[Rosebush] The 2023 Interactive Fiction Top 50

New article out, with the results of the poll and some discussion of the methodology and the results: The 2023 Interactive Fiction Top 50.

Feel free to discuss either the article or just the results below!

(Also, feel free to volunteer to make the IFDB competition list, like this. :smiley: )


‘New’ (post-2019) games that made the list:
#5 The Impossible Bottle
#21 According to Cain
#28 The Archivist and the Revolution
#38 A Paradox Between Worlds
#38 Computerfriend
#38 Grooverland
#49 And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One
#49 A Rope of Chalk
#49 Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone
#49 Overboard!
#49 Plasmorphosis
#49 Repeat the Ending
#49 Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing
#49 Turandot


I’d like to volunteer for this task, if still possible.


Sure, that would be great!


Here it is, IFDB competition page for Interactive Fiction Top 50 of All Time (2023 edition)


That’s fast. Thanks!


I did some of the boring statistics on Twitter, copied here for easier reading:

Big risers in the 2023 edition (+20 spots or more):

The Gostak from Tied-for-46th (the threshold for making the list) to 6th! I haven’t played it yet.

Adventure from T-46 to T-10 (just downloaded it to play soon it based on seeing the votes come in for this edition).

Suveh Nux from T-46 to T-15 (not sure I’d really heard of this one before, but looking forward to it).

Plundered Hearts from not on the list to T-18 (been on my radar a long time).

Open Sorcery from not on the list to T-21 (bought this one years ago on the recommendation of MathBrush, but haven’t played it yet).

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy from T-46 to T-21 (a classic I’m looking forward to).

The Fire Tower from not on the list to T-28 (not familiar with it, but will get to it).

Worlds Apart from not on the list to T-28 (haven’t played this one either, I have a lot of work cut out for me).

Other games not on the 2019 list, but on the 2023 list: A Dark Room (one of my votes!), Choice of Robots, Babel, Enchanter, Queers in Love at the End of the World, and Treasures of a Slaver’s Kingdom.

New games (released since the last vote) on the list, from top to bottom: The Impossible Bottle (5th place outright, released 2020), According to Cain (T-21, released 2022), The Archivist and the Revolution (T-28, 2022), A Paradox Between Worlds (T-38, 2021), Computerfriend (T-38, 2022), Grooverland (T-38, 2021), And Then You Come to a House Not Unlike the Previous One (T-49, 2021), A Rope of Chalk (T-49, 2020), Even Some More Tales from Castle Balderstone (T-49, 2021), Overboard! (T-49, 2021), Plasmorphosis (T-49, 2022), Repeat the Ending (T-49, 2023), Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Fly Fishing (T-49, 2019), and Turandot (T-49, 2019).

Games that fell 20 spots or more: Galatea from T-4 to T-49 (!), Slouching Towards Bedlam from 12th to T-49, Horse Master from T-17 to T-38, Mentula Macanus: Apocolocyntosis from T-17 to not on the list, Shade from T-17 to T-38, Vespers from T-17 to T-49, Bee from T-23 to T-49, Creatures Such as We from T-23 to not on the list, Kerkerkruip from T-23 to T-49, Midnight. Swordfight. from T-23 to not on the list, With Those We Love Alive from T-23 to T-49, and Gun Mute from T-29 to not on the list.

Other games that fell off the list: A Beauty Cold and Austere (received 1 vote, 4 needed to make list), Cactus Blue Motel (rec’d 3 votes), Harmonia (3 votes), Rameses (2), Alias ‘The Magpie’ (2), De Baron (1), Bogeyman (1), The Edifice (1), Endless, Nameless (1), Everybody Dies (2), Foo Foo (1), Hoist Sail for the Heliopause and Home (3), Human Errors (0), Junior Arithmancer (3), Sub Rosa (3), their angelical understanding (2), Toby’s Nose (0), and Varicella (3).

Authors with the most games in the Top 50: Emily Short (4), Ryan Veeder (3), and Andrew Plotkin (3). Though if you lumped all the Infocom authors together they would have a bunch too!

(BTW, I’m just now realizing that in my head I’ve always called it “Ryan Veeder’s Authentic Flying Fish” and only typing it now did I realize it I had it wrong. I’ve never played it and Flying Fish seems to fit more in the vibe of his other games that I have played!)


I voted for 11 games and 10 made the list. But I really want to get Stay? on the list. If forced to rank my 11 votes (which I refuse to do!) I think this game would be in the top 3-4. Everyone needs to play it in the next four years.


Stay? And Trigaea are two games not known well in this forum but are really good! I didn’t vote for either but totally get where such votes would come from


I have to imagine that the rise of generative AI and large language models played a big role here: the themes the game explores are as important as ever, but a pseudo-conversation-AI written in Inform is far from the novelty it once was. For better or worse, I expect by the time the next Top 50 rolls around we will have built Galatea with our own hands.


The results have confirmed, if I didn’t know it enough, that I really really need to play Counterfeit Monkey and Spider and Web.


I’ve played maybe 4 games from this Top 50… Now I have a bunch on my to-play list for in 4 years :partying_face:


I too score very low on how many games from the Top 50 I have played. There are a few I have started and put aside to play on a later date, like 1893, Curses or Make it Good. Even counting those as “played” (in the sense that I have a some general idea of quality and a firm resolve to finish them in the foreseeable future), there are still 40 games on the list that I have not even opened yet.

Indeed, time to implement and execute a four-year-plan vis-a-vis my to-play list.


Interesting theory, perhaps also applied to “Suspended” a long ago Infocom about managing robots which rose into the top 50.

What I remember about Suspended myself was a small bug I discovered which allowed me to read some of the games hidden code. From memory, the standard format was “[name of robot], [command]” but when I added a second comma, like “[name of robot], [object], [command]” the parser would spit back essentially random fragments of text from the game file. I had as much fun exploiting that bug as I did playing the actual game.

I don’t know which edition I was playing nor am I entirely sure I’m remembering the syntax, except there was a second comma involved.


I haven’t played A Dark Room or Plasmorphosis. I think I’ll try Plasmorphosis after I finish up some beta testing stuff. What’s A Dark Room like?


Like a tycoon simulator. Get wood, furs, scales, build huts, send people on missions. I never finished it, but so far it’s that plus some adventuring.


At the start, it’s just you in a basic hut needing to keep your fire lit for warmth and setting traps for food. After a few turns, passers-by looking for shelter add their strength and numbers to yours, and traders stop by more frequently. You can build a community in earnest now.

Once a certain threshold has been reached, the game opens up and shifts focus to exploration of the surrounding wilderness. This second part effectively feels like a different game, perhaps a sequel to the one you’ve been playing so far.

It should take only a few minutes of clicking to see if you like the extremely sparse setup. If you do, you’re in for a captivating ride.

4* and 5 reviews on IFDB.

EDIT: Help! All the IFDB-links for A Dark Room now point to the “simplified mandarin” version. (EDIT²: There’s a “language” button in the right bottom corner of the screen.)


You need to hang in longer than that, IMO. I tried it once or twice and gave up on it before sticking with it, and then I WAS captivated. You have to get to the exploration part to be sucked in, I think.

I think you have to buy it. I played it on my iPad and as I recall it was only a dollar or two.


Are we talking about this one?

Because the first link Browser Version sent me to an English version


Thanks at @manonamora and @VictorGijsbers and Rosebush in general for the poll and the article.

At the end of the article is some investigation into the parser game to choice game ratio. At the end of the number juggling I feel a bit dizzy… but it is interesting to see that the seemingly obvious parser game domination is not as obvious as it looks. I recommend reading it.