A guide to finding Interactive Fiction games to play

I’ve learned a lot about ways to find good interactive fiction games over the years, and I thought that some people would find it useful to have some tips about finding games. Below are some of the most successful methods I have used to find enjoyable games.

(Note: this list assumes that you’ve played at least a few different games. If you haven’t, consider looking at a starter list of games, such as those packaged with Frotz on the iPad).

  • Looking at the ‘Recommended lists’ and 'Polls" section of the IFDB page for games that you already like. This has been the most fruitful way for me to find games. After I played Curses, this lead me to Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina, and Anchorhead lead me to Theatre. These lists let you pick out what you loved about a game and look for others of the same type. Did you Photopia because it was light on puzzles and short or because it had excellent writing? There are different lists for each facet.

  • Browse IFDB by ‘most ratings’. You can do this at this link. Games with many ratings are games that people discuss frequently, and are usually good or at least worth playing. ‘Pick up the phone booth and die’ may be an exception to this rule…(just kidding; I actually thought that game was fun, as a fan of dumb humor).

  • Try different file types. A whole new world opened up to me when I started using TADS. TADS games do not get many ratings because they don’t work on mobile or online (usually). Worlds Apart, Babel, Rogue of the Multiverse, and To Hell in a Hamper are all knock-out five-star games that don’t have as high of ratings as their Inform counterparts. You can download TADS from the site that hosts IFDB, tads.org. On a separate note, another ‘format’ you can try is Infocom games. There is an official iPad app containing most of the games for about 50 cents a game (although you have to buy many at once). They come with all of the manuals and feelies included, and it has been wonderful. The Zork and Enchanter trilogies were fun, and Spellbreaker just blew my mind. One of the best games ever.

  • Look up popular authors with large portfolios. The two big names here are Andrew Plotkin and Emily Short. They both have a huge number of games and have experimented with different styles. Plotkin goes more for abstraction and puzzle-heavy games while Short is the master of conversational systems, although both have done pretty much every kind of game. I have usually preferred Plotkin’s style, although Short’s City of Secrets may have changed my opinion. Among Twine authors, Porpentine is by far the most famous, although you have a good chance of being permanently scarred if you pick the wrong game (read the reviews first). Other good authors to check out are Graham Nelson (author of Inform), Adam Cadre, Ian Finley, C.E.J. Pacian, and Jon Ingold. Lynnea Glasser has put out several great games.

  • Try the IFDB top 100 games or the ‘Top 50 Interactive Fiction games of all times’ lists. These lists (which you can easily search for) have provided some great games for me, although it’s harder to control for tastes. Some very popular games didn’t sit well with me. However, these lists have proven very useful.

If you have any suggestions to add to this list, please let me know.

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The IF Review site at ministryofpeace.com/if-review/ is an older collection of reviews that is worth checking out. People don’t generally take the time to write something up unless it’s at least decent quality.

Also, Paul O’Brian’s IF comp reviews at spot.colorado.edu/~obrian/IF.htm#Review are awesome. I used to reread them a lot. His opinions are generally reliable and you can find a lot of older good games that way.

Oh, yes. Paul O’Brians reviews are definitely worth reading, before or after you play the game.

Used to be games with 4/5 stars on Baf’s Guide were good choices. Though, as with IFDB, there’s quite a volume of 4-star games and not all of them are remotely comparable.

How do you find (the best) choice based games?

Word of mouth? Recommendations?

It’s possible to filter IFDB in a number of ways. If there’s a way to filter for web-based games, chances are good it’ll be a choice-based game.

Personally, I enjoy Porpentine’s and Inurashii’s games - not unreservedly, not all of them, but they are authors I like to go back to. I also think Hallowmoor totally rocked and Hellsider Round-Up was way more fun than I thought it would be.

There are plenty of choice games - mostly Twine - that I enjoy and then mostly forget about, or forget their names. There’s so frickin’ many of them. :stuck_out_tongue: The ones listed on IFDB presumably already fall into the cathegory of “the author, or someone else, thought the games were worthy of wider publication”, so that’s already a plus for whatever games are in IFDB. Of course, lots of quality stuff doesn’t get there at all…

This is why I’m the packrat that I am. I keep finding little gems here and there. Hellsider Round-Up was the latest. I also played a game in a haunted house (yeah, there’s a shortage of THOSE) that, while hardly a favourite, I enjoyed enough to keep playing through to the end, and I did enjoy it, and that’s what matters, isn’t it?

That’s interesting, Peter! I do some similar things. I’ve found a lot of good games by looking up authors; once I played a game by Porpentine or Michael Lutz or Brandon Hennessy, I tried all of their other games.

But so far it’s seemed to me that looking up comps is a great way to find games. Shufflecomp, IFComp, and Spring Thing have all had great twine games.

I also search ifdb with system:twine and order it by ‘most ratings’. You can also search for games that have at least 2 reviews, which helps narrow it down.

Thanks for bringing up Brandon Hennessy. It’s not a name that I immediately associate with any games, so I checked out IFDB.

Of the ones listed, I played two - Bell park and King Of Bees. I remember them very well, I enjoyed them, and it’s great to put an author to the games. Definitely an author to keep checking out. Come November 15th I’ll be especially attentive to Birdland.