Spelunky Game Poster Image


Highly challenging platformer rewards dogged determination.

What parents need to know

Educational value

Kids can learn about strategy, problem solving, cooperation, and perseverance in this challenging platform adventure. Players need to develop a willingness to keep at it in order to figure out how to overcome the game's many different obstacles and make their way through a perpetually changing series of navigational challenges. They'll also learn to verbally cooperate with other players as they work toward the same goal in the multiplayer mode. Spelunky is particularly hard to play, but it helps kids practice problem solving while demonstrating that diligence can pay off.

Positive messages

This game promotes a positive social local gaming experience, with up to four players playing cooperatively or competitively on the same screen. Its high level of difficulty encourages players to be strategic and thoughtful as they work their way through dangerous caves.

Positive role models

The game's hero -- players can choose from several of different genders and ethnicities -- is an explorer. He saves people in need of saving when possible (though he can also accidentally knock them out), but his primary goal is simply to journey ever deeper into the game's caves, collecting treasure along the way. 

Ease of play

This is a very difficult game, but not necessarily frustratingly. Players need to restart worlds from scratch when their spelunker dies, but the levels are different each time so it never feels like you are re-treading old ground. Still, kids who aren't cautious and don't learn from their mistakes may find their frequent failures disheartening.


Players control little cartoon spelunkers who face dangers including snakes, spiders, bats, piranha, spiky pits, zombies, and crazed caveman. Kids can use a little whip to strike their enemies, which results in a couple of small blobs of red blood flying through the air. Bombs -- meant for creating new passages -- can also be used to destroy some enemies.


Rescued women will bestow a smooch on the player's explorer.  

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Spelunky is an extremely challenging platform adventure game available through Xbox Live Arcade that includes a bit of cartoonish violence and a small amount of blood. Its mild combat (against spiders, bats, and cavemen) and high level of difficulty make the experience best suited for older kids of a more persevering nature. However, thoughtful players with a mind for strategy and quick problem solving will be well rewarded as they journey deeper into the game's constantly changing caves.

What's it about?

Based on an acclaimed freeware PC game of the same name, SPELUNKY is an exceptionally challenging side-scrolling platform game available through Xbox Live Arcade. It puts players in the shoes of an explorer who has found a magical cave filled with treasures and traps. The caverns are magical because they change layout each time the player descends. New paths, hazards, and treasures take shape, ensuring gamers never play the same level twice. The goal is simply to survive long enough to unlock new environmental themes and hazards, which become unlocked after surviving four consecutive levels (about five to ten minutes of play). Players can also explore the caves cooperatively with up to four local players, or go head to head against each other in speedy brawling matches that feel a little like the Super Smash Bros. games.

Is it any good?


Spelunky is a terrific platform gaming experience for those who have the patience to persevere. Its genius shines through in several ways, from extremely tight controls to the satisfying manner in which players can use bombs strategically to break through rock and create new passages and paths. However, the game's greatest strength is the sense of exploration and wonder it conveys. Each time the player starts a new descent he won't know what he'll encounter. He may find darkened areas lit only by torches, pools of water he'll need to drain by blasting through them, golden idols that are booby-trapped, or people who run shops, host mini-games, or are just waiting to be saved. The constantly changing caves eliminate the problem of repetition, making the game a truly never-ending adventure. It's great bang for your buck and can be wonderfully gratifying -- assuming you don't mind doing a whole lot of dying.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about spelunking. What do you think of the hobby of exploring caves? What kinds of dangers are involved? Would you be scared to explore pitch black holes in the sides of mountains?

  • Families can also discuss perseverance. Some games require players to try, try again in order to be successful. Does this kind of play bother you? Do you feel a greater sense of satisfaction when you are finally successful?

  • Is going on a virtual adventure important to you? What is it about adventure games that draws you to them?

Game details

Platforms:Xbox 360
Subjects:Science: geology
Skills:Collaboration: cooperation, teamwork
Emotional Development: developing resilience, persevering
Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, solving puzzles, strategy
Available online?Not available online
Developer:Microsoft Studios
Release date:July 4, 2012
ESRB rating:E10+ for Violence, Blood, Crude Humor

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Teen, 13 years old Written bykniroid October 18, 2012

great game

this game is awesome! not many people will be reading this, but it really is a good game. it has a high difficulty, and challenges the player to think out how they are going to take action. violence and blood are very minor, with blood just being little dots, and the violence being no worse then what you would see in bugs bunny or tom and jerry. there is no sex, but kissing is involved. you can rescue "damsels in distress, and they will give you a kiss in return witch in turn gives you health. there are also kissing booths, but those are just the same thing. if you have younger kids, go on the adventure with them!
Parent of a 8 year old Written bymojomartha January 4, 2013

Intensely fun...but frustrating game.

Spelunky is sort of like Indiana Jones meets Pitfall. You're a cave explorer, treasure hunter or perhaps an archeologist -- each level is randomly generated and no two are identical. As you progress you move from caves to jungle to iceworlds etc, and you can battle the creatures on each level (bats, spiders, snakes, frogs, skeletons, vampires, piranha, cave men, aliens etc...), loot treasures, buy items from stores inside the maze that will help you in your explorations and rescue "damsels" (a dog, a girl or a guy) for a kiss that restores some of your life energy. Of course, you can also sacrifice the damsels for special loot from a pagan diety called Kali, and rob the denizens.... so...while the game allows for positive role models -- it also allows you to be...more of a Belloq character than an Indiana Jones type if you prefer. . It has cartoon violence and a small amount of blood -- and if you dilly dally and take too long on a level -- a somewhat scary ghost that will stalk you and kill you instantly if it touches your character. The game is very challenging -- difficult even, and can be frustrating even for adult gamers -- but it's also very fun, addictive and if you are inclined to strategy games and puzzles and have an agile mind for impromptu problem solving you will find it rewarding! My 8 year old absolutely loves it (but is terrified of the ghost) and can't seem to progress beyond the ice level...but it hasn't stopped her from trying...over and over again. It does allow for cooperative multiplayer play -- but be prepared to die a lot! You have to have incredible team management skills or be semi-mind readers in order to survive together as a group for very long -- so if your kids are the kind to become very angry or frustrated by apparent ineptitude in others -- it's not the best multiplayer experience. I could see it degenerating into sibling squabbling due to the intensity of concentration and immediacy of problem solving involved. It's VERY HARD to play as a multi-player game -- but again, it's fun to do so. Gameplay wise it's a tricky game and ideally suited for kids that love puzzles, strategy and can think and react quickly. Content wise it's fine for just about any age -- although that ghost is a bit scary. I think it's ideal for kids 8 and up -- the more experienced they are with puzzles and platformers the better.
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex