‘Dead Cells’ truly is the king of the crossover

We’re living in the age of the – try not to vomit – metaverse now, with every pop culture franchise you like bleeding into the other. This is the era of tonal dissonance, with Fortnite pitting a Xenomorph against Dragon Ball Z’s Goku while Dead By Daylight lets Ash Williams try to run and hide from Resident Evil 3’s Nemesis or even a version of the Ghostface killer from Scream.

I love it, in spite of how nonsensical these things can get, because if you’re a fan of something that isn’t currently getting the AAA video game treatment, getting to see it pop up in other games is a nice treat.

However, the king of the crossover is undoubtedly Dead Cells, an indie Metroidvania that, post-launch, has turned other games into delicate puzzle pieces that neatly fit into its roguelike structure. Games like Hotline Miami are distilled down to a baseball bat and an outfit. Shovel Knight adds a bow into the game and an outfit, Half Life? Well, there’s an outfit, but there’s also a crowbar.

Several Steam games have a Half-Life crossover. I think if you’re putting a game out on Valve’s Steam platform it’s polite to reference the game that started it all. Very few of these crossovers let players wade in with a crowbar and start swinging like you’re the Joker charging into a crowd of teenage sidekicks.

It’s not just these games, either. Dead Cells recent Castlevania is a balm for people waiting for Konami to pull their finger out and release another 2D explore-em-’up. It has everything fans of Castlevania might want: Richter Belmont, Alucard and several notable Castlevania locations, weapons and enemies, in addition to a ton of little details. This is true even if, like me, you’re not the world’s biggest Castlevania fan and instead just spent an entire summer playing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night as a teenager.

Regardless of how intense your own personal feelings towards Castlevania: Symphony of the Night are, there’s no denying that Dead Cells’ developer Motion Twin is exceptionally talented at making every different universe that it’s folding into the game feel like it’s part of Dead Cell’s own messed-up world while including the things that fans are eager to see.

While Dead Cells itself launched all the way back in 2018, it’s still one of the best Metroidvania’s ever made, and because of the branching structure, it’s easy for the game to include new items and rooms, while the die and repeat roguelike mechanics mean it’s easy for long-term players or even new converts to sample all of the content.

My hope, then, is that Dead Cells adds even more crossover nods to other games, but I’d even love to see them release more of these bigger DLCs, bolting meaningful chunks of content adapted from other titles into the eldritch horrors already included in the game.

My other hope is that you go and play Dead Cells. It really is very good.

Dead Cells is out now for, honestly, everything. Check the store of your gaming device. It’s even on iOS and Android.

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