Key & Term Definitions

There's a great deal of information in our database! We'll define over 100 different terms, but first here's a little intro to the colors.

Comparison Scale: Green means more Similar
Blue means more Different.
Review Scale: Green means highly reviewed.
Yellow denotes middle scores.
Red means a lower score.

In the comparison scale the conditional formatting hits blue at -1 in the individual categories, but closer to 0 in the total view. This is to help emphasise the difference between similar games (anything under 0 should be considered very different.)

Combined Ranking Scale

Green means more similar and higher reviews. Purple Gray is in the middle. Purple means extremely different, and possibly lower reviews.

Dark gray squares indicate information is unavailable, usually due a game not yet being released. Light gray squares with a ? indicates information we are seeking, probably in a newly made column or for a newly added game.


Unlockable challenges in game that usually also correspond with platform achievements. These can be tied to challenges presented to players and unlocks, or totally unexpected flavor earned through unlikely scenarios. Every game does it a little differently!

Action RPG

Action roleplaying games with some roleplaying or buildcrafting elements, but a focus on real time action instead of turn based gameplay.


In our context, broadly all of the things that give a game its feel in terms of visual art, audio effects, music, writing, description flavor, etc.


Specifically, in our tags the “Anime” label in aesthetics refers to the character design style and not necessarily the rendering or origin. So a game could be “anime” tagged and be pixel art, cartoon or 3D art. Anime doesn’t mean from Japan, we’re applying it extra broadly on purpose so people can find whatever they are looking for. It could be American made or from any other country. See also: Cartoon


A less than literal genre label referencing to early games found in arcades, arcade or arcade style games are usually typified now by a simplified gameplay loop, scoreboards, and usually very retro inspired graphics. Many survivors-likes could probably be considered arcade games but we use it more to refer to games obviously aesthetically inspired.

Arcade Style

A little fuzzier than just “arcade”, this is used in our spreadsheet categories to refer to games that have quick in and out, without having to sit through a lot of plot or tutorial. It might not be an arcade genre game, exactly, just quick into the action.

Arena Shooter

A shooting game where gameplay takes place within a relatively small and unchanging setting. Often a blank screen or small box.

Arena Survival

A game where you have to survive in a small area. We don’t use this as much as other mechanic terms combined with arena shooter.


Refers to literally anything humans create. I could be talking about art assets, or just referring to the fact that all games are subjective pieces of human creation.


Some of these games are just kind of arty.. c’mon, you know what I mean! I went to art school, just give me this one!

Seriously, though, some projects seem to be pushing the aesthetic more than others in ways that aren’t just amplifications of standard game aesthetics. Probably this could be applied more widely, but I use it to note games I think have a particular visual style I’d like to refer back to later.


A mechanism, sometimes toggleable, where your attacks are automatically aimed at enemies. Not all movement only games have auto aim – it could also always aim the direction you are facing in, or be un-aimable. Auto shooters often use both auto aim and auto fire.


A game where elements of the battle are automated, perhaps the actions by your summoned minions or deployed troops.


A mechanism, sometimes toggleable, where your attacks are constantly firing or are automatically triggered by enemies. You don’t use a trigger or directional stick to fire, it just happens. Auto shooters generally use both auto aim and auto fire.


A game where some of the elements of shooting are automated, for example if it always fires and there is no trigger button.

Bestiary & Lore

This category marks if a game has an in game unlockable and browsable database of monsters and various other features. In particular, a full score requires more than just a list of all abilities, attacks and items. Monster listings can also be useful for stats, weaknesses, etc in order to let players craft strategy, but many fans simply enjoy being able to browse the sprites and see the names of monsters after defeating a certain amount of them. Since these are often arcade style games, much of the vibe and feel of the game comes from things like monster names and these menus.


A boost moves the player very quickly through a distance on button press. Unlike a dodge or dash, it usually doesn’t have invincibility, but every game (and sometimes build) handles the words differently. Used more in space games. See also: Dash, Dodge.

Boss Mode

In wave survival games there is often a point where a boss arrives to cap off the level. While it’s a survival game mode, the final challenge is to beat the boss after the timer not survive to the end of a timer.

Boss Rush

A kind of game where instead of handling large hordes of enemies you concentrate on defeating successive complex bosses, often without any small enemies in between. This could be a wave survival game, but it’s also kind of the opposite of a horde game.


Not to be taken literally, this refers to a player crafted build during a run (or a combination used in such a build) that is so successful that it “breaks” the game and there is no challenge possible for the rest of the run. Likely the build is killing enemies so quickly or healing so successfully it’s simply not possible for it to be killed before it has gained enough XP to (often through an auto level option once you’re at a certain point) to keep ahead of the curve. This is seen as a major goal – to discover themselves and make a broken build in the game – of many survivors-likes players. See also: Invincible.


Perhaps we’d be referring to games as brotato-likes if the world was just a little different. But Brotato calls back to different genre classics and in many way is different and has its own lineage. Brotato-style games typically take place in small arenas instead of mimicking exploration. They generally have more accurate auto-aim, less focus on sweeping with movement. They also generally end with firm rounds and let you increase your power on round end instead of while gathering XP. They can be seen as being directly linked with older browser arena shooters and perhaps a little less with diablo style action RPGs, while both being roguelite auto-shooter genres. These subsets of games seem to often appeal strongly to different fans.

To summarize, Brotato is distinct on at least these game design metrics:

– Takes place in a small arena
– Increase power on round end
– XP gathered on round end or as kills are made, so less focus on gathering and more on dodging
– Waves don’t spawn organically and you have a breather to strategize on round end

We might tag a similar game as “Brotato-style”


A noun that refers to the total of a players skills and abilities, and the intended set they hope to get through play. For example, I might plan to play a “fire” build in a game and look for skills and items that work together to increase my fire damage. Builds can get very complex and interesting or be direct and simple. See also: Buildcrafting


The process of and quality of options for deciding what build you will create on a run. A game has a high degree of buildcrafting if it has many build choices (abilities, weapons, items, etc) and good synergy among the choices. But satisfaction with buildcrafting in a game is also very subjective – sometimes complexity can be tiresome, so it doesn’t exactly just measure complexity.

