Yacht Club’s Shovel Knight is a brilliant homage to the 8-bit era of gaming. Although it’s clearly inspired by classics like DuckTales and Super Mario Bros. 3, the title manages to craft a unique identity within a sea of retro-themed indie competitors. Part of what gives Shovel Knight its charm is its bosses, most of whom form the Order of No Quarter. The following is a ranking of each of these villainous knights, in order from worst to best. Optional villains and wandering travelers are not included. Be warned that spoilers for the game may be found below.
10. Tinker Knight
The Clockwork Tower’s main villain, Tinker Knight, is the title’s least menacing opponent. Though the boss attempts to make up for his lack of physical strength with an imposing tank, its attack patterns are easy to avoid. The mech can be toppled with a few downward thrusts. The first phase of Tinker Knight’s battle is ironically more challenging, but players can breeze past it with the Mobile Gear. The inventor has few redeeming qualities outside of his combat ability, as he’s arrogant and whines a lot. Ultimately, Tinker Knight is Shovel Knight‘s most forgettable adversary.
9. Polar Knight
Similarly to Tinker Knight, Polar Knight doesn’t leave a lasting impression. When Shovel Knight confronts him for the first time, he addresses the solemn warrior as an old friend and regrets he was mislead to join the Order of No Quarter. The history between the two characters is never elaborated on in the game, which is a bit unfortunate.
Despite the lack of meaningful exchange, Polar Knight proves himself to be an intimidating opponent in battle. The leader of the Stranded Ship can hurl giant snowballs in midair and climb atop one-hit kill spikes. As tough as this boss fight may be, Polar Knight’s backstory needs to be explored further for players to care about him. For now, he serves as nothing more than another challenge.
8. Mole Knight
The Lost City’s Mole Knight calms to be the best digger in the world, which at times makes for some hilarious dialogue. Some may think poorly of the villain’s frequent outbursts and haughty nature, but that somehow adds onto his charm. Unfortunately, Mole Knight’s battle isn’t as compelling as one might expect, given his ability to burrow underground and spring to the surface at a moment’s notice. His attack patterns are as simple to predict as the Tinker Tank’s, making for a fight that’s a tad more monotonous than entertaining.
7. The Enchantress/Remnant of Fate
Perhaps Shovel Knight‘s most disappointing aspect is that it doesn’t conclude with a harrowing life or death battle. The Enchantress and her true form, Remnant of Fate, hardly instill a frightening impression. The former is more challenging than the latter, as Enchantress destroys the stage haphazardly and sets entire sections ablaze. Remnant of Fate, on the other hand, can easily be toppled with the Propeller Dagger. The fact that Shovel Knight and Shield Knight finally team up makes this battle memorable. Otherwise, Remnant of Fate does little to convince fans of its ruinous power.
Shovel Knight fans are encouraged to collect as much treasure as they can when playing the game, as it yields access to Shovel Blade upgrades, tonics, new defensive gear, and a lot more. They shouldn’t grow too attached to the currency, however, as dying forces them to drop 25 percent of it. Treasure Knight serves as a prime example of what may happen to players if they choose to give in to their avarice.
Constantly hungry for riches, the villain occasionally throws out suction chests that are capable of draining Shovel Knight’s gold if he isn’t careful. As the hero struggles to fight the current, Treasure Knight stands by eagerly awaiting his bounty. This plan can backfire, as players can navigate out of the chest’s perimeter and dish out damage to the boss while he’s off on the sidelines. This flaw makes Treasure Knight’s battle far more simple than fans might expect, especially given the villain’s size and devastating anchor cannon. It’s proof that one should never rest on his or her laurels.
5. Propeller Knight
The captain of the Flying Machine, Propeller Knight, is a smooth-talking gentleman who tackles challenges head on. Though some fans may find his flamboyant demeanor unappealing, it’s hard to argue against his combat ability. Fast and agile, this foe quickly swoops down to impale Shovel Knight with his rapier before returning to the air. If players manage to inflict a significant amount of damage, Propeller Knight will call in an airship to drop a bevy of bombs onto the stage. The hero can knock these explosives into the villain, but it won’t be easy to avoid them in midair.
4. King Knight
Seeing as how he’s one of the first bosses that players face in the main campaign, it’s not surprising that King Knight is an easy enemy to take down. He moves slowly and telegraphs nearly every attack. What makes the lord of Pridemoor Keep so memorable is how his fighting style perfectly compliments his flashy personality. For instance, should players ever fall prey to this villain’s stomp attack, they’ll witness the knight lazily walk over to strike them with his scepter. This “fabulously regal” foe serves as a nice contrast to some of the game’s more serious enemies.
3. Specter Knight
Shovel Knight’s encounter with Specter Knight in the Lich Yard makes for one of the most fascinating battles in the game. Well-known among the Order of No Quarter for psychologically tormenting his opponents, Specter Knight tells the protagonist that Shield Knight is dead and that there’s no point in his quest to save her. Enraged by the phantom’s comments, Shovel Knight must learn the villain’s movements in order to intercept him whenever the stage goes dark. He must also learn to avoid attacks from resurrected Boneclangs if he hopes to not become one himself. It’s no wonder why Specter Knight is the star of Specter of Torment, as his abilities are varied enough for an independent campaign.
2. Plague Knight
Plague Knight is a popular boss among fans for good reason. His battle tactics are just as reckless as his personality, as he hurls poison bombs randomly across the screen while singing gleefully. The foe’s small stature and nimble movements make it hard for players to dish out damage consistently. They’ll have to circumvent the trickster’s projectiles and whittle away as much as they can whenever they have the opportunity. It’s great that spending so much time with Plague Knight isn’t a chore, as his Michael Jackson references may occasionally make players burst out in laughter. Like Specter Knight above, Plague Knight also has his own story mode called Plague of Shadows.
1. Black Knight
Black Knight is a complex character that challenges Shovel Knight three times during the main campaign. At first, players don’t know why the character holds a grudge against the titular hero. It’s later revealed that Black Knight is actually helping the protagonist become strong enough to defeat the malicious Enchantress. He too has feelings for Shield Knight and wishes to see her return to her former self.
Putting the love triangle aside, Black Knight possesses the same abilities as Shovel Knight, making him a formidable counterpart to fight against. He also has access to projectile attacks and can summon wings to propel him across the stage with ease. Black Knight is the most entertaining boss one will interact in the game, as each encounter truly feels like a clash among evenly matched rivals. Due to this, players will begin to care for the opponent just as much as they care for the main character and his companion.
Fans of the bosses above should be pleased to know that each will be playable in Shovel Knight‘s upcoming Showdown expansion when it releases on April 9 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. Players will be able to take on adversaries in one-on-one duels, team-based competitions, or four-player free-for-alls. It seems as though the folks at Yacht Club Games know how to make good use of the game’s cast. Here’s hoping that the inevitable sequel introduces even more passionate knights to honorably battle against.