My run at the 2022 IFDB Awards

If you’re anything like me, you might be looking at the large number of different IFDB Awards categories, and the even bigger number of great games folks put out in 2022, and feeling a bit at a loss – I know the idea is to see how things go in this first year and winnow things down, and there’s nothing saying one needs to vote in every single category, but I have pretty intense completionist tendencies. So I thought I’d start this thread to create some structure and help me work my way through. And since reasonable campaigning is allowed, hopefully it’ll provide a chance to highlight some of the games that I really dug this year in case other folks want to consider them for an award too.

First, a caveat – I played and reviewed a good number of the 2022 games (all of the Comp, Spring Thing, and Parser Comp), but I only played a couple EctoComp games and missed out on TALP entirely, plus I’m lazy and stick to English-only IF. So there are definitely holes in my knowledge of the year, but hopefully I’ve got a reasonable sense of the landscape.

OK, let’s get started – I’ll try to knock out a couple of categories a day. NB I’m linking to the entries’ IFDB pages, which all should have a review by me if you want a fuller account of what I thought about a game.

Outstanding Debut – this is a tough one since there’s of course no search that nicely lifts up all the first-time games, so I’m just scanning the full list and trying to mentally weed out the authors who I think I’ve seen write games before. This is a very unscientific method, but it’s the best I can do! The three that stand out to me are:

  • A Long Way to the Nearest Star - as a debut game with a somewhat generic title and premise, I was a little worried this would get overlooked, so it was really gratifying to see it do so well in the Comp, buoyed by its clever puzzles, solid pacing, and most of all the conflicted supercomputer SOLIS, one of the best-drawn NPCs in any game this year, debut or not.

  • Filthy Aunt Mildred - when I think of an outstanding debut, I think of a game that heralds some fresh new voice, and the scabrous, lurid prose of FAM – well, “fresh” is probably not the best word for something so sleazy, but it’s a singular, hilarious achievement nonetheless.

  • Thin Walls - a short story anthology in an IF frame, Thin Walls blends well-grounded social comment with creeping architectural horror, to very impressive effect.

Outstanding Game over 2 hours – another tricky category to narrow down, I am going to cheat and rely on @mathbrush’s length tags as a filter. This might mean I miss some in the about 2 hours category or where my playthrough was significantly different, but to me this category really should go to a big, long game, not one that’s flirting with the Comp limit, so hopefully that will turn out OK. Once again, I’m coming up with three rather different possibilities:

  • The Only Possible Prom Dress - in some ways the ur-example of this category, a big, old-school puzzlefest just like they used to make (except it’s much fairer, and better designed).

  • Manifest No - a full novel in kaemi’s inimitable style, serving up a heady brew of themes interrogating the nature and function of language.

  • Custard and Mustard’s Big Adventure - this one isn’t quite as Brobdingnagian as the others, clocking in at a mere 3-4 hours, but it still makes great use of the expanded space by providing a smorgasbord of lighthearted but meaty puzzling for its winning puppy protagonists.

Outstanding Short Game – relying on @mathbrush’s tags once again, I’m just looking at one hour or less since this likewise feels like a category that should reward games closer to the length extreme. Longer list this time since there are a lot of games here!

  • Use Your Psychic Powers at Applebee’s – clever use of a looping structure to deliver some good jokes and some nice little character pieces.

  • Esther’s - adorable, and the quintessence of a little game; it wouldn’t work at all if there was too much of it.

  • Good Grub - a didactic joke game, but it’s a funny didactic joke game.

  • No One Else is Doing This - understated social comment played at an incredibly close-up level.

  • You Won’t Get Her Back - a single chess puzzle, flawlessly implemented and with surprisingly effective narrative heft.

Outstanding Underappreciated Game – I don’t have a great sense of what’s broadly appreciated or not, so playing this one basically by ear – I guess I’ll look at the number of IFDB ratings as a proxy:

  • Manifest No - this got some well-deserved discussion on the forums, but only 3 IFDB ratings? Come on now. I know it was entered in the Back Garden of Spring Thing but it’s still a major work.

  • Lady Thalia and the Rose of Rocroi – how does Lady 2halia only have three ratings??? I repeat, come on now.

  • Custard and Mustard’s Big Adventure - another one I’ve already mentioned, but doesn’t seem like it got as much attention as I think it merits. Are folks just sleeping on Spring Thing? Pound for pound it might be better than IF Comp at this point, dare I say!

(I’m guessing there are some Ectocomp games that belong here – I’ve had Spectators and Escape from Hell on my to-play list – so I’ll be eager to see what else folks vote for on this one)

Most Sequel-Worthy Game – I’m not always a big fan of sequels for their own sake, so I think I’ll be more parsimonious in this category:

  • Lady Thalia and the Rose of Rocroi – sort of a cheat since I know there’s a third one in the works, but the Lady Thalia games have cracked the formula of providing incredibly satisfying self-contained stories with enough connective tissue and overall character development to leave the player chomping for another installment.

