Cave Story

Cave Story (Japanese: 洞窟物語, Hepburn: Dōkutsu Monogatari) is a 2004 Metroidvania[1] platform-adventure game for Microsoft Windows. It was developed over five years by Japanese developer Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya in his free time. Cave Story features 2D platform mechanics and is reminiscent of the games Amaya played in his youth, such as Metroid and Castlevania (both released in 1986). After its initial self-published release, the game slowly gained popularity on the internet. It received widespread critical acclaim for many polished aspects of its design, such as its compelling characters, setting, story, and gameplay. Cave Story is considered by many as the quintessential indie game because of its one-man development team and influence on the gaming world.[2][3]

Cave Story
A green-haired man approaches a throne upon which sits a demonic crown. A girl and a rectangular monster float above inside bubbles.
Opening cinematic of Cave Story, depicting (from left) Balrog, the Doctor, and Misery
Developer(s)Studio Pixel (PC)
Nicalis (Wii, DSi, Cave Story+)[a]
NIS America (Cave Story 3D)
Publisher(s)Studio Pixel (PC)
Nicalis (Wii, DSi, Cave Story+)
NIS America (Cave Story 3D)
Designer(s)Daisuke Amaya
Writer(s)Daisuke Amaya
Composer(s)Daisuke Amaya (all versions)
Yann van der Cruyssen
Nicklas Nygren (WiiWare, Plus)
Danny Baranowsky
Dustin Kulwicki (3D, Plus) Ridiculon (Switch)
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer (Switch)

Independent developer Nicalis worked with Amaya to port the game to WiiWare and DSiWare in 2010. An enhanced version, Cave Story+, was released for Steam in November 2011, and the original game was released for the Nintendo 3DS in October 2012 with added content. A 3D remake of the game, titled Cave Story 3D, was developed by Nicalis and published by NIS America for the Nintendo 3DS in November 2011. A port of Cave Story+ for the Nintendo Switch was released in June 2017.

The fast-paced gameplay of Cave Story revolves around Quote, a robot who wakes up suffering amnesia and who must explore and blast his way through cavernous areas in order to figure out his backstory and escape from the cave. The character gains access to new areas as he powers up his weapons by collecting triangular experience crystals and solves various platforming puzzles. Quote speaks to non-player characters scattered around the game world in order to learn more about the world and its inhabitants.


Cave Story's simple controls allow for movement, jumping, and shooting. The heads-up display in the top left displays an equipped weapon, weapon level, and current health. The yellow triangles represent experience points to be picked up.

The player controls the on-screen character directly using the keyboard or gamepad. The player progresses by navigating platform game puzzles and shooting enemies with the equipped weapon.[4] When the player collects multiple weapons, they may be toggled at any time with the press of a button. Defeating enemies sometimes yield yellow triangular objects, which give experience points to weapons when collected.[5] Weapons may be improved up to level three, but taking damage causes weapons to lose experience and levels.[6] Health and missile capacity upgrades are scattered throughout the game world. The player must interact with a variety of non-player characters and objects to complete the game.



Cave Story takes place within the cavernous interior of a floating island. The island is populated by Mimiga, a race of sentient, rabbit-like creatures. A particular species of red flower that grows in the island causes the normally peaceful Mimiga to fall into a violent frenzy when ingested.[7] The island also conceals an artifact called the Demon Crown, which has vast magical powers. An army of robot soldiers was sent to the floating island on a military expedition, seeking to harness the Demon Crown as a weapon for wars on the surface.[8] These robots slaughtered the Mimiga indiscriminately in their search for the crown, but were defeated when the Mimiga decided to eat the red flowers as a last resort.[9][10] Shortly before the game begins, Professor Booster, the Sakamoto family, and various assistants formed a scientific party to research the island, but they became stranded when their medical doctor managed to acquire the Crown; he then forced the expedition to search for the red flowers.[11]


The player character awakens in a cave with no memory of how he came to be there. He finds a village of Mimiga, who are being persecuted by the Doctor. The Doctor's servants Misery and Balrog are looking for Sue Sakamoto, a girl who had been transformed into a Mimiga. Not finding her, they mistakenly abduct another Mimiga named Toroko instead. The player finds Sue in the Egg Corridor, where she discovers the egg of a Sky Dragon, which could allow her to escape the floating island if hatched.[12] Sue attempts to rescue her brother Kazuma, but King, the leader of Mimiga Village, captures her and holds her responsible for Toroko's kidnapping. Sue tasks the player with retrieving Kazuma from Grasstown. After freeing him, they meet Professor Booster, who reveals that the Doctor plans to use the red flowers on Mimigas to create an army to take over the surface world. Booster sends the player to the Sand Zone to destroy the red flowers before the Doctor can find them. While there, the player meets Curly Brace, a female robot who also has no memories of her past, and Jenka, an old witch who is Misery's mother and guardian of the red flowers. Jenka calls the player character a "soldier from the surface", one of many who were sent to the island to slaughter the Mimiga.[9] Balrog manages to steal the key to the warehouse containing the red flowers from Jenka, who urges the player to stop them. Before the player can reach the warehouse, however, the Doctor force-feeds the captured Toroko a red flower and fatally injures King, leaving the player to fight the rabid Toroko, who ultimately dies.

