Participate in the 2023 Interactive Fiction Top 50!

Interactive Fiction Top 50

In 2011, 2015, and 2019, I organised a vote for the Interactive Fiction Top 50:

Now another four years have come and gone, so it is time for a new vote. That’s where you come in. It doesn’t matter whether you have played every interactive fiction game ever made, or have just started exploring the medium. It also doesn’t matter whether you prefer parser games, or choice-based games, or love both equally. As long as there is some IF that you like and would like the world to know about, you are a worthy participant. (For a little more on which games are eligible for inclusion, see below.)

The aim is not to decide what the best IF ever is by majority vote – that would be foolish. Rather, the aims of the top 50 are:

  • To create a good opportunity for people to think about the best games they have played, and discuss their ideas on this topic with others.

  • To allow people to be inspired by what they see on other people’s lists.

  • To create a useful list of great games at which you can point newcomers to the IF scene.

  • To track how the taste of the community evolves over time.

To participate, all you have to do is send me a list of between 1 and 20 interactive fiction games that you consider to be the best IF that you have played. You can send this list to me in private, but it is more fun and more useful to all of us if you make it public, for instance in this very topic, as a Recommended List on the IFDB, on your blog, or on social media. It is even more fun and even more useful if you explain what you loved about each entry in a few sentences. For examples, check out the forum threads linked to above. But a bare list of between 1 and 20 titles will suffice!

To ensure that your votes are counted, either post the list here in the IF Forum topic or send a list or link to a list to me by e-mail. My e-mail address is, where you replace “myfirstname” with my first name. Which is Victor. The deadline is 3 September 2023.

Here are the rules:

  • You can list between 1 and 20 games.

  • The order in which you list the games is not important. The total number of points a work receives is simply the total number of votes it gets.

  • You can list each work only once.

  • You can list multiple works by one author.

  • You cannot list your own works.

  • It’s up to you to decide whether a work counts as interactive fiction. Anything that is listed on the IFDB is automatically fine; if one of the games you want to vote for is not listed there, feel free and indeed encouraged to add it to the site. But a game being on IFDB is not a requirement for voting.

  • You can vote for commercial works. You can vote for works that were written in any language.

  • I’m asking you to identify the best interactive fiction, not the most influential, most important, most innovative or most accessible interactive fiction. But of course, if you believe that influence, importance, innovation or accessibility are important parts of being good, that is fine. For your list, you decide what counts as ‘best’.

  • Please don’t go around canvassing for votes.

  • In previous years, the Top 50 was just the result of a straight up vote tally. That is the plan now too! But in unforeseen circumstances, I may make a different decision. (For instance, suppose a large IF-adjacent community decides to participate and swamps out other voters, then I may end up separating the votes into two lists.) I’ll be completely transparent about that if I do, and also make the raw list of vote totals public.

  • If you e-mail your list to me, I will anonymise it in any file I publicly share.

  • As stated above, the deadline for entering your list is 3 September 2023.

  • I’m planning to announce the results as an article in The Rosebush.

  • The organiser is allowed to participate –- because, hey, where’s the fun if I can’t give you my own list?

I hope to see many of you participate! Please spread the news wherever you see fit.


Woo! Thanks for setting this up, it’s always fun seeing stuff like this pop up.

Edit: I don’t really want to be first but I thought of a list as soon as you posted it.

My explanation and my list is below:

Last time I thought of every game I like and narrowed it down. This time I’m going with a different version of ‘best’. I’m looking for games which are really high quality, have lasting value, are very different from other games, appeal to a large group of people, and provide a significant chunk of content. This excludes a lot of stuff that is brief but deeply impactful (like The Warbler’s Nest and De Baron), awesome fun but over quick and no need to revisit (like To Hell in a Hamper or Rogue of the Multiverse) and some games that are impactful and high-quality but maybe a bit niche (like Slouching Toward’s Bedlam or Cannery Vale). This is in no way scientific and I gave different answer last time (I think; I’m going to check after I do this). It’s definitely impacted by personal bias.

