Cuphead is a 2017 run and gun video game developed and published by Studio MDHR. The game was inspired by the rubber hose style of animation used in cartoons from the golden age of American animation, such as the work of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Fleischer Studios, and sought to emulate their subversive and surrealist qualities.
Cuphead features one or two players taking control of its titular protagonist and his brother Mugman to fight through several levels, that culminate in boss fights, in order to repay their debt to the devil. The game was praised for its art style, gameplay, soundtrack and difficulty. It was both a critical and commercial success, winning several awards and selling over six million copies within three years. An animated series based on the game is in production by Netflix.
Cuphead’s gameplay is centered around continual boss fights, interspersed with run-and-gun levels. Each of these boss fights and run-and-gun levels is housed in one of four different worlds, with the fourth world containing the final fight against the Devil himself. Each boss fight includes a simple, normal, and expert difficulty mode (with the exception of the final two bosses, which lack a simple mode). Defeating every boss on normal mode is required to complete the game, while expert mode is unlocked upon completion. While most boss battles take place on land, several bosses are instead fought in aeroplanes in levels which play like side-scrolling shoot ’em ups. The game also includes role-playing elements and a branching level sequence. Player characters have infinite lives, maintaining all equipment between deaths. Equippable weapons and special abilities known as Charms can be purchased from Porkrind’s Emporium, an in-game shop, using coins found in levels and the overworld. Player characters feature a parry attack that can be used on certain objects marked in pink to various effects, the most important of them being increasing a “super meter” that enables more powerful attacks. The super meter is represented by a row of five playing cards, all of which must be filled in order to use one of the three strongest attacks (“Super Arts”) in the player’s inventory. A less powerful strike can be executed at the cost of one card, its particular form determined by the currently equipped weapon. The Super Arts must be earned by entering three mausoleums, one in each of the first three worlds, and parrying a group of invading ghosts to stop them from reaching an urn at the center of the screen.
After completing a level, the player is ranked with a grade based on their performance, based on factors such as the time taken to complete the level, damage avoided, and number of parried attacks. The levels are accessible through a top-down perspective overworld with its own secret areas. The game also has a two-player local cooperative mode.