Easy to solve parser games, recommendations needed

I didn’t know where else to post this, so I thought I’d try here.

I feel like a total IF wannabe after needing walkthroughs of almost every game I actually attempt…at least if I want to finish them. Apparently I’m really bad at these games, which sucks since I would like to write a few. I need a salve for my bruised ego in the form of easy parser games. Story based would be great, but even a simple puzzle game that I could actually solve would be nice. Any recommendations?

Oh yeah, anyone who wants to kvetch about their own difficulties with parser games is welcome to do so here, so I don’t feel alone. I’m not alone, right? Right?


Here are some relevant IFDB polls and lists:


Have you tried Lost Pig?

I’m not great at solving puzzles all the time myself. Sometimes I can play a game with no help, and other times I’ll just completely blank on what I’m expected to do. I don’t feel too bad about consulting a walkthrough or hint system, but it always feels better when I don’t have to.


I’ve played and beat thousands of parser games, but in a game with serious puzzles, I almost always consult a walkthrough, read others’ reviews for hints, look up source code or even decompile the game. Even if I’ve played it before! I was replaying both Bronze and Dreamhold recently, which are billed as Tutorial/easy games, and I had played both at least once before, and I had to look up walkthroughs for both. It made me feel better when I saw a post by Emily Short saying she had used a walkthrough on a game.

There are some people who are very methodical and solve many games without help, like Garry Francis ( a guy on this forum), so I suppose that some people can handle it.

I agree with the other recommendations already posted, although Superluminal Vagrant Twine, Eat Me and Wizard Sniffer are all fun recent options that are designed to be relatively easy (Wizard Sniffer has a hint system with two fleas, one of which always tells the truth and the other that always lies, so it doesn’t feel like cheating).


You may also want to consider games that implement multiple puzzle solutions.

(For whatever reason, the url sometimes breaks when sharing tag searches. If that’s the case, search for “multiple” under tags, and scroll down to and click “multiple solutions.”)

It’s more likely one of the various solutions will line up with your intuition, thus reducing the frustration of attempting to read the author’s mind.

Also, you may want to consider non-traditional games that really don’t have a win state, per se. Like one-move games or simulationist or exploration games.

(Another tag link; if broken, again, just search tags for “one” and then select “one move.”)

(Tag search for “puzzleless.”)


I agree with what Brian says! I use walkthroughs a lot, maybe more as a convenience. Once I get stuck, I don’t mind having a push.

I mean, I do this sort of thing when trying to learn something, so why should it be different when I am trying to have fun? I don’t want it to bog down and become no fun.

That said just relying on a walkthrough can ruin things in its own way. But I really recommend having one handy so that you can keep a good pace.

I felt bad forgetting some of my own! Wondered if it was my memory or poor game design. But seriously it’s kind of cool to be able to sort of forget how to do something then piece it back together.


I’m pretty good at parser games, although I’m slow. If I’m willing to take a while with a game, I can usually figure it out (as long as it doesn’t kill me a lot in the process-- then I’ll stop playing). But as I get older I’m less willing to pause and think about a puzzle for an hour or a day, which is actually kind of sad, because the times when I feel smartest are always when a puzzle has really stumped me and then I get it. But I do use walkthroughs and/or hints more than I should, and I occasionally have moments of real stupidity in a game where I miss something very obvious because I didn’t examine everything thoroughly. Recently I tested a parser game and missed an ENTIRE ROOM which was clearly signposted.

So it’s not just you. Go ahead and use the walkthrough or the hints. I really appreciate a well-designed hint system that nudges me in the right direction, especially in a big game with a lot of rooms and puzzles. If that’s what helps you enjoy the game, then that’s great. You should enjoy games, not feel like they’re out to get you, or to make you feel dumb.


I don’t always solve games without help, especially those really old retro games that were written in an era when games were meant to be hard. I have resorted to disk editors, hex editors and reverse engineering in extreme cases, but I haven’t needed to do that for a long time. You get better with experience.