In alphabetical order:

Adventure: I genuinely love this game. I haven’t revisited it since I beat it, but it was probably the last puzzle-heavy game I beat without relying on a walkthrough (although I already knew the solution to the endgame from hearing about it). While it’s technically not ‘the first’ IF game, it was good enough to spawn many admirers. I played the Inform port of the 350 point version and loved the eggs puzzle, the bear, the volcano, the meta-finale, the dragon.
Anchorhead This was one of the first games I tried in 2010 before I got creeped out by Vespers and Varicella and quit IF for 5 years. It’s also the first game I played when I came back. I remember playing it and thinking ‘that was good, but I think I’d like other games of similar length, polish and complexity, just with different plots or genres’. But then I never found those other games. It’s not the biggest game, but it pulls off some real smoothness and a great plot arc that is really hard to pull off. Some people really don’t like it but every great thing has its detractors.
Birdland: Was huge on Tumblr for a while, popular in IFComp, something I’ve revisited many time. In my mind this game was right on the cusp between ‘early twine’ which was dominated by Porpentine and Anna Anthropy’s style and ‘less early twine’ that could just branch out and be anything. One of my go-to games if I want to show IF to someone, and the standard I judge Twine games by.
Blue Lacuna: Every time I replay it I find something to pick at, some flaw to point out, but the truth is it’s huge but in manageable way, and that’s hard to do. It manages the flow of time, changes of night and day, and animals. It has an NPC with independent goals, many dialogue options, shifting opinions, and agency in the story. It has many endings with very different outcomes. And it has puzzle-less options, so achieves its size not just through puzzle complexity but by sheer content.
Counterfeit Monkey: What I’m about to say is a real oversimplification of all the work that went into this game and is probably inaccurate, but basically this game has more freedom than just about any other parser game because the whole scrabble dictionary got put in and implemented and all the puzzles will allow literally any solution you can think of. Sure, it’s carefully curated so that some options are very constrained (like with anagrams), but the idea is great. It also happens to be attached to one of the best city models and one of the best conversation models out there.
Curses: This is just my favorite game. When I think of IF I think ‘oh, like Curses’. That’s not enough for a ‘best’ list but I know several people who feel the same way. Just like Adventure sparked a flood of imitators and followers, this forum, IFComp, and the XYZZY awards mostly exist because of Curses and the flood of Inform that followed it. Whether you love it or hate it, it set a clear standard of ‘complex and rich game’ inspired people to emulate it or criticize it through their own games.
Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone: Okay, so this one is recent and not super popular (so it goes against my criteria above) but in my defense, have you played it? I remember coming up with ridiculous concepts of games to troll other IFcomp 2015 players with as ‘something that just entered late’, and the most wild idea I could come up with was a twine/parser hybrid. This game is a hybrid of twine with multiple parser games, several of which are unique and innovative. Ryan Veeder is doing stuff no one else is doing. I considered Rope of Chalk instead but I went with this. Probably won’t vote for this next time, maybe I just want people to peek in on what’s going on out there.
Hadean Lands: I couldn’t put this game down. I’m currently trying to make a very large and complex parser game that people will enjoy; I set this game as one of my ‘boundary markers’, in the sense that I won’t try to surpass it in complexity or quality as I don’t think it’s something I’m capable of. Has some remarkable innovations like transitioning from a small-scale game to a large-scale game due to puzzle shortcuts. Is secretly a coding tutorial in disguise (alchemy is just code and the rituals you memorize are just functions. It’s abstraction!)
Open Sorcery: I haven’t revisited this one in a while (since it got commercial) but it’s pretty awesome and uses quadratic complexity for twine puzzles. Well-written, good story, nice effects. Writing this reminds me I need to buy the sequel and try it.
Spellbreaker: I think this is the best of the Infocom games. The final puzzles involving your spellbook/carryall manage to be complex, give you ‘ah ha’ moments, and be emotionally rewarding. The cube structure gates the world enough to help you focus on one puzzle at a time while being free enough to feel like there was so much you hadn’t discovered yet.
Superluminal Vagrant Twin: When it came out, I hadn’t seen anything like it. Since then, I’ve seen other great games with similar themes but this pulls it off with a lot better gating, recovery mechanics, etc. than the others. It’s menu- and keyword-based and has you collecting stuff across the galaxy to pay for your brother’s freedom, for those who haven’t tried it. When I replayed it recently I did hit a slow spot near the end, just grinding cash, but overall it’s still fun.
Trinity: I like Trinity but it’s not one of my personal favorites. It is for a lot of people though, and the Moebius strip, witch’s house, and huge size of last area and the ending (plus the burial imagery) are why I’m putting it on here.
Vampire: the Masquerade–Night Road Very popular, big, awesome. This game gave me one of my fondest wishes: To know what it’s like to play in a TTRPG group with a good DM and finish out a whole campaign. Very replayable, lots of options, and you get to use so many of the VtM abilities.
Worlds Apart: Probably the best world building out there for my personal tastes. I haven’t replayed it in years, though, so I should do that after this. Vibrant and full of tons of backstory and magical creatures and stuff, and it also has versions of a light/dark world (or a before/after world) which I always loved. Popular with other people too.

