Interactive Fiction Games (For People Who Hate Reading)

I had mentioned in another post about how I adored Seedship and how that game sparked my interest in Twine. A kind forum lurker, named Rovarsson, suggested a really interesting game called A Dark Room.

So, what other IF games are there that are not verbose, yet still very satisfying? Let’s start a list…

Interactive Fiction Games (For People Who Hate Reading):


I’ll submit After-Words from IFComp 2021. As few words as possible!




free bird from Seed Comp is a short game where you’re a parrot trying to escape from an exotic animal trafficker. One of the restrictions on this one was no verbs, only nouns and adjectives. So the text is pretty short and minimal. Twine/Chapbook.


That was my first thought too!

This game is also terse and great:


As you did not mention any parser games, are you interested in those too?


'Ello there, good sir. May I interest you in the Tiny Utopias Jam? All very short, sweet, and utopic.

Jokes aside, here’s a collection of brief reviews for each game by one reviewer (the organizer, actually, I think?). Mind you, it’s not the most up-to-date — there are works on there missing on the IFDB page and vice versa, and links to some of them are broken — but there should be enough there for you to get a general sense of what each one is about and which ones you might want to try.

One of my personal favorites is the morning after by verityvirtue.


Oh, and The Ballroom by Liza Daly is also worth a mention here. It’s very short, not necessarily satisfying, but unique otherwise.


There are a lot of very short twine games out there - see Twiny Jam (IFDB) for example. Elsewhere is one of my favorites.

Outside of micro-fiction, there are many early twine games with rather sparse writing. Horse Master and The Uncle Who Worked For Nintendo for example.

10pm by Litrouke has a very deliberately sparse style.


Also from Litrouke Please Answer Carefully is fairly short.


I’m open to any form of IF, as long as you feel it’s a worthy candidate.

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Some people seem to be offering game suggestions on the premise that they are short… or, at least, that’s how they’re being justified. That’s not what I’m looking for at all.

I’m looking for non-wordy IF games that impress. Thank you to those who have suggested games thus far. I’ll check them out eventually, but be warned… if you’re just suggesting novelty, I will start handing out “You Have Bad Taste in IF” badges.

Don’t make me give you one. I have a whole bag of them. :wink:


Some early adventures were extremely terse, such as the Scott Adams games.


When you guys take the time to suggest games, I take the time to check them out. I heard it’s the polite thing to do.

  • Please Answer Carefully : Creepy little thing, that game is. Clever and on the edge of unsettling.

  • After-Words : Very interesting map mechanic. Could make for a neat dungeon crawling system with health being the main resource and making sure you can escape back to town to restock, buy new gear and delve deeper with exploring/solving more puzzles. Map randomization and drawing from a pool of more rooms than the dungeon can hold would really increase replayability. I love games that catch you off guard like that.

  • Weird City Interloper : Strange in a good way. Had a bit of the shortcomings of After-Words, where you can fall into that mindless “try this, or this, or this, or this”… However, it was so quirky that it’ll stick in the back of my mind for a while. I’ve never played that sort of game before, but it felt pretty natural. I think my mind ventured back to the 80s at one point because, instead of typing “leave” to go back to the streets, I typed “cd..” …ah, good ol’ DOS days.

  • Elsewhere : I didn’t expect to like this one, but I did. It had a simple message and in the process of figuring out the solution, it became even more abundantly clear… and really sunk in. This is very, very short IF done absolutely right.

  • Horse Master : Weird game and not something I will ever play again, but choosing how to develop the horse was a very cool mechanic. I could see a game where it’s not about mastering every attribute, but increasing certain combinations of competency to drive story elements. Like, if you “trained your dragon” in a certain way, you could participate in defending the village or flying off to the front lines to meet the enemy… success occurring if you have the right build for the decisions you make. I always look for inspiration for making games… I guess that’s why we’re all here, I suppose.

  • 10pm : I have to admit, I was very engaged while playing the game. Neat concept with using symbols to construct sentences. Very unique. I’m reminded of the runes in Ultima Underworld where you can rearrange them to cast different spells, like a casting language. This would be a neat premise for a game where you battle enemies and solve puzzles via constructed magic spells… ultimately, shaping the story. Collecting new runes would give you a lot of options. Testing out spell combinations could be fun in and of itself.

Lots of great stuff, to be completely honest. Sorry if I sounded like a killjoy with my last post, but I wanted to caution people about suggesting games that just “met the criteria”. I got concerned when I clicked on a couple and they… well, where are those badges I mentioned… they must be here somewhere. :wink:


Well, when you say you’re looking for games that are “satisfying” and give only two examples with no indication of why you found them satisfying, that’s not much to go on. All of these games are “satisfying” to many of us.

I do think this latest post helps give a feel for what you’re looking for. Let me see if I have this right: you’re looking for “game mechanics” with possibly an interesting frame story but you don’t really need that? Preferably more simulationist than solving hand-constructed puzzles? Unless the game is very short and has something to say that gets to you: I’m not clear when it is that you like the fiction versus not.