Anyway, back to the question, there was a recent thread on this (which I can’t currently find), but you could try the games from the Text Adventure Literacy jams, as these are specifically written for beginners and include a tutorial. Submissions for this year’s jam close on 31 May 2023 (UTC), so look forward to some more beginner-friendly games in a couple of days.

Here’s the links to the home page of each of these jams:

If you don’t mind me putting in a plug for this year’s jam, please try to play and rate all the games, as there are some very generous prizes up for grabs and the more votes we get, the fairer the outcome is likely to be, statistically speaking.


A good puzzle, like a good joke, has a surprising solution/punchline, but it feels inevitable in hindsight. If it’s good, you’ll think to yourself, “ohhh, I should have seen that coming!”

That’s why there’s a big difference between reaching for a walkthrough when you’re stuck, which just tells you exactly what to do, and reaching for hints, which are designed to give you gradual help to solve the puzzles yourself.

It’s typical, when you reach for a walkthrough, to see a series of steps that make no logical sense when you follow them that way. For example, you might see a walkthrough for a game where you have to go north to see clues that will help you decipher a numeric code, and then go south and enter the code. Many walkthroughs will just say: GO SOUTH. TYPE 108.

At that point, the puzzle is solved, but it’s not at all clear how you were supposed to solve the puzzle; the puzzle solution doesn’t appear inevitable in hindsight. You don’t slap your forehead and say, “Ah, of course, 108, I should have guessed it myself!” You say “What…? 108?? How was I supposed to figure that out?”

This leaves you feeling “like a total IF wannabe.” The walkthrough was supposed to help, but by speedrunning through the game, without explaining the thought process, a walkthrough can actually make your feeling of competence worse.

By contrast, gradual hints are designed to slowly lead you to the answer, bit by bit. Gradual hints for a puzzle like the one I described might look like this:

How do I open the vault?

  1. Did you go north and read the note in the laboratory?
  2. The note in the laboratory is a clue, telling you how to open the vault.
  3. As the note says, all three of the digits look the same in a mirror.
  4. The three digits that look the same in a mirror are 0, 1, and 8. (At this point, you could just try all of the three-digit combinations of 0, 1, and 8, but there is a cleverer way.)
  5. The note says that the code is divisible by three. That means that the digits must sum up to a multiple of three.
  6. The answer isn’t 111, so the solution must involve all three digits, 0, 1, and 8.
  7. “0” must not be the first digit or the last digit, or it wouldn’t be a three-digit number when written backwards.
  8. That means it must be either 801 or 108. The solution is even, so the vault code is 108.

In addition to making you feel less bad for revealing these hints, gradual hints like this teach you how to win games like this in the future. It’s like the difference between watching the Olympics and training with a personal coach.

So! As everybody’s saying, play games with hints, but specifically gradual hints. All of the old Infocom games had them (they’re called “Invisiclues”) but most popular modern games have in-game gradual hinting or else someone like me has written them here on the forum. https://intfiction.org/tag/invisiclues

Lost Pig is a particularly interesting game, because, although it’s designed for newbies to play, its puzzles are actually very difficult. I couldn’t solve Lost Pig without the in-game hint system, and I’m sure very few people ever have, despite the fact that it’s one of the most popular “games for beginners” ever made.

If you play Lost Pig and you think, “whoa, this game is hard, and if this game is supposed to be easy, then I must really suck!” well, take my word for it, that game is tough.

If you get through Lost Pig, if you work hard at its puzzles and reach for the hints only when you think you absolutely need them, you’ll be a much improved player of IF, ready to face the rest of the best IF ever written.

Good luck! :four_leaf_clover:


@dfabulich this is very good advice for several reasons.

Firstly, never resort to a walkthrough, except as a last resort, otherwise you don’t learn and you don’t get to be a better player. (I liken this to playing an escape room. My team never resorts to hints unless we get desperate, and the desperation comes about because you have a time limit, so you want to escape within the time limit.)

