Below are list of games recommended by you! Please keep sending them. We’re looking specifically for interactive fiction games that are free (or very low cost) and can be played online. Provide a brief blurb about why the game would be interesting to study.
for Fall 2016 version:
- The Vanishing of Ethan Carter is an open world adventure game where you take on the role of the paranormal investigator Paul Prospero. He receives a fan letter from Ethan Carter which inspires him to journey to Ethan’s hometown of Red Creek Valley. Upon arrival, he encounters paranormal phenomena and signs of violence which leads him to begin an investigation as he pieces together the clues left behind to discover what has happened in this tiny mining village.
- The Uncle from Nintendo is a Twine Game that plays on the ideas of some classic childhood memories and twists them in ways that are unexpected, to say the least. It is difficult to describe the game without giving away spoilers, but the narrative is amazingly delivered through the media it embodies. Also, it’s free to play, in-browser.
- Currently $19.99 on Steam, Dark Souls: Prepare to Die Edition is a bundle that includes the original Dark Souls game along with the Artorias of the Abyss DLC. That being said, the game is a third person action role-playing game where the player assumes the role of the chosen undead who must make pilgrimage to the land of Lordran in order to discover the fate of the undead. The world is intricately designed to be one big interconnected map, filled with rich lore and having no real requirements on where to go first. Dark Souls allows the player a great deal of freedom to move along as they see fit. There is no right way to play the game, and a player can play as morally upstanding or downright malevolent as they wish (as long as they are willing to face the consequences at any rate). Although, one thing to be kept in mind at all times is that this game is difficult, and one should always be prepared to die over and over and over again before they finally succeed.
- Papo & Yo is a fantasy adventure game based on the creator’s own past of dealing with his abusive alcoholic father. The game is about a young Brazilian boy Quico who has been abused by his alcoholic father. While hiding in his closet during one his father’s drunken rages, clutching his favorite robot doll Lula, Quico suddenly finds himself in a dream-like world where he meets a giant lumbering creature known as Monster.
- The Cat Lady is a psychological horror graphic adventure game. You play as Susan Ashworth, a chronically depressed, suicidal, middle-aged woman with no friends, no family, or no hope for the future. She hates flowers and her only companions are stray cats whom she summons to her flat by playing her piano. One night she decides to take her own life, but instead she meets the Queen of Maggots who grants her immortality and gives her the task to rid the world of five psychopaths referred to as “parasites”.
- Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons is an adventure game where you play as two brothers who go on a epic fairy tale journey to collect the waters from the Tree of Life to save their ill father. The two brothers must rely on each other if they wish to survive utilizing their different strengths and skills to help them along their journey. With no in-game dialogue given the story is portrayed through actions, not words.
- That Dragon, Cancer is an autobiographical adventure game about Ryan and Amy Green depicting their experience of raising their son Joel who was diagnosed with terminal cancer at the age of twelve. The games allows the player to experience their journey of hope by using the interactivity and immersion of the game to relate their tale in a way that a film cannot.
- The Witch’s House is a survival horror puzzle-oriented game where you play as the young girl Viola who must escape the house of a witch by solving all of its puzzles with death lurking around every corner. As you explore the house you will learn of the story of its resident, a witch named Ellen, and your only source of companionship is a talking black cat.
- To the Moon is a story-driven adventure role-playing game about two doctors, Dr. Eva Rosalene and Dr. Neil Watts, who are tasked with fulfilling the lifelong dream of a dying old man, Johnny Wyles. Johnny wants to go to the moon, but he does not know why. In order to grant his wish the doctors use a machine that allows them to explore and interact with Johnny’s memories as they traverse backwards through his life learning more about Johnny and the life he has lived as well as the reason for his desire to go to the moon. It is impossible for me to describe why this game is so truly amazing because it is something that you must play and experience for yourself to find out.
