 10th time you fight him, he is second only to The Radiance in terms of health and deals eight masks worth of damage, meaning any player hit by him without the maximum amount of mask shards or any health boosting charms will be killed instantly.
    • Hornet, dear Lord. For starters, even though the game is nonlinear, the game's progression and the fact that she guards the important dash ability means that she'll most likely be the second boss that the player faces, at a point where they probably have few charms or upgrades. As for the fight itself, Hornet is very fast and very unpredictable, which makes her really hard to hit, avoid, or heal against. Also, she can easily corner the player and takes a lot of hits before being defeated. Her rematch, despite the player likely being much more powerful at that point, is just as bad, as she gains the ability to deflect attacks and place barbed obstacles in the arena, while being just as fast and unpredictable.
    • The Radiance has an absolutely massive amount of health, very wide variety of Bullet Hell-style attacks, and deals 2 damage with every blow (besides falling off the platform). Given that it's the True Final Boss in an already difficult game, this could be justified.
    • On Radiant Mode in the Godmaster expansion, where a single hit from any source (including falling or spikes) is instantly fatal, Markoth, The Collector, and Uumuu are made massively more difficult due to their Bullet Hell, Flunky Boss, and Throw the Mook at Them battles, respectively.
      • The outcry against these three bosses in particular grew to the point that they were nerfed several weeks after release. Markoth's health was lowered (requiring the player to endure the Bullet Hell for a shorter period of time), The Collector's minions had their hit points reduced (making it possible to one-shot them with certain Charms) and Uumuu received many changes to its movement speed, vulnerability windows and health to make it easier.
  • That One Level:
    • The White Palace gives a sudden detour into pseudo-Platform Hell, which is a positive shock for those who've been enjoying the slow-paced exploration and highly tactical boss fights of the entire rest of the game. By the standards of that genre, it's comparatively forgiving, and if you equip the Hiveblood you have unlimited tries, but it's out of place and many players found it distinctly unwelcome. Technically it's optional, but it's required for the True Ending, so...
    • The Soul Sanctum, thanks to the Soul Twisters that are hard to hit, shoot homing projectiles, and will follow you everywhere if you don't deal with them. Topping it off is the Soul Master, who will make you go through the entire level again if you die, as the nearest bench is outside the area. It says something when simply entering the area is a pain in the ass, due to the Soul Twister at the entrance.
    • Crystal Peak. Depending on which part of it you're in, you are either navigating through laser shooters that are invincible to the nail, meaning you have no way to recover Soul; or going through a gauntlet of crushers, with the same issue; or beset by Crystal Hunters, for which see their entry under Demonic Spiders. And you can't even use the bench in this area until you've defeated the boss sitting on it.
    • Deepnest is one of the largest areas in the game. This wouldn't normally be a problem, as the City of Tears and Crystal Peak are of comparable size, but unlike these areas, Deepnest has very few shortcuts, a single Stagway in a fairly inconvenient location, an abundance of confusing, extremely dark corridors, frequent ambushes from Goddamned Bats, and Stalking Devouts. The sheer length may be the reason why the Dreamer located here is not guarded by a boss, the only area boss is optional, and a tramway connects it to the Ancient Basin.
    • The Path of Pain, an optional area added in the Grimm Troupe campaign, is hidden behind a breakable wall in the previously mentioned White Palace, and turns the Platform Hell up to eleven. It features several long-winded platforming sequences set over spike pits and forces you to master every little trick in the book, including bouncing on sawblades, a mechanic that not even the White Palace thrust upon you. And to really rub salt into the wound, by the end of the death course, with no preparation whatsoever, you drop smack into not a single but dual boss battle. If you get killed, it's aaaaaall the way back to the bench at the beginning with you. And what do you get for completing the thing? A journal entry and a bit of vague lore. Nope, no upgrade, no charm, not even an achievement.
    • Fog Canyon is packed to the gills with explosive enemies and deathtraps, which deal two masks of damage each and can easily cause chain reactions that can kill you in seconds.
