So, so many Vampire Survivors clones came out this year

Army of Ruin
(Image credit: Milkstone Studios)

Is "survivors" distinct enough from "survival" to be the name of an entirely different genre? I'm not sure, but we're almost certainly in the midst of a mini genre boom of Vampire Survivors-likes, our favorite roguelike of 2022 and the game of the year most likely to spawn waves of imitators in the near future. It's already started happening in 2022, despite Vampire Survivors launching in quiet, unfinished early access form barely a year ago. 

Gaming's Time to Copycat quotient is at an all-time high. When MMOs and then MOBAs were all the rage, it took years for shallow knock-offs of WoW and League of Legends to crop up, and years more for them to become so oversaturated that there was room for nothing left but bombs. In 2017, it took Fortnite only six months to pivot to battle royale to piggyback off PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds' success and inspire a whole slew of battle royales; in early 2019, Dota Auto Chess got copycats from Valve and Riot just five months later. 

That felt preposterous a few years ago, but it's normal now—just look at how many Wordle clones came out this year. What feels like it's changed, over time, is the scale of game that can snap the whole industry's head around, dollar signs in its eyes. It used to take a Gears of War or PUBG to inspire a genre sea change; now it can be something like Vampire Survivors, which cost $2.99 and was just a hobby project for developer Poncle until it unexpectedly blew up. (In classic genre trendsetter fashion, Vampire Survivors popularized, rather than invented, the mechanics of an earlier mobile game called Magic Survival).

The pace of new genre big bangs may mean they go extinct more quickly than ever before, too—perhaps we don't need a name for games like Vampire Survivors, if no clones manage to stick around. But this discussion on ResetEra includes some strong contenders: 

  • Idle Shooter - Honors the roots of browser idle games like Cookie Clicker
  • Single Stick Shooter - A clear twist on the popularized twin-stick shooter
  • Auto Shooter - Slightly broad, but improved mightily by Jeff Gerstmann's suggestion of Auto Shooter Survival, or ASS games
  • Bullet heaven - A sublime twist on the classic shmup "bullet hell," except this time it's your enemies that are in hell

Bullet heaven gets my vote, but ASS games is a close second. Whatever we call them, here are some of the heavenly ASS games that came out in 2022. Odds are good we'll see many more in 2023. 

Soulstone Survivors 

First release: August (Prologue) | Price: $10

This game was not shy about its origins: the first press release email I got for it was titled "Move Over, Vampire Survivors!"

I do not think Vampire Survivors has moved over, but Soulstone Survivors has done well for itself on Steam nonetheless, picking up more than 7,000 reviews so far in early access. (My favorite is "Pros: Cheap cocaine. Cons: Needs more game." The top-down 3D graphics give it quite a different look from VS's pixel art, and it's hard to watch a video or read a blurb about this game without seeing someone praise the sheer number and variety of its skills or power-ups or whatever you want to call them. This is definitely a maximalist genre, and Soulstone Survivors knows it.

Holocure: Save the Fans 

First release: June | Price: Free

A free fan game with some pedigree: River City Girls sprite animator Kay Yu is behind this project, which blends Vampire Survivors with the VTubers of Hololive. I watch a lot of anime yet I do not understand the appeal of VTubers at all, but I do understand the appeal of upbeat chiptune music, which Save the Fans sure has. Even if you don't get the references to Hololive, Save the Fans still hits the same pleasure center as Vampire Survivors, packing tons of enemies onto the screen and then inundating you with damage numbers when you blast them to pieces. 

Boneraiser Minions 

First release: August | Price: $5

Props for not blatantly using "Survival" in the name here, and for the 8-bit neon art—this game has style. Boneraiser Minions distinguishes itself a bit with some distinct game modes, like one that lets you place traps before a round. That extra defense phase makes a lot of sense for a genre that owes a lot to Gears of War 2's famous Horde mode. There's also a card-based minigame that seems to be based on Final Fantasy 9's Tetra Master, which is extremely my jam. As usual there's heaps of stuff to unlock and lots of enemies to kill, though the screen doesn't get quite as ludicrously dense as Vampire Survivors.

Bounty of One 

First release: August | Price: $5

Bounty of One has two big things going for it compared to other bullet heavens. First there's the Wild West theme, which is more fun than vampires. There are little goblin guys who attack you, but they're wearing bandanas and cowboy hats—objectively funnier. There are also cactus men wearing old-timey suspenders and boot spur throwing stars, two more excellent choices. The second big thing, though, is support for up to 4-player co-op. It's only local, unfortunately (unless you use Steam's Remote Play Together) but maybe full online support will come down the dusty trail, as Bounty of One is still in early access.

Project Lazarus 

First release: June | Price: $5

What if bullet heaven, but you're in a mech? That's pretty much the pitch in Project Lazarus, with different control schemes for different mech types and piles of 3D enemies to laser to bits. Being able to aim and move independently with certain mechs may be a violation of the sacred single stick code of auto shooters. (Is that a code? Probably not; I just made that up). To my eye Lazarus's art has a real generic Unity asset store look, but Steam reviews are overall very positive.


First release: September | Price: $5

Somewhat inexplicably one of the most popular ASS games on Steam, you control a potato (named Brotato) in an art style heavily reminiscent of Binding of Isaac. It also features a manual aiming option. Reviewers call out a harsher learning curve here than in similar games, but far more build depth than you'd expect from a small game starring a potato that actually looks more like an egg.

Army of Ruin 

First release: October | Price: $4

This one's really pretty, with an art style that reminds me of Dungeon Defenders or the modern Ghosts 'n' Goblins games. The enemies look like colorful candies and I kind of want to eat them. These developers have some experience with making snappy roguelites: they previously developed the FPSes Ziggurat and Ziggurat 2, which were quite well-received. 

Rogue: Genesia 

First release: September | Price: $5

Rogue: Genesia pairs the usual Vampire Survivors formula with multiple stages to progress through with specific challenges and a map that draws straight from Slay the Spire. That progression, compared to the usual "see how long you can survive" timer, seems to be the big draw.

20 Minutes Till Dawn 

First release: June | Price: $5

A very distinct pixel art aesthetic here, with a nicely limited color palette that makes bullets really pop. It's another example that strays from the "idle shooter" design of Vampire Survivors by requiring you to aim (and even, gasp, reload) but the core appeal of upgrades and progressively more and more overpowered builds remains. There are a bunch of characters with different abilities to select, who can also be paired with a range of weapons before you even get into upgrades. 

Spellbook Demonslayers 

First release: November | Price: $3

Described by one Steam reviewer as "a faster, more chaotic, more aggressive, more forgiving version of Vampire Survivors." There's a lot of praise for the soundtrack and the flexibility of its difficulty options. There are modifiers you can turn on and off to tweak things to your liking—and also a speed slider, if you want to dial in your own turbo mode.

Tiny Rogues 

First release: September | Price: $6

Like Boneraiser Minions, Tiny Rogues is distinctly even more retro than some of these other pixel art roguelites, with a CRT filter and some Robotron-ass graphics. It would be unfair to call Tiny Rogues a Vampire Survivors clone, to be honest—I'm just including it here because it's clearly riding the wave of micro roguelites, and with 98% overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam as of this writing, it's clearly doing something right. You'll see some classic bullet hell stuff here and similar character upgrades, but inside a more traditional dungeon crawler structure, complete with light RPG stats. You'll move between rooms, pick up keys, fight bosses, yada yada.

And the horde yet grows 

Believe it or not, that isn't all of them—there are yet more Vampire Survivors-a-likes. Here are 15 that I didn't spend as much time looking into. One of them might be the exact flavor of ASS you're looking for. 

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).