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IF Playlist for the Brontoboards

Recommendations by Molly (USA)

This is a list I created as a general guide to interactive fiction for a thread I'm making on Brontoforumus. I'm trying to give a good overview to both parser IF (usually called "text adventures") and choice-based IF (or Choose-Your-Own-Adventure (CYOA) style). To play most of these games you will need a program like Gargoyle, and it's recommended that you check out this card of common IF commands before playing the parser games.

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1. Lost Pig
by Admiral Jota
(2007)
Average member rating: (337 ratings)

Molly says:

Any modern list of IF for beginners that didn't include Lost Pig would be incomplete at best. Rock solid implementation, two charming main characters (three if you count the pig). It is theoretically possible to dislike this game, but I have yet to see it in practice.

2. Photopia
by Adam Cadre
(1998)
Average member rating: (422 ratings)

Molly says:

The other big IF for beginners. Linear and mostly easy, but it packs a punch. Such emotional, wow, very paradigm shift.

3. 9:05
by Adam Cadre
(2000)
Average member rating: (390 ratings)

Molly says:

9:05 is a joke game, but it's a joke game everyone should play at least once. A good jumping off point for the theory of player characters, and not just in IF.

4. Bronze
by Emily Short
(2006)
Average member rating: (191 ratings)

Molly says:

Emily Short's dark take on the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast. Contains many features that make it more accessible to beginners, like a GO TO [room] command and a novice mode.

5. Counterfeit Monkey
by Emily Short
(2012)
Average member rating: (80 ratings)

Molly says:

Counterfeit Monkey is a much more complex game than Bronze, but Short designed it to be accessible to newcomers as well. If you like word puzzles, you'll get a kick out of this one. (Note that UNDO doesn't work under Gargoyle; keep a few save files just in case.)

6. Suveh Nux
by David Fisher
(2007)
Average member rating: (160 ratings)

Molly says:

Solid one-room puzzler that's almost as well implemented as Lost Pig. The magic system is especially excellent. Doesn't seem to be recommended as often nowadays, which is a real shame.

7. Violet
by Jeremy Freese
(2008)
Average member rating: (266 ratings)

Molly says:

Yet another one-room dilly, this one's about a college student who needs just one more day to write their thesis. It's much better than the premise would suggest. The voice of your girlfriend is especially well written.

8. Shade
by Andrew Plotkin
(2000)
Average member rating: (309 ratings)

Molly says:

A creepy, dark game about being cooped up in your apartment late at night. No real puzzles to speak of, but it has a good sense of pacing.

9. The Dreamhold
by Andrew Plotkin
(2004)
Average member rating: (114 ratings)

Molly says:

Andrew Plotkin wrote this game as a tutorial for IF. Dreamhold is a good game, but frankly I'm not sure if he's successful on the tutorial front; I'll let you be the judge of that.

10. Six
by Wade Clarke
(2011)
Average member rating: (33 ratings)

Molly says:

Six is baby easy. You could set down a baby by Six and they would do okay. There's also a harder mode that unlocks when you beat the main game.

11. Dinner Bell
by Jenni Polodna
(2012)
Average member rating: (41 ratings)

Molly says:

Dinner Bell was written for an IF tribute album to They Might Be Giants' Apollo 18. It's one of the best games from that project: the writing is stellar, the implementation is no slouch, and the entire game is very funny.

12. The Statue Got Me High
by Ryan Veeder
(2012)
Average member rating: (25 ratings)

Molly says:

Another game from the Apollo 18 tribute album, this one is by Ryan Veeder, one of the rising stars of the IF world. While the implementation is a little wonky, the writing is excellent; it really manages to evoke that TMBG "surreal darkly funny" feel.

13. Captain Verdeterre's Plunder
by Ryan Veeder
(2013)
Average member rating: (26 ratings)

Molly says:

Captain Verdeterre's Plunder is a much more gamelike work than the other Ryan Veeder game on this list. It's basically an optimization puzzle: can you grab all the most valuable treasures on the ship before it sinks? Fun fact: This is one of the few IF games to use shipboard directions.

14. The Play
by Dietrich Squinkifer (Squinky)
(2011)
Average member rating: (42 ratings)

Molly says:

Now we're getting into the choice-based section of the list. The Play is a good example of a CYOA-style game where the sequence of events is set, but the conditions under which they play out are affected by your choices. Anyway, you play as the hapless director of a second-rate theater production, and you have to keep all the actors in line or else. It's a funny game, and also surprisingly deep.