Bullet Heaven

An excellent label for games where you shoot out tons of bullets and enemies do not. Bullets are your friends and you are in heaven. Most games designed as bullet heavens right now are survivors-likes, but the term could be safely applied to a variety of overpowered older shmups and be used in other contexts in the future.

Bullet Hell

A popular shoot ’em up genre distinguished by the high number of enemy bullets to avoid. Bullet heaven was invented as a play on this term. Some people use bullet hell strictly to describe danmaku bullet curtain games, which are distinguished by thick patterns of bullets, but we use it more broadly to refer to any game where dodging bullets is a big part of the gameplay. See also: Danmaku

Bumpin’ Music

This is pretty subjective so it’s very easy for a game to get full score here if it makes a sincere attempt. This genre is full of amazing soundtracks with many games making the soundtrack available. Sometimes a soundtrack can be good but results in ear fatigue. We don’t really measure how many tracks there are or how repetitive it is, and it’s possible for a game to get a full score here with a sea shanty as much as pixel punk EDM. Does it fit the vibe and make you want to keep on surviving? It’s probably bumpin’ music.


An art style that isn’t very serious. In our tags, this is also somewhat opposed to pixel art, though it’s possible for something to get both tags at certain intersections. Cartoon art, when opposed to pixel art, has smooth lines and looks drawn instead of plotted or rendered. Cartoon art otherwise, in terms of aesthetics, might heavily reference loony toons or other ‘western’ animation, but usually we’re referring to the style of rendering the characters. If art heavily references japanese influenced styles, it might also be labeled as ‘anime.’

See Also: Anime, Cell Shaded

Cell Shaded

Also called “toon shading”, this is a 3D rendering style that is supposed to look similar to a flat cartoon art style. It doesn’t really, imho, but it’s an aesthetic of its own that can help reduce rendering requirements and keep frame rate up by simplifying graphics. We use it as an aesthetic tag for sorting.


In Vampire Survivors and many similar games it is possible to not only have synergies between your items, weapons and abilities, but to actually combine them to make new items, weapons or abilities, which can then be upgrades separately. In many games this takes two slots of equipables and makes them one. Usually this combination is much more powerful, referred to in some games as an “evolution.” See also: Evolution.


Broadly, the things in a game from available maps and weapons to character skins. On the review scale “lots of content” refers also to the quality of the content and not just amount.

Content Rich

The title has a lot of content. This is used as a tag.


A human interface device, in specific these games are mostly tested and rated on an xbox controller. But most games in this genre also have mouse or keyboard control.

Controller & Steam Deck (Review Scale)

On the review scale this category measures if the game has good controllers support and works on the steam deck.This isn’t needed on the Vampire Survivors comparison scale, as it’s kind of a personal preference, but important to some people.

Controls Check

A category in the main scale that lets a game earn a low scale or negative point if the controls are very badly implemented, buggy or nonexistent. After all, if you can’t control your character, can a game be said to be exactly like Vampire Survivors?

Converted Score

In context of the similarity score, this means the 60 point score converted to an out of 10 rating in order to make an average of the scores for the “scratch the itch” section.


Used to refer to in game collectables required for various reasons within runs and to unlock permanent progression between runs. This could be gold, jewels, souls, whatever. Survivors-like players seem to generally prefer a simple system with just one metaprogression currency, as it can get confusing and take too long between runs. For example, Vampire Survivors just has gold, which can also be spent within a run.

Damage Numbers

A visual flair many gamers enjoy (and enjoy the ability to toggle) being able to see the damage of your attacks against enemies can offer precision to build crafting and give a feeling of progression as you start off doing one or two damage in a run and end up doing tens of thousands per hit. A great feature to include.


A Japanese term that literally means ‘bullet curtain’, this subgenre label refers to the almost puzzle game style mazes created by intense arrays of enemy attacks in shoot em up games. A danmaku game seeks to get you into a zen state not unlike the ‘enemy hell’ aspect of horde survival games. But bullets are generally much higher paced and there’s rarely a reason to go near them. But not all danmaku games are high speed ‘manic shooters’. Some of them have slow paced bullets you’re challenged to calmly navigate. A game could be a survivors-like and also a bullet hell with danmaku aspects. See also: Bullet Hell, Manic Shooter


A dash moves your character quickly across a distance on button press. Sometimes it is also a dodge, avoiding damage. See also: Boost.


A free, usually partial or early version of a game.

Diagnosis (Similarity)

On the website, there is a note for a similarity diagnosis (Different, Similar, Very Different, etc.) While this is heavily influenced by the similarity scale scores, it’s not automatically chosen by a certain percentage. We give it a good think after reviewing the data and make our best conclusion for the purposes of a navigable taxonomy. In other words, it’s not numerically determined, just an assigned tag.

Difficulty Modifiers & Rewards

Going further beyond just easy or hard mode, many survivors-likes allow players to choose from a variety of (often unlockable) stage modifiers to mix up their runs and get unique rewards. For example, an option to increase enemy speed or damage in return for more XP or metaprogressoin currency.

Direct Control

The player directly manipulates their avatar in game. This is the default in most action games. See also: Single Avatar.


A dodge moves your character quickly across a distance on button press. It usually avoids damage, often with “i frames” of invincibility. See also: Dash, Boost.

Dodge ’em Up

A play on Shoot ’em Up, this refers to games that are likely bullet hells but you can’t shoot back. An example would be Soundodger, which may have been one of the game s that helped popularize the term.

Dungeon Crawl

A game that takes place in the many rooms of a dungeon, often procedurally generated. As opposed to a game that takes place in a small arena or is focused on defeating waves – though some games have elements of both! In this document we sometimes call anything that allows you to choose paths a “dungeon crawl”, for example the paths in Peglin or the Star Survivor campaign are similar to a dungeon crawl mode. Even if they’re not themed as underground dungeons.