That’s not 20 games, but I was building this list from the ground up instead of narrowing it down this time. There are a lot of also-rans I thought of putting in. I’m not including these on my list, but they’re list-adjacent:


De Baron
Cannery Vale
Howling Dogs
With Those We Love Alive
Wizard Sniffer
A Beauty Cold and Austere
Slouching Towards Bedlam
The Warbler’s Nest
Lost Pig
Spider and Web
Rope of Chalk
Taco Fiction
Into the Facility
The Wand
Cactus Blue Motel
Tavern Crawler
Creme de la Creme
Heart of the House
Choice of Robots
80 Days
Cragne Manor
Andromeda Apocalypse
To Hell in a Hamper
Rogue of the Multiverse
So Far
Will Not Let Me Go
Losing Your Grip
Impossible Bottle
Alias the Magpie
Lost Pig
Inside Woman

I keep having the nagging feeling I’m missing some other game that was super important so there’s probably more, but I think I’ll keep my list for now. Gonna go check out my old list to compare!

Editedit: Comparison between last list and this list:

Looks like I dropped Violet, Shade and Lost Pig (I don’t feel like they’re as meaty as the others) and howling dogs (I don’t think it holds up as well now that Twine has advanced so much), Galatea (brief and later works were even better), A Beauty Cold and Austere (awesome but niche). I dropped Spider and Web (but if I were to add any game next that would be it) and Cannery Vale (a personal favorite but not sure it resonates with everyone. Would be one of the next 2-3 I’d add). I also dropped Zork I and added Adventure, they’re pretty similar. I added Trinity (just because I here other people praise it so much, like golmac) and the Balderstone game.


In order, with an explanation by each. My explanations (which are all short except the first one) include megaspoilers, and give away parts of the game:

  • Arthur: the Quest for Excalibur by Bob Bates. This game is an Infocom (which is definitely not the only in this list), but made in the time where it was was surrounded by what is said to be some of the worst Infocom text games ever: Shōgun and Journey. Many also say Zork Zero is in that list, but I disagree: see my entry on Zork Zero.
    I’m any case, this game has been cleverly designed, with detail down to the core and an village idiot called Floyd’ who has responses to almost every object you ask him about.
    On top of that, the puzzles are some of the cleverest I have ever seen, which is not a lot but it’s enough. The Invisible Knight, for example: did you realise that you could not bring the bag past the Knight without first getting Thomas the Rhymer’s ring? And the key was in that bag, so you could bring that key either, so etcetera etcetera. Probably not - he disguised it as getting the bronze egg, but no!
    And don’t even get me started on both of the Nudd puzzles. If you did, you’d be here another two paragraphs.

  • Leather Goddesses of Phobos by Steve Meretzky. Yet another Infocom game with AWESOME puzzles. For example, avoiding the ion beam, which is extremely clever. Not only, but Steve Meretzky also gets away with the most random stuff (looking at you, components of the Goddess-defeating machine!) and having no negative effect on the story.
    Plus, I love the settings, and Trent/Tiffany, and some of the jokes are hilarious and just plain crazy (ahem… When you buy the tee-remover. The mad scientist. The robot nomads in the south pole.)

  • Curses by Graham Nelson. Okay, I was introduced to this one by @mathbrush. It’s such an interesting game! The attic branches across to fantastical realms and ancient cities with gods and weird puzzles, all to find a map of Paris. It’s so fun and on a different level of “amazing setting”.

  • Spellbreaker by Dave Lebling. This one has more classic puzzles with alternative ideas, like the magic cubes and all the magical settings. It comes together very cleverly, but it’s very difficult.

  • Finding Martin by J. K. Wennstrom. This one is big. Like, BIG big. It also has lots of the kind of puzzled I like, and a lot of references to games, books, songs, etc. I really like it (and am so close to finishing it!)

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Steve Meretzky. Classic to the core. I mean, I couldn’t have not put this one considering I’m currently making a sequel to it! Plus, although it’s very difficult and mean I just love all the details, the clever ideas, the settings. And, of course, the puzzles.

  • I Am Prey by Joey “Jess” Cramsey. Unlike all the others in this list, this one is notably shorter and has different ideas. However, it is really fun and I love the random movements. Plus the setting. The setting is awesome. @inventor200, I have to give it to you, I Am Prey is definitely in this list.

