Explainer: Notes & Methodology

Thanks for checking out this project! I did my best to format it phone-friendly! Drop feedback at r/survivorslikes on Reddit in our discord or send an email any time! This is a living document!

I'm going to try to type this out like I would an FAQ for a game and keep the jargon to game jargon. Since we need a name, let's call it the Monstergirl Scale. Let's call users 'players' for this topic. We call our developer and reviewer survey a 'score card' to keep it on the videogame theme.

We'll often refer to the database as a 'spreadsheet' because of its original and continuing form as a collaborative google sheet!

See the Key and Definitions for terms defined as we use them in this project. See the Scoring Guide for step by step instructions on how to score a game that we'll use to check over every database entry. There's also now an FAQ!

On the Purpose / Function: The question 'Are there any other games like Vampire Survivors?' gets asked a lot on Reddit, Steam, at our local gaming club in NYC, and apparently all over the internet if the amount of Google spam on the matter is any indication.

First: This spreadsheet is designed to attempt to definitively answer that question from multiple different angles, so people can find the right game to pump their next 20 hours into.

Second: This spreadsheet includes other similar but very different games both for comparative analysis but also as possible recommendations for people who like some features but want to change others. (Similarly a rogue-lite, but not a shooter. Or similarly a shooter, but not a rogue-lite. etc).

Finally: Since the Steam categories are inaccurate and navigation baroque, this spreadsheet also attempts to simply track all the similar games on Steam, and to give an indication by ranking popularity alongside average positive ratings which ones are likely to be shovelware or hidden gems. Games Steam recommends automatically alongside survivors-likes but are different are marked as such.


- Is it like Vampire Survivors?

- How similar is it?

- Is it any good at all or even a finished game?'

Ranking position is now determined by similarity and review. This was the often requested default to help users in their search by putting more relevant games closer to the top of the document, saving them time from a user experience perspective.

Math incoming so feel free to skip farther down if you're more interested in how we're using terminology and scoring.

While we try to be more subjective on the comparison survey for devs, the games included to 'test the scale' help us try to calibrate our process in an iterative fashion so the final way we express the survey data in a ranking makes sense at a glance. We wanted to generate a number score 'out of 10' similar to familiar user review score averages on sites like Metacritic.

Our intent is that around a 5.0 on the scale should be considered neutral, with scores above 5.0 being recommended in various ways.

For example:

A 'good but different' game with a 0/10 on similarity and a 10/10 on reviews could get a 5.0 on the ranking score.

A 'similar but bad game' with 10/10 on similarity and 0/10 on reviews could also get at 5.0 on the ranking score.'

An incredibly bad and very different game can get as low as -6.7 on the ranking score. This happens with negative scores on both similarity and reviews.

The ranking score doesn't go all the way to -10 because the percent of positive steam reviews and the 'IGN style' vibe rating both stop at 0. That's ok, because it will be rare and we're really just using this process to determine how far up a game is on the page relative to other games.

Math and Measurement: The comparison scale measures game design implementation and intent through a developer or reviewer survey with 60 categories measured from -1 to 1 in tenths. For more information on the range see below and the scoring guide, but basically this is a set of Likert Scale questions.

Likert scales are useful for measuring things that will never be exact (like art) and I also appreciate that they're bipolar. Each question measures in categories from 'negative' to 'positive' as you might measure feeling in a political survey. Even a "pretty much, I think, maybe" is more useful than a simple binary "yes" "no"!

Since a neutral 0 is an option, there are technically 1260 options in the survey. When summed up only 1200 points are possible. Overall there are 21^60 possible survey results, a high degree of detail!

While looking at individual categories is helpful, to summarize the survey the comparison scores are added up and converted to a percent score or divided by 6 to report as a 'review-style' score out of 10. This is just an easier way to consume the data - we may say a game is '94%' similar or write a score as a '8.9' to use in our ranking calculation.

The review scale is 200 points (210 response options) measured -1 to 1 in 10 categories and then added and reported as a score out of 10.