Misery banishes the player to the Labyrinth deep inside the island as punishment for interfering with the Doctor's plans. Curly Brace has also been thrown into the Labyrinth and the two cooperate to escape. Balrog helps them to move the boulder blocking the exit, revealing his kind nature.[13] The pair find and defeat the Core, a magical creature whose power keeps the island afloat. However, the Doctor steps in to save it before the island collapses.[14] Depending on certain conditions, the player may rescue Curly Brace, who had sacrificed her air tank to save the player character. When he returns to Mimiga Village, he finds that the Doctor has captured the Mimiga. In the Egg Corridor, Kazuma offers the player a choice to escape the island with him using a Sky Dragon, leading to an alternate ending in which the Doctor conquers the surface world while Kazuma and the player hide in the mountains.[15] The player may instead choose to confront the Doctor and destroy the island's Core, which would return the Mimiga to normal. The player scales the outer wall of the island to reach the Plantation where the Doctor is using the Mimigas as slave laborers to grow red flowers. The Doctor's servants capture the player and place him in a jail cell with Sue. She is taken away before the player wakes up, but her letter reveals that the Doctor was a member of the research expedition that included Sue's family and Professor Booster, but he betrayed them once he found the Demon Crown. Sue directs the player to find her mother who may have a plan to stop the Doctor.[16]

If the player saved Curly Brace earlier, the player may find an item to restore her memories. She remembers that the player character's name is Quote, and that they were not the killer robots who slaughtered Mimigas in the past. Instead, they were sent to destroy the Demon Crown to prevent its power from falling into the wrong hands.[17] Quote finds Sue's mother, Momorin, who is building a rocket that will allow access to the top of the island where the Doctor resides. After helping her complete the rocket, Quote confronts Misery and the Doctor. The Doctor has purified the essence of the red flowers into a crystal, which allows him to survive even after Quote kills him.[18] The Doctor's spirit possesses the Core of the island, but Quote succeeds in destroying that as well, causing the island to begin falling to Earth. Should the player have saved Curly, restored her memories and acquired the Booster V2.0 from Professor Booster, they may proceed into the Bloodstained Sanctuary, a bonus stage where Curly can be found and rescued; it is also here that Ballos —creator of the Demon Crown and Jenka's younger brother — is imprisoned. A powerful wizard who went insane and destroyed his homeland after being tortured by a jealous king, Ballos was sealed deep within the island by his sister. At some point, his niece Misery forced him to create the Demon Crown, but she and Balrog became cursed to serve whoever possessed it.[19] Additionally, it is stated via narration that the Demon Crown will repair itself if it is destroyed, and will only truly lose its power if Ballos is killed, necessitating that Quote and Curly kill him.[20]

With the help of Curly Brace, Quote defeats Ballos and stops the source of the negative energy that was causing the island to fall, saving its inhabitants. Balrog saves the two before they are crushed by Ballos' collapsing prison; he had been sent by Misery as thanks for breaking her curse. Quote, Curly Brace, and Balrog leave the island to live out their days in peace.[21]


Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya programmed, illustrated, designed, wrote the story for, and composed the music to Cave Story over the course of five years.

Daisuke "Pixel" Amaya developed Cave Story in his free time over five years. He began the project when he was in college and continued working on it after getting a job as a software developer.[22] He started by writing the title screen music and programming rudimentary character movements.[23] The idea for the cave setting evolved spontaneously when he created a number of enclosed spaces.[24] Amaya admitted this lack of planning caused "problems down the line" because he did not have dedicated map editing and data management tools.[22] Amaya describes the game as having an "old-fashioned feel", reminiscent of the games he played as a child, like Metroid.[23][25] More importantly, this "retro" design choice allowed him to create a large amount of art on his own, which would have been impossible for a 3D game.[25]

At a Game Developers Conference project post-mortem, he emphasized the role of pragmatic design in shaping the game.[25] While designing the main character, "Quote", Amaya drew inspiration from the plumber Mario's iconic original appearance—a large, expressive face and a high contrast between his white skin and red shirt make him stand out from the dark cave backgrounds. Most other characters feature either light skin or white clothes for the same reason.[25] To make levels memorable, Amaya designed them around a single theme, such as "warmth" for the Egg Corridor, and "arid and oppressive" for the Sand Zone. Instead of a tutorial level, a concept Amaya dislikes, the first level of the game gives the player two paths, one of which is blocked off until retrieving an item from the other path. This setup, inspired by the opening of Metroid, "lets players feel like they've solved problems on their own" and persists throughout the game.[25] In beta versions of the game, all the enemies were shaped like bars of soap, a concept that evolved into the "Balrog" character.[23][25] There was also a "frog prince" character who could travel through water more easily. Elements of this beta were incorporated into the Nintendo 3DS version of the game.[25]

