Hollow Knight Gameplay Basics

Featured image on the Hollow Knight gameplay basics guide and walkthrough.

Hollow Knight is an indie platformer created in the style of a Metroidvania. A loose definition of Metroidvania is simply that it borrows heavily from established conventions used in old Metroid games. In simpler terms it means the game is a tough platformer which is open world, but requires unlocking certain items and abilities in order to progress or access certain areas. There are some Hollow Knight gameplay basics you should know before you start.


In Hollow Knight players control the main character called The Knight. The Knight is armed with a nail, which is his primary weapon. The nail acts like a sword and can be swung in multiple directions. Combat consists largely of learning attack patterns and then exploiting them. Dodging is a huge part of the game so be prepared. Combat allows you to earn a lot of Geos which is the core currency in the game used for upgrades and other purchases.


Image showing the Wayward Compass upgrade in Hollow Knight.
Upgrading the Wayward Compass.

Being in the Metroid vein means there are a lot of upgrades to either find or buy. These upgrades take a few forms: Abilities and Charms. Abilities are always at your disposal. For example, Focus is the healing ability you get at the start of the game. Charms on the other hand can be swapped out at benches and give the player certain passive abilities. One Charm will give more I-Frames upon hit for example.

Overcharming – To ensure you do not equip every Charm in the game, there is a limited number of Charm slots available to the character. If you have a 3 slot Charm, but only two slots available, you can do what is called Overcharming. Overcharming is basically equipping more Charms then you have slots available which comes at the cost of taking double damage.


There is a map system in the game, but each area is covered in darkness until you explore it. Alternatively you can locate an NPC Cornifer in each area. Cornifer sells maps which reveal the location he is in when purchased. If you don’t find him, his wife, Iselda, sells the maps in her shop in Dirtmouth.

Alternatively there are a number of third-party maps you can use that show everything, including this one. They feature all items, locations, NPCs, and secrets you can find in the game. They are useful if you don’t like the game’s mapping system.

Benches (Checkpoints) & Fast Travel System

Image showing The Knight sitting at a bench in Hollow knight.
Sitting at a bench.

Like Dark Souls, there is a bonfire like system in Hollow Knight. Checkpoints in the game are benches the player sits at. Sitting at one of these checkpoints heals the player, creates a checkpoint and allows players to equip Charms.

Image showing the Last Stag, The Knight, and a Stagway Station in Hollow Knight.
Image showing the Last Stag in a Stagway Station.

The Fast Travel system in the game called Stagway stations. To access the Stagway Station system, players must find different stops throughout the kingdom. At these stops there is toll collection box. Pay the toll to unlock the station. An NPC called the Last Stag will then take you to other stations around the map. If the Last Stag is not in the station ring the bell and it will appear.

Death Penalty

When a player dies in Hollow Knight they lose Geo and their Soul meter breaks. Where they died a Shade appears. The player must return to the Shade and defeat it to retrieve their Geo and retore their Soul gauge. Alternatively you can use an in-game item called the Rancid Egg to make the retrieval process much simpler.

What to Do with Rancid Eggs

Rancids Eggs are given to Confessor Jiji in Dirtmouth (all the way right of the city behind the simple locked door), who will then call your Shade back to you no matter where you died. This means if you died in a particularly difficult spot to return to, it might be a better option to summon the shade. The video above from Hold To Reset’s YouTube channel shows the system at work.

This guide is part of our larger Hollow Knight guide and walkthrough. Return to the guide hub if you wish to see all guides we have for the game. Alternatively continue forward to our Dirtmouth guide if you want to start your playthrough.

These are the core Hollow Knight gameplay basics to know. Let me hear what else you think is relevant in the comments below.



A lifelong gamer who has devoted the last six years to the creation and development of "Hold To Reset," a website tailored by gamers for gamers. Yell your hot takes at him on X.

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