Can you guess these popular IF games from their first lines?

I posted this on twitter earlier this week, and I’m reposting it here.

Can you identify these opening lines/paragraphs from 15 of the most popular Interactive Fiction games? There’s a mix of newer and older games, some parser-based and some choice-based.

  1. “The rotating tin cylinder within the phonograph vibrates slightly as a brass needle scrapes against it. The sound of a throat being cleared emerges from the machine’s hornshell speaker, followed by a thin, haunting voice.”

Slouching Towards Bedlam, 2003’s IFComp and XYZZY Best Game Winner, by @Peccable and Star Foster.

  1. “It’s not just the interest on your loan,” you remember him saying. “It’s maintaining the cryo tube, storing it, powering it, insuring it… even paying for me to come out here and give you this little reminder goes on the bill.”

Superluminal Vagrant Twin, by CEJ Pacian. 2016’s XYZZY Best Game Winner and, per IFDB, the most popular parser game written in the last 5 years.

  1. “You wake up. The room is spinning very gently round your head. Or at least it would be if you could see it which you can’t.”

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Infocom’s bestselling game and co-written by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky.

  1. “You take a deep breath of salty air as the first raindrops begin to spatter the pavement, and the swollen, slate-colored clouds that blanket the sky mutter ominous portents amongst themselves over the little coastal town of ______.”

Anchorhead, a game that many consider the best IF game of all time. Recently remastered into a commercial version by Michael Gentry.

  1. “You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
    A small mailbox is here.”

Zork I, the’founder game’ for parser games that took the concepts in Adventure and pushed them further, influencing almost every parser game after it… … hz_vq/zork

  1. “Calm down. All you have to do is write a thousand words and everything will be fine. And you have all day, except it’s already noon.”

Violet, by @jeremyfreese . 2008’s IFComp and XYZZY winner.

  1. “Will you read me a story?”

“Read you a story? What fun would that be? I’ve got a better idea: let’s tell a story together.”

Photopia, by @adamcadre . 1998 IFComp winner and the most-rated game on IFDB of all time.

  1. "You come around a corner, away from the noise of the opening.

There is only one exhibit. She stands in the spotlight, with her back to you: a sweep of pale hair on paler skin, a column of emerald silk that ends in a pool at her feet."

Galatea, by @emshort . Her most famous game, containing what has been called ‘the best NPC ever’ by people in and out of interactive fiction. Available at

  1. “Pig lost! Boss say that it Grunk fault. Say Grunk forget about closing gate. Maybe boss right. Grunk not remember forgetting, but maybe Grunk just forget. Boss say Grunk go find pig, bring it back. Him say, if Grunk not bring back pig, not bring back Grunk either.”

Lost Pig, by @AdmiralJota. 2007 IFComp and XYZZY Best Game winner.

  1. “One morning at dawn the nurse shook him awake because his sobs were being heard in the next room. Once he was awake he could hear that not only was the patient next door but the two hundred dogs kept in the hospital courtyard for use in the laboratory had also been threatened…”

Howling Dogs, by @slimedaughter . The ‘founding game’ for Twine that took early Twine games and pushed them past their limits. Featured at Whitney Biennial, and tied for most popular game on IFDB since it came out in 2012.

  1. “My family lived on the southern edge of a certain Midwestern industrial city in an old house, old enough that its basement still had a dirt floor”

My Father’s Long Long Legs, by @WarrenIsDead . Popular enough that for some time, searches for this game were one of the largest traffic sources for @emshort’s blog.

  1. “Strolling through the final airlock, you feel satisfied that the facility’s in order: the spacesuits are starched, the moon rocks are neatly arranged, and you personally checked that every stateroom is in perfect condition. Twice.”

Creatures Such as We by @lynneaglasser , the most popular Choicescript game on IFDB, perhaps the best free Choicescript game, and one of the most played of Choice of Games’ collection (as far as I know).

  1. "You shouldn’t be sitting in the driver’s seat. You should be getting out on the passenger side, and there should be someone else sitting at the wheel, key in the ignition, keeping an eye out.

And that’s probably how this would be going down, if you had any friends left."

Taco Fiction by @rcveeder . 2011’s IFComp winner, and the most played parser game from 2011 on.

  1. “We’re so sorry to hear you’re not having a better time at camp. We know it’s no fun going without your phone for an entire month, but do try to make the best of it. Trust us: It may all seem miserable now but when you’re an adult you’re going to look back on this as one of…”

Birdland, by @bphennessy . Has the record for most XYZZY awards won by a single game, and the most played game of all since 2012. Available here:

  1. “Odd, how the light just makes your apartment gloomier. Pre-dawn darkness pools in the corners and around the tops of walls. Your desk lamp glares yellow, but the shadows only draw your eyes and deepen.”

Shade, by @zarfeblong . This is the author’s most popular game, and the fourth-most played game of all time on IFDB.

That was fun. It inspired me to offer some more…

  1. “As you trudge along in the wake of the outflowing crowd, you thumb through your memories of this evening.”