Versions and portsEdit


Cave Story has been ported to Linux, Haiku OS, AROS, MorphOS, AmigaOS 4 and Mac OS X operating systems, PlayStation Portable, Xbox, Dreamcast, Sega Genesis, GP2X, GP2X Wiz, and the TI graphing calculator.[26][27][28] An enhanced port, featuring updated character designs, remixed music and extra game modes, was developed by Nicalis and released on WiiWare on 22 March 2010 in North America and 10 December 2010 in Europe. Nicalis also ported the game to DSiWare on 29 November 2010 in North America and 22 November 2011 in Japan. Although it does not feature the enhanced graphics and sound or some of the extra modes from the Wii version, it does include the Sanctuary Attack mode.[29][30][31][32][33][34] There is also a free/libre SDL-based recreation of the original game engine, titled NXEngine,[35] made by programmer Caitlin Shaw, which allows for extended modification of the game, and the creation of ports for additional devices. The game was released for the Nintendo 3DS's Nintendo eShop service (separate from the retail 3DS game) in the United States on 4 October 2012 and in Europe on 1 May 2014.[36][37] This version includes the DSiWare version's Jukebox mode, as well as all the additional modes included in Cave Story+.[38]

Cave Story+Edit

An enhanced PC version titled Cave Story+ was released by Nicalis on the Steam service on 22 November 2011. Cave Story+ features an alternative script that differs from the original English translation. This version contains all the additional modes from the WiiWare version, a remastered soundtrack, as well as the option to toggle the style of graphics between the classic style and that of the WiiWare version and the music of the original game, the WiiWare port, or the 3DS update. It also features an exclusive 'Wind Fortress' level.[33] The game got an update that added an exclusive Machine Gun Challenge. The game was included as a bonus game in the Humble Indie Bundle 4 sale in December 2011,[39] Humble Bundle 7 in December 2012,[40] and was released on the Desura service in April 2012.[41] On 19 January 2017, Nicalis announced a port of Cave Story+ on the Nintendo Switch, which released on 20 June 2017.[42] This version is packaged with a full-color manual for the game and a Mini CD containing arrangements of the game's soundtrack made in FamiTracker, a chiptune music tracker based on the Famicom's synthesizers; a later update also added two-player cooperative gameplay. Additionally, GameStop purchases of the Nintendo Switch version include one of three keychains modeled after Quote, Curly, and Balrog.[43] [44]

Cave Story 3DEdit

Cave Story 3D is a 3D version of the game developed by Nicalis and published by NIS America as a retail title for the Nintendo 3DS. It was released on 8 November 2011 in North America, 11 November 2011 in Europe and 26 July 2012 in Japan. The game was built from scratch using 3D character models, featuring a dynamic camera system and another additional level, as well as a remixed soundtrack by Danny Baranowsky.[34][45][46] The Japanese version features crossover content from various NIS and other companies' franchises such as Crazy Climber, Ikki, and Dragon Slayer.[47] In order to devote more time to perfecting the title, Amaya quit his job as a software developer to become director of Cave Story 3D.[48] He remarked that the transition to 3D was difficult because it required the consideration of so many more details.[24]


Aggregate score
MetacriticWII: 89/100[49]
3DS (3D): 82/100[50]
PC (+): 82/100[51]
3DS: 93/100[52]
NS: 88/100[53]
Review scores
1Up.comWII: A[54]
3DS: B+[55]
DestructoidWII: 9.5/10[4]
3DS: 8.5/10[56]
EdgeWII: 8/10[57]
EurogamerWII: 9/10[58]
3DS: 8/10[59]
Famitsu3DS: 30/40[60]
Game InformerWII: 8.75/10[5]
3DS: 8.00/10[61]
IGNWII: 8.5/10[6]
3DS: 8.5/10[62]

