Not so much a power-curve as a power cliff—the addictive Vampire Survivors is named our Best Roguelike of the year. For more awards, head to our Game of the Year 2022 (opens in new tab) page.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: Vampire Survivors boldly answers the question: What if Castlevania was a slot machine that never stopped spitting out jackpots? In my first couple hours of playing, I completed 42 achievements and killed 100,000 enemies. Sometimes a good video game is just a series of flashing colors and numbers, you dig?
I don't know if we're ready for the endless horde of clones this game is going to inspire in 2023 (there are already a few, like Soulstone Survivors). We're watching a genre form in realtime, just as Slay the Spire did for deckbuilders after 2018.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: The funny thing about Vampire Survivors is that, despite the Castlevania-esque trappings, what it really is is an action-RPG crunched down to its barest essentials. It's like taking a Diablo 3 character from level 1 all the way to the farthest edge of the endgame in 20 minutes. All the progression, the choices, the screen-filling spell effects, the satisfaction of a build finally coming together, it's all there in the year's most unassuming package. And I say bring on the clones—Soulstone Survivors is a blast too.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: The rate at which you grow in power in Vampire Survivors gave me whiplash. But good whiplash! Like the kind you might get if you crash your car into a massive pile of candy floss. Sure, you're stunned, but you're also surrounded by deliciousness. That's what it feels like to go from throwing some knives at a few zombies to wiping out hordes of monsters with godlike powers that engulf the screen in a mere 15 minutes. It's a helluva buzz.
It really comes into its own on Steam Deck, though. It's wild that I spent more than £500 on this thing, only to play a hideous game I bought for a few quid, but here we are. I have no regrets. If you've got a Steam Deck, you need to get this game.
Mollie Taylor, News Writer: Vampire Survivors is a game I should've hated. None of it is my usual cup of tea, and yet I can't stop drinking. Throwing different combinations at the wall and seeing what sticks is super satisfying, and the game feeds you a whole host of upgrades and evolutions to keep you coming back to stages. I went from repeatedly failing the first stage at the 10-minute mark to annihilating entire armies in mere hours and it felt so good. The bitesized runs make it incredibly moreish, causing me to lose an entire weekend telling myself "just one more run."
Richard Stanton, Senior Editor: This is a game that asks very little of the player, but gives in abundance. Every playthrough is like a lightning tour through dozens of things that games do well, all balanced around the risk and reward of corralling the monsters, that somehow never fails to escalate into universe-shattering slowdown balls of doom. The Diablo comparison is fantastic because that's exactly the feeling here, a long levelling curve crammed into minutes, the constant little surprises it serves up as you begin exploring how the abilities interact and, frankly, the sheer joy in killing thousands of things without really doing very much other than whiffing of garlic.
Phil Savage, UK Editor-in-Chief: It should be trivially simple. It is, in fact, trivially simple. But that simplicity solves a lot of problems I typically have with roguelikes. I'm less invested in each individual run than I am in something like Dead Cells or Spelunky, and so the inevitable failure hurts less, and the barrier to re-entry is practically nothing. So I head back in, and this time I try a different combo of upgrades based on what the game hands me each level up. Maybe I'll take a chance on a few I'd previously dismissed as rubbish, because I'm not pinning my hopes on this run finally being the one. No, I'm just here for a good time—to see the numbers get bigger. And while I enjoy that mindless pleasure, I can't help but learn in the process. That upgrade is actually very good when levelled, and especially when paired with this other, complementary skill.
I don't think it's a better game than the aforementioned Dead Cells or Spelunky—roguelikes I love despite the pain they've put me through. But it is a different take on the genre, and I'm glad it exists as a more low-stakes alternative. Unlike Robin, though, I'm less excited about the inevitability of this becoming a new subgenre. Vampire Survivors fills a niche, but I don't need to see it iterated upon ad nauseam.