Undertale, that little game from 2015 that took the gaming world by storm with its music, characters, stories and gameplay. A game that asked the gaming world many questions that many people had never asked themselves before. Questions about mercy, friendship, dreams or the ever present question in all of our minds: “Is anime real?”
What if I were to tell you that there were games made before Undertale that covered similar themes? With that in mind, let’s just say I told you to play those games instead of replaying Undertale because you might find something you like better in those games.
Now, before any of you attempt to burn me at the stake for this supposed blasphemy, allow me to reassure you that I’m not bashing Undertale. Instead, I’m just using this as an opportunity to point people who love Undertale to other games that have similar themes -- and have come before it.
That, and redheads were actively burnt at the stake for centuries, especially thanks to their inclusion in the Malleus Maleficarm. So I think most redheads have evolved a resistance to being burnt at the stake thanks to our ancestors. Small tangential detour about humanity’s messy past aside, let’s talk about five games that you should be playing rather than replaying Undertale.
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Don’t judge a book by its cover. It’s an easy concept to come up with, but not nearly as easy to put into practice. Undertale does this with its monsters actually being friendly rather than things to kill; Ib does it by making the most beautiful flower turn murderous.
Ib is a free RPG Maker game that takes place in an art gallery. Within moments of playing, you’ll find yourself in a living gallery where no matter where you go you’re under attack and need to flee for your life.
Things with seemingly mundane natures, like a woman in a painting, jump from the wall to attack you. Ib has several moments where something that should be considered spooky for the 9-year-old protagonist, isn't actually dangerous, or even if it is it's not malicious. In Ib, we are shown that while many flowers have their thorns, not every plant is dangerous in this gallery.
Download Ib: Here
Art Source: Here
The Sandman is one in a series of games all created by the same person who made the RPG Maker horror hit The Crooked Man. While all the stories are connected, they do stand on their own, so someone who has never played The Crooked Man can get into The Sandman just fine.
It’s an RPG horror game based around everyone in town falling asleep and having to face nightmarish creatures in a manifestation of their flaws and sins. This is only part of what makes it worth your time; the other part is our protagonist, Sophie Grundler, can give Frisk a run for their money in ultimate forgiveness.
As a character, Sophie is an understanding girl who knows that everyone has issues they keep bottled up, which leads her to be forgiving of people. She even tries to save their lives when they’re at risk of being killed for things that ultimately hurt her in the end. Despite all of what she’s gone through, Sophie is still willing to not give up on people, which gives a true feeling of compassion in bravery that mirrors that of Frisk in Undertale and makes this worth a look.
Download The Sandman: Here
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When people think about doing the right thing, they often think about it in very binary terms, more often than not thanks to the binary choice system we are often presented in games. In Undertale, this binary choice is similarly presented: you can either murder people and be called an absolute monster, or you spare them and be dubbed the hero of the story. But what if there was a game that made what was considered right or good be a lot murkier?
Welcome to Always Sometimes Monsters, a game that takes the mundane life of a down on their luck writer who has been left by their significant other, and forces them to make difficult moral choices in order to live their life as they idealistically intend to do. The choices aren’t straight forward and things aren’t always what they appear to be at first glance. You’ll often not know if what you’re doing will help or hurt your main character, but what you do know is that you’ll want a happy ending for them by the end... if that’s even achievable.
Think of it as taking Undertale’s narrative about morality and the good and evils of the world, but adding in multiple layers of something that Undertale seems to only tackle certain aspects of: real life. Serious topics like drug addiction, murder, poverty, and more are all included. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are tackled head on, rather than in an allegorical sense. Always Sometimes Monsters tackles morality with a deft hand and it’s worth checking out if you truly love the exploration of morality in Undertale.
Purchase Always Sometimes Monsters: Here
Out of all the entries on this list, OneShot has been one of the games most compared to Undertale, with some reviewers going so far as to calling it “Undertale-like”... despite the fact that the game came out in 2014, well before Undertale. What sets it apart from Undertale is the fact that there’s no combat at all, just exploration and making new friends. Your character is a child – Niiko – and the player is the guiding force behind him, some sort of deity, driving him to deliver the sun (the lightbulb he holds) to the tower in the distance. By doing so, he'll save the world.
OneShot uses its fourth-wall-breaking moments not as much for humor or for making the player think about their actions within the world, but for the player to connect with the character Niiko. The focus of these relationships is how Niiko, a child and messianic figure, is treated by the denizens of the world and how he feels about being treated this way. This leads him to talking to you, the player, about it frequently when he gets the chance, often addressing you directly, depending on the name you put in.
Then there’s the Entity that seems to be aware of the fact that you’re the one controlling Niiko and reminds you that in this world, you only have one shot to make a difference. What you do affects everyone else.
This is only cemented by the state of the world that you’re in; it’s dying without the sun and it needs Niiko’s help to save it with your guidance. If there’s one thing that OneShot does better than Undertale, it was making me as a player feeling entirely responsible for Niiko as a character, rather than as an avatar of destruction in the case of Undertale and Chara.
Purchase OneShot: Here
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OFF is a game that’s been a strong part of the RPG Maker world for quite a while now, and I can’t help but ponder if it had some sort of influence on Undertale as a project. Tonally, they couldn’t be any further apart, but the underlying darkness in their individual narratives? That’s where the similarities tend to crop up. OFF starts off by having you put your name and becoming an entity for the Batter to follow in his quest to “purify” the world.
You meet a vibrant cast of characters, but instead of having the option to befriend them, your only option is to murder them ruthlessly with a party full of biblical references attached to circles. It’s not as though they are without fault, however: you as a player find the villains of the tale inflicting atrocities and cruelties on their workers, making The Batter a heroic figure in the sense of liberating each world he’s in.
As a (creepy) aside: The way The Batter talks is a little unsettling, especially during moments where you may have to kill creatures you don't want to kill. In fact, he encourages you, the player, to “Let him do his job."
As time goes on, the player will notice an underlying narrative with all this, involving the Batter seemingly playing a bigger part in the overall story than he likes you to believe. Yet, you’ve been “assigned” to him to help him complete his task, which means that you’re forced to do whatever it takes to do so.
Undertale gives you the choice to kill or not kill, making your journey harder or easier depending on the choices you make. OFF, on the other hand, doesn’t give you that option, yet it expects you to go through with it because it’s what you're assigned to do. After all, who are you to go against your assignment?
Download The OFF: Here
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There we go, 5 games that you should be playing rather than replaying Undetale; games that are similar to the story of a young child falling down the hole, but predating it by a year or so. This isn’t meant to be a list that bashes Undertale, but rather is a list that encourages people to broaden their horizons, all while being able to stick to something familiar. That and you never know, you may find something you like about these games more than you like about Undertale. Then again, considering Undertale’s fanbase, probably not... but a journalist can dream, can’t they?
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