15. Myriad
by Porpentine
(2012)
Average member rating: (22 ratings)

Molly says:

Unlike The Play, Myriad is a take-off on the old school Choose Your Own Adventure books, full of wild, meandering story branches that are often incompatible with each other. We call this kind of structure a time cave, after the original Choose Your Own Adventure book The Cave of Time. Myriad uses this structure to evoke the world of dreams and nightmares, where time has no meaning and any given scene could melt away into another. A good example of a Twine game.

16. howling dogs
by Porpentine
(2012)
Average member rating: (82 ratings)

Molly says:

howling dogs, another game by Porpentine, is structured much more like The Play than Myriad; I guess you'd call this kind of structure a time tunnel? Anyway, like Myriad, howling dogs is concerned with simulating the world of dreams, this time by the use of virtual reality scenes that the player character immerses herself into after a brief stay in the real world. Some scenes are more successful than others, and the meaning of the game is murky, but there's no denying the heart, talent, and skill on display here.

17. You Will Select a Decision
by Brendan Patrick Hennessy
(2013)
Average member rating: (40 ratings)

Molly says:

Another example of a time cave, the You Will Select a Decision series is a parody of old school CYOA books, mixed in with some funnin' on the Soviet Union. It's actually quite brilliantly structured, with branches that merge into each other smoothly (or not-so-smoothly, if it'd work better for the joke), at least one ending in each book that pokes fun at the DEATH END/VICTORY END binary, and the entire campfire scene in book 2. I just cannot get over how good these books are.

18. Choice of the Deathless
by Max Gladstone
(2013)
Average member rating: (18 ratings)

Molly says:

I'm using this game as a placeholder for Choice of Games' work as a whole, which is focused on time tunnel structure, RPG-like stats, fluid sexuality, romantic subplots, etc. Choice of Dragons started the company off, but I think Choice of Broadsides and Choice of Zombies are the better free-to-play games they have to offer. That said, I've heard a lot of good buzz on Deathless, so if you're willing to gamble three or four bucks, why not give it a try?

19. Zero Summer
by Gordon Levine, Tucker Nelson, Becca Noe
(2012)
Average member rating: (8 ratings)

Molly says:

I haven't played this game, but from what I've heard it's of a piece with Fallen London, though with some significant differences in how it handles plot and character. If you have a Fallen London account, and I know at least some of you guys do, you can use it to play this game too.

20. Solarium
by Alan DeNiro
(2013)
Average member rating: (37 ratings)

Molly says:

Solarium is highly unusual for IF; basically it takes backtrack-with-new-powerups element of Metroidvanias and applies it to a choice-based IF. It works better than you'd expect it to. The story, about angels who change the course of the Cold War, is very good as well.

21. Bigger Than You Think
by Andrew Plotkin
(2012)
Average member rating: (36 ratings)

Molly says:

Another twist on the CYOA formula, Bigger Than You Think is a time cave where you collect experience and items over many playthroughs, and only through the use of these will you be able to reach the true ending. Based on Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and an XKCD comic, though no knowledge of either is required.

22. Trapped in Time
by Simon Christiansen
(2013)
Average member rating: (21 ratings)

Molly says:

Trapped in Time is much like Bigger Than You Think, where knowledge gained from certain branches are usable the next playthrough; like the title suggests, time travel is involved. It's also noteworthy for its format; it's a .pdf gamebook, and you add to the number of the current passage to use certain abilities. It uses that format to do a lot of cool stuff.

23. Hallowmoor
by Mike Snyder
(2013)
Average member rating: (11 ratings)

Molly says:

Hallowmoor reminds me very much of a traditional graphic adventure, only of course it's all done in text. The body-swapping mechanic is pretty cool, and it's even got a save game function, which is pretty rare for Twine.

24. Horse Master
by Tom McHenry
(2013)
Average member rating: (51 ratings)

Molly says:

Horse Master is parody of the pet raising sim, a la Monster Rancher and the like. The humor gradually gets darker and darker, until finally culminates in the "winning" ending, which is a scream.

25. Machine of Death
by Hulk Handsome
(2013)
Average member rating: (17 ratings)

Molly says:

Based on the anthology of the same title. There's three different scenarios, and each has a different quirk.

26. Bee
by Emily Short
(2012)
Average member rating: (54 ratings)

Molly says:

Bee is about the life of a young home-schooled girl, her obsessions, her family, her religion. Bee is structured around storylets, much like StoryNexus games like Fallen London et al. It's a shame the engine used to make Bee, Varytale, never got off the ground, because what's seen here shows a lot of promise.

27. 18 Cadence, by Aaron A. Reed (2013)
Average member rating: (14 ratings)
Molly says:

18 Cadence isn't very much like any other IF; there's no choices, no parser to interact with, no way to change how things will turn out. So what does it have to offer? The ability to remix the story, to juxtapose different times and points of view. It's also a good showcase for its depiction of the characters' interior lives.


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