We then add more subjectivity by converting percentage of positive Steam reviews to a score out of 10 and give an additional wholly subjective 'vibe' rating numerically out of 10 (101 options / 100 points for each.)

So there are technically 1672 options to select through survey and incorporated reviews, and 1600 points possible in the ranking scale. We don't use the points directly on the website listing, since it's a little more useful to weight more subjectively. Instead, we use the formula below, which also averages the three review scores to even out the subjectivity among sources.

Ranking Formula:

Ranking Score = {[Comparison Scale Total]/6 + [(Review Scale Total + Converted Steam Reviews + Vibes Score)/3]}/2

In other words, we convert the comparison scale to a number out of 10. We then find the average of the review numbers for a second number out of 10. Then we get the average of the comparison and review scores so the ranking position is an easily readable ten point score with 50% determined by reviews and 50% determined by similarity.'

Tie Breakers and Points out of 1600

When games are tied by the ranking score the similarity score is used as tie breaker. If it is also tied, the points total is used as tie breaker.

Otherwise we have a section to calculate score out of total possible points as an alternate sorting method. It is possible to earn 1600 points via the comparison scale and the 3 reviews. Using the point method gives you a weight of 75% ranked by similarity since 1200 of the 1600 possible points are earned by the similarity scale.'

Methodology note: Doing this 'right' would include having the scoring guide completely done then administer the survey among random populations of players to make sure we have both the understanding of the categories and less subjectivity and so on. We're not likely to get that data, but we do encourage multiple people scoring the same game and take that into account. With the scoring guide, our intention is for there to be one clearly 'correct' objective answer for as many of the categories as possible and to break the most subjective ones into their own categories.

A more casual iterative process has had its own benefits, with us being able to continually revise both the survey and the scale from updates in conversation with developers, adding much more meta information than was initially in the numerical comparison score. Too much IMHO but so far we've been able to accommodate every column request. I hope there are no more!! But if there are let us know.

Should this scale be used in general to determine if a game is a survivors-like?

No, it's designed to tell you if a game is like Vampire Survivors. That's totally different.

But... I suppose.. we can come to some conclusions about some common debates about genre labels. Fine. Treatise incoming! I'll try to summarize the genre debate and then get to the scale particulars.

Over 100 terms and phrases are defined on the definitions tab.

Steam Tag Conclusions: Steam needs to have both a 'Bullet Heaven' and 'Survivors-like' tag, and perhaps also a 'Horde Survival' tag and several others. Most players don't realize they can add tags. Please see the Steam Tag Research for screenshots/numbers related to other tagged games more on why we're advocating for new tags. But these essays will be very complimentary.

Vampire Survivors is a Bullet Heaven, not a bullet hell. The player is surrounded by their attacks, they love the bullets. The enemies use few and mostly harm by touch or melee.

Boneraiser Minions is a Survivors-like, but not a bullet heaven. It's also a Horde Survival game. But the top tag today on Boneraiser Minions after Action Roguelike is Bullet Hell, which is mechanically accurate if the enemies are thought of as slowly tracking bullets, but is confusing. action roguelike feels odd to describe a game mostly about running away.

Perhaps a player is looking for a Wave Survival game that is not a rogue-lite, or not movement focused. Horde Survival may still apply in both of those categories, if there is a large number of enemies. All of these terms mean slightly different things.

On our scale, Vampire Survivors is incredibly far from Rogue yet Roguelike is the top tag used in this cross section of games on Steam.

Steam needs more Rogue-Lite subgenres since Vampire Survivors has sparked a new subgenre flooding other tags.

Many of these survivors-like games simply add more features, controls and complexity to the formula. They may be safely considered survivors-likes since the genre is full of them, but they may not actually be like Vampire Survivors. So terms like Single Stick Shooter or Mowing Game may still describe something unique.

