Itch.io is a website that has 100s of games, both free and premium, to download. You can also donate to creators of games and choose what to pay for purchase! How incredible is that? Game accessibility has been hugely increased through mobile free to play games, however it is extremely rare that iOS and Android games are experimental or story driven. They are driven mostly through in app purchases and ad revenue.
Itch.io is the opposite of this. You can pay small amounts for shorter, arguably richer, experiences, which are all accessible to anyone with access to a PayPal account. It’s a creative hub of weird and wonderful games, created by small teams or even just one person. Giving money to these games makes me feel real good and I wish I had discovered it sooner. Having these shorter experiences gave me momentum to keep playing games every week (trust me, this ends up becoming harder to do when you actually end up working in games). More well known games also feature, like Fullbright’s Tacoma and Finji’s Night in the Woods, plus they are direct downloads from the creators so are cheaper than Steam. I thought I would list a couple of games to help you to dip your toes into the somewhat overwhelming world of itch.io.
Where the Goats Are by Memory of God
While still a little buggy, I really enjoyed the bittersweet tone of this game and the way it builds its world through simple letter communication and subtle changes in the environment. You play as an elderly woman, a protagonist never really seen in games, who has stubbornly stayed on her small plot of land, milking goats and making cheese. Her contact with the outside world is only through letters received from her relatives, which effectively tell the story of the game, day by day. Also, not sure if there is much strategy to farming but one of my goats died before I got the chance to trade it, very upsetting for a particularly sensitive vegetarian like myself.
Genderwrecked by Gendervamp
Currently only available as a demo, this game has some of the funniest writing I have come across. You can kiss, talk to, or fight a bunch of monsters, all in the pursuit of trying to understand what gender is. Obviously, supporting queer content is important, and Genderwrecked is something I cannot wait for in its entirety.
Cibele by starmaidgames
Nina Freeman, an angel and one of my favourite people in game development, created this game from a real life experience she had in college. The game takes you through her life online, specifically through the interactions that you have with a love interest on an online game called Valtameri. Eventually, you meet up in real life and have sex, and while I don’t want to spoil much of it, the game does a fantastic job of characterisation in a self reflective position. This is one of my favourite games of all time so please spend the whole $10 and play it for yourself.
Afterlife: The Game by OmaiGawd
This game is a super silly reaction based adventure game about your life as a ghost. It’s kind of like the impossible quiz, but less infuriating and more entertaining. Thinking about death can be pretty hardcore scary, but if you think about the afterlife as the series of events that occur during this game, it doesn’t seem so bad.