Tips for Playing Hollow Knight

Hollow Knight was one of my first reviews and I quickly developed a soft spot for it. It’s a challenging game with a lot of charm, beautiful visuals, and a soundtrack that I can (and have) listened to in my off time. As impressive as Hollow Knight is, its technical requirements are not demanding, which makes it the perfect game to play on the go. It took long enough, but it’s finally landed on a platform that almost feels designed for it, Nintendo Switch.

But as cute as it is, Hollow Knight is unkind to players and as someone who couldn’t put it down, I’m here to pass on a few tips that helped me discover all it’s mysteries.

Get your compass early and explore everything


The best friend you’ll ever have.

In an unusual approach, Hollow Knight‘s map omits the most basic of feature, a current location icon. Players could wander through the land of Hallownest without ever having a point of reference of where they are. It’s crucial that the first thing players purchase in Dirtmouth is the Wayward Compass charm. Once it’s equipped, Hollow Knight will be visible on the map. The trade off is that Wayward Compass takes up a valuable charm slot that would otherwise provide valuable health and combat boosts. Thankfully, it can be removed at a bench once you’re more familiar with a region.

Take notes

In addition to the Wayward Compass, players can spend Geo to purchase vendor and checkpoint markers for the map. But even with all of those tools at your disposal, key spots still aren’t highlighted on the map. Throughout your journey down into Hallownest, Hollow Knight will encounter all sorts of NPC characters with side quests to be uncovered. Completing these characters’ side quests will grant Hollow Knight invaluable rewards that can’t be located anywhere else in the world. If you lose track of an NPC, it could take a long time to relocate them. It’s a big world out there for a bug.

Backtrack often

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Not the circus you remember.

For being such a little guy, Hollow Knight’s actions will have a big impact on the world around him. That’s exactly why it’s worth making a habit of returning to otherwise completed areas. New abilities will open access to secret areas containing powerful charms, hidden bosses, and in some cases content since your last visit.

Team Cherry has done a fantastic job of providing regular DLC updates for free. So far they’ve released Hidden Dreams and The Grimm Troupe, with Gods and Glory on the horizon. Each update scatters new characters and charms across the land that will help save your life. But the only way to find them is to do some additional exploration.

Experiment with charms

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There’s so many, and I still have more to find.

Hollow Knight is loaded with different charms that will provide game altering bonuses. The right combination can give you a critical edge over a tough opponent, so don’t be afraid to experiment and find the right combination. The best part is how they stack and interact with one another.

[Minor spoilers ahead] A charm that players can find later in the game will turn their health bar into honeycombs that will regenerate on their own. Combine this with a Lifeblood (blue health) charm, and you’ll gain the benefits of an extended Lifeblood health bar that regenerates where Lifeblood is otherwise unrecoverable.

Be patient and observant. 


Not only is this arguably the best fight in the game, but the Mantis Lord theme is the best song in the game.

Patience is a virtue. But more importantly, it’s the only way you’ll finish Hollow Knight. The world around you is loaded with traps and your foes outnumber and overpower you throughout. No matter how weak the enemy, it will always be a threat to our little bug buddy. That’s why it’s so important to take your time traversing the world. Look at the floors and walls of your environment. Do they look fragile? Might be a spike trap. It stayed up when you gingerly touched it? Smash it, there’s probably treasure.

This goes doubly so for boss fights. Focus first on dodging attacks and learning patterns. Some bosses, like the Mantis Lords (pictured above), are all about coordination and speed. If you don’t take the time to learn their move sets and patterns, they’ll cut right through you. Taking the time to learn how each move is telegraphed is the first step to fending off Hollow Knight‘s tough bosses.

Never leave your Shade behind

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He’ll resist, but you need each other.

Dark Souls fans will be familiar with the death mechanic in Hollow KnightEach time players die, they’ll leave a Shade behind near the enemy that killed them and after respawning, they’ll have to make the long journey back to collect the Shade. In the case of Hollow Knight, players will lose all of their Geo and their Soul meter capacity will be cut by a third. To repair the meter and retrieve all Geo, they’ll have to trek back to their dropped Shade and strike it three times to defeat it.

That Soul meter will be the one thing that keeps you alive during boss fights, so leaving it fractured is never a wise decision. If you can’t remember exactly where your shade is, listen for the audio cues. A distinct ethereal song will start to play as you get near.



If you’re really stuck and can’t get back to your Shade without risking a horrible death, there’s a merchant in Dirtmouth that will summon your lost Shade right to you in exchange for a Rancid Egg. They aren’t easy to find, so be sure to use them sparingly.


Stuck on something I didn’t mention? Have some tips of your own? Lets us know in the comments! And remember, if these tips don’t help, at least you gave it your best.


Here’s a bug cookie.