I don’t feel like there’s a lot of this in IF: most authors are more invested in the fiction or in the more “text adventure” style puzzle-fests. (edit: I also feel like most of these forms of games are much more highly developed elsewhere, so when someone experiments with adapting them to IF they’re often disappointing to someone who has played that genre before). But here’s a few more thoughts (don’t feel like you have to try all of these):

Olivia’s Orphanorium is a sort of time-management/resource-management game in IF form: “Sparky young entrepreneur Olivia sets out to fulfil her dream of running an orphanage. The beatings will continue until morale improves.” But there’s not that much there, so I doubt you’d like it much. Ditto Fine Felines which is much less of a cat fancier game than it’s a story of dealing with chronic illness.

You probably know that John Ayliff, author of Seedship, has other games, including the $10 Beyond the Chiron Gate which is sort of a spiritual sequel to Seedship.

I don’t get that you’re all that interested in puzzles, but there’s much more in that direction, of course. Lots of games that are interesting puzzlefests with light frame stories. Andrew Schultz has done chess puzzles (Fourbyfourian Quarryin’, Fivebyfivia Delenda est, etc.), or word puzzles (Threediopolis etc.) or (very US-centric) rhyming puzzles (Very Vile Fairy File etc.).

Arthur DiBianca does a lot of puzzlefests and also often experiments with “breaking the rules” and trying out adapting different forms of games to IF, so Skies Above is a slightly grindy game built around a bunch of minigames and the puzzles are just about noticing the clues to optimize the randomness to get the best chance of advancing as fast as possible. The Prongleman Job is very short but has an unexpected mechanical twist that some people thought was clever and others thought was unfair. Inside the Facility has a new release with a graphical interface where you can just click. Grandma Bethlinda’s Remarkable Egg is just a bunch of goofy puzzles.

What else? I wonder if Pace Smith’s Limerick Heist might click with you? Heist story written entirely in limericks, short enough not to outstay its welcome. She wrote one or two others if you like that one.

If you might like optimization puzzles, Captain Verdeterre’s Plunder is a game about extracting the most valuable treasure you can from a sinking ship where rooms get gradually flooded. So you play it a bunch of times to try and figure out the best course through. Sugarlawn is similar, but the premise is you’re a contestant on a game show and you have a limited number of moves. Play several times to solve the puzzles and find the hidden mechanics, then settle in to try and get a high score.

Language Arts was a sort of programming game around swapping letters around to make words.

edit edit: Junior Arithmancer is arithmetic puzzles but has that stringing spell pieces together feeling. Suveh Nux is also a “figure out what spells do/how to construct them” game. Kerkerkruip is a short roguelike… maybe not an amazing roguelike, IIRC the difficulty is mainly around choosing which order to go after the enemies in and figuring out their tells, and then just hoping the randomness doesn’t kill you, but eh, roguelikes. And I wouldn’t really recommend The Gostak, because I think it requires a fair amount of familiarity with parser IF conventions to get started figuring things out, but it’s a sort of conlang game where all the nouns are replaced with nonsense words and you have to figure out what they mean. Kind of a love-it-or-hate-it game.


Well, there’s another thing to keep in mind: people have different tastes. I myself tend to approach interactive fiction more as literature than games, which is why the ones I suggested probably lacked the game mechanics (puzzles, things of that sort) that a good part of the people (you included, it seems) on this forum enjoys. Sorry they weren’t to your liking — however, there’s a very broad range of works in the IF canon, you have to keep in mind, and an even wider audience range, so it’s rare that you’d like everything people had to recommend. As was said, different people, different tastes. And that should be okay to have to deal with. No point in the badges.


I don’t find “you have bad taste” to be a compelling aesthetic argument.


I apologize. It wasn’t my goal to berate peoples’ taste in IF.

I had good intentions when I made this topic. I, personally, don’t really like reading for enjoyment. If I do, it’s short stories; things that “cut to the chase” and cut to the heart" of the matter. Replayable games are important to me. IF for people who don’t like to read is about as accurate a title as I can come up with.

I’ve edited out the negative and rude game impression comments in the previous reply. I realize how those were perceived now. Thank you to all here for being the bigger person.

Josh, I’ll definitely check out your IF suggestions. I can tell you’re passionate about IF. I appreciate that and your patience with me.


I followed this thread with interest. When it comes to books I like reading long text. But when playing IF I appreciate short room descriptions and don’t like endless “cut scenes”. (I don’t know a better word for it. I mean long non-interactive text.). I don’t like IF without any descriptions or without a real parser. But I do like terse IF. So I knew what the OP means right from reading the thread title and was (at first) surprised that some people misunderstood it. It’s nice to see I’m not the only one. I hope people who don’t feel the same way or didn’t understand it at first are not upset.


Nah, it’s fine (by me): I just think you’ll need to be more explicit about what you’re looking for because I suspect it doesn’t match up well with the tastes of most people who play and write IF. Most of it tends to be hand authored and isn’t particularly replayable, for instance. There was a recent thread where it seemed like most people here rarely play a piece more than once (or re-read books or re-watch movies, for that matter).

And I actually like IF more in theory than in practice, usually, heh. I’ve just been poking around long enough that I’ve tried a fair amount of it (though not compared to some people here).

Anyway. Good luck finding some stuff that works for you!