10 Text-Based Games Like A Dark Room

Image credit: Doublespeak Games

A Dark Room proved to the world that text-based games weren’t a thing of the past. The game’s unique gameplay and use of the written word captivated the world, becoming a sensation back in 2013.

The game is the perfect example of how visuals can’t beat the power of imagination. Despite the whole game consisting of just sentences, A Dark Room showcases how text can be just as emotive as actual graphics.

“the fire is dead. the room is cold. awake. head throbbing. vision blurry.” The opening lines of A Dark Room set a vivid scene. It paints a picture in a way you can’t express through normal visuals.

After that powerful opening, the game leads you into an expansive world and tells a story in a way only a text-based game can. It was innovative for the genre, and is why we created this games like A Dark Room list – to help you find similar experiences.

Grim Quest

Available on PC, Android and iOS.

If you wanted more out of the adventuring and combat aspect of A Dark Room, then definitely check out Grim Quest. It is a text-based dungeon crawler, with mechanics heavily inspired by tabletop RPGs.

Whilst Grim Quest does feature some visuals and sound, it is mainly for the user interface and basic icons. The game’s main focus is on the story and worldbuilding, which is all told through the written word.

My favorite part of the game was how immersive it was. The author did an amazing job, and their writing style immediately sucked me in. The story takes place in an ancient city, which is well fleshed out with its own history and lore.

The game throws you into a dark fantasy world, sprinkled with Lovecraftian elements. If you enjoyed the light horror aspects in A Dark World, you will appreciate it in the universe of Grim Quest.

The game also offers a deep RPG experience, with over 25 character ‘backgrounds’ to choose from – each one offering unique gameplay.

It also has a classless system, so you can go wild with your builds and theory crafting. There are dozens of different skills and spells you can add to your arsenal, and customize your play style.

There are also multiple difficulty settings in Grim Quest, allowing for more relaxed playthroughs. This is great if you’re coming fresh from A Dark Room, and a full-fledged text RPG seems daunting.

If you end up loving Grim Quest and want more games with tabletop RPG-inspired mechanics, you should read our list of games like classic Fallout.

Zombie Exodus

Available on PC, Android and iOS.

Zombie Exodus is the perfect game to jump into right after finishing A Dark Room. It features the same minimalistic design, with just plain text, so all the focus is on the writing.

The game also shares similar post-apocalyptic themes. The story throws you in the middle of a zombie outbreak in an infested city, with one goal – to survive.

The biggest draw of the game is that choices actually matter. Every decision you make has a lasting impact. The wrong one could mean losing supplies, a fellow survivor, or even your life.

Games where choices actually have consequences and branching narratives have become so rare – especially with AAA titles. This is why Zombie Exodus is such a breath of fresh air.

The game also has no accompanying visuals and sound effects. It relies purely on its writing to deliver shocking scenes and an edge-of-your-seat experience. The story and style are skillfully written.

Zombie Exodus is written by the prolific interactive fiction author Jim Dattilo. He is popular in the text-based game community, and this is easily one of his best works.

The game also offers a high level of replayability, with its branching story paths and character customization options. Zombie Exodus has also turned into a series, so you can always check out the sequels if you fall in love with the world!

VA-11 HALL-A: Cyberpunk Bartender Action

Available on PC, PS4 and Nintendo Switch.

VA-11 HALL-A is one of the best text-based titles ever made, and top of the genre. The game takes place in Glitch City, a cyberpunk-inspired dystopia.

You play as a bartender working at the VA-11 HALL-A. It is a small but cute downtown bar, and a little haven away from the mega-corporations ruling the world.

The entire game takes place within the bar, and the gameplay is perfectly woven in to match the narrative. The gameplay loop consists of you serving customers drinks and listening to their stories.

The game features a nonlinear design and progresses based on interactions with the bar attendees. This is where it gets fascinating, because despite being a dialogue-heavy game, you don’t get dialogue choices.

Instead, the interactions with characters in the game are influenced by the drink you choose to make for them. It’s the only way to affect the running story, which also features branching storylines.

The creativity and thought put into VA-11 HALL-A’s gameplay design and narrative are mind-blowing. It makes it an essential addition to any text-based games recommendation list.

This is one of the few games that rival A Dark Room with its unique use of text-based games as a medium to deliver a narrative.

If you want more experiences similar to VA-11 HALL-A’s dialogue-heavy storytelling, you should look at our games like Disco Elysium article.

The cherry on top of the game’s cake is the aiding visuals. The art is inspired by old Japanese adventure games, and it doesn’t take away from the written element.

