Shovel Knight and Nailing Nostalgia | Game Maker's Toolkit


Some games are all about nostalgia – a reminder of how games used to be. No game nails this sensation quite like Shovel Knight, which expertly picks and chooses the right bits to emulate from old games. Here’s how Yacht Club Games pulled it off.

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Recommended reading / viewing:

Gamasutra: “Breaking the NES for Shovel Knight” “NES Graphics – Part 3”

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance):

Shatterhand (Natsume, 1991)
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night (Inti Creates, 2019)
Yooka-Laylee (Playtonic Games, 2017)
Thimbleweed Park (Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, 2017)
Shovel Knight (Yacht Club Games, 2014)
Mega Man (Capcom, 1987)
Ninja Gaiden (Tecmo, 1988)
DuckTales (Capcom, 1989)
Castlevania (Konami, 1986)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (Nintendo, 1988)
Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (Nintendo, 1987)
Blaster Master (Sunsoft, 1988)
The Legend of Zelda (Nintendo, 1986)
Final Fantasy (Square, 1987)
Mega Man 2 (Capcom, 1988)
Metal Storm (Tamtex, 1991)
Mega Man 3 (Capcom, 1990)
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo, 1985)
Ghosts ‘n Goblins (Capcom, 1985)
Rush’n Attack (Konami, 1985)
Adventure Island 3 (Now Production, 1992)
Double Dragon (Technōs Japan, 1987)
Batman: Return of the Joker (Sunsoft, 1991)
Sword Master (Athena, 1990)
Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (Konami, 1989)
Mighty Gunvolt (Inti Creates, 2014)
Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine, 2016)
Mighty No. 9 (Comcept, 2016)
Mega Man 8 (Capcom, 1996)
Shantae and the Pirate’s Curse (WayForward, 2014)

Music used in this episode:

Intro (Shatterhand)
Strike the Earth! (Shovel Knight, Jake Kaufman)
An Underlying Problem (Shovel Knight, Jake Kaufman)
In the Halls of the Usurper (Shovel Knight, Jake Kaufman)
High Above the Land (Shovel Knight, Jake Kaufman)
No Weapons Here (Shovel Knight, Jake Kaufman)
The Starlit Wilds (Shovel Knight, Jake Kaufman)

Clip credits

AZar027 – “Mega Man 8 – Terrible Voice Acting”


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  1. One particularly good example of a "nostalgic" modern game is A Hat in Time. I remember first hearing the title screen music and, even though I never played the game before in my life, felt nostalgia. I think a lot of it came from playing Super Mario Galaxy as a kid.

  2. The messenger is the most nostalgic game I’ve found. It definitely needs more attention because everyone I’ve talked to only found it because it was free on epic games for a week

  3. Imo the corpse running mechanic really doesnt combine well with a platforming game. Oh you fell into a bottomless pit? Sorry, I guess thats it for your 5000 gold.

  4. Shovel Knight has terrible character proportions though. NES devs ( for the most part ) were good at giving characters proper proportions. And it's literally why I'll never play the game. I like the NPCs designs better than the Knight or King characters. And if I don't like the character, I can't play the game. I do respect the level design, checkpoint feature and card game though. Those were nice touches.

  5. Coming back to this all these years later I think it was this video that convinced me to get Shovel Knight in the first place. at first I only wanted it so that I could see all these neat little references in action. But now, after all these years, and after completing all the campaigns I realized that this game is a whole lot more than just a bunch of references to older games. Yacht Club made this game their own and it definitely shows. So thank you, Yacht Club, for making this game. and thank you, GMT, for making this video because without it I probably would’ve never got to experience this masterpiece of a game.

  6. Mighty No. 9 is the original creator of Mega Man and he was basically recreating it cause he lots the rights to Mega Man

  7. I really liked how within the story of Shovel Knight it would have been totally possible that Shovel Knight was the one taken by the amulet and Shield Knight would have saved him. As far as the story is concerned it was a complete coincidence that Shield Knight ended up needing help. And since it was established that they were partners and that Shovel Knight missed Shield Knight I constantly felt like I was never at 100% strength, that Shovel Knight's full potential could only be reached in cooperation with Shield Knight – that he needed her. The final fight supported that feeling.

  8. 4:30 only morons have problems with progressive thinking, what people don't like is forced wokness down our throats. SK had nothing to do with that, you mentioned shield knight as an example but what I loved most was enchantress. Now that's badass female character right there!

  9. Maybe it's because I didn't play so much with the NES and more with the SNES but it always looked and felt like a 16 bit game to me rather than an 8 bit one. With just how fluid and fast everything is. What I associate with 8 bit games the most is being slow and stiff. Demanding a very high amount of patience and emotional control. It's far more so about remaining calm in stressful moments and being exceptionally accurate than having fast reflexes and quick whits. In a 16 bit game you need to let your brain turn off and get in sync with the game. While with 8 bit game you need to keep your thinking cap on since instincts will get you killed.

    Shovel knight plays very fluidly and allows you to be very acrobatic. I'm not saying I didn't enjoy Shovel Knight but for me it looks and feels like a 16 bit game through and through. Not to mention in the visuals it's incredibly obvious it's not 8 bit with how fluid, vibrant and detailed it is.

  10. A bit late but wth I'll say it anyway, Shovel Knight is to nostalgia gaming what The Princess Bride is to storytelling.

  11. A thing that Shovel Knight got wrong is that the pressure and strategy to beat a boss limits to "bouncing off top of boss", as you would do with a big Goomba. Even the Kirby mini bosses would get a free hit if spamming attacks too close.

  12. I dont think that going back to where you died could be said to be "ripped out of dark souls". For one, it's more or less a mechanic, rather than a stylistic decision. And also i can remember at least Diablo having the mechanic all those years ago. Im not sure that it's the very first instance of said mechanic, but it well predates dark souls. Not to say "err you got it wrong stupid", but just as an fyi cause it came straight to mind when you said that :p

  13. What nostalgia? I'm too young to have played those games when they came out and I still can recognize that they were harder and cooler back then. These graphics *helped you use your imagination*, it's an awesome concept!!


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