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Plot-heavy IF

Recommendations by Emily Short

Interactive fiction with a lot of plot -- many scenes and events moving the player forward, rather than just a collection of puzzles. Some of these works are fairly difficult and do use puzzles as pacing devices, while others are low in challenge and just ask the player to explore or even wait out major scenes. This list is for works whose plot shapes are more reminiscent of a novella or novel than of a short story.

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1. Christminster, by Gareth Rees (1995)
Average member rating: (73 ratings)
Emily Short says:

Makes excellent use of time: the time of day moves forward when the player has made enough discoveries.

2. Anchorhead
by Michael Gentry
(1998)
Average member rating: (284 ratings)

Emily Short says:

Like Christminster, a substantial game with puzzles but also a chronological division of events.

3. Jigsaw
by Graham Nelson
(1995)
Average member rating: (65 ratings)

Emily Short says:

Woven through the puzzles is a plot involving the contest and romance with the main NPC, Black; this gives the piece a larger narrative structure.

4. Heroine's Mantle, by Andy Phillips (2000)
Average member rating: (12 ratings)
Emily Short says:

Combines unfair puzzles with an action movie's breathless pacing. No shortage of events here; the main challenge is just to get past enough of the hurdles to see them.

5. Plundered Hearts
by Amy Briggs
(1987)
Average member rating: (48 ratings)

Emily Short says:

One of the most richly eventful of Infocom's oeuvre.

6. Wishbringer
by Brian Moriarty
(1985)
Average member rating: (85 ratings)

Emily Short says:

This might be more of a children's book than an adult novel, but it still has several significant turning points and major changes to the environment.

7. Necrotic Drift
by Robb Sherwin
(2004)
Average member rating: (17 ratings)

Emily Short says:

Put this one in the "novella" range -- the heart of the game is a combat and puzzle heaven, but there's a lot of time devoted to character setup at the beginning and end, and it has an unexpected emotional weight by the time all is said and done.

8. Worlds Apart
by Suzanne Britton
(1999)
Average member rating: (73 ratings)

Emily Short says:

Rich, extensive fantasy, with lots of flashbacks. The chief objection is that when you're done, you'll feel you haven't quite heard the whole story. The author mentioned that she might write a sequel, but so far there is no sign of it. Worth playing anyway.

9. Vespers, by Jason Devlin (2005)
Average member rating: (132 ratings)
Emily Short says:

Considering that it's a competition-length game, Vespers contains quite a lot of incident. Well-engineered not to seem too linear, while in fact moving the player deftly through a set plot.

10. The King of Shreds and Patches
by Jimmy Maher
(2009)
Average member rating: (60 ratings)

Emily Short says:

Adapted from a Call of Cthulhu scenario, KoSaP takes place over several days, with numerous revelations and encounters with other characters.


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