    • Take all of the bosses in the That One Boss list and put them back-to-back, and you'll have the Pantheon of Hallownest, an utterly soul-crushing Boss Rush against every single boss in the game, including the more powerful dream versions of certain bosses (like Grimm and Nightmare King Grimm) and the unique DLC bosses like the Pure Vessel. All of this needs to be done in one go, as dying sends you right back to the beginning. And if you want to officially beat the Godmaster DLC, the Pantheon isn't optional, as clearing it is necessarily to get the unique "Embrace the Void" and "Delicate Flower" endings.
  • That One Sidequest:
    • Helping the Grey Mourner requires you to take the Delicate Flower she gives you aaaall the way to a grave in Queen's Gardens at the opposite end of the map, without taking damage. Oh, and you can't use the stagways. Nor the dreamgate. The game also sets the nearby bench as your respawn point to keep you from cheating with the quit-and-resume option. Thankfully, the flower isn't as unique as she claims and you can come back to pick another. Clearing your planned route of all Demonic Spiders before receiving the flower works wonders, too. But then you have to traverse that route all the way back to the Mourner instead of, say, teleport back through a placed dreamgate there, or the Demonic Spiders will respawn. And to really rub salt in the wound, the final stretch before the grave is a narrow, winding passage full of thorns you have to avoid by precision jumping and dashing.
    • There's a mask shard in the room below the Forgotten Crossroads hot springs that is blocked by a maze of tunneling worms. Overall, not that hard. Assuming you have the mantis claw to climb up into the tunnel leading to it. If you don't, and you try to get it before then, you're in for a world of hurt. Because without the mantis claw, the only way to get up there is by downslash-jumping off of a single solitary vengefly in the room. And the problem is that it's on the opposite side of the room, and to jump off of it into the tunnel you have to safely lure its suicidal ass past three consecutive tunnel worms without it touching any of them even once. It may very well take less time to just do the fungal wastes.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character:
    • As one of the various pieces of planned content that never came to be, Tiso's role in the game doesn't have the "intense conclusion" the Kickstarter campaign claimed it would've. He's killed offscreen after challenging the Colosseum.
      • Since some of Godmaster is dedicated to re-implementing content that was scrapped for the base game, such as the Nailmasters and Nailsage being bosses, plus an alternate winged version of Nosk, there was some hope that Tiso would finally get a fair shake. Nope, he appears for about three seconds in the Pantheon of Hallownest and gets immediately squashed by the Brooding Mawlek.
  • Viewer Gender Confusion:
    • Cloth's gender is referred to as female in the game's manual (which is absent in normal digital distribution), male in the original character concept description on the game's Kickstarter page, and not at all in the game itself. As with most characters, telling their gender by looks alone is impossible, and Cloth's voice could plausibly go either way, so there's no consensus in how fans refer to the character.
    • According to the Word of God, The Radiance is female, but this is not mentioned in the game itself, and many people still refer to her as "him" or "it".
    • The Mantis Lords have gotten their fair share of this due to their mostly androgynous appearance and masculine title; the only real way to know is to look at the Hunter's Journal entry for the Traitor Lord, which calls them "sisters", or to fight them in the Godhome, where their rematch against all three of them is called "Sisters of Battle".
      • Though notably, the Traitor Lord is explicitly male in his own Journal entry.
  • Ugly Cute:
    • Bretta. A lot of the enemies also count.
    • Booflies in particular are comically fat with equally comically small wings and look oddly adorable. It helps that, aside from the usual collision damage, they're completely passive and harmless.
  • What Do You Mean, It's Not for Kids?: A lot of the character designs (especially the protagonist) are very cute and cartoony. The game also achieves Dark Souls levels of sheer bleakness and Nightmare Fuel, and some stages are covered in dead bodies. Despite this (and perhaps because all of the characters are anthropomorphic bug people) the game somehow managed to get an E-10 rating.
  • The Woobie: The Final Boss, the eponymous Hollow Knight. Like the other Vessels it was created strictly to be an emotionless being meant to contain Hallownest's plague, but was loved just enough by the Pale King that it lacked the necessary emptiness to keep it from spreading. By the time the final battle comes, the Knight is as broken and insane as everybody else, but periodically regains its sanity long enough to start stabbing itself with its own nail to help the player end the madness.
  • Woobie Species: The Vessels have no minds of their own and are seen as disposable tools by their creator, the King. Any of them that didn't fit his expectations to seal away the plague were thrown into the Abyss. Ouch.

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