10 Compellingly Unique Games Like Undertale
Intriguing meta narratives, pretty pixel art, frantic bullet hell, and so much more!
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!
This post contains Amazon affiliate links. We earn a small commission should you buy anything through them, at no extra cost to you.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Lisa.
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.
Read more honest reviews of The Stanley Parable.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Papers, Please.
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.
Read more honest reviews of 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.
Read more honest reviews of The Beginner’s Guide.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Stardew Valley.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Axiom Verge.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Rogue Legacy.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Tales From The Borderlands.
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.
Read more honest reviews of Life Is Strange.
Honorable Mentions (Undertale Fan Feedback):
Read Only Memories
Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt
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.)
Love Papers, Please. It’s depressingly-fun
Alfie Lee Atton
Agreed! It’s one of our favorites on the list. Actually, it’s so unique it kinda deserves a list of its own, don’t you think?
There are really great games on this list! And a few that I have yet to play. One game that Toby took a lot of inspiration from but is constantly overlooked is Touhou. It’s a bullet hell game with, well, impressively beautiful and difficult bullet hell. Toby took inspiration from much of Touhou’s music and bullet patterns, for example, many of Asriel’s attacks are inspired by Marisa Kirisame’s attacks. Battle of a True Hero sounds like it can come straight out of Touhou (especially when the trumpets come in) and Toby has acknowledged the remixes of Undertale music in Touhou’s soundfont. The setting of both games are actually pretty similar. Just like in Undertale, Touhou’s events take place within a boundary (called the Great Hakurei Barrier). Youkai (a Japanese word for monster) live here, and are always causing an incident. One of the Touhou games, Subterranean Aminism, is one that fans say is the most similar. That’s because in both games the heroes travel through underground civilizations, like the Underground in Undertale and Former Hell in SA. And Touhou’s fanbase, wow. The FANBASE is what has kept Touhou alive for over 20 years. They are the most loyal fanbase I have ever seen. There are many bands dedicated only to making their own versions of Touhou music, like remixing, arranging, and adding vocals. There have been many fan animations over the years, including Bad Apple. There have even been fan animes made. Well, I thought it was important to write this here. Undertale is such a great game, and behind it is great inspiration. I wish that Touhou wasn’t so overlooked as an inspiration for Undertale. And, I also apologize for such a long comment 😉
Alfie Lee Atton
Wow, great info, and thank you for your suggestion! Should we create a list especially for Touhou since its fanbase is so dedicated? Thanks so much for sharing your comment and input. We really value it. It’s always amazing to see how all these indie game developers kinda influence each other, sometimes on an obvious level, sometimes very quietly.
Have you tried the other games on this list?
Hey I know this article is older but i thought it’d be worth mentioning to anyone reading the comments at a later date like I am that the game Read Only Memories is super good also, here’s the plot: The game is set during the middle and end of December 2064 in Neo-San Francisco. The player takes on the role of a journalist trying to locate their missing friend Hayden Webber, an artificial intelligence researcher, with the aid of Hayden’s Relationship Organizational Manager (ROM) Turing, the world’s first sapient machine.
Alfie Lee Atton
Sounds like a very intriguing premise ! Thanks for sharing – we’ll be sure to check out the game very soon and maybe include it in this article as an Honorable Mention! Appreciate the suggestion!
I’d like to strongly recommend Jazzpunk. Seriously weird sense of humour in that one! It’s a first-person wander ’em up*.
*A wander ’em up is a game that has no combat and just has you wandering around. See also: Walking Simulator.
Alfie Lee Atton
Thanks for the awesome suggestion, it’s a good one! We’ll include it into this list as a Special Mention by this week. Appreciate it! <3
Princess Remedy in a World of Hurt is a game jam game that often gets compared to Undertale. Which I think is kinda fair; it has:
Charming pixel art
A whole ton of jokes, some rather good.
Challenging bullet hell gameplay
(a few) Memorable characters
Nice, mood setting chiptunes
It’s available for the nice price of free as well.
Alfie Lee Atton
Thanks for the suggestion Joakim! We will be sure to check the game out and add it in. Appreciate the suggestion!!!
….Cave Story, need I say more?
Multiple Endings, with multiple plays necessary to see all weapons.
VERY Hard difficulty if you go a certain route.
One game i think should be on this list is ONESHOT. it is a game where you help the character return the worlds sun to the tower ( alternate world) It breaks the 4th wall in so many wonderful (sometimes creepy) ways, and like undertale, you need to play the game a few times to actually beat it.
Alfie Lee Atton
Thanks for the recommendation! I will definitely look to include this game in the updated version of this list. Appreciate it!! 🙂
Nick (Games Alike)
Great suggestions here, I’ev never heard of loads of them so it will good to check out 🙂
Alfie Lee Atton
No problem! Try Papers, Please first. I think you will be duly impressed by it! It’s gotten great reviews from most who have tried it 🙂
life is strange…..seriously? that game had no real choices. Either they all die or none of it happened. Hip hip hurrah. Lame story telling might as well just been all a dream