I’ve played video games casually for a long time. When I was little, I had a GameBoy Color where I played those impossible Nickelodeon games where I would die essentially every time I took a step. My parents bought me a PlayStation 2 one year for Christmas, but even then, I mostly played Disney games and party games (I plan on writing about all of these at some point).
Since I started dating Dan (who bought us a Nintendo Switch and an Xbox), I’ve been getting more into video games, especially indie games. While I assumed for a long time that most video games involved too much technical skill, it has been great to find so many games that I can play without needing to memorize too many overly complex controls. I now have a handful of beautifully designed games that I love to play.
I’ve talked about Night in the Woods a bit (particularly in this post), but I wanted to write an in-depth post about why it’s the best game ever. And when better than pride month to talk about a game where the main character is a pansexual cat? Playing this game simply makes my bi heart happy…but more on that in a bit…
Here is your SPOILER ALERT! I plan on diving into some things about Night in the Woods that could spoil it for you if you plan on playing. Of course, I’m skipping over pretty much the entire plot, the political commentary, and the controversy surrounding one of the original creators, but there will still be spoilers! If you don’t want to read spoilers before playing, go play it and come back. See you in about 10 hours!
Since I already mentioned this in the intro, I thought I might lead with it. Mae, the main character, is a pansexual black cat and two of her best friends, Gregg and Angus, are gay. At the beginning of the game, we get to see her be awkward around a guy she dated before she left for college, and then later she dances with a mystery girl at a local college party. Don’t mind me, I’m just living my bi life vicariously through an anthropomorphized cat!
Night in the Woods has affected me so deeply because of how relatable it is. At the beginning of the game, we find Mae at the train station just having come home from college because her mental health was steadily declining and she couldn’t handle it anymore. As someone who struggles with mental illness and found college to be one of (if not the most) difficult times of my life, I could totally understand where Mae was coming from. Throughout the game, you cringe time and time again as the people in her tiny town ask Mae why she still isn’t in college as she decides how much is worth sharing with others. When you go against what society deems “worthy” people have a lot to say. And when you add declining mental health on top of that, it’s never a good time. Plus, throughout the game, Mae’s sleep continuously gets worse…#beenthere.
The game takes place in this small town where few people ever leave and they all know each other’s business. When Mae returns home, she immediately seeks out her high school friends and they work on rebuilding their relationships and seeing how they fit together now. This is an experience I know well after having gone away to college and then returned home to all of my previous relationships. No matter what, all of the interactions seem all at once painfully awkward and emotionally raw.
As Mae bops around downtown, visiting her friends in the stores where they work, walking along telephone wires and jumping from building to building, she sees the same people in their same spots every day. You become acquainted with the teacher who hangs out on his roof with his telescope and the kid that sits on his stoop writing and reciting poetry. Soon, even you feel at home in this small town. You know everyone’s hobbies and personalities as it becomes familiar and cozy to you. You might even become nostalgic about the town where you grew up.
It’s all about relationships
Speaking of which, this game is all about relationships. Once Mae reconnects with her friends (and bandmates) Bea, Gregg, and Angus, then every day upon waking, Gregg and Bea reach out to her to see if she wants to do something with them that day. Each day is a new decision on whether to spend time with and rekindle her relationship with Gregg or Bea and learn more about what they’ve been up to since she left.
Beyond these core relationships, throughout the game, you have the option to interact with Mae’s mom, her dad, her friend Germ, and the other townspeople (townsanimals?). You get to see Mae’s relationships with each one of these and learn how they function. You can even choose to spend more time talking to these characters in order to reveal side quests that allow you to dive even deeper. At its core, this game is about relationships. And I am all about relationships.
The other extremely relatable thing about Night in the Woods is the writing.
“I’m a total trash mammal.”
“I am clearly not cut out to help people make life choices.”
“What’s wrong mom? Are you picturing my future again?”
“If anyone’s gonna ruin your night, Mae, it really should be you.”
“I want tacos. Every day. All day.”
“I have the worst face. I have a nightmare face. My big, dumb eyes. My nightmare eyes.”
“Just because that online test said that your best chance at being happy is a situation where everyone already likes you but they mostly leave you alone except when they’re delivering food to you…that doesn’t mean you can hide in your room and wait for that to happen. That’s how hermits are made, and they die alone in the middle of winter.”
Find a game with more relatable writing. I dare you.
This is Halloween
While there are no jumpscares, this is a creepy game with a horror slant, and the game takes place in the fall, so one of the days is Halloween. How fun is that?!
It’s so damn pretty
All of the games that I play have bright colors. My brain really likes looking at brightly colored animation when I escape into a video game. Night in the Woods is one such game. While the colors are rather muted, since it takes place during the fall, there are so many beautiful trees with leaves changing color for the fall. So if you’re looking to see some fall foliage in the winter, Night in the Woods has got you covered.
And every night (while sleeping very poorly, poor Mae!), Mae has beautiful dreams with blue-and-black graphics where you navigate the dream looking for musicians playing beautiful (albeit haunting) music. Even when Mae is asleep the game is beautiful!
I don’t have much technical skill, so I love games that are story-based and prioritize careful decisions over quick reaction times. The action Night in the Woods mostly involves jumping from rooftop to rooftop and running across telephone wires. There are a few minigames that involve some skill (and the scenes where you’re playing in their band, it’s pretty much impossible), but besides that, it’s very story-based and chill. It’s also nice that you can take your time while playing the game. It’s not one of those games where time progresses in real time. Time in the game only moves if you trigger the next event. Instead of rushing from thing to thing and compulsively pausing when I look away from the TV, I can take a chill walk through Mae’s town and get up to pee without worrying that time will progress while I’m gone.
I finally get to be a “cool kid”
As you may know very well, I have never been wild and irresponsible. I have never been one to “let my hair down” and not care about consequences. When I play this game, I get to live in an alternate universe where I’m one of those “cool” kids that doesn’t care about anything and does young, stupid stuff. In different scenes, Mae dances at a college party, gets drunk in the woods with her friends, shoplifts, and gets in a knife fight with Gregg. Not to mention that she’s in a band?! Mae’s depression and self-degradation would make her disagree with this, but Mae is way cooler than I am.
The library scene
Finally, there is a scene in this video game that is the most moving scene that I’ve found in any video game. And I’ve played Spiritfarer several times.
The kicker is that this scene isn’t even a story scene. If you don’t go out of your way (by visiting Mae’s mom while she’s at work in the church every day), you won’t get to see it.
At the beginning of the game, we learn that Mae’s grandfather, who she was very close to, passed away before the beginning of the game. As you go through the game with Mae diving deeper into depression, sleeping worse and worse, and dodging everyone asking her about her future, it becomes clear that she’s really hurting for someone who understood her like her grandfather did.
If you do visit Mae’s mom every day, eventually, she will allow you to go and take a nap in the library. When you step into the library, Mae begins to get drowsy and after several moments standing, then drooping, then sitting on the couch, then laying down, she’s fast asleep. If you set the controller down for a moment and just watch, eventually, you’ll see an apparition of a bespectacled older gentleman walk into the room and just sit down beside her while she sleeps. You’ll see her grandfather come to visit her when she needs him most.
I’m not crying, you’re crying!
This game has a little something for everybody. If you have ever suffered from mental illness, felt victimized by college, live in a small town, have lost one of the only people who actually gets you, are part of the LGBTQIA+ community, have ever generally hated yourself, and/or love tacos, you’ll find this game super relatable. I highly recommend it if you like colorful, story-based games! Feel free to share any other games that you love in the comments!