Vampire Survivors is a singular game. Kind of a roguelike, kind of an arcade game, kind of a bullet hell, but at the same time nothing like what you probably think of when those genres come to mind. After all, there's a reason it captured the hearts and minds of gamers and won handfuls of awards on other platforms in 2022. Jam-packed with rewarding structures, satisfying sound design, cheeky nods to the much more senior vampire-killing franchise that inspired it, and loads of secrets, it'll sink its fangs into you after just one round.

The most common way we've heard Vampire Survivors described is, "A bullet hell where you are the bullet hell," but that's only half of the story. You start each level with one attack. They vary from classic stuff you'd expect from a Castlevania game, like a whip, a cross-shaped boomerang, or a throwing axe to more goofy stuff like the aroma of garlic or giant minecarts. There are dozens of them, and each attack has its own strengths, weaknesses, and properties; garlic, for example, creates a miasma of deadly garlic breath, damaging any enemy that dares enter your personal space. The whip slashes out in front of the direction that the player's facing, dealing high damage to anything in its range.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

Every attack has a cooldown, but instead of deciding when to throw them out into the horde of Castlevania-inspired enemies, they all shoot out automatically. Most of the gameplay loop here is dealing with an attack's specific strengths and weaknesses while learning to twist them into the most efficient tools to quell the onslaught of monsters, all navigated with the left stick or via the touchscreen, which mirrors the touch input of the mobile version.

The monsters on the receiving end of your attacks approach from all angles at all speeds. Some pop up out of the ground and hurl magical attacks at you. Others just run at you with reckless abandon. All but one are killable, and they die with a satisfying pop. As they die, they drop experience points that you can use to level up and get new attacks, power-ups, or potentially even discover new combinations that unlock new abilities for your attacks.

Without revealing any of the game's many secrets, some combinations unlock powered-up versions of an attack that have no cooldown. Others might add vampiric, health-stealing attributes or a second hit to an attack. This combination is just one example of the many games hidden within Vampire Survivors. Sure, the game's main loop is all about surviving the endless volley of enemies, but if you just leveled up on a linear path, it wouldn't be nearly as exciting or gripping as it actually is.

Instead, you're making dozens of small choices and gambles in a variety of different avenues. In the main loop, you may be confronted with needing to choose between pursuing an objective that's in a far-off corner of the map and staying in place so you can level up your character to avoid an untimely fate halfway to the treasure. But within that choice, you might be confronted with a choice between a few new abilities or power-ups as you level up. Each decision will directly impact your gameplay and experience and Vampire Survivors goes out of its way to reward you with brain-tickling aplomb.

Vampire Survivors wears its slot machine-inspired psychology on its sleeve; opening a treasure chest feels like playing a slot machine that you always win, you never know what you'll stumble on when you level up, and exploring the game's unknown power combinations feels like making an un-losable bet. Sure, some hands might be better than others, but it always feels like an event to get to that next level, objective, or treasure chest. Like many of the best roguelikes and arcade games, this push and pull between risk and reward is what really elevates Vampire Survivors' deceptively simple core loop.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Handheld/Undocked)

Of course, as you level up and begin to throw out more projectiles, the game matches your pace by sending more and more enemies after you. Needless to say, things can get very chaotic. At times, your entire screen might be filled with enemies except for a small area around your character. Sometimes it can become a bit difficult to follow where exactly your character is, or whether or not they're taking damage when the screen gets that full. Moreover, it can lead to some performance issues.

With the game even seeing some mild performance dips in our experience playing an older version on PC, one of our biggest concerns about this port was the Switch's ability to run the game smoothly. We're happy to report that it runs shockingly well! Given the sheer amount of enemies that can be on-screen at the same time (especially once you approach the 30-minute mark on a run), we were pleasantly surprised to see how few frames the handheld dropped.

We encountered the biggest dips when cycling between leveling up, opening treasure chests, and getting back into the action, but even then, the performance issues were very brief. In fact, after about 12 hours with the game, we haven't encountered any drops in frame rate that lasted longer than a second or two.

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Captured on Nintendo Switch (Docked)

The new local co-op is the only exception when it comes to the game's overall very solid performance. Depending on how many players you have in one session, the power-ups and attacks they choose, and what stage you're on, you might end up playing with a lower frame rate for longer periods of time. Like in the rest of the game, things never get too dicey. Based on our experience with the co-op modes, the game is very consistent and never became unplayable.

Overall, this new co-op mode is a great addition. You can play with up to four players at a time and it's really well-implemented. Instead of allocating XP to whoever picks it up first, everyone shares one bar and alternate gaining new levels, and chests are assigned to a random player. For balancing purposes, the amount of power-ups and attacks you can have are limited in co-op.


Vampire Survivors skyrocketed in popularity in 2022 for good reason. It's one of the best roguelites in recent memory thanks to its gripping gameplay loop and metagame that hijacks your mind. The Switch port only adds more to love with local co-op and updated content. It's so easy to slip into a blissful sense of flow in Vampire Survivors' Castlevania-inspired, comically named levels as its ripping soundtrack and satisfying sound design propel you into the horde that you'll surely lose track of time playing it. It's a good thing that rounds don't usually last more than half an hour.