  • Night House by Bitter Karella. Okay, I can say I may be influenced by the fact that this was the first text adventure I ever played, but it’s got weirdness to it. I wouldn’t say creepy, but weird. And the ending… I love the ending.

  • Zork Zero by Steve Meretzky. Okay, I just have to say that this game is super fun. To me. I love the mechanics. The mechanics in this game are beyond any I’ve ever seen before - examples include the chess pieces (you can play a full match with them!), the wand (all of the animate creatures have specific things which they turn into when they are shot by the wand), the temporary passages in the construction site, and the testing booths. It’s on another level. Plus the setting is enormous and it’s fun to explore, even with such a lot of empty rooms.
    Regarding the classic puzzles: I think it was a lot of fun, though it isn’t exactly the most fun for everyone. They were interesting takes, and I guess I liked it a lot since I haven’t really done those puzzles much, sticking to physical chain-and-loop puzzles and riddles. But the point-and-click and the art was awesome, especially considering the programming language still makes it really difficult to add stuff like that.

  • Hollywood Hijinx by Dave Anderson. Okay, I think I’m probably one of the only ones. But this game is so fun for me! I love all the little parts and the Sewer Rat, especially.

EDIT: Suspended by Mike Berlyn. This one is classically crazy (controlling six robots instead of yourself), but the very main reason I added this is the way it played with my feelings. I found the whole concept of being forced to be put in a cryogenic freezer, and even more the previous person who went crazy. Everything is screaming GO CRAZY NOW but it’s not working for the player. Also, I nearly cried when Poet died. I felt a twinge of pain as he was going through the acid droplets, and his statements.
On top of it all, each robot has personalized statements for EVERYTHING, from the rooms to actions.
Not only that, but I think it made me go mad. I spent a 3-hour journey with no internet access trying to figure out what are the most perfect first 10 moves.


These aren’t in any particular order. Some of them won’t make the cut (especially Deadline), but I love them, nevertheless. As the gold machine guy, I should start with my Infocom favorites. Nothing here is ranked, and the divisions between Infocom and Other are for organizational purposes only. There shouldn’t be any spoilers here.


  • Zork I (Marc Blank and Dave Lebling, 1980): I actually don’t consider this the best of the Zork trilogy; that would be Zork III. Still, it has special significance in terms of financial and cultural reach.
  • Spellbreaker (Dave Lebling, 1985): I believe that Enchanter is more consistent, and it lacks a howler like the box “puzzle.” Nevertheless, it has the highest highs of any game in the Zork Saga. The writing is a fine counterpoint to Blank’s atmospheric prose in Zork III, and it brings the six-game series to a rhetorically satisfying close.
  • Suspended (Michael Berlyn, 1983): Just yesterday, I mentioned that Gold Machine’s third and final post on Suspended is its least read article (relative to its publication date). I said that it was a brilliant wind-up toy about individual effacement at the hands of a surveillance state. I regret nothing.
  • A Mind Forever Voyaging (Steve Meretzky, 1985): The first big (almost) puzzle-less IF. Thoughtful, smart, and technically innovative.
  • Trinity (Brian Moriarty, 1986): I think Trinity was Infocom’s perfection of what Graham Nelson called the “cave game.” Infocom would continue to release games in that mold, but they felt diminished when compared with Trinity and Spellbreaker (which subverted traditional cave design).
  • Deadline (Marc Blank, 1982): I know, I know. The clockwork world can overwhelm. You have to read the manual, which people don’t really do these days. Still, it was the first game I ever played that had interesting NPC conversations. The folio release came with that awesome folder with police documents and evidence. I suspect that it is more influential than one might initially guess. Took me years to beat, playing off and on.
  • Plundered Hearts (Amy Briggs, 1987): It’s a shame that we only got one game out of Amy Briggs, but what a one it is.