Early Access

An early release period (like a public beta) where games are available, usually at a reduced price, and devs solicit fan feedback.

Elites & Bosses

In our scale, we look to see if the hordes are broken up by unique feeling encounters with big baddies or challenging opponents. Depending on the context, these are referred to as elites or bosses.

Endless Mode

A survival game mode where the player is challenged to last as long as they can. In theory, endless. In actuality, you or your computer will crash at some point. In many survivors-likes endless mode is an option you can select upon completing a timed survival or boss mode challenge – like your build? Keep going!

Enemy Curtain

Play on “bullet curtain”, I needed a way to refer to when enemies come in slow moving maze like patterns that simulate the ‘slowdown’ found in arcade style shmups when many bullets appear on screen. This used to be a hardware created feature (though intentionally utilized in game design) but modern hardware requires games to intentionally give players slow moving harmful mazes to navigate. Not every game has this feature – in many the enemies may be slow moving, but simply beeline straight for the player.

Enemy Hell

Another play on Bullet Hell, this referring to the horde mechanic as if it’s a direct replacement for bullets. And in a way, it is, in some of these titles. The enemies make maze-like formations similar to danmaku bullet curtains. It’s not in common use, but we added it as a tag since it’s easy to apply to most of these games (but not all of them! A game like Brotato is less of an enemy hell. Many bullet hell games are instead bullet hells, obviously!.)

Enemy Trap / Enemy Trap Events

Named by The Games Detective, this is a particular style of event in survivors-likes where the movement of the player is usually limited and a large amount of enemies spawn in a surrounding posture. True, many late games you are constantly surrounded, but this particular ‘ring of moving enemies’ tactic has been very popular in games inspired by Vampire Survivors – many of which directly mirror the circular formation and triggering events. In Death Must Die there is often a rectangular space with black flame style effects around it, which traps you while enemies spawn around. It’s a similar mechanic. It’s not unique to this genre – it’s common in many popular games – Destiny for example! Enemy Trap is named due to common triggers of certain find/pick up based events (like a ‘trap’ from a chest or a cursed shrine) but they are also commonly triggered by the game timer, boss arrival, or other conditions. We just call them enemy traps to have a unique name for the moment.

Enemy Variety

We’re a little loose with the requirements in our scale here, mostly worrying about if there is a fun feeling variety of enemies and not how different their mechanics are. Sometimes a game is better with few mechanics among the enemies, but still depends on visual differences to keep it feeling fresh. That’s ok sometimes!


A more powerful equippable or ability, usually gained in a survivors-like by combining two max level items or weapons. Mechanic wise there are a lot of twists on this so a game can get a full point in it by having something similar available for late run twists. See also: Combination.

Feels Like VS

This category on the main scale is a pure vibes check, does this game feel like Vampire Survivors? Highly subjective but feel free to argue the point and send us a message!

First-Person Shooter

Commonly written as FPS, these are games where you shoot while the camera takes your viewpoint

Free / Free Demo / Free Prologue / Free to Play

There are many games on this list that are free and even more that offer a free version, usually marked as Free Demo, Free Prologue, Free Prelude or something similar. Totally free games are just marked “Free” and games that may have in app purchases are marked Free to Play, since that’s the term that Steam uses for them. Users can find free games marked in the first column or can sort by the Price or Free Demo columns.

Fun Check

Since this is very subjective (but important!) in addition to any of our contributions in terms of feedback here, this is determined highly on reading Steam reviews and so on. If people seem to be having fun, a game can get a full score here even if someone working on the sheet doesn’t personally like it.

Game Design Philosophy

In our scoring guide and around the project we often talk about game design and the philosophy behind a feature. This is because we’re trying to compare games by what they intend to do and not always by how well they pull it off (though we do adjust over time based on fan feedback.) A game is more likely to get a “very different” negative score in a category if it’s trying to be very different or wants players to really feel involved with a particular part of the gameplay. This is hard to quantify in a way that is the same for every feature, but when you encounter a game with a unique philosophy around a feature you tend to know it. Your game design philosophy may cause you to approach a feature in a certain way, how well you pulled it off will impact the review scale scores more than the comparison table.


A reference to character centered attack in Vampire Survivors that allows you to damage enemies by proximity, these survivors-likes have what it takes to be excellent mowing games


In the aesthetic tags, Geometric just means that shapes are a big part of the visual design. Not all games are obvious Geometry Wars or Pong styled minimalist games, but they all feature basic shapes as a key part of the aesthetic.

Good Graphics

On the review scale, this column is a subjective judgement by the reviewer about the games graphics, mostly with a focus on in game since UI has its own column. Good does not mean detailed or expensive or any particular style – graphics are good if they feel good for the game and its themes and support the gameplay instead of getting in the way of it.

Good Themes / Characters

On the review scale, this column shares a subjective judgement by the reviewer on the gestalt theme of the game from art style to character names.

Good UI

On the review scale this column is a subjective reading on how good the user interface in. Includes both aesthetic and functional considerations. If a UI is simple or lo fi but gets you right into the action, it can still get full points. Not a measure of complexity.


Broadly this refers to things being left behind by enemies, objects or unlockables and available for pick up or absorption by the player. An asteroid dropping a power up is functionally the same thing – the floating powerup is on the “ground.” In our comparison, we look closest at if XP, unlock currency, food and powerups are “on the ground”, as attempting to gather these things up while dodging enemies is an enjoyable and common mechanic.

Hack and Slash

A genre of action games that focus on melee attacks, often of the sword and shield sort. Commonly found in isometric fantasy dungeon crawlers and third person action rpgs.


Referring both to the amount of damage a player can take and to healing items available left behind by enemies.


High enemy count, a particularly big group of enemies. Not just constantly coming at you, but coming at you 100 at a time.

Horde Shooter

This term is popularly used for first-person shooters where you must destroy or navigate a horde of enemies, often in waves, sometimes to travel through a level.

Horde Survival

A relatively new label you see applied to survivors-likes, this refers to having to avoid dying while being swarmed by many many enemies.