…Okay, that’s about what I’ve got time for today - five down, 23 to go!


Arrr! A daring assertion matey! But if any scallywags should challenge you on it, I have your back, flintlock pistols smoking and sparking.

(I have no idea what inspired the pirate-talk. The words just rumbled out of my belly that way.)


It cracks me up that the Lady Thalia series is getting nominated for Most Sequel Worthy. Given that we effectively ended game 2 with a flashing neon sign saying PART 3 COMING SOON! it feels a little like cheating. :smile:

That aside I think this thread is a great idea. I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed by the sheer number of categories and games so having some discussion here (like there was for the XYZZYs) will be good for everyone. 2022 was such a strong year that I’d hate to see any deserving games left out in the cold.

Edit: Also, I gotta say – given the praise it’s gotten on the forums, the idea that LTRR is eligible for “Best Unappreciated” is WEIRD. It’s not incorrect going strictly by IFDB engagement (I suspect being a sequel is at least partially responsible), but I’ve certainly never felt it was unappreciated!


Ah, but that’s a linguistics question. See, the IFDB award isn’t for “Best UNappreciated Game”, rather, it’s for “best UNDERappreciated Game”.

We don’t think Lady Thalia was not appreciated, rather, we all think Lady Thalia deserves even more appreciation than it’s already got.

And it does. Can’t get enough appreciation, in my humble view.

Go Melpomene&Thalia!


I’m surprised you don’t include Wry by @OlafNowacki in your list. Best raunchy slapstick IF I’ve played. (Wry (


Whew, thanks! :smiley:


Oh, that is a good catch – interactive farce is really fun when done right, which I think is true of Wry!

On to some more categories:

Outstanding Feelies – another tough one for me, feelies typically don’t make much impression on me so I’m actively struggling to remember games that featured a bonus file or two, and the various feelies tags on IFDB are underpopulated (in checking this, I learned that there’s a “feelies better than game” tag, which applies only to Reliques of Tolti-Alph. Ouch!) And when I look at games others have nominated already, it seems to me like some of them don’t actually have feelies? So I’m underconfident in my picks here, but so it goes:

  • The Last Christmas Present - an IF adaptation of a real-world Harry-Potter-themed scavenger hunt, the photos of the map the author built are awesome and convey what a cool present this must have been for his daughter.

  • Into the Sun – I don’t remember the map included in this Verdeterre-like looter being especially aesthetically impressive, but it fit the mood and made it much easier to enjoy the game of cat-and-mouse that’s ItS’ contribution to the genre.

Trailblazer Award – there’s not much explanation here as to what counts as a trailblazing work, so I guess that’s up to personal interpretation? I’m also underconfident about what criteria to use here, but I suppose I can look for custom game systems, exciting parser/choice hybrids, and novel gameplay mechanics as markers. To my mind, “trailblazer” implies setting a direction others may follow, so I’m not going to vote for some quite unique I enjoyed games because I think they’re not likely to lead to much in the way of imitation.

  • The Bones of Rosalinda – putting parser-like puzzle mechanics into a friendlier choice-based format is, in my view, one of the most important trends in contemporary IF, and @agat makes it look easy in this funny and heartwarming adventure.

  • A Chinese Room - @MiloM and others have been experimenting with multiplayer IF in recent years, but this dark, assured game is no mere experiment, but a fully-formed work in its own right.

Outstanding Worldbuilding – finally, somewhat simpler territory! I tend to think of “worldbuilding” as encompassing not just inventing lore, but communicating a sense of place, so some of these nominees might be a bit idiosyncratic under the conventional definition, but I think they’re still deserving of the nod:

  • Computerfriend – this game’s stylish post-apocalyptic America still lives in my brain, crackling with electricity, even a year after I played it.

  • Digit - the characters are the major focus in this two-hander (er), but the seaside town whose festival serves as the backdrop for the action is very well-invoked too.

  • Lady Thalia and the Rose of Rocroi - summons up an enchanting Gay Paree that never was (I need to stop it with these puns).

  • January - zombie-choked wastelands are a dime a dozen, but January stands out with painterly prose and a photographer’s sense of the well-chosen visual.

  • The Archivist and the Revolution - again, seen one cyberpunk dystopia, seen 'em all – except here, where the clever hard sci-fi touches and hinted-at history of social unrest actually left me wanting more in the way of lore-dumps.

  • Things that Happened in Houghtonbridge and Custard and Mustard’s Big Adventure - I’ve never lived in a sleepy British village, but after playing these two (very different) Adventuron games, I feel as thought I must have done.