Vampire Survivors is in many ways was about removing features, focusing on UX and not UI, and refining a loop. It's heavily gambling game influenced, whereas most of these games are Vampire Survivors and twin stick shooter influenced. A good article about this is Vampire Survivors: How developers used gambling psychology to create a Bafta-winning game.

On Survivors-likes: A less appreciated aspect of the name survivors-likes is that both parts of the name are easily recognizable references. It is a portmanteau! Not just referencing one game, but two distinct genres of games.

I haven't seen this written out anywhere else yet. Basically, it's not just another example of people appending 'like' to a game. 'Survivors-like' tells people that that this is a 'a survivors game' that is also 'a roguelike'. Most players seem to use "roguelike" more generally than I stick to (religiously) in this document, as I think 'roguelite' is a clarifying term.

To users 'Survivors-Like' reads as a combination of the name 'Survivors' and 'Action Rogue-like'. Basically, it's a horde survival / wave survival game with roguelike features. This distinguishes it both from bullet heaven and horde survival, both which describe plenty of games without rogue-lite features or other major aspects.

There are currently over 150 survivors-like games on Steam with a variation of the word 'Survivors' in their title! Fans may recognize it without even knowing about Vampire Survivors, simply from other games like Sea of Survivors. Fans and devs alike discuss things like 'wouldn't it be cool if there was a Mario survivors game' and everyone knows what they mean.

On Naming the Genre Bullet Heavens: I'm a long time shmup player familiar with the term bullet hell, so I like the term bullet heaven to describe Vampire Survivors. When I started this project I assumed all the games in the new subgenre would safely fit within it.

But it's fair to note some very similar games rely on summoning and melee. It's hard to call those bullet heavens!

This spreadsheet is designed to shine some light on all of that, and perhaps not solve the debate, but give us some really good fuel.

After working on this, it seems one aspect that makes Vampire Survivors unique is the movement focus and simple controls (unlike a game like 20 Minutes Till Dawn or Nova Drift) and that's not explicitly made clear in the distinction bullet heaven. There's no reason you couldn't have a bullet heaven with even more complex control schemes or player progression.

I tend to assume a survivors-like is a rogue-lite by definition, but we'll see how the genre evolves.

I think for better or worse we already have survivors-like. I don't really need to advocate one way or another, but it had been in use for a solid year when I decided to get the domain name for the google sheet. At that time in September 2023 at least 400 related games on steam explicitly mentioned the word 'survivors' or 'survivor' in their marketing or game name.

For posterity and to make this as useful a research project as possible, there are over 100 terms and usages for this project written out on the definitions page. Check it out!

On Rogue-Lites: There is so much debate about what a rogue-lite or rogue-like is, but luckily we can duck some of it by focusing our recommendation engine on a particular game a player just played.

In that respect, any definitions of rogue-lite that would cause Vampire Survivors to not have a full score can be considered to be out of the definition for this document.

Likewise for any other category - remember, a 'full' score here doesn't mean it's the most platonic ideal implementation of that feature. It just means it should be appealing to fans of the same feature in the game we are scaling against.

While 'roguelike' is also applied to Vampire Survivors on Steam, I'm in the party that generally agrees at least rogue-lites have metaprogression and rogue-likes do not. So a rogue-like on our scale might get a .5 in the rogue-lite column. Some people like to call all run based games rogue-like and that's fine too, it's not the biggest deal in our ranking since meta progression is in its own column too.

On Procedural Generation: The rogue-ish status of Vampire Survivors actually has some significant things to consider in terms of procedural generation (notably of maps), normally considered a requirement for a 'Rogue' inspired game. I argue that despite the tricks it uses to accomplish it being easy to identify, the experience is intended to feel mysteriously randomized and to the average player functionally is. I wrote a pretty big analysis on this, though, and explain the arguments against it - just farther below because it's a little long.

On Genre vs. Similarity: Often overlooked when making scales or checklists for comparing games are other aspects past genre and aesthetics. Our scale also attempts to measure factors that typically are covered in more subjective reviews, in order to generate better recommendations. Specifically, it includes scoring for the amount of content, ability to see challenges or achievements in game, if the controls work, and so on.

