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Cuphead's influences - two years on

It’s no secret that the bullet-hell fiendish-boss-filled platformer Cuphead has several sources for inspiration, from Fleischer cartoons to the early work of Walt Disney, it’s something well covered and you can check out more here on our Cuphead hub.

Now, two years after release, we thought it would be the perfect time to look back at the other influences on Cuphead, those in the gaming world. Here’s the influences that play a part in helping the developers at Studio MHDR bring the gameplay of Cuphead to life.


The granddaddy of run and gun platforming, almost every game in the genre owes something to Contra. Dating back to 1987, it defined the core gameplay loops that are still prevalent today. With a huge roster of enemies and weapons and screens full of bullets and projectiles both from foes and allies, there’s a direct line from Contra right to Cuphead.

Gunstar Heroes

Gunstar Heroes brought run and gun platforming action to the Sega Mega Drive, debuting venerated development house Treasure onto the platform. Similar in style to Contra but with some twists that refine the genre, such as combining weapons and huge memorable bosses, it’s a true classic. 

Contra: Hard Corps

A direct sequel to Contra III, for many Contra: Hard Corps was their first introduction to Contra and the run and gun genre at large. Released in Europe and Australia as ‘Probotector’, it featured branching paths through the game as well as rock-hard gameplay, most noticeably in the US version which was notoriously harder than the original Japanese release.

Super Mario World

Super Mario World is probably the most influential platformer, with huge levels that each introduce and proceed to expand upon platforming ideas, it set the tone for the following decades of platformers. With an overland map made of many connected islands, its influence over games such as Cuphead is apparent, as well as with its commitment to precise platforming.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

The second sequel to Street Fighter III saw an expanded roster as well as improved combat mechanics. Most notably amongst these is the parry system, something that is essential to true Cuphead mastery. With air parries and others being introduced into Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, it was one of the first truly modern fighting games.

Mega Man

What game is more famous for its bosses than Mega Man and the following series? Historically in Mega Man each world is themed around its boss, with the boss being the icing on the platforming cake. Cuphead takes this and runs with it, with Inkwell Isles each themed around the bosses and themes found within.

Thunder Force III

Flying through the air on a bullet-filed path to victory, Thunder Force III is probably the best and most well-known of the Thunder Force series. Taking inspiration itself from classics such as R-Type, it helped refine what we now know today as a bullet hell shooter. Play any level in Cuphead, especially some of the later bosses as you dodge and parry your way to victory, and you’ll see the influences become obvious.

For more Cuphead information, articles, and details about its influences, head on over to our Cuphead hub and load your cup full.