Reading IF

The section on finding IF is designed to help you find interactive fiction that suits your tastes. This reading list has a different purpose: identifying particularly influential or unusual work that has shaped the development of interactive fiction or probed the extreme boundaries of the medium.

Not all of the work here is likely to appeal to you. I don’t like all of it myself, and some of it I haven’t finished. Indeed, some of it isn’t even very good — but most of it is useful material to have in mind when talking about some particular aspect of the growth of interactive fiction.

Links for game names are to the entries in Baf’s Guide to Interactive Fiction.

Many thanks to everyone who has suggested corrections or additions to this list, especially Duncan Stevens. If you think I’ve missed something, please feel free to email me; otherwise, my research is limited to what I get around to playing myself.


Notable For Interface: unusual parsing, multiple choice games, glorified hypertext; games making use of multimedia effects, such as pictures, sound, and animation.

Notable For Plot Structure and Narrative: plots with events presented out of order; works in which scenes are optional or the plot threads diverge significantly; works with multiple endings; single-move IF; works in which the player’s actions are extremely constrained, so that a given outcome must occur.

Notable For Player Character & Narrative Voice: IF with unusual player characters and narrators: first- and third-person narrators, past-tense narrators, unreliable narrators; player characters explicitly customizable by the player; multiple protagonists and shifting viewpoints.

Notable For Characters and Conversation: IF with unusual or highly-developed non-player characters; NPCs who move autonomously and pursue their own goals; works offering unexpected types of conversation.

Notable For Setting: one-room IF, IF in large spaces, unusual handlings of space, representations of real-world locations, exceptionally detailed settings; or, on the other hand, IF that eschews geographical treatment entirely.

Notable For World Model: works in which behavior of objects is modeled in a complex and flexible way; or in which something other than the physical environment is modeled.

Notable For Puzzle Design: single-puzzle games, puzzles with multiple solutions, games with adjustable difficulties; examples of specific puzzle types, such as resource-management, mystery and knowledge puzzles, word and language puzzles.