Undertale was probably the biggest surprise of 2015. Indie RPGs are released by the boatload on Steam, but few can check all the boxes like Undertale does. The game is wildly inventive, charming, and engrossing., amassing an incredible score of 92 on Metacritic. From the mind of one guy – Toby Fox – there just aren’t a lot of games like Undertale.
Why is that? In my mind, it’s all about Undertale being a good mix of the right features. The game strikes a hilariously weird and wonderful balance. A few of the things in its balancing act are:
- Charming and expressive pixel art
- Brilliant, laugh out loud jokes and goofs
- Challenging bullet hell gameplay
- Memorable characters in thought-provoking situations
- Decision-making moments with metanarrative components
- Infectious chiptunes
I could go on and on about what makes Undertale awesome (hint: almost everything), but that’s not the point of this article. No, this article here is for fans who may be looking to play other games like Undertale. Fair warning: none of the games I mention below are exactly similar to Undertale (that’s simply impossible since the latter is famous precisely for its unique premise). Still, each of these unique games has a little something special about them that’s guaranteed to resonate with most Undertale fans in some way or another.
Selection Criteria for Games Like Undertale:
- Each title must showcase at least one or more (but not necessarily all) of the above-mentioned traits of Undertale (e.g. charming pixel art, bullet hell, thought-provoking situations, etc.)
- Selections are in no particular order.
- Additional Note: I have intentionally left out commonly mentioned games like Earthbound, OFF, the Super Mario & Luigi series, Shin Megami Tensei and Mother games, since these awesome titles are often discussed on various Undertale forums. I opted instead for lesser mentioned games to give Undertale fans a fresher set of recommendations containing some defining elements of the cult classic.
With that out of the way, here’s my list of 10 compellingly unique games like Undertale!
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LISA is perhaps the game most like Undertale on this list. The art style, battle system, and snarky dialogue will be instantly familiar to Undertale fans. Both draw heavy inspiration from Nintendo’s Earthbound, but LISA is measurably more edgy than Undertale, featuring some pretty dark humor.
Decision-making plays a heavy role here too, with choices made during the game having drastic (and permanent) effects on unique characters. Some of the puzzles are a bit baffling, but LISA has a whole lot of the funky magic Undertale has in spades.
2. The Stanley Parable
While Undertale is a medley of mechanics and story, The Stanley Parable relies solely on its narrative to delight players. And oh, what a mind-bending narrative it is! You are Stanley: an office worker previously content with being a cog in the machine. No real spoilers here, but let’s just say where the story goes is entirely up to you… or is it?
The Stanley Parable smashes through the fourth wall with aplomb, delivering an engaging if short lived experience loaded with wit and cunning. This unique game expects you to try the unexpected in much the same way Undertale does, rewarding creativity with weirdness. The Stanley Parable will equally charm and confuse you, and that makes it enough of a game like Undertale to warrant a spot on this list.
3. Papers, Please
Papers, Please is a game about choice and consequence. As a border crossing agent, it’s up to you to apply the government’s current immigration rules. Your performance (or lack thereof) can have dire consequences for your family, your country, and the masses.
While the tone of Papers, Please is undoubtedly more serious than that of Undertale, the cause and effect elements ought to interest many of those who enjoyed Undertale. Writing for The New Yorker, Simon Parkin declared this game the best release of 2013. Even the notoriously critical Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw (of Zero Punctuation) sung praises for Papers, Please for its genuine ability to “present constant moral choices but makes it really hard to be a good person”. This makes it perfect for fans of Undertale looking to rekindle the internal struggle of self-interest and altruism, punishment and compassion.
4. Always Sometimes Monsters
Always Sometimes Monsters (ASM) is a narrative RPG that, at first glance, may not seem like it should be one of our games like Undertale – but it undoubtedly shares a key similarity. Morality is at the core of Undertale on multiple levels, and that concept of how our choices deeply affect others permeates ASM. Like Undertale, multiple playthroughs are encouraged to unlock all possible endings.
