There are video games that come along and defy expectations, in all regards. Be it the quality of game being far better than anticipated, or a truly unique idea blowing gamers away, some games achieve success where it was not predicted. One of these unlikely smash hits is the now infamous Cuphead.
The game was warmly acknowledged prior to release, but the hype did not seems to be as explosive as more mainstream AAA titles. In other words; the game was expected to be a moderate success, making a respectable profit, unlike the many amazing online blackjack games that generate both big income and big winners. Upon being released, however, Cuphead became an instant global smash hit. Let’s try and understand why.
Cuphead, at its core, is a 3D side scrolling shooter, taking it’s heritage from classic titles such as Contra. In the case of Cuphead, however, the focus is almost entirely on boss fights. That is to say; on extremely challenging boss fights. But none of this sounds especially unique or creative. What was it about the game that struck a chord with gamers?
The big drawing card of Cuphead was the truly inspired and unique art style. The game was designed to appear as close to a traditional 1930s cartoon as possible, so much so that those who saw the game were immediately blown away. The game did not simply imitate the style of old cartoons, it was painstakingly hand animated. This level of commitment to art style is not only unheard of in games, but is yet to be even imitated by other games, given the level of difficulty involved.
But just a great art style would not be enough on it’s own to sell the game. Cuphead also had extremely tightly designed side scrolling gameplay, with responsive controls, and cleverly designed levels and boss fights.
The player always feels in control, never feels cheated, and understands how much effort has gone into making the game fair but challenging. Of course, not all gamers will agree that Cuphead is fair, despite the fact that the game has been painstakingly designed to be exactly that.
The last drawing card of Cuphead is it’s extreme difficulty. A player can be defeated inside of a few seconds in Cuphead, in virtually every level in the game. Serious dedication and concentration is required to progress, and defeat bosses.
As with Dark Souls, the difficulty of the game became something of a viral legend, inspiring players to try the game for themselves. YouTubers jumped on the game, friends insisted that other friends try the game, and it was not long before Cuphead was headline news at every gaming website on the internet.
These elements combined, and Cuphead was a hit across the world. The developers were all but taken aback by the massive success, and will almost certainly be back with a similar, but better Cuphead follow up. The world waits with interest to see what form this future game may take.