When the day starts to cool and the leaves turn crunchy orange, I’m in the best mood possible. I want to light a cranberry-scented candle, settle into soft blankets, and boot up one of many great autumnal video games — games that take place in autumn months, or have radiant and full fall settings.
I’ve always been a proud fall lover. That’s for very unoriginal reasons, mostly because I was born in October and self-identify as a scary movie-loving spooky bitch. However! The months leading up to winter’s iciness also wind with exciting possibility in a way other seasons don’t.
Fall is a beginning — the start of school and getting tangled in a warm scarf, time to only listen to Taylor Swift. But that sweet start is quick to change up on you and die. Bare branches will soon start looking like burnt fingers, and it’ll be time to shiver your way to a Halloween party. Then, the next morning, you’ll wake up thinking of pie and strained family dinners. Your home’s heat will be humming in your ear. The transitional season will be nearly over, and you’ll have lived through all of its good, bad, and scary.
Like the season they reflect, autumnal video games span moods, activities, and colours. Here are some great ones, from all different genres, that keep fall’s multifaceted pumpkin core close to heart.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
Does a horror game get any prettier than The Vanishing of Ethan Carter? In it, fall is represented in equal parts romance and grotesqueness. Full-bodied trees look like they’re on the brink of shedding leaves, the game’s nights are ruled by mist and a cold moon, and all the season’s ghosts come out to play while you solve a murder mystery. It makes you feel like you’re spending September in a graveyard — quiet, flush with anticipation, not ever really alone.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch: Spellbound
I’ve been thinking about old computer games recently. I’m in the process of hunting down a Sabrina the Teenage Witch PC game I loved in the first years of the 2000s (all I can really remember about gameplay is hanging out with Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey at the mall — please let me know if you know what I’m talking about!). I couldn’t nail it down, but I did come across the 1999 point-and-click adventure game Spellbound on an emulator site.
It isn’t explicitly set in fall, but it revolves wholly on low-stakes witchcraft with, for me, the same type of pleasant eeriness as a pack of sticky eyeballs from Party City. Plus, at one point, Sabrina turns into a pumpkin. You can’t get more fall than that.
Again, not canonically set in fall, but I’m giving the Twin Peaks-inspired action-adventure game Alan Wake a pass for its command over the colour grey. Everything is grey, the sky, the clothes, Washington’s dirt roads, and the 2021 remaster presents the colour’s minutiae faithfully. Nothing ever feels one-dimensional, it’s just autumn’s darkness: the shorter days and nights that need blankets, the rain that spits and clutters your car window.
Broken Sword: The Shadow of the Templars
The first instalment of the point-and-click adventure game series Broken Sword, The Shadow of the Templars, turned Paris into a golden snow globe of autumn, 1996. The city is wreathed in heavy, ochre-coloured ivy, gaunt shadows hang low and long, and even lush interiors seem touched by reddish decay. At the same time, ceilings, bales of hay, and even the inside of caves scrape the top of your screen, so you never feel stifled by the weather. Instead, it feels like the game leaves room for a curl or two of cigarette smoke, something to puff on to cut the chill after you’ve shrugged on your jean jacket and decided to solve its mystery.
What happens in Marvel’s Spider-Man takes place in early autumn, and the game is happy to show New York City in all its sunset glory. As you swing across the city, weaving through skyscrapers with big, glowing windows, you’ll notice the light shining, dimming, and enveloping you, its masked protector. So goes a metropolitan fall, solitary but still satisfying.
The Last of Us
Survival horror The Last of Us automatically gets a “fall game” categorization by virtue of being set in a zombie apocalypse, but its seasons change meaningfully, and autumn is one of the most poignant. In autumn, even an infected and desolate United States becomes a shining, resplendent focus of fragile hope.
I love the beautiful Autumn Mountain location in the action role-playing game Paper Mario. Everything in it is flat and deep red, like it’s made of sliced apples. Its many trees are colourful bouquets of thick cutouts of leaves, swaying in the slight mountain breeze. There is no better place to destroy spiny turtles for coins.
Hehe, this one is a prank! I pranked you! The floppy battle royale Fall Guys isn’t a game about guys enjoying the fall time, even though I might like it to be. It’s about guys falling over and onto things and enjoying that instead.
Though, the game did have an event to celebrate the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival in 2021 with special challenges, rewards, and mooncakes with Fall Guys characters’ faces. But I primarily put this game here as a prank. Trick or treat.
What are some of your favourite games to play in fall?