- Firewatch http://www.firewatchgame.com/ Currently $19.99 on steam, playable on Mac and PC. Firewatch is an indie game by developers Campo Santo and the writers of season one of TellTale’s The Walking Dead. In the words of a review in Rock, Paper, Shotgun, it “expands the possibilities for how a narrative game can be presented”. The Game centers around a man who works in Wyoming as a fire lookout. Exploration of the environment is interlaced with information from the protagonist’s past and what has lead him to seek refuge in the Wyoming wilderness. The game is described as a mystery and deals with adult situations as the protagonist searches for answers. It is very story driven and not the typical shoot-em-up or hack-and-slash game.
- INSIDE by Playdead. Minor spoilers ahead, but INSIDE tells one of the most compelling and interesting stories I’ve ever seen in a game, and hints at one of the strangest and most emotional of game worlds, without a single line of dialogue or narration. The only guarantee at the end of the game is that you’ll definitely experience some emotions, and you’ll definitely have questions.
- Transistor and Bastion – both games made by the same developer Supergiant Games. Both involve a “silent” protagonist where the story, themes, and personalities of said character is highlighted by a narrator’s voice throughout the game. It is unique for it’s style of narrative and storytelling while also intermixing story details with gameplay.
- Life is Strange, Episodes 1-5. Available on all major platforms for $20, less on consoles. Regularly on sale for less. First episode is available for free. The narrative in this game has branching paths and based heavily on player choice. Sharing the reasoning behind different decisions made in the game would offer a great deal to discuss.
- 1st recommendation: All five episodes of The Wolf Among Us ($25 on Steam for PC/Mac, ranging from $8 to $25 for PS3/PS4/XBO/XB360/Vita, and it’s also available for mobile/tablet for both Android and iOS, but I’m not sure for how much since it’s in-app). It’s a Telltale game, so its game play consists of timed choices, quick time events and a bit of exploration here and there. The Wolf Among Us is a noir-styled game in which characters from various folktales and legends, such as Snow White, have moved from their previous home world to an enclave in Manhattan called “Fabletown.” In the game, the player controls Fabletown’s sheriff, Bigby Wolf (a.k.a. the Big Bad Wolf), who is in charge of resolving disputes and investigating crimes involving the other residents of Fabletown. The major narrative begins with the murder of a “fable” (as each inhabitant of Fabletown is called) and leads Bigby to investigate the criminal underworld of Fabletown. During the course of the story, the player is exposed to a bevy of themes and topics, including rage and anger, violence, criminality, power structures, the cost of living and its effects on class, gender, and so on.
- 2nd recommendation: The Wolf Among Us. A game that relies heavily upon choice of words/action to drive the story. The characters of popular fables inhabit a modern city. You take the role of Big Bad (as in the Big, Bad, Wolf) who attempts to redeem his evil past as the Sheriff of the town. Often you can choose to be the passive law-upholding sheriff or allow Big Bad’s wolf-like nature to take over. The characters in the game and situations are tailored to your course of action.
- Minecraft: Can a game have NO narrative? Or is there one inherent in the gameplay, no matter what? Is progression and exploration “narrative?”
- Papers Please: A phenomenal game that forces the player to balance their well being (and that of their unseen family) against the well being of strangers. Is it better to keep your head down and do your job or to try to help people? What if doing your job necessarily means hurting people?
- Dear Esther: Sort of the opposite of the minecraft question. What if a game is JUST narrative? What if there is barely any gameplay at all? Is it still a game, or is it a movie? If it is a movie, how does agency change the experience? If it is a game, why?
- Thomas Was Alone: How does a game get you to invest in a narrative whose characters are only colored blocks? How can we care for them? Why do we care for them?
- A Story About My Uncle is an interesting adventure game that I watched the demo for once. Right off the back, the story had me hooked. Here’s what STEAM says about it: A Story About My Uncle is a first person platforming adventure game about a boy who searches for his lost uncle, and ends up in a world he couldn’t imagine existed. The movement is a crucial part of the games core gameplay – focusing on swinging through the world with a grappling. I’d love to play this myself! Unfortunately, it’s on sale for $2.59 only this week and normally costs $12.99.
