Since its release in December 2021, Vampire Survivors has made waves in the indie gaming world with its simple mechanics and just-one-more-run gameplay design that makes it easy to pick up and hard to put down. Best of all, it was shockingly cheap on release which belied the amount of enjoyment you’d actually get from it.
In its wake, a new genre has formed, defined by waves of enemies to fight and survive against, varied weapons, characters and upgrades to experiment with and an attractive price point. While lesser copycats just in it for a buck are inevitable, here are the best examples that the genre has to offer as well as a few older titles that are surprisingly similar despite pre-dating Vampire Survivors.
If you like this genre and love Vtubers, then you need to play this game, since it’s essentially a Vampire Survivors clone with some interesting tweaks to the formula, all themed around the internationally popular Vtubing group, Hololive.
Hololive lovers, this is your game. It’s chock-full of Hololive goodness, from the characters who are based on their Vtubers to the items and weapons which are all based on in-jokes about the members of the group.
If you’re not a fan, give the game a go anyway, since it puts some interesting spins to the formula, like giving characters ultimate attacks and unlocking them based on a gacha system. There’s really no reason not to play this game, especially since you can play it for the low, low price of free on Itch.io
6 20 Minutes Till Dawn
Though the games are quite similar, 20 Minutes Till Dawn put a few tweaks in the formula that make it feel like a different, if slightly familiar experience.
The most important difference is that this game has you manually firing your weapon, making it akin to a twin-stick shooter. This game also trades the SNES-era aesthetic for a 4-Bit RGBI palette that calls to mind IBM computers and instead of Castlevania-esque creatures, you get eldritch abominations.
The game is pretty cheap on Steam, the same price as VS and though it has fewer features than its predecessor, it’s still also in early access, so you can probably expect new characters, weapons and other elements in the future.
At first blush, this game seems wildly different from the others, being a vertical-scrolling shmup instead of the free-roaming reverse bullet hell that the other games tend to be. But if you spend enough time with Gunlocked, you’ll find that it shares a lot of DNA with those other games.
For instance, you don’t fire your own shots. Instead your weapon pop off when they’re charged up, essentially on a timer. You also get experience gems whenever you explode an enemy and when you get enough, you level up and get to pick from a small pool of abilities, either new ones or upgrades to the ones you have. If you like the progression of games like VS, but want to try something a little different, this is a good game to try.
4 Spirit Hunters: Infinite Horde
This game hits a lot of the same beats as Vampire Survivors so at times, it can feel like playing the same exact game, but with a cel-shaded look instead of a 16-bit Castlevania aesthetic. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’ve finished up the current build of VS and are hungry for more.
It’s not a one-for-one experience either, since the weapons in this game – here called abilities – have attack patterns that are different from those in VS and there are elements like permanent buffs to those abilities and pets that don’t have an analogue in VS.
3 Synthetik: Arena
Synthetik: Arena is quite a departure from Vampire Survivors, but the games have enough in common that if you like one, you may very well like the other, especially if you’re looking for something a little more hardcore to cut your teeth on.
This game shares Vampire Survivors’ top-down view and tendency to send waves of enemies howling after your blood. However, gameplay is almost military sim-levels of unforgiving gunplay, where one or two solidly placed shots could be the end of your foes or your run, reloading is a task all its own and cover can mean the difference between life or death. If this sounds like it might be your cup of tea, then you can grab the game for free on Steam.
2 Project Lazarus
Perhaps one of the more ambitious games to be in the same vein as Vampire Survivors, Project Lazarus feels more like a genuinely new entry into whatever genre VS is rather than something playing follow the leader. The hallmarks are all there: endless waves of enemies, experience gain and upgrades in-run and even weapon evolutions, but it has unique elements that truly set it apart.
While the core gameplay elements are satisfyingly familiar, the characters, here being different mech models, are wildly unique. While they have the staple traits like different base stats, unique abilities and starting weapons, they also have different capacities for different types of gear and sometimes, even different styles of movement. The uniqueness of every model, especially in regard to gear capacity gives them a feel of customizability not available in other examples of this genre, hearkening back to mech-sim games like the Front Mission or Armored Core.
The oldest title on this list, predating Vampire Survivors by six years, Bardbarian is shockingly similar to it. This game describes itself as: “…a mixture of Tower Defense, RPG & RTS with some ‘Shmup and Snake elements,” and a lot of those descriptors can just as easily be applied to VS.
The gameplay consists of you picking three units, which essentially function as your weapons and/or items with each having different firing styles, and then defending a crystal on the left side of the screen from enemies coming in from the right. You can’t attack directly, but you can play different songs to give your units different buffs as well as summoning more of them.
Bardbarian is on the pricier side of games like these, but if you like the genre and have a little extra cash to burn you might wanna give this one a go.