…let’s see what’s next? “Outstanding use of interactivity”? I’m not quite sure I know what that means (and @mathbrush, it looks like the explanatory text is pasted in from the overall outstanding game poll) so let’s pause here so I can sleep on this one.


Hm, nice catch! I changed the description to say “A game in 2022 that felt truly interactive”.

Nice thread by the way!


Nice. This was my pick in more than one category. No Spring Thing ribbons!

(which was one of the things I intended when proposing what eventually became the underrated award)


As the bloke who suggested it, I’d say you have an accurate grasp on it. The folks experimenting with new things that might become commonplace in the future.


Interesting pick for trailblazers. I’d say that however much I loved Bones Of Rosalinda, I think that particular trail has been well and truly blazen. Bones , to me, feels more like the exquisitely decorated Indian Elephant with bells and whistles that follows the guys with the torches and machetes to widen the path.

Those games hacking and burning the initial path through the wilderness would have been Detectiveland and Zeppelin Adventure by @robinjohnson.

Multiplayer IF seems to be blazing trail into more officially “Here be Dragons”-terrain (like, with pictures of ice-breathing seamonsters on blank areas on the maps). There’s a two-player piece in the Concours FI Francophone this year too!

L’heure du toast by dunin (


I’m the one who suggested this category, and the goal was to celebrate the IF-iest of IF, which I consider to be well executed games that would be difficult to imagine in another medium. (If I were to make an all-time list of these Counterfeit Monkey would surely be at the top.)


That’s entirely fair, and part of me agrees with that – and I’m pretty psyched to see more Gruescript games come out – but to me, the Robin Johnson games feel like parser games played via a choice-based interface (which is awesome!) while Bones feels like a LucasArts game reconstituted in text-based form. And part of what makes me want to give it the Trailblazer nod is that its polish and bells and whistles make it an enticing example for others to follow (hopefully!)

That makes sense! OK, let’s give this a shot:

Outstanding use of interactivity

  • I’m going to lead off with an @AmandaB double-feature here; Fairest’s subversion of the narrator/player/protagonist triangle is deftly-done, and the ending sequence gains much of its power from how the player engages – or tries to engage – with it. Meanwhile, Of Their Shadows Deep’s transformation of words into concrete poetry is an original, compelling use of the affordances of IF.

  • Computerfriend’s gotten a nod from me above for worldbuilding, but the sensitive way it plays off the player’s choices – and the really clever parser-y chatbot part make it well-deserving here too.

  • According to Cain - the puzzles in this one are masterfully integrated into the game’s plot and themes; it’s also got a great implementation of CONSULT BOOK ABOUT TOPIC, leading to some aha moments that wouldn’t be possible in any other medium.

  • Wry – yeah, definitely this belongs here; interactive slapstick that’s responsive to just about anything you might try!

Outstanding Retro Game – the retro scene is not my corner of the IF world, sad to say, so I’ve only played one game on the eligible list. Fortunately, it’s a good 'un so I feel OK voting for it despite my ignorance:

  • Alchemist’s Gold - an old school text adventure the way you wish they were, stripped of annoyances so the clever puzzles and well-done terse style can deliver a retro experience that fits the modern palate.

…I’m skipping the language polls due to being an annoying monoglot, so we’ve made it through to the genres! For all of these, I’m going to be looking not so much for my favorite games on the list as for those that I feel do the best job of incarnating their respective genres. This may lead to funny results – like, I wish I could vote for According to Cain as a best mystery, since I think it’s a better for that genre than for fantasy – but hopefully it winds up being a more interesting approach.

Outstanding Fantasy Game – one of the most capacious categories, with lots of sub-genres – and it’s one I personally tend to like, so this should be fun!

  • Fairest - the Brothers Grimm are one of the main sources of much modern fantasy, so how can I not pick this skewed take on them?

  • Elvish for Goodbye – “elegiac elf stuff with a soupcon of linguistics” is another classic subgenre, but the Joan Didion angle makes this game completely unique.

Outstanding Horror Game - as mentioned in the first post, I mostly sat out Ectocomp, so I’m guessing I unfortunately won’t have much to say here. …wait, why is Custard and Mustard on the horror list??? Oh, looks like the genre tag is set to humor, must be another copy and paste issue – I’ll flag to @mathbrush, sorry to be annoying! Anyway manually tweaking the search is simple enough and turns out I have played some good choices:

  • A Thousand Thousand Slimy Things – cosmic horror with an aquatic bent, it winds up being more personal and insidious by far than a hundred Cthulhian monster mashes.

  • Sweetpea - note-perfect Gothic prose, a creepy maybe-doppelganger, and an inhuman savior make this a delightful, unsettling treat.


Quel horreur!

Fixed (and thanks!)