- Undertale. ($10 on Steam. Works on Mac and Windows, http://store.steampowered.com/app/391540/) It is a simple, but fun tongue in cheek indie role-playing game. You play as a child wandering around the underworld trying to find a way out of it. Along the way you are taught morals and rules of life. The game keeps it entertaining by using humorous dialogue.
- Prince of Persia: Sands of Time ($10 on Steam): it frames it’s narrative as a literal story being told, and the way the game justifies “Game Overs” is interesting and aptly fits into the theme of undoing what was meant to be.
- Prince of Persia: Warrior Within/Two Thrones: The mid-quel and conclusion of the Sand of Time trilogy. These two games continue the story and help complete the character arc for the prince as he matures into a man. ($10 each on steam)
- Star Wars: Republic Commando ($10 on steam). You play as Delta 38 and lead a clone commando squad as the Clone Wars rage on; the squad is your most important asset to survive.
- Thy Dungeon Man 3: Behold Thy Graphics! is a short and fun text-based, in-browser adventure game about one man’s quest to obtain the most divine drinking flask imaginable. The humor is well-written and plays on some classic videogame tropes. Overall, a well-thought out way to tell a silly story. You can play the game now through this link: http://www.homestarrunner.com/dman3.html
from Spring 2015 version:
- The Room and The Room Two
- Zork (text adventure game) available through the Internet Archive in MS-Dos Games
- Entire collection of MS-DOS games available through the Internet Archive
- *Dragon Age: inquisition (NYT heralds as “most ambitious story-based game of 2014″ [11/24/14, C1])
- 80 Days modeled on Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days — all words (see interview with game creator)
- Walking Dead, 2nd season (time limit on making dialogue choices)
- Black Glove (unsuccessful Kickstarter game)
- Opera Omnia is a game where you become a historian for a dystopian government. Your “history tool” works backwards in time: Today there is a small population, 1000 years ago there was a large population, therefore there must have been a migration or famine. Map the migration until the numbers match up. (Eventually you have to fabricate history to justify a genocide.) I like it because the progressing-back-in-time interface is a trip. For example, if you’re going back in time from the year 2000 to 1000, and you add a famine in 1500, you’ll end up with a bigger population in 1000. That backwards effect-and-cause reasoning is a really weird way of thinking. Combined with the (admittedly simple) story, it’s compelling in a way that a non-interactive medium can’t be.
- Mirror Stage (videos) is a game that tells its story with fractal geometry. It’s like an autobiographical Flatland.
- Judith is a retelling of the opera Bluebeard’s Castle in a low-resolution first-person game. It takes about 15 minutes to complete. (The Mac version doesn’t work any more, so it’s Windows-only.)
- In Promises, people won’t help you if you can’t keep your word, but you can’t beat the game without breaking a promise. The game takes about 2 minutes to complete.
- The Black Yeti is about a yeti whose fur is changing from black to white. He needs to move from a dark cave to a snowy area, to stay hidden. It takes about one minute to see the color-changing mechanic, and ten minutes to complete, but it doesn’t get much more interesting after you’ve seen the concept.
- Signifier is a weird little game about semiotics and social expectations. It takes 5 minutes to complete.
- *Mass Effect series (great sense of agency)
- Bioshock 1 (centers around the theme of choice, both gameplay wise and narrative-wise)
- Portal 1 (passive storytelling, without explicit narration or cutscenes. Portal 2 is great as well, but less passive)
- Stanley Parable (About the futility of agency and choice, in games/life)
- Bastion (traditional storytelling, but in a nice interactive way through adaptive narration)
- Gone Home. I believe it’s about $10-15 on steam
- The Dark Eye series. Chains of Satinav especially. It’s a point and click game with astounding writing and dialogue. I think it’s possible to email the company or Steam and ask for a free copy for the class, and they might be happy to provide it (and for the publicity). I could send a preliminary email if that would help.
- The Witcher is based off a novel series. This would be a good genre-translation example.