Choice of Robots

Available on PC, Android and iOS.

Choice of Robots is another game similar to A Dark Room that’s a must for anyone wanting a new text-based title. It’s a sci-fi epic novel where you play through the life of a robot maker. 

Similarly, to Zombie Exodus and A Dark Room, this game has the same comfortable, minimalist design. There is no colorful art or loud sounds, just the text on the page. 

Choice of Robots takes place over 30 years, where you will go through graduate school, and then eventually end up deciding the fate of the robot (and human race) years later.  

Do you want to start a robot uprising? Or prevent it? Start a war? Or maybe you fall in love with a robot and want to start a family? 

This game has some of the most exceptional writing I’ve ever read. It’s always my go-to interactive fiction recommendation, and the best part is – choices actually matter.  

The decisions you make have consequences and will impact the storyline. The game also gives you so much freedom over the creation of your character and the robot you build in the story.  

Choice of Robots is also super inclusive and supportive of the LGBT community. There are options for gay characters and romances. To top it all off, there are also multiple endings and achievements! This gives it a huge replay factor.  

Lifeline

Available on PC, Android and iOS.

This game came out a few years following the success of A Dark Room. Lifeline is also a text-based survival game, but the gameplay style is very different – in a good way.  

Despite the similarities, Lifeline presents its survival themes and story differently. Playing it right after A Dark Room is a great way to see how the text-based format can be used in unique and innovative ways. 

Lifeline has a strong focus on narrative as well, and presents it with the familiar and cozy minimalist style. Just text. The user interface is uncluttered, and the controls are simple.

What’s interesting about the game, and sets it apart from most other text-adventure games, is that you aren’t the main character. Instead, you’re having a conversation with them.  

The game has you guiding the main character, Taylor, after her spaceship crashes. She’ll communicate to you through texts, where you are then given the option to choose between two replies to influence the story. 

The writing in Lifeline is really captivating and easy to get immersed in. It absolutely grips you with the plot, and you’ll find yourself invested in Taylor and her narrative. 

It also has a real-time mechanic, which is quite different from A Dark Room’s real-time systems. In this game, the mechanic is used to strengthen the story, instead of just for gameplay purposes.

The game makes you wait between replies from Taylor, which helps add tension and suspense. You’re left in the dark at times, and it makes it painfully obvious you really are her lifeline.

Aardwolf RPG

Available on PC and Android.

When you were thinking about games like A Dark Room, did you ever think about multiplayer? What if the game had it? Well, that’s what Aardwolf is! 

Aardwolf is a text-based RPG and also a MUD – Multi User Dungeon. MUDs are multiplayer text-based games, and eventually evolved into the popular MMORPG genre.

The game is a living piece of history for the text-based genre, and has been going strong since 1996. It is free-to-play and can be played on both PC and Android.

The game is set in the heavy fantasy world of Andolor. If you really enjoyed the exploration element of A Dark Room, you’ll love traversing the expansive map made up of multiple continents in Aardwolf.

On top of adventuring, the game is great for its deep RPG elements. It offers over 25 classes to choose from, as well as different races, guilds, and even professions!

There are hundreds of different spells and skills you can experiment with too. The game is also filled with years worth of content, from endless quests to puzzles to solve and monsters to slay.

In addition to all of that, you won’t have to do it alone! Aardwolf has real-time multiplayer, so you can play with friends. There are even player-versus-player modes, global events, and housing. 

A whole MMO can sound a bit intimidating if your only experience with text-based games is A Dark Room, but don’t worry! The Aardwolf community is known for being welcoming, and has a specific new player chat for questions. 

Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy

Available on PC, PS4, Xbox, Nintendo Switch and 3DS.

These games are a great play after A Dark Room if you want to see everything text games can offer. Instead of surviving a post-apocalyptic wasteland, you’re trying to survive court.  

The Pheonix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy combines the three games – Ace Attorney, Justice for All, and Trials and Tribulations into one collection. They are text-based games aided with visuals, and heavily story-driven. 

The games place you in the shoes of Pheonix Wright, an up-and-coming defense lawyer. Throughout the games, you’ll have to defend your clients in court and help them win their cases.  

Legal drama is such a huge change from managing resources and surviving a wasteland, but Phoenix Wright is really worth checking out. Just like A Dark Room, it’s a prime example of how text-heavy games can be used to deliver a strong story. 

Whilst the exploration element isn’t as strong in Phoenix Wright, it still has adventuring. You will need to go out and search environments to collect evidence and clues. 

It’s also one of the better visual novel experiences to try out if you’re just getting into the text-based genre. This game will have you getting knee-deep into cases ranging from murder to kidnapping!

