I recently went down the itch.io gaming rabbit hole which started when I got the Bundle for Racial Justice and Equality (1,741 items) and then got the Bundle for Ukraine (995 items), Worthy of Better, Stronger Together for Reproductive Rights Bundle (169 items), Indie Bundle for Abortion Funds (almost 800 items) and a couple other smaller charity bundles. They are great deals and the money goes to charity so it is a win win. One of my hobbies lately when I have free time is going through all these games and here are my top 10 video games that I tried from the Itch.io bundles so far. Also here is my thoughts on some of the RPG materials that you can find in Itch.io charity bundles.
(I got lazy so all the screenshots are from the game’s Itch.io page.)
After playing so many games, I found out a really like murder mystery visual novels where the story is the main draw like the Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney games. I used to think I liked a related genre of games, point and click adventure games (often with a mystery theme) so something like the Tex Murphy or Nancy Drew games but I realize I often find them too tedious or frustrating to play. Nina Aquila: Legal Eagle was the first game that caught my attention and it is still my favorite game from the itch.io bundles. I basically played through Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 in one day and Chapter 3 the day after. It basically has two phases. The looking for evidence phase and the courtroom phase (very similar to Phoenix Wright). Both are a ton of fun and I love the stories especially Chapter 2 which introduces a world inspired by Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon and Magic card games. After playing this I went on to look for similar games.
You might have heard of escape rooms in the box and The Missing Locksmith introduces an Alternate Reality Game (ARG) in a box. It is like an escape room where you are required to use the Internet. It plays kind of like an Internet scavenger hunt and without spoiling too much, it has you sending emails, searching on social media profiles and scouring Google Maps. In fact, I was so impressed I kind of copied some of the mechanics to make my own mini ARG. The Missing Locksmith has an amazing and immersive story and playing this with my friends on discord is one of my favorite moments during the lockdown.
4) – Lucifer Within Us
MMM: Murder Most Misfortunate and Lucifer Within Us round out the top 3 Phoenix Wright- like murder mystery visual novels for me. Both of these games have a great mystery, good art and has voice acting which is fairly rare. Lucifer Within Us has a lot more going on with the detective mechanics though. For example, it has a interesting timeline mechanic where you try to spot the lies on a grid. So I definitely recommend it if you want more of a challenge. Still while I enjoy playing Lucifer Within Us, I prefer the theme in Murder Most Misfortunate. All in all, one thing that Nina Aquila, Murder Most Misfortunate and Lucifer Within Us all have in common is that you get quite the adrenaline rush from catching someone in a lie and having the proof to back it up.
I didn’t think I ever play a dating sim but Sucker for Love – First Date is a dating sim… with the Eldritch gods. It mashes up the horrors of Eldritch stories with cuteness of dating sims perfectly. Not an easy thing to do. The most important thing with visual novels is the dialogue and story and Sucker for Love probably does it better than most, even those on this list. This game even had me feeling sad for breaking up with a Cthulhu like god. The voice acting in this game is also top notch.
6) – Bard Harder
Bard Harder is a cute visual novel about playing Dungeons & Dragons with your friends and creating epic story telling moments. It is fairly short but I definitely playing through it a few times to get all the endings. It had me craving to play Dungeons and Dragons again in person and inspired me to be a better DM.
7) – Ring of Fire
This game is amazing and shows what a modern text based adventure game can be revolving around a search engine. You really do feel like a detective playing this. It has a great art style and introduces an interesting noir cyberpunk world. But this is only a demo and unfortunately the game is no longer in development which is such a shame. Honorable mention goes to Code 7 which is another modern text based adventure with an amazing story with tons of twists. But I found the puzzles in that game too hard. I brute forced through some but one puzzle had me completely stuck.
8) – Hypnospace Outlaw
Hypnospace Outlaw is a 90’s internet simulator where you are a moderator for a Geocities or Myspace style website which doesn’t sound fun but it is in the same way Papers Please was. The game really does the nostalgia of using a 90’s operating system and browser well. This is probably the hardest game to describe since it is one of most unique games out there. I honestly sunk just an hour into this and I feel like I just only scratch the surface on all the strange things to uncover. In fact I often found my self browsing through all the weird webpages rather than doing my “job”. Death and Taxes is another game in the genre of weird job simulator games that I want to try.
9) – Chip’s Tips
The best way to describe Chip’s Tips is weird. It is I guess a throwback FMV point and click horror game set in a strange Blue’s Clue like world. The premise of the game is that you are kids show host with a cute dog and you are setting up for a party which sounds like every Blue’s Clues episode ever. But the house is so unsettling. This stands out kind in the same way Sucker for Love does. It mashes two things you don’t think would work but these creators do it perfectly.
Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, And The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist is a super short but also a very unique game. Without spoiling it, let’s say not all in going to plan with you playing the title video game. It from the makers of Stanley Parable which is one of my favorite games of all time.
Some honorable mentions:
Live Scream is an innovative point and click adventure game where you a playing a ghost hunter on a twitch like platform. So your actions has to balance keeping you fans entertained while making sure you aren’t too scared yourself.
In Night Call, you play a cab driver that happens to be intertwine with a serial killer investigation. You have a gift where your customers seems open up with you and talk. It has a cool noir feel and lots of clever dialog. The only reason it isn’t in my top 10 is some of the gameplay is a bit repetitive and it is also a bit depressing at times. Despite that, the game is surprisingly addictive really want to get to end to see how everything plays out.