The original Cave Story earned widespread critical acclaim. described it as "so massive that it rivals modern [Game Boy Advance] Castlevania and Metroid games in terms of scope and play time".[63] Matt Miller of Game Informer observed that Cave Story combines elements of Metroid, Ninja Gaiden, Mega Man, The Legend of Zelda, and Castlevania into an "engrossing, challenging, and quite lengthy" whole.[5] Inside Mac Games ascribed the game's popularity to its "polished feel, engaging storyline, and compelling artwork".[64] Electronic Gaming Monthly stated that "the burgeoning Western indie game scene owes a tremendous debt to Japanese pioneers like Studio Pixel, whose freeware hit Cave Story proved that with sufficient vision, skill, and passion, a single developer can still craft a deep, compelling action game".[65] Jonathan Holmes of Destructoid compared the game design to that of Shigeru Miyamoto in its ability to teach without tutorials, like at the beginning of Super Mario Bros.[4] In July 2006, Cave Story earned 1st place in Super PLAY's list of the 50 best freeware games of all time.[66] In July 2015, the game placed 14th on USgamer's The 15 Best Games Since 2000 list.[67]

The WiiWare version has received mostly positive reviews, with the central criticism being the 1200 Wii Point price tag (US$12, £10), after years of free play. Jeremy Parish of commended the graphical update, which "sacrifices none of [the game's] classic-influenced charm". He also remarked that the Classic Controller and Wii Remote are superior to the keyboard input of the PC original. On the issue of price, he explained that "the prospect of Amaya finally earning a little something for the hard work he invested in this masterpiece strikes me as satisfyingly poetic" and "absolutely worth your money".[54] John Teti of Eurogamer had similar sentiments, but also noted the technical issues with the remixed music, recommending the original soundtrack.[58] Edge compared the remake to The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition, satisfying both modern tastes with its graphical overhaul and old school fans with the option to switch to the original graphics.[57] Daemon Hatfield of IGN felt that Cave Story "belongs on a Nintendo system" and noted gameplay similarities to Blaster Master, in which damage reduces the power of weapons as well.[6] Cave Story was nominated for Game of the Year at the 2010 Nintendo Power Awards, as well as WiiWare Game of the Year.[68]

Criticism of Cave Story 3D echoed that of the WiiWare version. Many reviewers cautioned that the graphical update does not justify the $40 initial price point, especially with cheaper or free versions of the game available through download services.[56][69][70] Parish defended the release, deriving satisfaction from the game's availability as a physical cartridge.[71] Holmes praised the dynamic camera system and new graphics, comparing them to Disney films. He considers this release to be the "best version of the game, [but] not necessarily the definitive version".[56] Jane Douglas of GameSpot felt that the 3DS Circle Pad was a comfortable fit for the game's control scheme.[69] Audrey Drake of IGN noted that the 3D effect made it difficult to distinguish certain platforms between background and foreground, a complaint shared by Douglas.[70] Simon Parkin of the UK Official Nintendo Magazine was more critical, citing lack of detail in the 3D models and a too-dark color palette.[72] Japanese magazine Famitsu Weekly's four reviewers scored it 7, 7, 8, and 8 points out of 10 to a total of 30 out of 40 points, indicating average reviews.[60] This version was nominated for Best Adventure Game at the 2011 Nintendo Power Awards.[73]

As of July 2018, Cave Story+ has sold an estimated 590,104 digital units on Steam.[74]


Quote appears as a downloadable character in Bit.Trip Presents... Runner2: Future Legend of Rhythm Alien.[75] Curly Brace appears as a bonus playable character in 1001 Spikes.[76] Both Curly Brace and Quote appear as playable characters in the crossover fighting game Blade Strangers.[77][78] Quote, Curly Brace and Ballos are featured as playable characters in Nicalis' puzzle game Crystal Crisis.[79][80] Quote's hat is also featured in the game Terraria.


Cave Story is considered to be one of the most influential video games to be released between the mid-2000s and the mid-2010s. The game had an impact on the indie game industry, with its acclaim and success demonstrating that a one-person team could rival major studios.[81] It is also one of the most internationally successful Japanese indie (dōjin soft) games, and contributed to the resurgence of the Metroidvania genre.[82][83][84] The game's critical acclaim demonstrated the scope of what one person could do, and highlighted another take on the Metroidvania genre. It also vitalized the 2D platform game genre as a viable indie game format.[84][83]

The success of Cave Story paved the way for a large number of retro-themed 2D platformers that have appeared since the mid-2000s, including the likes of Braid (2008), Super Meat Boy (2010), Fez (2012) and Mega Man 11 (2018).[85] Jonathan Holmes of Destructoid called Cave Story an "important game", observing its influence on artistic indie games like Braid, as well as the continued relevance of 2D game design (cf. Capcom's Mega Man 9).[4]


  1. ^ Wii, DSi, 3DS versions of the game, as well Cave Story 3D and Cave Story+ were co-developed by Studio Pixel and Nicalis


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  21. ^ Studio Pixel (20 December 2004). Cave Story (PC). Studio Pixel. Balrog: You beat Ballos, right? When you did that, it lifted our curse. / ... / Curly Brace: Our mission is over, and now I just want to live out my days somewhere where I can relax and enjoy a beautiful view... / Balrog: ...would it be all right if I joined you there?
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