Looking for narrative-heavy and puzzle-light parser game recommendations

Hi all,

I just played through Amanda Walker’s excellent “Fairest” from Spring Thing 2022, and I’d love to see more examples of folks’ favorite narrative-heavy and puzzle-light parser games. I’m still pretty new to the scene (less than a year, at any rate) and have mostly had exposure to puzzle-heavy parser games.

Thanks so much!


[EDIT) - Duh, you said parser, I missed that! Sorry.

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Yes, I’d ideally like parser games. Doesn’t matter which platform, though. I’m thankful that I’ve been exposed to a large number of choice-based games, so I’m trying to expand my parser game repertoire.

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The grandaddy of puzzle-light, narrative-heavy parser games would likely be Infocom’s A Mind Forever Voyaging. If you haven’t played it yet, now may be an opportune time as @kamineko is currently doing a multiple entry deep dive on the game.

Another “classic” (?) that’s been in discussion recently is Photopia, which certainly meets your criterion.


Rameses immediately springs to mind. Puzzlefree, heavily railroaded. Justified in-game by the protagonist’s personality.

Rameses - Details (ifdb.org)


Mike Russo’s Sting is a puzzle-less parser memoir, though that damnable sailing portion really trips up a lot of people.


My recommendation for players getting into parser games isn’t to try “puzzle light” games, but to play top-rated parser games, even “hard” ones, and use hints frequently, especially games with “Invisiclues” gradual hints. (Avoid walkthroughs. Ask for hints here on the forum before using walkthroughs.)

That way, you’ll still have some of the experience of solving the puzzles, which will develop your skill at solving puzzles in other parser games.

Try the top-rated games on IFDB. https://ifdb.org/search?browse

Most of those are parser games, and all of them are fantastic. Many of them have built-in hints, where the game itself gives you a context-sensitive hints, and almost all of the rest have invisiclues.


Thank you for the thought! Just want to clarify that as I said in my original post, I’ve played plenty - I actually did something similar when I first started playing them. I’m just looking for more narrative ones now and don’t know as many.

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AMFV is the one that popped to mind.

You might also want to check out Shade by Andrew Plotkin.
Ryan Veeder’s games:
The Ascent of the Gothic Tower - exploratory, implicit lore
Taco Fiction - choice-y but not really puzzle-y - great narrative
Dial C for Cupcakes - light puzzles, more narrative
Wrenlaw - atmospheric

I will also shamelessly recommend my own game Fair which was specifically designed to not obstruct the player in any way with puzzles, but there are secrets and different endings and optional narrative.


Here are just a few that come to mind immediately:

Blue Lacuna in story mode is probably the greatest example. (You’ll be able to choose story mode in the game itself after a while.) Also by Aaron Reed, the much shorter Whom the Telling Changed, but it’s not really parser if I recall correctly.

The Weight of a Soul has very few puzzles and a lot of story. The King of Shreds and Patches has a little more puzzles, but still very heavy on the narrative compared to the puzzles. Both of these are quite long, though not nearly as long as Blue Lacuna. More or less in the same category, but with more (non-pornographic) sex is Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis.

Alabaster is a lot of little narratives starting from a common base, but I think it should count.

All of the above are excellent games, very well worth playing!

Perhaps I’m also allowed to mention my own first game, The Baron, which very much tried to break with the puzzle paradigm. (Very spoilery content warnings: child abuse, incest.)


Seconding all the above (including the warning that Sting does have a mechanically complex, intentionally-kinda-annoying sailing race – you can just wait your way through it if you don’t feel like engaging with it, with no negative consequences).

A couple more I’d add:

Photograph – been a while since I played but I recall it having some solid character development and a nice structure involving flashbacks.

Aisle – progenitor of the one-move game, I think with a similar branching micro-narrative structure to Alabaster.

I haven’t played The Fire Tower, but I think it might fit – more environmental storytelling than narrative as such, though.


There are a lot of games heavy on exploration and discovery in the IF Art Shows too.

Varronis’ Museum for example doesn’t have a lot of story, but it has deep implementation.

Varronis Museum - Details (ifdb.org)


Amanda’s brand new The Spectators is quite puzzle-light and is very very good.


I don’t particularly like narrative-rich games and haven’t played any of the recommended ones. If I want to read a story, I’ll read a book.

However, I have played quite a few of the IF Art Show games. I generally dislike them for the same reasons I dislike narrative-heavy games, but if you’d like to see a variety of approaches to narrative implemented in smaller games, then these are recommended for you.


Just want to say thank you to everyone who submitted their thoughts! Looks like I have a lot to chew through in the coming weeks.