Other stuff:

  • Birdland (Brendan Patrick Hennessy, 2015): Since Birdland has a ton of ratings at IFDB, I probably don’t need to say much. It is a joy to read.
  • Anchorhead (Michael Gentry, 1998): When I checked in on IF in 2000, I played Anchorhead. My conclusion was that parser IF was still alive and actually doing quite well. In 2023, the Ballyhoo model of time leads to some rough patches, but the atmosphere and tension reduce problems to quibbles.
  • With Those We Love Alive (Porpentine and Brenda Neotenomie, 2014): Just go in cold.
  • Bee (Emily Short, 2012): Now that Bee is working again, I consider it a major contender. A tender and empathetic piece with a compelling storylet design.
  • The Archivist and the Revolution (Autumn Chen, 2022): Speaking of storylets!
  • Hadean Lands (Andrew Plotkin, 2014): Believe it or not, I don’t enjoy puzzle games as much as I used to. What most impresses me about HL is how courteous it is. The player’s ability to quickly return to a spot or mix a formula is really a game changer. I think HL is a model for considering player experience and removing unwanted friction.
  • Open Sorcery (Abigail Corfman, 2016): Gee whiz, this game is so good. Novel diction, novel protagonist, novel problems. This is a fun, original game with good prose. Cheap on Steam and totally worth it.
  • Photopia (Adam Cadre, 1998): I thought about Photopia a lot when trying to place my own game (Repeat the Ending) in IF history.
  • Computerfriend (Kit Riemer, 2022): I liked this sly, dangerous game.
  • Make It Good (Jon Ingold, 2009): A mix of Jim Thompson and Deadline. What’s not to like?
  • SPY INTRIGUE (furkle, 2015): Just go in cold.
  • Aisle (Sam Barlow, 1999): I’ve had Aisle on my mind because of the single choice jam.
  • Rameses (Stephen Bond, 2000): An interrogation of agency in life/games with strong writing. Which kind? Player? Character?

I think that’s twenty! That wasn’t as hard as I expected. Though I will name an honorable mention, Deadline Enchanter ( Anya Johanna DeNiro, 2007).


In no particular order (I even re-shuffled the list to insure it’s in no particular order)


80 Days
A Mind Forever Voyaging
Analogue: A Hate Story
Better Than Alone
Cc’s Road to Stardom
Digital: A Love Story
Eat Me
Eric the Unready
Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone
Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home
Lone Wolf Saga
Portal (1986)
Several Other Tales from Castle Balderstone
Slouching Towards Bedlam
Superluminal Vagrant Twin


Ooh, can I add one more to my list? (Added Suspended to my above list)




With all the usual caveats that everybody offers, here’s a list of things deserving of a shoutout, some old, some new, each one vibepaired with a song.

Accelerate by The TAV Institute
The Anachronist by Peter Levine
Blue Lacuna by Aaron A. Reed
Computerfriend by Kit Riemer
Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short
The Faeries of Haelstowne by Christopher Merriner
For a Change by Dan Schmidt
The Gostak by Carl Muckenhaupt
A Paradox Between Worlds by Autumn Chen
Spy Intrigue by Furkle
Sting by Mike Russo
With Those We Love Alive by Porpentine
Worlds Apart by Suzanne Britton


I didn’t read your intro before I clicked, so I got Röyk-rolled by Computerfriend.


By the way, if anyone with time on their hands would be interested in helping me out with a shared spreadsheet (filling in the details of the games and adding the votes), let me know!

I’ve got a volunteer. :slight_smile:


My list of supercalifragilistic games from the IFDB. All of them parsers, mostly because I don’t feel well-read enough yet to put the choice games I like into a ranking.

Rovarsson’s Superlative Games - Recommended List (


My list is boring and predictable but I’m happy to promote the classics:

  1. Trinity: I think this one will get a big boost from Oppenheimer bringing the subject matter to the fore of popular consciousness, but it would have made my list regardless and I’m happy to pile on. A time capsule of a half-century haunted by the terror and awe of nuclear apocalypse, the game mixes sobering themes with fantasy and whimsy into a captivating blend that has lost none of its effectiveness over the decades.

  2. Spider and Web: The best puzzle of all time, and one that wouldn’t be nearly as effective transplanted outside of the IF medium.

  3. Anchorhead (the original release): This game plays Lovecraftian horror completely straight and does so with unparalleled effectiveness. The re-release optimizes away some of the puzzles and atmosphere in a way I’m not convinced improves the experience.

  4. Counterfeit Monkey: Technical wizardry that also happens to be a damn good game.

  5. So Far: Spider and Web has the best puzzle but So Far is holistically Plotkin’s best, most haunting and engrossing work. I replay it every few years and still find new connections and meaning each time.

  6. Make it Good: Superbly polished and detailed, this game stands apart from the crowd for the exceedingly clever disguise of the game’s central twist as an “obvious” implementation bug.