These may not be useful in determining if something is a 'survivors-like' but you certainly can't say a game where the controls literally don't work or there is only one character is exactly like Vampire Survivors. These measurements are more useful when trying to compare one game to another, to tease out what may have made the first one so popular and predict what might be similarly popular with the a fan of the first.

To accommodate for basic similarity between two functioning games that are fun to play, the scale is aesthetically shifted from -1 to 1, so a game we would colloquially define as 'nothing like Vampire Survivors' can sit comfortably around 0 and still be a working game the player enjoys.

However, total buggy shovelware quickly distributed to essentially scam a customer can also easily earn a 0, despite checking the boxes needed to advertise as if it was actually a game.

Hopefully this rather complex explanation hide behind a simple at a glance result, since both bad-non-games and different-good-games sit healthily at the 'red' end of the scale, discouraging them from recommendation to someone looking for a game, colloquially, 'just like Vampire Survivors'.

On Full Scores and Different Approaches: It's still possible for a game to get a full score on our scale if it takes a different approach to a concept and nails it. For example, if the way the builds work is done with totally different skills for each character as long as it is as deep and satisfying it can still get a full score - part of the appeal of a Rogue-lite is learning new systems.

Likewise, a game could get full points in lo-fi charm or bumpin' music while having a different approach than Vampire Survivors. And so on.

EXCEPT On Full Scores in Movement Categories: While having your own twist on things can be important for the brain teasing and unlocking and addiction parts of sticking with a game, the basics of movement on the other hand may be very important for players in evaluating similarity especially from a disability perspective where it is important to know if a game can be played with one hand, or ideally one joystick and one button (which could be on that joystick.)

This is such a big factor in full accessibility that makes this genre so important to disabled gamers that we take the movement section very strictly, and that's why it's broken up into so many particular categories so people can clearly see if a game will work for them.

On Negative Scores: While testing the scale, it became clear that the results were not legible as 'very different' without shifting from 0-1 it to -1 to 1 thus expanding to 21 points per category. Something like Call of Duty should be clearly VERY different, but without negatives it probably gets like a 5.0 on a comparison scale, which feels half the same.

Technically, it probably is similar. It's a shooter and it's a videogame. Most games share a lot of mechanics! It's possible to get a -60 out of 60 in the total categories but hard to imagine a game that would. I'm going to concentrate on ranking games similar to (or tagged in the same categories as) Vampire Survivors, but if you find game with a very negative score, you can send me a scorecard! Kind of a fun challenge.

On Common Mechanics: Some things are common enough that they can be considered assumed for the scale. An example might be 'HP Bar or Health', which is certainly a mechanic but even if it's an auto battler with multiple characters they usually still have some sort of health or way of tracking damage done to them.

Likewise a city building game has 'health' of the buildings if there's a horde survival mode where they take damage. Other ubiquitous mechanics can also be assumed like 'pressing the left stick up moves you or your view up'. If there's a significant difference in design philosophy for these things it can be noted as moving into the negative points in related categories, like if there is no way to die or lose, it's not a Rogue-lite.

On User Interface / Menus: Outside of presence of Bestiary or upgrades, etc and some general vibe/feel points, we aren't attempting to directly compare the menu UI on the primary scale. Things like 'exit button' are also assumed, but sometimes a shovelware game literally doesn't have one, so that's in the Review scale score.

Some games have really great menu vibes. But we know that the greatness of VS's menu is somewhat debated - I personally love how it seems to just try to get you into the next run ASAP, admit it's ugly, but some people love the immersive 'in world' menus of games like Halls of Torment.

Gambling games were highly influential on Vampire Survivors and that is represented in the success of how quickly it moves you back into the next run chasing the next challenge. Many games that have 'improved on' Vampire Survivors have not taken into account how much work goes into properly crafting an addictive menu. They may have satisfying puzzles to solve in their build menus - skill trees, tiered unlocks, etc - but it's hard to make these systems more complex without introducing friction.