Hub World / Hub Zone

A “central” location the player’s avatar returns to throughout long term play. In a story campaign based game, a “hub” might be anything from a player’s base where they select missions (like in Marvel’s Midnight Suns), ship (like in Mass Effect), or even a whole town or city. In roguelite games a hub world is often of smaller scale, like the little town in Rogue Legacy or the iconic House of Hades. Essentially, hub worlds allow players to build power and progress story. Some players also consider them needlessly complicated menus.

Idle Game

A game where many elements are automated or proceed without play, perhaps even continuing on in the player’s complete absence.

Impactful Level / Item Options

Impactful, in our context, means that taking an option during leveling, when finding or selecting an item during a run has a major impact on play. This is in contrast to incremental level options. For example, an impactful level option will double the projectiles from my weapon. An incremental level option might increase my damage 2%. One of the big features of survivors-likes as a genre is highly impactful level options, often to the point of over the top insanity.

Incremental Level Options

In contrast to impactful options, this means only a small change is made during a level up. Players in the survivors-like genre often use the word incremental in a derogatory context. More useful in long form RPGs (like a souls-like, MMO or ARPG) where you slowly craft a build along hundreds of hours.

Invincibility Frames / i-frames

Most commonly written “i-frames” or “iframes”, this refers to a set of animation frames where the player character is invincible to damage. Usually in the context of a dodge move. Generally discussed with a number of frames and the amount of seconds the mechanic affords. A good example is the dodge roll in the Dark Souls series, which gives a very short window of opportunity for the player to escape damage. Relatively few survivors-likes have iframes, but ones with dodge buttons often have an option to improve the dodge ability to avoid damage.


A player with an invincible build is effectively immortal and unable to take damage. Players enjoy trying to create an invincible build while playing in endless mode, as the true test of their buildcrafting is the ability to create a build so powerful they can simply put down the controller and walk away and never die. Some game design philosophy encourages this, other games are made so this is not possible. But survivors-like fans seem to prefer the possibility. See also: Broken.


In these games the camera is positioned up and at an angle from the action, kind of like looking down onto a tabletop game or from the clouds. Sometimes lumped in with top down games.


Broadly anything the player can pick up, loot or select that isn’t an innate stat. Usually coming with its own stats, and in survivors-likes, upgrade paths and synergies. Perhaps even combinations. This could be inclusive of weapons, but generally we consider weapons/attacks their own thing in the categorization. However, Armor is fairly rare in these games and just considered items.


In RPG and roguelike games, generally a level refers to when you gather enough of a resource through gameplay to reach a threshold where you get a notification and a chance to improve your character by boosting stats or picking abilities. In many survivors-likes, when you level or fill up whatever bar you are filling, you are presented with items and weapon upgrades instead of skill trees and passive perks, but they function to make a build. We try to refer to the areas play takes place in as maps or stages to avoid confusion.

Level Choices (Streamlined)

Simply put, when you level up you are presented with choices and they are simplified to make leveling quick and keep you in the action. This is in contrast to passive level ups, for example, which apply to you or your items without any interaction. In survivors-likes you are often presented with 3-4 options, making it quick to choose and continue playing your run while offering a lot of randomization. This is also somewhat in contrast to ARPG style skill trees – level choices are generally presented without being able to see the other skill trees. You have to pick and go with it. Sometimes these games pick simple UI over showing you all the stats and some players prefer this.

Lo-Fi Charm

Roughly, does a game feel charming due to its perhapes homemade, humble, indie feel. A game like Chess Survivors may be a little janky, but it’s sincere and earnestly fun, winning full points in Lo-Fi Charm. This is one of our fuzzy categories to measure something many gamers value but is hard to specify. Often when a game is low on charm it can be referred to as “soulless” or “corporate”. It can be hard to tell you what would make a game more charming, but you know it when you see it.

Loot Event

In survivors-likes players often don’t click on enemy bodies to loot like in RPGs, things are going to fast. But not all loot is dropped immediately, sometimes a player might need to stay in an area for a certain amount of time, kill a certain amount of enemies, or other small challenge. This might then result in a treasure chest becoming unlocked, portal opened, or other in game event which results in some loot and/or XP. This adds some variety into the run. See also: Treasure Chest.


An interactable item or objective that bestows loot. The obvious example is a treasure chest, but a wooden crate or a lampost can also be a lootable if it drops a reward. One of the most famous lootables is the yellow question mark brick in Mario, which releases a powerup for the player.

Lots of Content

On the review scale, does this game have a lot of ways to put time into it? Sometimes a good arcade game doesn’t have much and that’s ok. Quality is taken into consideration. Not just quantity of unlocks but the amount of gameplay that’s enjoyable due to it.

Low Price

A big factor in how fans evaluate games in this genre is the price, since Vampire Survivors is only 4.99 and many of the biggest games are free or have expansive free demos. This may not be entirely fair, apples to oranges in terms of what some of these games include, but if a game is 4.99 or less it gets a full point in low price by default. If there is a lot of value and the price is only a little higher it could still get a full point.

Manic Shooter

In contrast to many mowing games or casual survivors-likes on the list, a manic shooter generally is a bullet hell that challenges the player’s reflex speed as much as memorization or strategy. In other words, the enemy bullets come quickly and constantly and they generally do a great deal of damage if not killing you outright in one shot. This is in contrast to maze like bullet or enemy patterns, or games where the player is expected to regularly take a few hits. See also: Danmaku, Bullet Hell

Many and/or Interesting Player Characters

We don’t take this quite as seriously as RPG games might, really looking for both interesting mechanics and visuals for the selectable characters or ships, etc. A game might have interesting characters if conditions on the character require the player to play very differently or drastically change how common mechanics in the game may work. They also get points if the characters are well designed and fun to look at. A game with 10 or more might have a 1 score here, a game with 1 fully realized character might get a 0 score, and a game where the intention is there to be is no character, a basic shape or stick figure might have a -1.