  7. Not Just an Ordinary Ballerina: The best of the epic puzzle-fests from an era when the genre was at its apogee.

  8. Violet: Violet doesn’t have much to say and doesn’t explore any deep themes, but makes the list simply for its exceedingly high craftsmanship: it is polished to a mirror finish and unusually engaging thanks to its unique narrative voice and puzzle framing.

  9. Lost Pig: What I just said.

Honorable mentions:

  • A Mind Forever Voyaging, Photopia, and Blue Lacuna, all of which are beautifully-written and highly influential noble experiments that I personally don’t feel panned out well enough to make the list;
  • According to Cain, the most compelling game I’ve played in several years but it’s too early to tell if it will stand the test of time.

My list without much further ado:

Adventure by Will Crowther and Don Woods: The one that started it all.

Pirate Adventure by Scott Adams and Alexis Adams: Pure nostalgia for me. My first experience with an adventure, played on a VIC-20 in a basement in a friends house.

Zork by by Tim Anderson, Marc Blank, Bruce Daniels, and Dave Lebling: The original mainframe version written at MIT. It contains almost all the elements that later became Zork 1, Zork 2 and some of Zork 3. A bit more unpolished than te later Infocom versions but, in my opinion, with more charm.

Enchanter by Marc Blank, Dave Lebling: First in the series with a new way of playing by solving puzzles with spells instead of finding keys, picking up and dropping objects.

Starcross by Dave Lebling: I really like this space adventure! I can still remember the feeling I got when I understood how the red and the blue disc worked.

Planetfall by Steve Meretzky: A funny game with probably the best NPC ever, Floyd.

Spellbreaker by Dave Lebling: Nutcracking hard but the best in the Enchanter-series with some very good puzzles.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and Steve Meretzky: Unfairly and hard puzzles, but maybe the best adaptation of a book to IF ever?

Wishbringer by Brian Moriarty: I actually find this game better than the more famous Trinity. Not too hard but charming little game.

Trinity by Brian Moriarty: Cold war and nuclear conflict. Oppenheimer and a very hard end game.

Curses! by Graham Nelson: The game that revitalized IF in the 90s. It grow in tandem with the Inform-compiler for the z-machine. You can feel the love to the genre oozing out from every text, puzzle and plot twist. Extremly hard and a bit unfair at places.

Theatre by Brendon Wyber: Classic adventure set in an abandoned theatre during night. Good, but not to hard, puzzles.

Anchoread by Michael Gentry: The Horror game! Done in the vein of H.P. Lovecraft and set in New England during a couple of rainy and dark fall days.

Galatea by by Emily Short: One room, one statue and endless conversations about life, the universe and everything.

The Gostak by Carl Muckenhoupt: A play with the genre where you only have to solve the language and understand what you are doing.

Risorgimento Represso by Michael J. Coyne: A charming, funny and well-written game where you are kidnapped to act as an apprentice to a bumbling wizard.

Lost Pig by Admiral Jota: You are a green ogre searching for a runaway pig. Funny.

Bee by Emily Short: The only choice game in my list. A very personal game where you, as a home schooled child, are training for a spelling competition. The text are very well written and you really care for the different family members.

Craverly Heights by Ryan Veeder: A small gem set in the world of day-time TV.

The Impossible Bottle by Linus Åkesson: Showcasing Dialog with a very good game.


Folks, you can’t figure out how helpful are that list (and impressions) in order to bring light to people like me, just to clarify what games are the cream of the cream, what games composes the “must play” list. Thank you very much.


Here’s a list of 20 that 1. I greatly enjoyed playing and 2. I think moves the medium forward or does something particularly novel. To maximise variety, I didn’t include any repeats from any authors except for multi-author works. I wasn’t very systematic. Ask me again and I could pick a list that was at least 50% different.

Six - Wade Clarke - perfectly pitched comp game about playing hide and seek, with a new game+ where you can replay the whole thing as a different child with different skills/outlook

Everybody Dies - Jim Munroe - great multi-perspective work that really draws you in, with fantastic illustrations

Hana Feels - Gavin Inglis - Game that sensitively explores a difficult subject, allowing you to take on different roles in someone’s life. Really effective presentation, and great art style too

The Gostak - Carl Muckenhoupt - Genius work that could only be done in text (a standout feature of much of the best of interactive fiction)

Lost Pig - Admiral Jota - Gold standard for juicy reactivity of environment and responses

Alabaster, by John Cater, Rob Dubbin, Eric Eve, Elizabeth Heller, Jayzee, Kazuki Mishima, Sarah Morayati, Mark Musante, Emily Short, Adam Thornton, Ziv Wities - Great example of a conversation game and multi-author work, with the brilliant implementation of the topic system