In any case, our scale isn't overly focused on UI and we'll complain heavily in the review section when we have to. The efficacy of the menu is represented some in the 'One More Run' column.

On Depth and Breadth of Content: For some things in this section (Challenges, Difficulty Modifiers, Bestiary, Achievements, and to a lesser extent Secrets) we are looking primarily at if these things are noted, tracked, and encouraged in game.

Obviously a game could have many challenges. Are they proposed to the player? Are they enticing or fun? Are they notched off and celebrated? Are they rewarded? These things contribute heavily to the 'one more run' aspect of a game and to try new builds or strategies.

On Magical Survival: Sounds cool, know it was the game VS ripped off, but it's not on steam and I don't have a way to play it, so it's not on the sheet. Feel free to send me an android phone with it pre-installed.

Seriously, though, it's hard enough to track Steam, once I'm done here I'll consider adding non-Steam games. The name of the spreadsheet and game it is based on is purely due to the frequency people ask the same question over and over on Reddit. And when they ask it they ask about Vampire Survivors these days.

Genres are rarely named by the earliest game. We call rogue-likes rogue-likes afterall and not Oregon Trail-likes or something.

On Metacritic: I didn't include metacritic score or any reviews on site other than Steam since most of these titles don't really have reviews... anywhere. I think there is already enough subjective review info on here and Metacritic is included in the further info sections now if it's available.

On Procedural Generation - Continued: Notably, unlike most rogue-likes / lites, Vampire Survivors doesn't heavily rely on procedural generation for detailed maps. This is, really, because it's a wave / survival / arena shooter game with heavy roots in arcade history (and gambling games) and not a dungeon crawler, though it has exploration aspects within the maps that help make it so engaging and break away from the confined feeling of a game like Brotato.

For the purposes of this entire scale we'll consider a game a rogue-lite if it has satisfying randomization elements altogether - getting random abilities for your build is kind of the 'paths' the game offers to you. Conceptualize it as a text adventure. Like many idle / auto games and also classic arcade games much of the gameplay is in the menu text and kind of abstract in your mind.

Random placement of things like breakables within the map and unpredictable enemy mobs make each run feel different by using some tricks - as the Halls of Torment dev noted their game is 'more like you running on a treadmill, while the rubber band has the landscape painted on it'. Like how an old movie would film car footage in a still vehicle with landscape running alongside it - I wouldn't say the characters are 'standing still' just because I can see the car technically is. I'm happy to suspend my disbelief and have a good time.

Program/gameplay wise these games are kind of like an arena shooter, but most of the games on this list do this 'wrapping' or 'looping' trick specifically to make it feel like you're exploring a new and mysteriously endless feeling space each run. To me, it feels like distilled gameplay, where if you consider a Diablo 2 map of a dungeon, figure out where the chests and other major landmarks can be randomly, and then remove 90% the winding walls to make room for way way way more enemies. Totally fair to note many arcade games include random placement during play (VS is also, undeniably, an arcade-style game) but I think the intention here is to mimic random exploration feel, hence, again, rogue-lite.

It's worth noting the enemy mob spawns aren't really random either, but the presence of location and event based spawns, unannounced waves and the interaction of 'how many have been killed' and 'how many more should be spawned' (a game mechanic I think is called 早回し in Japanese, but I'd been calling 'wave fill') with time based-spawns, and then additionally with often differently applied stage modifiers, plus the array of items that also increase spawn frequency or damage, make enemy spawns feel unpredictable to the average player - many seem to think it's entirely randomized and I can't say it's ever felt totally predictable or the same to me either within 90 hours of play. Then there are the additional random events available through a late game unlockable option.

I personally think VS feels as rogue-lite as any rogue-lite on the market, despite the lack of large windy or path choice randomized dungeons - and appreciate the difference when I want a simpler game. I like the tricks most of the best VS-like titles do to keep the gameplay feeling simple and totally tunnel visioned while still telling the story, with the feel, of random exploration.

Concepts that might deserve their own column: There are a lot of game design concepts or fan fave mechanics that could probably have their own column. Most of these are represented in some way under other columns (or if this note is out of date, already in the scale), but I'll make some notes here:

'- Randomization (as mentioned in detail above, we're including this under 'Rogue-lite')

- Permadeath (also included as part of 'Rogue-lite')

- Damage on touch specifically (included in Bullet Hell B)

- Leveling up quickly to absurdly high levels, not like 100 hours to D&D level 12 (taken into consideration in build/leveling section and 'short runs' and 'rogue-lite')

- Multiplayer (was added very recently after the boom in popularity that sparked the imitators so just noted in the meta section)

- Wave Fill (big part of 'organic waves' column)

- Ability to refund currency based unlocks without new save file (didn't feel like this needed a column, but I do like it)

- Mostly 'Popcorn' enemies easily mowed down (subfactor of horde survival and bullet heaven)

- High Scores (Perhaps Leaderboards are more important to some people, I consider this under Many Challenges or other areas like Achievements or Goal Based Unlocks depending on if they're linked to it.)

- Session complexity 'could encompass all the different ways a run might be complicated. I personally think it would be a useful column.' (via the-nature-mage) is a good idea, right now included in 'streamlined' level options and a couple other places'

On Scientific Terminology: I've been pretty tunnel visioned in on certain aspects of this project and certainly used the word 'ranked' when 'rated' is correct, 'scaled' when 'measured' is correct or whatever all around this sheet. Please send me corrections and educate me further on proper vocabulary: xoxomonstergirl@gmail.com! I can always learn more.

Is this science? I don't know. Maybe it's mad science. It felt important to revise this process several times to allow for more vibes and subjectivity in order to get good recommendations. You could call this fuzzy logic. The upside of using a public sheet is feedback can be taken in and updated as time goes on. With all of these games being living creatures - most of the titles on this spreadsheet having been updated in the last 6 months as of December 2023 and many of them within the last few days - more flexibility and honesty about our subjectivity probably makes it more useful. I'll note changes on update history.

On Pronouns and attribution: Sometimes I say 'we' or 'our' on this sheet, but it's just me, xoxomonstergirl writing the essays. However, a great deal of collective effort and input has gone into this, from all the dev interviews to the extensive public comments, discussions and corrections. See the Thanks tab!

I'm not trying to misrepresent that it's me writing essays, I'm just in a habit of saying 'we' when drafting explainers from an academic/political background and it also still sounds funnier when you say pompous ridiculous shit like 'our patented 60 submodular point scale' or 'we've developed the science of rating if something is lofi in a cool way'. I do, of course, want to credit all the folks who talked with me that helped me develop the scale. It's just not anyone else's fault if the explainer is hard to read.

The research project was something I was working on before I realized there was a need for a sub or anything, which I started at first as just a place to put update notes without spamming any other sub. In regards to the reviews and info in the spreadsheet it's certainly a group effort with all the folks on reddit and discord who have offered advice and info to fill in! I credit any direct quotes I can get and I check over everything by hand, just as kind of a rebellion against AI shlock everywhere these days. I take full responsibility for any mistakes.

I do play games with my partner sometimes, we like to hand off the controller on death or do co-op, so reviews might mention 'we' in that case. Most quotes or reviews from other users or fan surveyors should be in italics 'like this'.

Dev Submitted Info: Dev submitted info and other reviewer submitted info will attempt to be credited in-line. There's a lot of first party original info from devs unique to this document and I hope that's helpful to researchers and fans!

On Corrections: These games get updated a lot and I'm also attempting to identify and compare features in literally hundreds of games without the playtime needed to do them justice. This means I need to rely heavily on feedback and research as well. If I overlooked a feature or it has been added since I scaled the game, please let me know! If you've got any complaints or corrections my email is xoxomonstergirl@gmail.com!