We need to dig a little bit into 2017 for this one, but even with a successful launch on PCs, Hollow Knight found a true home on the Nintendo Switch in 2018, where its exposure on a Nintendo console opened up a whole new audience that brought second life to this masterpiece.
Hollow Knight also can take credit as one of the games that established the Switch as the true home for indies in 2018, where the port struck a chord with the Metroid faithful. Many agree that developer Cherry Bomb has set a new standard for the long-beloved Metroidvania genre. Hollow Knight now sits at the top of the pile for many, even above the genre's namesakes, Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
(And at just $10 when I bought it, Hollow Knight was also the best 40 hour value I got for my money in 2018, as well)
Sure, Hollow Knight's somber setting and unique art direction help it stand out from the countless 8-bit and 16-bit era throwbacks on the indie market, but where Hollow Knight truly excels is how it pushes the genre with no gimmicks. Hollow Knight doesn't build its world around a single "innovative" unique mechanic, no randomized procedural generation, no situational power-ups you'll never use again.
This game runs like it was carved straight out of wood. Our nameless bug protagonist has a small set of skills, he gains a few power-ups here and there, he can enable a few specific builds with his charms, and from there, he takes a break from changing. It's the world around him, made precisely as the creator's intended it, that bursts from the screen as he dives deeper and deeper into his kingdom. Metroidvania games often thrive because players want to see how the character evolves, but Hollow Knight takes exception to this by treating the players to an ever evolving setting.
Simple, flawless design can still work in 2018. Hollow Knight proves you don't have to be too innovative break new territory.
Our only complaint upon review was that that game lingers around for a little TOO long and the natural repetition of an exploratory world does start to set in eventually. However, we'll forgive Hollow Knight because few Metroidvania games have ever held our attention spans for that long.