Counterfeit Monkey, by Emily Short - Another game that could only be done in text, the zenith of Emily Short’s parser games

Kerkerkruip - Victor Gijsbers - Unlikely implementation of a roguelike in the constraint of a parser game, with a set of unique mechanics that work with the system and reward replay

Cactus Blue Motel - Astrid Dalmady - A very good twine game with rich characters and a distinct atmosphere

Choice of Robots - Kevin Gold - A great example of the possibility of the choice of games format

Erstwhile - Aster Fialla, Marijke Perry - A great implementation of clue combining mechanic in a text game, with such a distinctive frame to it and memorable characters

Anchorhead - Mike Gentry - The standout long-form parser adventure game that manages to find a great balance with narrative and plot progression, characters, and puzzles

80 Days - Inkle Studios - Fantastic and greatly replayable branching choice game, bringing Sorcery’s map structure approach to new heights

Superluminal Vagrant Twin - C.E.J. Pacian - Excellent and expansive “shallow but shallow” game

Open Sorcery - Abigail Corfman - Multi-ending twine game based around a looping structure, engrossing mechanically and narratively, and an excellent visual presentation

Midnight. Swordfight - Chandler Groover - Excellent example of the limited parser approach, with a bizarre and wonderful drawn scenario and a rich responsiveness for the commands that are implemented.

Cragne Manor - everyone and their dog, led by Ryan Veeder and Jenni Polodna - Epic scale, wild range of tones and styles, really a compilation of dozens of smaller games, excellent structural work made it hang together

Final Girl - Hanon Ondricek - The original StoryNexus version that no longer exists anywhere except in memories. It was a remarkable achievement, transforming a system that wasn’t meant for this, into a survival horror game with a mystery core. I’ve not seen anything quite like it since. There were all kinds of technical hiccups, but I can’t remember them now and there’s no way of checking: the version in my mind still holds up.

Black Closet - Hanako Games - An investigative visual novel where you send agents with different skills on missions, to try to solve problems in the school and root out the traitor, with a romance subplot?! Truly a remarkable endeavour.

Birdland - Brendan Patrick Hennessy - Difficult to pick just one of his games, but this is the one that set the format for his choice games, with replayable chapters, focus on dialogue, great humour and characterisation, and a really slick interface.


When I have more of a brain I’ll try to write one or two sentences about these! Here are games that I like because either 1. I keep replaying them 2. I have shown them to/played them with others (usually my husband) 3. I think of them extremely fondly, usually out of nostalgia 4. They live rent free in my head 5. They’ve influenced my own games

  • Toby’s Nose by Chandler Groover
  • Eat Me by Chandler Groover
  • The Warbler’s Nest by Jason McIntosh
  • The Gostak by Carl Muckenhoupt
  • Suveh Nux by David Fisher
  • Violet by Jeremy Freese
  • Sub Rosa by Joey Jones and Melvin Rangasamy
  • Howling Dogs by Porpentine
  • 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at McDonalds by Abigail Corfman
  • Coloratura by Lynnea Glasser
  • Open Sorcery by Abigail Corfman
  • A Study in Steampunk: Choice by Gaslight by Heather Albano
  • Will Not Let Me Go by Stephen Granade
  • Shade by Andrew Plotkin
  • The Edifice by Lucian P. Smith
  • Color the Truth by Brian Rushton
  • Poem for Toby by Mighty CheBo
  • Queers in Love at the End of the World by Anna Anthropy
  • Slouching Toward Bedlam by Star Foster and Daniel Ravipinto

I hadn’t seen Poem for Toby before and just tried it. It’s very nice! Great use of styling and really well paced and an actually good poem. Thanks for sharing.


Yeah it’s a small one but it completely expanded my understanding of what Twine can do! It was one of the only games for a long time when searching “Twine poem” on There’s a line from it to me making Reflecting my Face in the Mirror (my Neo-Twiny poem) and another unpublished adaptation of a poem…


When I went back and looked at the votes that I sent to Victor back in 2019, I was surprised to find out that I only voted for five games. Admittedly, I have not played as many of the beloved classics as I would like to admit (I’ve only played nine of the Top 50 from the 2019 list). I think what happened is that during the excellent IFComp of 2020 I played so many good games that it helped me refine what is worth a 5-star rating (which to me means automatic inclusion on this list, at least until I rate more than 20 games as 5-star), and what is just a really good 4-star game. So I’m going to break this up into sections based on my evolution over the past four years.

First, the games I voted for in 2019 (that I’m happy to vote for again in 2023):

Zork I by Infocom (Marc Blank and Dave Lebling) – I briefly considered dropping this to a 4-star rating, or just not including it in my vote this time, after reading Victor’s guidance on identifying the “best interactive fiction”. But also, as Victor stated, I do consider “influence, importance, [and] innovation” as factors in what I consider “best”, at least to a certain extent. But mostly, I just had so much stinking fun playing this game as my re-entry into IF about 7-8 years ago that I couldn’t not vote for it again.

The Wizard Sniffer by Buster Hudson – Perhaps my favorite work of parser-based IF. Clever puzzles, great characters, hilarious writing, and fun story. There is nothing not to love about this game, a true joy to play.

Eat Me by Chandler Groover – This one took a bit to grow on me, but after a replay about six months after my first playthrough, my appreciation for it grew immensely. Weird, in the ways of all things Groover, but also operatic at times. Fun, sometimes hilarious, sometimes grotesque, but always good.

Photopia by Adam Cadre – I can still distinctly remember the first time I ever played this game. It has stuck with me that well. Only game that I can remember to ever give me goose bumps from such a wonderful twist in the story.

80 Days by inkle and Meg Jayanth – Almost certainly my favorite work of choice-based IF and flat out one of my favorite games of all time. Even years after I sunk a dozen playthroughs into it without hardly blinking, I still have the desire to go back and play it some more. Just wonderful story, wonderful writing, and wonderful characters. And more than enough branching and hidden treasures to have you coming back for more over and over.

The next section is games that I had played before 2019, didn’t vote for then, but have since realized their true greatness:

Will Not Let Me Go by Stephen Granade – This was one of the most heart-wrenching stories I’ve ever read. And, at least for me at the time, such an innovative use of Twine to really hammer home some of the aspects of what the main character was going through. It has stuck with me more than most.

Counterfeit Monkey by Emily Short – This game has to be the pinnacle of IF programming. In my playthrough I was astounded by how Emily didn’t miss any tricks with the wordplay (and I know I only scratched the surface). Anything seems possible, and it most likely is. I can’t even imagine how many hours she must have put into it. Just an absolute work of genius.

A Dark Room by Michael Townsend – I debated on whether this one should even count as IF, but given that the game is entirely text-based (even if that means using “ASCII graphics” in the style of Rogue for much of the interface) I figured it should count. Just kidding. The real reason I included it is because all the best parts of the game come via the brief story text interludes, and are affected by the choices you’ve made in the game. And also, because some of the twists that dawn on you (or at least me) slowly throughout the game are ones that stick with you for a long time.

Finally, games that have come out since 2019 that I think are worthy inclusions on any Top 50 list:

Grooverland by Brian Rushton (aka Mathbrush) – This is the quintessential, medium-length, puzzle-centric game. This game has so many things going for it: well-constructed world, intriguing story, excellent puzzles, and as a bonus, homages to eccentric “Eat Me” (amongst other classics) author, Chandler Groover. Really though, the puzzles in this game are great (including one of my all-time favorites), and they are the perfect difficulty. It took me a while to get through them all, but I eventually did without any help, and that means a lot to me.

Stay? by E. Jade Lomax – This game really caught me by surprise. It wasn’t entered in any comps that I can tell, it was just quietly released to And it is wonderful! Don’t let the “dating sim” tag fool you, that is only one aspect (and one that is done very well) to this game. Programmed in Ink, it is a choice-based game that plays a lot like a parser-based puzzler, but with deep characters, a great story, and many branches to explore. Seriously, please spend the 2-4 hours it takes to complete this game and give it a shot. My second favorite choice-based game of all time.

Overboard! by inkle – Another great game from one of my favorite game-makers, inkle. A whodunnit where youdunnit. Choice-based, but with a slick graphical interface. Can you get away with murder? Maybe, maybe not, but it is sure fun to try. Again, a game that seems simple on the surface, but has amazing depth, plus a number of really handy IF features.

So that’s it, that’s my list. The only 11 games that I’ve given 5-star ratings to on IFDB. Hopefully, in four more years I’ll have more 5-star games than I’m allowed to vote for. I know that I’ll be playing the games that end up on this year’s edition, but hopefully I’ll be able to sneak in 2-3 classic games and maybe add them to this list before the September 3rd deadline. Suggestions are always welcome!

Thanks again, Victor, for putting this together!