SteamWorld Dig: A Fistful of Dirt

aka: SteamWorld Dig HD
Nintendo 3DS Specs [ all ]
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Description official descriptions

The protagonist Rusty is a robot who inherits a mine from his uncle. Since he additionally also received a pick-axe, the path is clearly laid out: exploring the mine and becoming rich! While the game starts with a Wild West atmosphere, later parts of the mine show steampunk elements.

Rusty can explore the mine by hacking away dirt with the pick-axe. The goal is to find treasure and additional equipment which is required to be able to proceed in other areas, e.g. a drill allows to break stone. However, those gadgets require water which can be refilled at water reserves which can be found in the mine. Other obstacles are traps, enemies, switch puzzles and platforming sequences. It is also advised to watch for rocks - when Rusty removes dirt under them, gravity comes into play.

The found precious metals or gems have to be sold on the surface - fortunately there are teleporter and elevators which shorten the way - for money which in turn is used to buy upgrades (e.g. more health points or a bigger capacity for carrying treasure) or equipment (e.g. dynamite for killing enemies, ladders or lanterns). Some upgrades additionally cost energy balls which can be found inside the mine. After dying, the people on the surface repair Rusty against a fee.


  • スチームワールド ディグ HD - Japanese Wii U spelling
  • スチームワールドディグ - Japanese spelling
  • 蒸氣世界開採 - Traditional Chinese spelling
  • 蒸汽世界开采 - Simplified Chinese spelling

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Credits (Nintendo 3DS version)

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Average score: 83% (based on 20 ratings)


Average score: 3.5 out of 5 (based on 17 ratings with 1 reviews)

A fun foray into the underground, but this mine doesn't run very deep.

The Good

  • Sharp, colorful graphics
  • Solid Controls
  • Lots of little secrets to discover

The Bad

  • Short
  • Not a ton of replayability
  • Lack of variety in enemy types
  • Story and characters aren't very engaging

The Bottom Line
Does anyone remember an old MS-DOS game called VGA Miner? If not, go here and give it a whirl.

Played it now? Congratulations, you now know exactly what Steamworld Dig is all about. Grab a pick axe, dig down into the ground, find some minerals, trade them in for cash, buy some upgrades, and keep digging. It's a remarkably addictive model for a game, and, speaking as one who played VGA Miner back in a day and age when that's more or less all computers could run, I'm a bit surprised that it's taken this long for a commercial game like it to surface.

Steamworld Dig is, granted, a more substantial entry than the DOS product it draws inspiration from. There's a storyline to this one: You, Rusty the Robot, have inherited your Uncle's mine, as well as the responsibility of investigating the mysteries that lie within. The deeper you go, the more apparent it becomes that the tunnels below are more than just shiny ore and subterranean creatures.

The town of Tumbleton resides above all this and is populated with characters that will buy your ore and minerals, sell you upgrades, and make really general statements about how mysterious everything you're finding is. The narrative is a weak point of the game - the mystery that lies below has some real potential as a plot hook, but none of the peripheral characters seem to have anything interesting to say about it. Over time, the plot becomes a forgettable background element in your adventure, and consequently the experience devolves into an exercise of "keep digging until the game tells you to stop".

And unfortunately, the game will tell you to stop much sooner than you'll probably expect. My first run, start to finish, took just under 6 hours. I didn't exactly speed run it, either; I backtracked a few times, picking up missed minerals and revisiting caves that new upgrades gave me access to. While this isn't unforgivably short as games go, the truth is SWD doesn't give you a whole lot of reasons to go back and play again, either. There are some achievements you could strive for, like mining out 15,000 tiles (my 6-hour run netted me about half of that) or finishing the game without dying once. Ultimately, Steamworld Dig could have benefited greatly from a New Game Plus mode - more upgrades, tougher enemies, a whole new mine to explore with different jumping puzzles and secret areas.

What time you do spend with SWD is enjoyable, at least. The controls are smooth and responsive - Rusty will run, jump, dig, vault off walls, and use a number of special abilities, and all of it feels exactly how it should. You'll need all of those tools and a some sharp thinking as well to navigate the depths of the mines - aside from aggressive creatures, falling boulders, and vats of acid, there's also a plethora of caves and secret areas to discover, where super valuable minerals and precious gems are hidden.

Your exploration into the depths of the mine will be easy on the eyes, too. SWD has a colorful, attractive art style, even when your mining through environments mostly comprised of dirt and rocks. The residents of Tumbleton, bland as they are as conversationalists, are really cool to look at; all of them sport bright colors and interesting robotic features seemingly pulled out of a saturday morning cartoon.

Your enemies are equally appealing to look at - bright colors, nicely designed - but there just aren't that many of them. You start off fighting underground insects, then move on a race of insane subterranean humans, some robots (some of which are the mechanical equivalent of earlier enemies) and an end boss that isn't particularly engaging or challenging to defeat. The main focus of SWD isn't on combat, so I can understand to an extent why there wouldn't be a huge focus on variety in enemy types, but I still feel that the game would have felt more substantial by having a few more different designs worked into the mix.

There's also a light mechanic that is a nice visual element as well as an aspect of gameplay. Rusty has a finite resource of lamp oil that slowly ticks away as you explore underground. Your lamp illuminates the ground around you, revealing what minerals and features exist within your light radius. As your lamp oil dwindles, that radius gets smaller, until, upon running out, you can't see what's in any of the earth tiles on screen. You can still see everything else (your character, tunnels you've dug out, etc), so it's easy(ish) to navigate your way back to Tumbleton, but the lack of light does present the possibility of running blindly into a hazard that you otherwise would have spotted.

Ultimately, Steamworld Dig is a product that presents a number of good ideas and excellent design decisions, and then undermines itself by being too short and not giving the player any reason to come back afterwards. It's still a game worth your time - it just won't take up all that much of it.

Windows · by The Cliffe (1552) · 2015

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Patrick Bregger.

Stadia added by Rik Hideto. Nintendo Switch added by Kam1Kaz3NL77. Xbox One added by Sciere. Wii U added by Kabushi.

Additional contributors: Rik Hideto, Kam1Kaz3NL77, Kennyannydenny.

Game added May 25th, 2014. Last modified August 31st, 2023.