- Arcanum – I started it, it’s an oldie with a lot of text but great storytelling. It’s probably cheap because it’s old.
- Gothic – I have yet to start it but I hear it’s amazing. Witcher 3, a newcoming game, claims to be basing its system off of Gothic, so I suppose this is considered a classic now? It’s also probably cheap because it’s old.
- Mass Effect (the first one) had good dialogue and storytelling, but it was a slow start. Sci Fis are like that though. 😛 The themes here, indoctrination, the subtil movement of propagandized lies, and clear political metaphors make for a great discussion. The morality choices (“Do you make extinct an old terror or allow it to live?”, for instance) also provide ground for endless discussion. Only, hopefully, nobody has played the third one, which makes all choices streamlined and tears up the grounds for equal footing on opposing sides.
- *KOTOR 1 is also good. It really pulls the wool over the player’s eyes. KOTOR 2 does a great job of noteworthy prose though. (IE “It is a far greater victory to make another see through your eyes than to close theirs forever” -Kreia)
- Dragon Age: Origins is alright. It’s not amazing but it does a good fantasy story well.
- Candy Box is a browser game with ASCII art. It starts out with a simple waiting mechanic — leave it open in a tab — and eventually opens up to include crafting, exploration, spellcasting, realtime and turn-based combat, and boss battles against a dragon, the devil, and the developer. It doesn’t have much of a story, but the continual reveal of entire mechanics and interface elements far into the game is compelling. And it’s impressive that it does so with just ASCII art.
- A Dark Room is inspired by Candy Box’s format, but it tells a coherent story.
- Storyteller is more of a browser toy than a game. There are three panels, like a comic strip. You can drag objects around in the first two panels, and the game procedurally creates an ending in the third panel.
- In the browser game The Majesty of Colors, you are a giant squid, and you can manipulate objects with a tentacle. Despite the minimal format, there are a lot of options for what you can do, and there are five very different endings depending on what moral choices you make. It only takes a few minutes to complete.
- Today I Die is an interactive poem: you drag and drop words to affect the game world, and you interact with the game world to unlock words to affect the poem.
- I Wish I Were The Moon is a 30-second game with 8 endings.
- Psychosomnium (Windows-only) is a platformer that describes a dream. True to dream logic, at one point you have to commit suicide, only to continue playing as a different character, who is in anguish that the other guy died.
- Queers in Love at the End of the World is a 10-second choose-your-own-adventure game with like 40 endings. Read fast.
- Depression Quest is a semiautobiographical choose-your-own-adventure game where you try to cope with depression. As a result of depression, and depending on how you manage it, some options are greyed out, to imitate the decrease of willpower that depression brings on.
- Passage (Windows-only) is an autobiographical art game. It tries to depict a person’s entire life in five minutes. You can see your entire life onscreen, stretched out in front of and behind you. It addresses the tradeoffs of pursuing interests and romance, and tries to put everything into perspective.
- Sleep Is Death (pay what you want) is a 2-player storytelling game. Player 1 clicks on things and types actions. Player 2 types dialogue, moves objects, and draws new objects in response.
Digital: A Love Story (Win/Mac/Lin) is a point-and-click story game that you play entirely by interacting with programs on a fictional 1980s computer. Through the fake interface, you email people, dial phone numbers to connect to servers, and patch your machine by downloading .exe files from strangers.
Elder Scrolls (Skyrim onwards have better graphics, but entire series has great story)
Dead Space (1-3) Might be for PC only, though.
Fallout: If it’s their dissertation lol; so many side-quests that you can spend hundreds of hours in that universe.
The Secret World (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_World)
Transistor (developed by same people who made Bastion), might be another to consider.
In The Pit, is an audio-only indie game on the Xbox 360’s indie arcade. It is an appropriate game to mention with House of Leaves being such a prominent aspect of the class as the game visually features solely a black screen (promo art features a black screen with the words “This Space Is Intentionally Blank” in Courier coincidentally). In the game you play as a blind monster in a dark pit that uses its sense of sound to locate where potential victims are breathing from.