Secondly, always opt for hints, if they’re available, rather than a walkthrough, and don’t be tempted to look ahead to the extra hints until you’ve really considered all the hints presented so far.

Thirdly, authors should consider writing hints rather than a walkthrough. I know I’m guilty of not providing hints for all my own games, although they all have maps and commented solutions. Some of my games have context-sensitive in-game hints and that’s close to an ideal solution. (Coincidentally, I’m writing some now for my current game.)

I’m glad you wrote this. I don’t think ‘Lost Pig’ was ever intended for beginners. It’s a very funny game, but it’s also very, very hard. I’m always amazed when it shows up on lists for beginners. I don’t remember whether I needed hints to play it, but I do remember that I struggled with it for days.


Thank you, @Warrigal , for bringing up the TALP games. I shouldn’t have forgotten that.

Anyway, I have one more recommendation.

Play IF with veteran players.

For example, Club Floyd still meets every Sunday at 2pm EST on IFMUD. When this group plays an IF game, you not only see them solve puzzles, you more importantly see them discuss the puzzles and suggest various incorrect solutions. You can follow their shared train of thought in tandem with the gameplay. After a while, you can pick up various logical approaches these folks bring to the medium.

There are also some IF clubs and meetups that will play cooperatively over videochat, if that’s more your speed, as well as a few twitch streamers that will play IF cooperatively with their viewers lobbing suggestions or thoughts.

Finally, if you’d like to get all of this sans the social interaction and with full control of when you would like to do it irrespective of other folks schedules, the Club Floyd transcripts are a goldmine. They record not only the game text and submitted commands, but also the discussion between the players in parallel with the events of the game.

You’d be surprised how much you can learn from watching others play, or, better yet, playing with them.

(As an additional bonus, when you manage to contribute to solve a puzzle, it feels great, but if you’re drawing a blank, you probably won’t be stuck for too long with multiple people thinking about it.)


I think Lost Pig is excellent for beginners, not because its puzzles are easy enough for beginners, but because it has the most forgiving parser of any game I’ve ever played.

One of the hardest puzzles for IF newbies is to figure out what you can “normally” do in an IF game. (And they have to figure it out by themselves, alone!)

This is the problem that Zarf’s card is meant to address. https://pr-if.org/doc/play-if-card/play-if-card.html Zarf’s card has about 50 commands on it, including silly ones like SING, CURSE, WAVE, and SLEEP. Most games just fail on unusual commands like those, with a generic error message.

“Lost Pig” knows every verb on Zarf’s card, and more, and they all work. Thanks to the extensive verb support in “Lost Pig,” if you have an idea for a command, and you type it, the game is likely going to understand your meaning and do something, usually responding with a joke. The joke will quite often be a hint about how to solve a puzzle.

As for the puzzles, well, yes, they’re too hard for beginners to solve on their own, but Lost Pig also includes in-game gradual hints, which means that if you just keep working, you’ll definitely solve the game eventually, which makes it ideal for a beginner, perhaps because the puzzles are so hard, and so thoroughly hinted.


Good point. So, when looking at games for beginners, we should be looking at how well the parser deals with a beginner’s input, as well as how easy it is to solve the puzzles. We often forget that beginners do not know all the conventions, may not have read the Zarf card (or something equivalent) and may not have read the game’s instructions.


@pinkunz already posted my list “Games I finished without hints”. (Thanks!) It’s organised approximately by difficulty.
I should really get to adding some more works to that list that I hintlessly completed in recent months.

I’ll suggest some of the easier ones below:

(…one of those may be a cruel joke…)


I figured my game Six would be in one of the many given lists, and am slightly surprised it wasn’t. Therefore I’m going to recommend it for the original question.

  • for adult players, could be considered a child simulator
  • puzzles designed to be easy enough (with in game nudging) that no walkthrough/outside clues supplied
  • I’d say the parser is equal to Lost Pigs or better
  • first win unlocks additional scenario with another character and slightly higher difficulty
  • you do need to read the starting HELP info, or the pdf manual, for a few special commands. If I wrote it today this would be in an in game tutorial instead.