Many Challenges

In our ranking we’re not referring to just a game being challenging, but the player being informed of and congratulated for challenges in game. Often these are linked to unlocks, but sometimes this is just a checklist or for achievements. No matter how implemented, visible challenges to try keeps players coming back for one more run.


Also referred to as “stage”, we try not to refer to this as “level” to avoid confusion with RPG inspired mechanics. A map is the playfield for a survivors-like. In our scale we measure if a map is explorable and if it is big. Sometimes a game with basically no map, just a box or single screen to play in, is called an arena shooter.

Meta Unlocks

Meta progression that the player is congratulated for and earns through gameplay. Currency based meta unlocks require a resource gathered during play (like gold) to be spent on a variety of options, while goal based and find based meta unlocks become available to players as they complete challenges or find items and secrets on their runs.


A feature of roguelites, this means that you can increase your power between runs. This is usually done via currency based unlocks and goal/find based unlocks. It can include anything from passive stat boosts to new maps top items, weapons, characters, and even gameplay features like auto-aim.

Move Only

In our categories, the “move only” label refers to a simple control scheme, usually just moving the left control stick to manipulate your character (except for when in menu / level dialog). Some games you can do this for a period of time or have optional auto aim or auto fire, but to get a full score in this category you need to have only one control.

Mowing Game

Really a term only in use discussing survivors-likes, in these games you gather enemies up by moving around them and then moving through them in order to kill them, hence mowing them down. This could be with a build in a bullet heaven that is very close range, or it could be a survivors-like that focuses on melee range. Weapons are designed to make you move differently instead of adapting their aim to your movement. Distinguished also by the possibility of relaxed gameplay, like gardening. Seen a couple times as “Mowing Survival.” See also: Garlic-like.

Multiple Stages

Notably, this doesn’t say many stages. Several distinct stages with different gameplay elements might get as high a score here as a dozen differently skinned but highly interchangeable maps or arenas. See also: Maps.


Art that looks like neon signs! This is likely also vector inspired art in this genre but could also apply to spaceship games with certain attack effects or cyberpunk settings. See Also: Vivid, Vector Inspired Art

Not Buggy

On the review scale, this simply is a subjective measure of if the reviewer things the game was buggy or not.

Not Janky

On the review scale, this simply is a subjective measure of if the reviewer things the game was janky or not. Janky doesn’t exactly mean things are broken, just that it feels they might at any minute, they’re confusing, or implemented haphazardly.

On Attack / On Aim Movement Penalty

Sometimes when you are aiming or firing your weapon, your movement slows down. In some games, you stand completely still while aiming or firing. This category measures that impact on your movement.

One Handed Play

In our spreadsheet categories, a game is given full points for 1 handed play when it is either move only or can have whatever buttons needed mapped to one or two buttons on one side of a controller or an accessible controller. The particular categories for movement in this spreadsheet are helpful in tracking categories important to disabled gamers, and to differentiate between the many very similar survivors-likes that differ just on controls. (Note: We’re not using this as a euphemism.)

One More Run

In our spreadsheet we use one column to measure a variety of things that contribute to wanting to do one more run right away. Is the UI easy to get through to power up and jump in? Are there challenges to keep me going? Did I feel my death was my fault and not some cheap unavoidable thing I can’t overcome? Are the runs short enough that I can fool myself that I’ll only play one more tonight? These are all contributors to “one more run.”

Organic Waves

Also referred to as “unannounced waves”, this means that waves come in without any on screen text and often before you’ve finished clearing a previous wave. Sometimes this is done through a mechanic I like to call wave fill, where enemies are brought in to fill gaps left by dead ones in previous waves, but I’m not sure the official name.

Over The Top

A key feature in the bullet heaven, horde survival and overall survivors-like genre is how over the top it gets. Do you end up sending out millions of attacks a minute? Kill thousands of enemies at once? Is the screen totally covered and your computer on fire? Perfect.

Panic & Zen Duo Vibe

In our spreadsheet category, we’re referring to the swings a player feels during a run between intense moments of panic and almost relaxing zen ‘in the zone’ moments when handling a crowd well or enjoying a broken build.

Pixel Art

Per wikipedia: A form of digital art drawn with graphical software where images are built using pixels as the only building block. We give games full scores in this aesthetic category when they have 2.5d art like Rogue Genesia or other similar vibes as well. We’re measuring aesthetically, not scientifically.

But there is an importance gameplay wise, leading to the inclusion on the scale. Games with pixel art are often able to have much more going on screen and slower movement can also feel more immediate. 3D rendered characters often look like they are moving in slow motion in a survivors-like, with characters looking to walk through molasses if a game designer isn’t careful.


Called zako or small fry by Japanese shmup fans, these cannon fodder enemies are easy to destroy and sent in waves. You eat em up by the handful like popcorn, or perhaps they pop easily. You don’t hear the term as much about survivors-likes since almost all of the hordes of enemies are essentially popcorn.


Probably the most famous powerup is the mushroom in Mario. It’s an item that comes out of a lootable (a breakable brick) that gives him a powerful but losable increase to his strength and size. A powerup can be any collected item, the effect usually temporary by time or until hit, that changes the behavior of the game. An objective could also bestow a powerup, but usually in this subgenre we’re using powerup to refer to something that is dropped by enemies or breakables and collected. We may refer to other “buffs” as a “temporary effect.” For our scaling, we include things like magnets that gather XP up powerups.

Pure Vibes

A jokey way to refer to the fact that subjective categories will always rely on fuzzy logic, or fuzzy something at least. When generating the scale it turned out trying to be too particular resulted in bad recommendations. The revised scale encourages people to take it with a grain of salt and understand sometimes you’re relying on vibes.


Often written lowercase as pwu or pwus plural, stands for powerup or powerups. “Power up” is already a complicated concept so I try to write this out wherever possible and only recently encountered it as an abbreviation myself. Some games display these three letters on the screen when grabbing an item, perhaps where the term came from. See: Powerup

Ramp (Difficulty & Fun)

A term used to refer to the ease and enjoyability of the game as it increases or decreased difficulty and the amount of fun you have with varying mechanics. Hard to quantify, some games are very fun but have no ramp because there is no change in gameplay over time other than your own skills. However, some people do refer to how a game teaches you, even if runs don’t get easier, as a ramp. An ideal game probably gets both more fun, more complex, more fully understood, and more difficult as you put in more time and challenge yourself. It’s a hard balance!