The way the book was wrong about one of the family member’s character, like scientific speculation often is when faced with the facts was a great moment of discovery when I played the game.


…The real horror is what puppies get up to without supervision! Hahahaha. It always is fun to see me and Charm together in discussions or reviews. Scary little Twine meowmeows strike again! And- thank you, Mike, the shout out means a lot. :sparkling_heart:


I kind of shanked myself last year for the IFDB Award—I hesitated to label According to Cain a mystery since the murderer is never really in question, and I didn’t label Past Present a slice-of-life game because it involves time travel (but it’s not really science fiction, either).

If I had one suggestion for next year’s award, it would be that the genre categories not require the games be labeled as such. Let voters decide what is and is not slice-of-life, science fiction, etc.


I can understand this. On the other hand, anyone can edit an IFDB listing, so, in a fashion, the voters hypothetically can decide what is and is not included in each genre.



I’ve been editing some game genres so I could vote for them. But many people won’t feel comfortable doing that. And it also requires you thinking that game X really should be in genre Y (plus maybe others) to make that change.

I’m not at all comfortable with the current IFDB Awards system expecting only games with the relevant genre to be voted for, and for that genre to be set. An awful lot of games in IFDB don’t have their genre filled in, or it’s not as wide as it might be,

I’m very much in favour of the suggestion by @jnelson re this @mathbrush.


Let’s keep it going through the genre polls:

Outstanding Humor – right, now we’re doing this one for real! I tend to like games that are funny while still having a somewhat serious point, but that’s not what we’re here for tonight – I’m voting for the ones that made me laugh the hardest.

  • The Legend of Horse Girl - if this game’s only joke was Butch McCreedy and his sibling Femme McCreedy, it would still get a place on the list.

  • Custard and Mustard’s Big Adventure - there’s a winning air of whimsy that permeates the proceedings here, along with some killer jokes (Custard’s full name) and farcical set-pieces (the whole restaurant sequence).

  • Wry - as mentioned above, a zany good time.

Outstanding Mystery - I really like mysteries, though I’m pretty rubbish at the Infocom-derived kind where you need to use multiple playthroughs to build a comprehensive catalog of what all the suspects are doing at different times. Happily, there are other takes on the genre now!

(There are a bunch of other games on the mystery list that I enjoyed – but most of them I enjoyed despite not finding their mystery aspects very satisfying, like Grown-Up Detective Agency and Thirty Nine Steps. So just one vote this time).

Outstanding Sci-Fi – oh, I think this one’s going to be tough, there are so many different kinds of sci-fi, and off the top of my head I’m already thinking of a bunch of standouts.

  • A Long Way to the Nearest Star - exploring a derelict spaceship with a questionably-sane AI as your only companion is the scifi-iest of sci-fi concepts, and this game carries it off so, so well.

  • Crash - another classic subgenre, this time of the fix-the-damaged-spaceship variety, with clever puzzles and deep implementation.

  • Computerfriend - if Philip K. Dick were alive and making IF, Computerfriend is the game he’d write.

  • The Archivist and the Revolution - exhausted social-realist biopunk that manages to plausibly evoke the far future while still being clearly about today.

Outstanding Slice of Life - there was a discussion in the other thread about whether there should be a recognized “drama” category for IF, to sort of map to the film genre (and what would largely be literary fiction in book terms) – I think that’s a good idea, but Slice of Life is probably the closest to that that we’ve currently got. These games are often my very favorite of all the genres, so I’m guessing some of these will be contenders for my overall outstanding game votes (if it’s not clear already, I’m saving that one for the end).

  • No One Else is Doing This - evokes a single city block, and a very specific job, while making some important social and political points without being overbearing – that basically never happens in IF!

  • A Walk Around the Neighborhood - affable and good-natured, taking on the craziness of mid-pandemic life and posing some challenging puzzles without being too fussed about how intensely the player chooses to take any of it.

  • New Year’s Eve, 2019 - I haven’t personally lived this scenario, but the writing here is so convincing, the details so evocatively rendered, that I could almost believe that I have. If the point of a slice of life game is to let the player inhabit some other character’s shoes for a while, NYE2019 delivers in spades.

Outstanding Surreal - I confess, this category isn’t my favorite (maybe that’s logical, given that I just said that the more grounded slice-of-life one is?) so the standouts here might be especially impressive to get over my general coolness towards the genre.

  • Lucid - this kind of slightly-overwritten allegory for trauma typically turns me off, but I found the quality of the prose high (and self-aware) enough to make it really work for me.

  • To Persist/Exist/Endure, Press 1 - a masterful use of metaphor, with the hell of being stuck in an endless, hostile phone tree working as a potent simulation for all sorts of situations.

  • The Hole Man - the rare relatively-happy surreal game, this is a superabundant trip through a philosophical Wonderland.