Without spoiling anything, let’s just say that ASM forces a number of incredibly difficult decisions upon the player. Choices usually revolve around many emotional themes, including love and sacrifice. It’s certainly heaps more serious than Undertale is, but anyone looking to challenge their preconceptions will find themselves pleased with the uniqueness that is Always Sometimes Monsters.
5. The Beginner’s Guide
One of the most remarkable things about Undertale is how the game left me questioning my actions long after the credits rolled. The Beginner’s Guide is also such a game. I can’t say too much about this title without spoiling things. All I can say is that this insanely unique game is framed by a powerful story that might change how you think about others. Like Undertale, The Beginner’s Guide (made by Davey Wreden who created The Stanley Parable) is also very meta, asking tough questions while demanding players to think carefully about their answers. The game is, in a word, daring, and is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression among folks looking for more games like Undertale.
6. Stardew Valley
One part Zelda, one part Harvest Moon with a sprinkling of Terraria, Stardew Valley is one of the most charming games of 2016 thus far. While it’s much more of a simulation sandbox than other games like Undertale, Stardew Valley has oodles of appeal in its similarly pixelated characters and design. Some gamers have even described its art style as ‘pixel porn’ with respects to how gorgeous the game looks.
Like Undertale, Stardew Valley is no slouch in the sales department either, selling more than half a million copies worldwide. And, hey, just for kicks, you can even mod Stardew Valley to include that annoying dog from Undertale! Best of both worlds.
7. Axiom Verge
Axiom Verge isn’t an RPG like Undertale. It’s a retro style platformer that takes inspiration from Castlevania and Metroid, but it still has a lot in common with Undertale too. Undertale’s bullet hell battle system requires quick reflexes and pattern recognition. Axiom Verge demands many of the same things in its large-scale battles.
Axiom Verge also showcases some of the gnarliest chiptunes I’ve ever heard, too. Each area has a distinct tone – much like Undertale – and they’ll be echoing through your mind for months to come. Both games are also infused with a strong indie vibe, and have shared spots on various Top 10 Best Indie Games of 2015 lists.
8. Rogue Legacy
Progression is a critical component of RPG games like Undertale, and Rogue Legacy is all about progression. Collecting gold and items from a castle that’s never the same twice, you’ll slowly rebuild your manor and challenge the evil beings haunting your family.
Sounds like a breeze, right? Well, Rogue Legacy is also super challenging at times, with tons of projectiles and obstacles providing a stiff test for even the most experienced Undertale battlers. Crank up the difficulty and you get some serious bullet hell on steroids.
9. Tales From The Borderlands
Telltale are known to be fantastic story tellers. Their games rely heavily on narrative and character interaction while mechanics generally take a backseat. They’re most well-known for The Walking Dead, but the content in Tales From The Borderlands will resonate really well with those who liked the quirky comedy in Undertale. Fans will no doubt take to the colorful personalities and wacky situations found in this episodic adventure. The game is flat out funny!
Although less revolutionary than in Undertale, players’ choices and actions also carry significant weight in shaping the unfolding storyline. Committed players may want to try multiple playthroughs.
10. Life Is Strange
Life is Strange is one of my favorite games of 2015. That’s all thanks to Max and Chloe – two of the game’s main characters – who are both wonderfully written and well-acted. Their story is a highly emotional journey that evokes a real level of self-reflection among players in ways few games can. Themes include love, friendship, loyalty, and of course, time-travel.
While moral choices in the game don’t typically have as severe an effect as in Undertale, they nonetheless still significantly color the journey and alter how you’re likely to experience it. Life is Strange is emotionally engrossing and entertaining in a different manner than Undertale is, but is creative enough in a narrative sense to appeal to Undertale fans looking for an intensely heartrending and thought-provoking story. You may even weep as some YouTubers did (I didn’t… no, really!). Like Undertale, the game also has a fanbase of diehard supporters who have produced some incredible fan-art, cosplays, and much more.
Honorable Mentions (Undertale Fan Feedback):
Did I miss any compellingly unique games like Undertale? Feel free to share your thoughts below!
(Also, here’s a special shout-out to our blogging friend Rhys! You can check out his awesome gaming / wrestling site here.)