Cuphead Tips and Tricks - Prima Games

Cuphead Tips and Tricks

by Bryan Dawson

Cuphead is a difficult game for the average gamer. Depending on your level of skill in side-scrolling shooters, some will find it difficult to beat most levels, while others will find it hard to get high grades on each stage. No matter your skill level, these Cuphead tips and tricks should help you get a running start once you have the game booted up and ready to go. Some of our Cuphead tips are catered toward new players, while others should be able to help even the most seasoned shooter fan.


One of the most important abilities in Cuphead is the parry. Almost any enemy or projectile that’s pink in color can be parried. To parry, simply jump into the air, then press the jump button a second time. The window on a parry isn’t very long, which means you’ll need moderately decent timing or else you’ll just find yourself jumping into an enemy.

For some people it’s more difficult to parry an enemy or projectile to their left or above them, so try to focus on parrying things to the right of, or below your character. That means you should position your character to the left of the target you want to parry, then jump over to it. Alternatively, you can jump and make sure you’re in the downward portion of the jump arc when you try to parry. Either way, you can parry from all angles, it’s just a bit harder for some people to parry an object to the left or above your character.

The advantage of a parry is two-fold. First, the target will be destroyed and your character will not take damage. Secondly, your character will gain a full card in your EX gauge at the bottom of the screen. This means you can immediately perform an EX attack or continue to build the gauge so you can perform a Super Art (special move).

Finally, if you wish to earn a perfect grade on any level, you will need to perform at least three parries throughout the course of the stage. This makes learning how to parry a necessary skill if you want to earn higher grades for each level.

The Shop

You can purchase new abilities and charms from the shop. To buy these items you will need coins that you earn by collecting them in run and gun stages or finding them hidden in the world map or by speaking with various NPCs. The first set of items you see in the shop will not change unless you buy an item. That means if you want a different item than the ones you see available, you’ll need to buy something first. The purchased item will be replaced by a different item.

New Abilities

After you pick up some new abilities at the shop, you will need to equip them. You can equip new abilities from the equip menu (Y button by default) on the world map. In this menu you can set your primary and secondary weapons, a charm item, your Super Art, or even check out all of the contracts you current have (as well as the grades on each completed stage).

There are a wide variety of abilities in the game. Some abilities will increase your hit points, while others will give you a new weapon or EX attack. Make sure you clean out the shop to gain access to all of the possible weapons and abilities in the game. If you don’t buy anything, the items in the shop won’t change.

EX Attacks and Super Arts

You may notice several cards in the lower left corner of the screen during stages and boss battles. These cards represent your EX gauge and control your ability to use EX attacks and Super Arts. With at least one card you can perform an EX attack (B on default controller settings), which is an attack several times more powerful than your default weapon. You can pick up new EX attacks from the shop.

Once you have five cards the gauge will start to spin indicating you have access to a Super Art. When you first start the game you will not have any Super Arts to use outside of specific stages such as Threatenin’ Zeppelin near the beginning of the game. However, if you locate a Mausoleum (pictured below) and complete the level inside, you can earn new Super Arts. Once you have obtained a Super Art you can equip it in the world map equip menu. You cannot use a Super Art until you’ve equipped it.

Most boss battles are split into multiple phases where the attacks and attack patterns change as you progress through the fight. Some of these phases can be difficult to play through. Use EX attacks and Super Arts to inflict maximum damage on the boss and move through each phase as quickly as possible. If there’s a specific enemy or phase giving you trouble during a boss battle, you may want to save your EX attack or Super Art to take out that one enemy or phase and move on with the boss battle.

Evasion Tools

Like with most shooters, evasion is a key strategy if you want to go far. Cuphead gives players multiple ways to evade attacks, but it’s up to you to know when to use these abilities. The two main abilities that you should be using frequently are the dash and duck. Dashing (Y on the default controller layout) can be done on the ground or in the air. Your character will dash a set distance, so make sure you’re not dashing into something bad. After a dash you can perform another action, such as a parry if you dash while in the air, or simply attacking immediately after a dash.

Dashing is more than just another way to move. You can dash at any point during your jump, which means you can use the dash to cut your jump short or to alter your trajectory if you find that you’re about to jump into an enemy. The dash executes very quickly and can get you out of a sticky situation when timed correctly.

Most people overlook the ability to duck. While this isn’t a new ability by any means, your character ducks very low to the ground. This makes it extremely useful for evading attacks that you may have thought were unavoidable. You can even shoot while ducking, making this ability even more useful. Basically, if it looks like you’re about to take a hit, you should be ducking, jumping or dashing in an attempt to evade the enemy or incoming attack.

When to Change Weapons

There are quite a few weapons available in Cuphead. Most can be purchased through the shop as you play through the game and earn more coins. While the default primary weapon is pretty good, the alternate weapons can be extremely useful in certain situations. For example, the Spread weapon shoots a much wider area than your default weapon. This can hit enemies that may attack from angles that would be difficult to hit with the default weapon. However, the down side is that it has very short range, so you have to be close to the enemy for it to work.

You can switch weapons with the Left Bumper once you have a second weapon equipped in the world map equip menu. Try out each new weapon you purchase to see how it fits your play style and where it can fill holes in your gameplay. We’ll have a complete breakdown of every weapon in the very new future.

Boss Battles

Most of the stages in the game are boss battles. Completing these epic battles against one or more enemies will sometimes unlock access to new areas, so it’s important not to skip any levels. Boss battles are generally broken down into multiple phases, with each phase offering a different attack pattern and usually getting increasingly more difficult with each new phase.

While many other games have boss battles with multiple phases, the bosses in Cuphead are generally more random than other games. For example, you may know the attack pattern of a boss, but the order of the attacks or the speed at which phases change or different things happen during the battle can change every single time you play. You can’t just learn a pattern and expect to win in Cuphead.

When you defeat a boss you are awarded a letter grade based on your completion time, remaining hit points, number of times you successfully parried, how many EX attacks and Super Arts you used, and the skill level you played on. In order to obtain a perfect A+ grade in most boss battles, you need to not take any damage, successfully parry at least three times, use at least six EX attacks or two Super Arts and complete the battle on the Regular difficulty setting. There’s also a specific time limit that varies depending on the boss battle. Go over that limit and you won’t earn an A+ grade.

Run and Gun Stages

These side-scrolling stages are generally used to earn coins. You can take these coins to the shop to buy new abilities. You can only obtain the coins if you grab them while playing through the stage, then complete the stage. If you lose all of your hit points and have to start over, you won’t retain any of the coins you collected previously. Likewise, any coins you collect will no longer appear in a run and gun stage once you’ve completed it.

Once you’ve completed a run and gun stage, you are given a letter grade similar to what you receive after completing a boss battle. What’s different is that using EX attacks and Super Arts do not have any impact on your grade in run and gun stages. Instead, the number of coins you collect will help determine your grade. Overall, you’re graded on completion time, hit points remaining, how many times you successfully parried, the number of gold coins collected, and the difficulty level you selected. In order to get an A+ grade you will need to beat the stage under a specific time (that varies per stage), do not take any damage, successfully parry at least three times, collect all gold coins, and play on the Regular difficulty setting.

You can find more strategies and advice, including boss strategies, in our Cuphead game hub!

Bryan Dawson

Bryan Dawson has an extensive background in the gaming industry, having worked as a journalist for various publications for nearly 20 years and participating in a multitude of competitive fighting game events. He has authored over a dozen strategy guides for Prima Games, worked as a consultant on numerous gaming-related TV and web shows and was the Operations Manager for the fighting game division of the IGN Pro League.