Real Time

The gameplay is controlled live instead of taken in turns. This doesn’t usually really refer to it being a certain speed. Most games with a daytime mechanic have a vastly compressed cycle you can see in a short gameplay session, but are still generally referred to as real time.

Realistic Graphics

In our project, since we’re examining a pretty lofi game primarily distinguished by pixel art, we’ll often use ‘realistic’ to refer to any game that has appropriate portions for the bodies, 3D art, and some inclination in that general direction. Since it’s still a very arcady genre, a game like Yet Another Zombie Survivors isn’t expected to actually be realistic in any way.

Responsive & Fun Feel

On the review scale, this is kind of a more subjective controls check. Does the game feel like it responds to the player quickly, does it feel tight and reactive? And is it fun?


Referencing older styles of art and videogames. A game with a pixel art style mimicking SNES games might have a retro art style. So might a game with neon vectors. Sometimes also referred to as vintage art style when it’s very old – like Pong style.

Reverse Bullet Hell

A less common early attempt to explain games later described as bullet heavens.


Usually written rogueish without the hyphen (and with the “e”, unlike the dictionary version), this term dodges the whole lite vs like debate and simply notes that a game shares some elements with the rogue inspired genre. You’d think we wouldn’t need to define all of these, but a lot of people have a lot of very strong feelings about the rogue words so we do our best to be consistent according to these definitions.


Often written “roguelike”, this is a genre of games characterized by procedural generation, permadeath, and no metaprogression (among many other hotly debated features.) More broadly, many players, writers and devs apply roguelike to any game with short runs and permadeath.

Rogue-like: Action Roguelike

Action roguelikes on Steam include a wide variety of real time games with procedural generation, most of them also having metaprogression. The tag is widely inclusive of thousands of games, but on this spreadsheet we use it most to refer to more hack and slash or dungeon crawling style games that were the most common in the tag before the Survivors-like boom.

Rogue-like: Roguelike Deckbuilder

While deckbuilding refers to the process of making your deck inside the gameplay to play with through a run (like in Heretic’s Fork), some Roguelike deckbuilders like Star Survivor have a particular style of metaprogression that includes unlocking cards to be put into a “deck” for runs (deck construction.) Deck here is applied pretty liberally, very few of these games play like card games. In the survivors-like subgenre, chances are your “cards” chosen will be used for automated attacks or equipped in some way.

Rogue-like: Roguevania

A game that has both elements of roguelike games and metroidvanias (itself a portmanteau of Metroid and Castlevania). These are often sidescrollers, but the major factor is a game with an interconnected world where exploration is enabled by abilities unlocked over time.

Rogue-like: Traditional Roguelike

Traditional roguelikes is a term used for roguelikes on Steam that check a few other boxes such as turn based combat. In the r/roguelikes subreddit most users define all roguelikes strictly as traditional roguelikes.


Rogue-lite games often share many of the features with rogue-likes except for a major one: rogue-lites have metaprogression, meaning you still gain power as you play and the game gets easier or more over the top over time. While survivors-like is a portmanteau of “survival” and “roguelike” almost all survivors-likes are actually rogue-lites since they revolve heavily around metaprogression.


In roguelikes, roguelites and arcade games a run refers to the primary gameplay that takes place after you’ve gone past the main menu. Often games are optimized around a 30 minute or shorter run, but endless mode can go on forever and many roguelikes can be played for hundreds of hours during a single permadeath run.

Run Event

An event that happens during a run. Usually this refers to an interstitial dialog a player is presented with, though technically wave spawns, quest triggers and so on are all run events. In our category we refer to “level on xp gain run event”, which means after the player gains a certain amount of experience, they are presented with a dialog to level up. This is in contrast to being presented with all your levels at once on wave end, for example.

Run Time

In our spreadsheet we refer to run time as the “standard” length of play, but this also usually means outside of endless or campaign modes. Usually referring to a dungeon crawl run outside of the wave context (for example how long it takes to beat a Hades session). If the game isn’t run based, what is the length of making your way through the average play experience. For example, a vertically scrolling spaceship arcade game might have a half hour play session if you manage to do a one credit clear.


No spoilers! Broadly referring to edge case items of interest from easter eggs to cheats and hidden characters. Another level of depth that many classic games indulge in. We try to ask devs if there are secrets in their game, but not spoil them! Anything a dev considers a secret is fair game on a score card.


A short way to write “shoot ’em up”, this could probably be applied to many survivors-likes but it’s generally reserved for retro sidescrolling and vertical scrolling games where you’re automatically moved from one side of the screen to the other, or twin stick shooters.


Also referred to as “bullets”, this game mechanic is not always so literal. Any projectile or ranged weapon effect that does damage could be considered a shot. As an in example, we might discuss how many player shots are needed to be considered a bullet heaven.


Games where the camera follows your character on a 2D axis while they move left or right. Usually free moving, though often you can’t move back to the left in level based games.

Similarity Scale

On our main spreadsheet, we’re just using one game to have something to compare to. It compares how similar games are to Vampire Survivors, not how good a game is or how close it is to a platonic ideal of “survivors-like”

Single Avatar

The player controls one character or object (like a ship), as opposed to switching between multiple (squad based or strategy) or issuing orders. See also: Direct Control.

Single Stick Shooter

A recent twist on twin stick shooter. A game where you do not aim your bullets or need to press a stick direction to fire. Technically there could be a fire button but most are auto shooters. Usually top down.


A term in use by shmup enthusiasts, this refers to the slowing of gameplay that was common on older machines once a lot was happening on screen. Aware this would happen, developers planned around it and players strategized around it. Slowdown is often artificially introduced into modern ports of classic shooters. This term isn’t in use as much among survivors-like players yet, but accurately describes the situation near the end of many bullet heaven runs – sometimes requiring or helping with strategy and other times being totally surmounted by the amount of player attacks.

Special Move

Many simple games label an activated ability that’s not your normal attack a “special move”. Perhaps the game has auto fire and auto aim for everything except one special that charges up for 2 minutes before you can press a button and deploy it. In our category ranking, we might score a variety of things as a special move, like if there is already an attack, dodge, and movement controls, one other active button could be considered a special move. It doesn’t really matter what button it is mapped to, just the complexity.

Spell Crafting

Not to be taken literally, this refers to the ability of players to modify how their abilities function, usually chaining various triggers and effects. For example with gems in Path of Exile or by arranging organs in Bio Prototype.


In the context of “get stupid”, as in getting stupid with it. Slang for something getting over the top in a way that would normally be silly and/or immersion breaking but works in a bullet heaven or similar game. Personally in these kinds of games I prefer an absolutely stupid amount of attacks or effects on screen at the end. I feel like if the endgame doesn’t get like.. stupid and I mean really stupid then I’m less encouraged to make all those smart buildcrafting decisions. Usually we’re talking about the last 5m of a 30m run (and the last 12 hours of an endless one until the computer breaks) but basically my goal is to get to a point where it’s unplayable but in my favor. At that point it’s just like watching the solitaire animation where all the cards bounce around so I’m less concerned with visibility or stutter. See also: Broken, Over the Top

Subtle Humor

Another category that is hard to explain in general, but easy to recognize in practice. Don’t think about expanding the tutorial with bad jokes. Think about how the character sprites move and react in a game of Metal Slug at the arcade. Or how your character in many games does a take to the camera when you’re idle. Perhaps the items and enemies are named in funny or cute unexpected ways. Maybe the elites and bosses have a rare unexpected non-player focused behavior. Maybe part of the background reacts when you thought it was static. Many good arcade games and great survivors-likes have their own unique subtle humor.

Survival Games

Not to be confused with the mechanic of wave survival, survival games like Minecraft have a focus on long term survival using crafting, usually in a sandbox environment. We’re not looking at them in this document, but it’s worth knowing the difference.

Survival Horror

Another similar sounding genre name we’re defining to avoid confusion, this refers to a subgenre of horror games usually in third person that are generally cinematic story games with periodic tense enemy encounters. They’re not action games and usually kind of far from survivors-likes.

Survivor Games

Another way to say survivors-like, this one is maybe too easily confused with survival games. And it doesn’t have the roguelike reference in the name.


Bold, fresh, easily confused with survival games, which are usually sandbox games about gathering and crafting to survive for long periods. Shame.


Survivors-likes! This is the new genre we’re studying! The term is a portmanteau of “survivor” and “roguelike”. Easily confused with “games like Vampire Survivors” which this spreadsheet tracks.

Survivor comes from the horde survival mechanic and the name of two early games, Vampire Survivors and Magic Survival, as well as about 150 other similar games with survivor in their title.

Roguelike refers to the features pulled from the roguelike and roguelite subgenres. Most survivors-likes are technically roguelites, but survivors-lite sounds like a survivors adjacent game and most fans don’t make a distinction with the rogue-ish features.

We take a broad definition of this because we’re excited to see a lot of variation and invention in the genre! There are many other features people feel are important in a survivors-like and we try to compare many of them in our scale!


Broadly, the interactions between various selectable systems in the game. Usually between active and passive abilities, weapons, items and temporary buffs. A lot of different options for satisfying synergy contributes to the enjoyable buildcrafting in a game. Synergies are most often found passively increasing the power of similar moves, but interesting synergies go past the obvious to change the shape, behavior, and visuals via unexpected player discovered interactions. See also: Impactful.


There are a few tag columns that become actual browsable taxonomies on the website. These include things like genre, aesthetics or setting as well as summaries of the control style, game modes and run time info columns. The definitions for various tags will mostly be findable here! One thing it’s worth noting is that we use many of these words differently than they are currently applied on steam – most particularly rogue-lite vs rogue-like, bullet hell as the only term for all of the games, to pick a couple examples. We also add a lot of tags like single stick shooter or survivors-like that currently do not exist on steam. With this in mind, and hoping for consistency, we don’t import tags from any other site. All tags are manually applied.


Just a sciency word for categorizing things. There’s the science of Taxonomy – the study of classifying things – and also the individual noun meaning a way to categorize things. In common usage online, a “tag” is a taxonomy. A “category” is another one. Technically, in many databases the author is also a taxonomy, since it is a method of sorting the data. In our case, we have a wide array of tags and other filters that can be used in our search/filter view. If you do a search you’ll generally get a filter view with a header about that, if you click on a tag, you’ll get a ‘taxonomy’ view of all the matching games in the database.

Technical Check / Functional Polish

This category in the main scale refers to bug checks, optimization etc. You can still get a full point here if your game chugs along at the end of a run (that’s just slowdown! it’s a feature, not a bug!) But if there are game breaking bugs, major issues, a game might get a bad score here. This helps us weed out shovelware and unfinished attempts – after all, if a game doesn’t work at all can it really be said to be exactly like Vampire Survivors?

The Monstergirl Scale

A fun name for the Vampire Survivors similarity scale, just based on a reddit username.

Third-Person Adventure

A camera viewpoint often found in action RPGs, where the focus is less on shooting than third-person shooter games. They often have more story as well.

Third-Person Shooter

Often written with the hyphen instead of abbreviated like FPS, shooting games where you see your character before you.

Timed Survival

Also written time survival, this is a gameplay mode where the player is challenged to survive until the end of a countdown.

Top Down

The camera is positioned exactly above – sometimes this doesn’t really look like it if it’s a pixel art game as the sprites tend to be face on to the camera. We group this with Isometric often, since the gameplay is usually very similar.

Touch Focus (Damage On)

Almost always written together, this doesn’t mean touch controls, rather that enemies in the game contact you to hurt you instead of sending projectiles or other sorts of attacks. Tag rules, basically.