Thanks for reminding me. Six has been on my playlist for ages, but somehow someway I always played something else first. (I could say this about a dozen other games too, but now my focus is on Six).


I think it would be tremendously helpful for a really good parser player to do a “Let’s Play” of a parser game with a focus on helping newer players. Like, play The Dreamhold or Bronze or Lost Pig or any of the games that are routinely recommended for newbies, but include commentary specifically for teaching, and then pin that here at the top of the Let’s Play section. Like showing kids how to do long division-- don’t skip any steps or assume that they know simple things.

I wrote this game specifically to be friendly to new players. It really only has one hard puzzle in it. So I would hope that it’s serving that purpose well.


Yes, I’ve seen these as recommendations for “My First Parser” many times. I wouldn’t consider giving any of them to my friends who show some curiosity in playing parser-IF (highly hypothetical entities, those…). Too big, too long, too specific, too puzzly.
They may have some newbie-friendly features like a tutorial or an “easy”-setting, but that doesn’t make them newbie-friendly in their entirety. That would be like giving Counterfeit Monkey to a new player and saying “It’s going to be okay, it’s got a tutorial. And if it’s too much, you can turn it to ‘easy’-mode.”

I’d much rather recommend Glowgrass or Firebird, which lack beginner-features but show a lot more of the general tropes and straightforward conventions of parser-play in a smaller game.

Or any of the many TALP-games, of course.


I used a lot of walkthroughs when I just started playing parser-games.
-Partly because I kept running into an unwilling parser that didn’t seem to want to understand I just wanted to put that feather on the Brazilian dancer’s thong,
-Partly because there is a whole array of conventions that may feel natural when looking back but are really an acquired skill,
(thank you for pointing this out to me in another thread or PM which I can’t find right now, @inventor200)
-And partly because I got ahead of myself and wanted to experience the best of what this new medium had to offer. Which meant I picked those 5-star games that amazed experienced players at the time precisely because they did something unexpected with the gameplay or the storytelling.

(EDIT: I have to add: I used those walkthroughs because I fell in love with the idea of the parser-IF medium right from the start. It hit a sweet spot in my brain and heart (puzzle-solving and storytelling), and that gave me the motivation to want to grok this new thing. I still believe many attempts to draw more people into the parser-loving crowd hit a wall at that point. No matter how friendly your tutorial is, no matter how forgiving your parser is, it’s still a medium with a fairly narrowly defined target.)

Now, almost twenty years later, there are a few games where I wish I hadn’t walked through. (Delusions first and foremost… → Delusions - Details (ifdb.org) )
For the most part though, using walkthroughs thoughtfully helped me immensely to grasp the fundamentals of playing parser, the conventions (and their subversions) to be expected, the way to set priorities depending on genre,…

Now, when I’m stuck, I much prefer gradual hints, or asking for nudges here on the forum. However, those first months of reading literal step-by-step walkthroughs, of going back and forth between game-text and walkthrough-text with my brain wide open taught me a whole lot about how to approach the parser-IF-medium.

(I’ve replayed quite a few of those early games I walked through the first time, and even though I don’t experience them through completely new eyes, I still have my share of “aha”-moments when I do.)

So don’t beat yourself up about not completing a game without nudges, clues, hints, or a walkthrough. a) Playing parser is a skill that needs to be trained. b) Many games, especially older (pre-2000s) games, expect the player to either spend weeks/months on finding the solution solo, or to reach out and get help from a community.

Which we are! So if you’re stuck, drop a hint-question on the “Game Hints”-board, and someone will probably either respond directly, or point you to a helpful source of information.

→ Darn, another EDIT, but I don’t want to keep responding through a new incarnation of my brain-crowned avatar:
@ParserScribe : I don’t think anyone has asked the obvious question yet:

Which games have you attempted?


Well, you’re a really good parser player. I nominate you for this mission.