Citizen Sleeper

Available on PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series and Nintendo Switch.

How does a lawless station at the edge of an interstellar society sound? Citizen Sleeper throws you into the shoes of an ‘escaped’ worker, fighting an uphill battle against capitalism.  

The game has an amazingly-executed narrative, which explores the transhumanist movement – upgrading humankind with machines. It holds no punches with its writing. The worldbuilding is also rich, and it covers philosophical themes well.

Whilst this game doesn’t play similarly to A Dark Room, they are both great examples of how creative the text-based genre can get. It’s hard to imagine Citizen Sleeper’s dystopian world and story working in another format. 

The game’s strong writing is also paired with gorgeous visuals. The art style used for the game is heavily cyberpunk-inspired, which fits so well with the anti-corporate themes in the story.  

Along with being a revolutionary title in the text-based genre, there’s another reason to check it out. At its core, it’s a survival game at heart. After playing A Dark Room, you might enjoy the fresh take on the theme.

The gameplay in Citizen Sleeper is a constant struggle. The game is split into cycles, where you will need to work every day just to get by and break free from the corporations that have the world by the neck. 

The game is inspired by tabletop RPGs and in a similar fashion – uses a dice-rolling mechanic to determine everything. The game’s rotating cast of characters are also filled with personality and lovable.

80 Days

Available on PC, Nintendo Switch, Android and iOS.

80 Days Is an interactive fiction text-adventure game based on – you guessed it! The iconic novel by Jules Verne, “Around the World in Eighty Days”. 

Whilst the game doesn’t feature post-apocalyptic lands to explore, it definitely belongs on a games like A Dark Room list. The two have a lot in common despite the contrast in the setting.  

If you enjoyed the adventuring and resource management aspect in A Dark Room, you will feel right at home in 80 Days. The change of setting to the late 1800s with a hint of steampunk might feel fresh too.  

The story in this game follows Monsieur Phileas Fogg, and you play as his manservant – Passepartout. The gameplay consists of assisting the Monsieur with plotting the trip around the world, managing his finances, and his health. 

The sheer amount of content in this game is where it really shines. It really puts the adventure in text adventure. 80 Days starts with you choosing between Paris or Cambridge.

After that, it really opens up and lets you go free-for-all. You will choose your own route around the world, traversing from city to city. Each location and journey has its own unique story. 

The game has approximately 750,000 words worth of text, and apparently, in one playthrough you only end up experiencing 2% of that. The game is designed to be replayed and loved. 

80 Days is more than just going from one place to another. You’ll also need to play the market buying/selling products, and the decisions you make during story moments will affect the narrative. 

Fallen London

Available on PC and Browser.

What better recommendation for a game similar to A Dark Room than another free text-based browser game? Fallen London has been around for years, and is perfect if you want a heavy focus on the story. 

The game’s strongest points are its imaginative setting and the vast amount of content. The title is set in an alternative Victorian London with gothic overtones everywhere you look. 

Bonus! The game is also free, so it doesn’t hurt to load up on your browser and give it a try. The game has been around since 2009, and is still getting new content and stories. 

In Fallen London, you’ll be placed in the shoes of a newcomer to the underground of the city. You’ll have to do what you can to rise up in ranks – whatever it takes.  

The game is filled with countless questlines, memorable characters, and there’s also plenty of side content to do. You can even get a job and choose a profession! 

Fallen London is one of the most fleshed-out interactive fiction games, jam-packed with content. Whilst the game is text-based it does feature art for character portraits and the UI.  

Thankfully, the visuals for the game enhance the overall experience and isn’t distracting. The art style used stays in theme with the gothic alternative 1800s London aesthetic and complements the writing.

Fallen London is reminiscent of the choose your own adventure books you’d read as a kid. It’s charming and fun. Also, the setting itself makes it worth playing – the Victorian era is untouched in the industry.

Honorable Mention: Zork

Available on PC and Browsers.

Text-based games and the videogame industry as a whole have come a long way since 1980. With that being said, it’s still worth taking a trip to the past and trying out Zork. 

Zork is a legacy among text-based adventure games, and this “games like A Dark Room” list might not exist without it. The game is free to play online, or you can find it (as well as the sequels & spin-offs) on Steam. 

The first Zork game throws you in the role of an adventurer, with the goal of collecting all the “Twenty Treasures of Zork.” The game is filled with puzzles and mazes to solve and explore.  

The game is old school, and just instantly hits you with nostalgia. There’s something charming and magical about typing in all your commands for the controls, and the excitement when one works! 

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