Ballyhoo 1985 by Jeff O’Neill for Infocom.

  1. “Beats the fck out of cleaning toilets. Shopping cart duty gets me outta the store for a while, which is cool even on a sht day like today. It’s that gross, grey slush that gets me talking about just moving down to California this time every year – hey, they need groceries bagged down there too, don’t they?”

Everybody Dies 2008 by Jim Munroe 3rd Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 14th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2008), Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best NPCs; Nominee, Best Individual PC; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2008 XYZZY Awards, 34th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition)

  1. “You are in a clearing in dense woods in the southeast corner of Central Park. A pond is to the west. A narrow path leads north along the shore of the pond, and to the north you can hear occasional low growls. Near you is a pile of dead leaves.”

Fahrenheit 451 by Len Neufeld 1984. Episode 2 of Telarium Science Fiction. Based on a great (imo) book by the great (imo) Ray Bradbury. Also a 1966 film starring Oskar Werner. Also a 2018 HBO film starring Michael B. Jordan.

  1. “When you receive a note from your old acquaintance John Croft, you expect nothing but an evening of good food and drink and Croft’s lecherous tales.”

The King of Shreds and Patches by Jimmy Maher 2009. Nominee, Best Story; Winner, Best Setting - 2009 XYZZY Awards, 16th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition), 13th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2015 edition)

  1. “When the seventh day comes and it is time for you to return to the castle in the forest, your sisters cling to your sleeves.
    “Don’t go back,” they say, and “When will we ever see you again?” But you imagine they will find consolation somewhere.”

Bronze by Emily Short 2006. Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2006 XYZZY Awards

  1. “I am standing on the platform of a railway station - it’s miserable, it’s damp, and all the seats are taken by stuck-up grannies and biddies and ghastly yacht-clubbers. While waiting for the train, which is taking ages, I peer over to the opposite platform, and notice a familiar figure.”

Rameses by Stephen Bond 2000. Nominee, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best NPCs; Winner, Best Individual PC; Nominee, Best Use of Medium - 2000 XYZZY Awards, 13th Place overall; 2nd Place, Miss Congeniality Awards - 6th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2000), 16th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition), 32nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2015 edition)

  1. “Surely the reed bank counts as a wild place. While it gives you so much, you’ve never tended it, not really, not like you do with your garden. And you’ve certainly seen birds there.”

The Warbler’s Nest by Jason McIntosh 2010. 9th Place - 16th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2010), Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Story; Nominee, Best Individual Puzzle - 2010 XYZZY Awards, 34th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition)

  1. “Myrmidal is the queen of the bright worlds, and you’ve walked her million cities beneath her sky and beyond it. Myrmidal laughs and Myrmidal dances; they say no one weeps on Myrmidal, except for moments on the stage.”

Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home by Andrew Plotkin 2010. Nominee, Best Game; Winner, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Nominee, Best Implementation - 2010 XYZZY Awards, 1st Place - @party Interactive Fiction Competition 2010, 34th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition)

  1. “The Song of the Universe envelops you, pulsing through you in the otherworldly aether. You sing, sing, sing the song of ancients, of the unending, of all to come and be.”

Coloratura by Lynnea Glasser 2013. 1st Place overall; 1st Place, Miss Congeniality Award - 19th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition (2013), Winner, Best Game; Nominee, Best Writing; Nominee, Best Story; Nominee, Best Setting; Winner, Best Puzzles; Winner, Best Individual Puzzle; Nominee, Best Individual NPC; Winner, Best Individual PC; Nominee, Best Implementation; Nominee, Best Supplemental Materials - 2013 XYZZY Awards, 6th Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2015 edition)

  1. “It’s become a matter of pride now not to give up. That tourist map of Paris must be up here somewhere in all this clutter, even if it has been five years since your last trip. And it’s your own fault. It looks as if your great-grandfather was the last person to tidy up these lofts…”

Curses! by Graham Nelson 1993. 22nd Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2011 edition), 1st Place - Interactive Fiction Top 50 of all time (2015 edition)

[spoiler]My guesses:

1.dont know

  1. Everybody dies

  2. That game from last years ifcomp where you ride the bus?

  3. A Robb Sherwin game?

  4. Bronze

  5. Don’t know.

  6. Warblers nest

  7. Don’t know

  8. Coloratura!

  9. Curses[/spoiler]

Now I’ll see how I did. Ah man, I missed #1! That’s a great game. Never heard of #4, I’ll have to check it out. The other two, I wouldn’t have guessed. I never associated trains with the first one and I didn’t remember the name Myrnudal for the second.

Nice set!

Oh yes. The King of Shreds and Patches is a really cool Lovecraftian game set in, i believe, 1650 or so in London. It’s dense, detailed, and a lot of fun but it also has some lengthy passages at times. I totally recommend it. :mrgreen:

That was fun. I got most of them correct, but I hadn’t played some of them–Howling Dogs, Everybody Dies and Heliopause for example.