Tower Defense

A game where defensive structures or deployments placed by the player face off against enemies, usually in waves they must survive.

Treasure Chest

An in-run object a player can open in order to find something within. It could be a literal treasure chest, but we also count a variety of things where the loot or powerup isn’t dropped directly on the ground. In survivors-likes chests often drop from enemies and contain a great deal of randomization as to their contents. In a space shooter, something like a cargo ship that doesn’t shoot or harm you might be considered a treasure chest. See also: Loot Event


When pressed, this button will set your gun off! Usually mapped to the right trigger on a controller, it doesn’t actually have to be mapped to a trigger to be considered one for our discussion. Often this is a mouse click or a face button press.

Turn Based Hybrid

A game where play consists of both turn based moves and real time features.

Twin Stick Shooter

A game where you use one control stick to move and the second one to aim or to aim and fire, if fire is also assigned to the stick. Usually top down or isometric.

Unique Twists

An important column on the review scale, this refers mostly to unique gameplay twists that might make a game stand out. It doesn’t have to be super unique to feel fresh and get a full score, though. Some aesthetic/theme consideration taken into account here, but mostly focused on gameplay.


Features and content the player gains access to through play or by spending in game currency.


Another way to say survivors-like, this is not very common.

Vampire Survivors Like

A game that is like Vampire Survivors. Probably as time goes on many games will be survivors-likes but not very much like Vampire Survivors, just as Vampire Survivors is a rogue-inspired game but not very much at all like rogue.

Vector Inspired Art

While proper neon line art vector art is pretty rare in videogames both old and new, there are a lot of games that nod to this classic art style so we apply this tag pretty liberally in the aesthetic tags column. See Also: Neon


Also known as a merchant, in our scale we are looking for if there is a mechanism for exchanging currency and picking rewards with an NPC within a run, not just buying upgrades or unlocks outside of a run.

Vibe Check

On the review scale, this column is just a final chance to add a little more subjectivity into the review, since it’s a little easy to get too high a score just by checking off the other features.


Bright and vibrant, generally used with regards to graphics in a game like Voidigo, but could also describe other particularly blaring art styles. See also: Neon


WASD or “wasd” is a keyboard control scheme referring to the keys “w” “a” “s” and “d”, which take the formation similar to the arrow keys on a QWERTY keyboard. That would be “w” for up, “a” for left, “s” for down, and “d” for right.


Waves refer to a group of enemies that shows up all at once. They can be announced in rounds, or show up organically. A wave could be a giant horde, a boss, or a small group of tactical enemies. All that matters is they show up together.

Wave Fill

I’m not sure the exact name for this mechanic, but it refers to a method used in Vampire Survivors and many other games to fill out dead enemies killed in a previous wave by spawning more enemies or tweaking the numbers in the next wave event. I think it is called 早回し in Japanese, or that’s a related concept.

Wave Shooter

Previously used most in older arcade games, wave shooters can be differentiated from wave survival in that the goal is often to get a high score and not as much to survive damage or destroy all the enemies. Some wave shooters, like many VR ones, don’t even have a health mechanic for the player.

Wave Survival

A lot like horde survival, as most horde survival games do have enemies that come in waves. But sometimes games have waves of just one or two or small numbers of enemies at a time.

Writing (Unique / Fun)

Broadly speaking, looking at everything from the tutorial to the bestiary to the item and ability descriptions, is the feel of the game’s words enjoyable? You may think there aren’t many opportunities to get a full score in this with an arcade game. But the opposite is true. If the only words in your game are the main menu, make them good ones. If the only words in your game are the descriptions of abilities, make them visceral. Don’t just name an item what it is, give it a unique name to your setting and vibe. Otherwise a game can quickly become generic or forgettable.

Wuxia & Xianxia

In regards to setting and discussion of story, we’re generally applying Xianxia to more fantastical Chinese fantasy and Wuxia to more grounded (though still probably fantastical) martial arts fantasy. There’s a good explainer of this in r/fantasy on reddit. For example, Cultivation stories about quests to become immortal and interacting with deities are a Xianxia subgenre. But since we’re applying tags to games to help people find them, sometimes we’ll have both tags on a game that could appeal to fans of both subgenres. Generally this just means more liberally applying the Wuxia tag to Xianxia setting games that also include martial arts.


Also “Exp”. Experience is a resource that players gain, usually by killing enemies. In survivors-likes usually you also have to pick up your XP resource from the ground after killing, adding another layer to the gameplay.


Used, probably inaccurately, by gamers to refer broadly to a game where you can be involved but also detached, engaged but relaxed, totally in the zone or zoned out.

Mod Checklist Columns

At the end of the sheet (in usually hidden columns) there are some Mod Meta Notes. These are a sort of checklist that help keep track of what rows need to be checked over for what. Here are what they mean if you're curious:

  • m Meta notes complete
  • d meta notes help asked for on Discord
  • s meta notes help asked for on Steam
  • ~ dev contact attempt checked off
  • * dev interviewed / surveyed
  • o owned and on to-review list
  • c owned and score checked against scoring guide
  • > review posted on reddit
  • } review posted on reddit and steam

Export Column and Row Labels

The spreadsheet changes are used to update websites front end once a day every morning. In hidden columns and rows there are many labels designed for CSV export to aid in use in various formats for research, visualizations and obviously front end development for filtering or other custom views! Here's a dictionary of some terms.

row_type - the category of row for input, generally if it's a database entry or if it's a meta column to be ignored on input

row_position - the label of the meta row (such as "top-header") and the ranking position of the videogames in the database

meta_row - a row designed to not be directly imported, for example display or formatted title information in the spreadsheet

meta_column - a column not designed to be directly imported, for example spacing or spreadsheet specific mod meta note columns

column variables - there are variable friendly names for every column, for example "scale_top_down" or "genre_tags". this should be fairly human readable and the definition is just the styled column usually!

There are over 200 columns of data imported for each videogame in the database!