Doki Doki Literature Club is the kind of game where the moment it ended, I wanted to spend more time with its characters. Although I’ll never be able to play it for the first time again, here are a few games you can check out if you’re also yearning for a similar experience.
Dan Salvato, lead developer on Doki Doki Literature Club, has cited this classic indie horror game as an influence. It’s not hard to see why. Yume Nikki is a game where you explore the dreamworlds of Madotsuki, a sullen Japanese girl who won’t leave her room. The tone is somber and at times oppressive as you wander, alone, in search of something meaningful. It’s lonely and touching.
Horror games are cool and all, but what if you really just want to play a nice visual novel where you go on dates? Hustle Cat is that game. It takes place in a cat cafe where all the employees turn into cats at night—yourself included, as you discover when you start working there. While there’s obviously a supernatural element at play, this one isn’t going to keep you up at night. The characters are easy to get attached to, and, in this game, there’s nothing dangerous about that.
This game is about Mae Borowski, who has just dropped out of college and returned home. While she’s mostly able to pick back up with her friends, she’s also still dealing with the issues that made her return home, which go deeper than being a slacker. Then, a whole bunch of murders start happening. This is a game set in a world that isn’t quite right. As time goes on Mae and her friends discover that something evil lurks beneath their town, and, after band practice, they’re gonna go kick it’s ass.
This game is a murder mystery about a cursed mask that takes the player through dark alleyways, dense forests and the exploitative world of pop music. It’s pretty upsetting at times, especially as protagonist Ayami Ito begins to lose her sanity. Through the game you juggle four meters that determine which kind of actions you can take, sanity among them. When Ayami isn’t seeing the world clearly, the game looks and behaves differently for the player. Given what Ayami endures throughout Tokyo Dark, I don’t blame her for losing her grip on reality.
These twisty puzzle games put you through the wringer. Starting with 999, the games in this series follow a group of people who have been kidnapped for unknown reasons and must solve puzzles or die. While the puzzles themselves are tricky but fun to complete, it’s the plot that really makes these games special. It careens wildly through genres, telling a story of mystery and intrigue, and also a love that spans generations and timelines. Even at their silliest, I am deeply fond of the characters in Zero Escape. At their most affecting, these games break my heart.
Writing teenagers is difficult, but Oxenfree mostly pulls it off. When six teens head to an all night party on an island, they encounter not just angst, but also ghosts. Using a radio, the characters can tune into a supernatural frequency that changes things in the environment and allows them to revisit past events. Sometimes interacting with these anomalies screws with how you’re able to play the game. While the vibe of this game is close to a CW show, it still managed to give me some scares and also hope all these characters get their shit together.