There are many unique video games out there: Japan exists after all (we all need a pigeon dating sim every now and again, okay?). And why not? We all get bored of mindlessly killing terrorists and defeating bosses that take three hits, and oh my God, did Peach actually get herself kidnapped again?! When The Stanley Parable was created, it was with the notion that video games have gotten rather predictable. Developers try to add unique endings and choices to their work, and though the effort is there, the result can be less than stellar. If you're looking for a game where every choice counts, with some deep philosophical questions to ask about those choices, and with a charmingly British and easily-annoyed narrator, this is definitely the game to check out. Here are the top five Stanley Parable features that illustrate why.
#5 Amount of Choices
Remember when Fable promised gamers amazing amounts of unique endings and choices that would change everything, and it fell really, REALLY short? The Stanley Parable isn't like that. It's pretty much the game that never ends. I mean, it ends. But see, it ends dozens of times. There are simple endings, there are endings that adhere a lot of explanation, there are endings that make sense and endings that make no sense at all. Some will make you think, and some will make you think, "now, that's just silly!" Depending on what door you go through, what button you push, whether you listen to the instructions or just say, "yolo," you will get different endings, and diverse paths leading to those endings, and until you've played the game a lot, you're not too likely to get the same ending twice. The way your first couple play-throughs go depends pretty heavily on your personality and the kind of gamer you are. The narrator will hint at the direction you should go, the button you should press, and everything else. But who actually listens to narrators, anyway? As you get into your second or third hours of game time, you'll end up discovering a bunch of random endings you never saw coming. The Stanley Parable definitely leaves players satisfied in terms of choice and endings. There are tons of unique ways to navigate through and finish the game. Including a spot where you hit a button for literally hours … I recommend just skipping through a YouTube video of that.
#4 Replay Value
Games with multiple endings should try their hardest to boast good replay value -- otherwise what's the point? Most games with more than just your vanilla good and bad endings have multiple endings because they're short, and need to be worth your hard-earned money somehow. The Stanley Parable is definitely worthy of about a million replays. Like I said above, there are plenty of endings and so many ways to reach them. Plus it's such a fun, quirky game, any gamer with a sense of curiosity and wonder would have a reason to keep playing from the beginning. You never know where your next round will take you. You could have almost a typical day at the office. Or you could be transported to Hell. Not only will you want to keep playing and discovering all the nooks and crannies in Stanley's world, you'll also want to be the one to show this unique game and all its silliness to your friends.
The Stanley Parable features spectacular narration. It leads characters through the game, helps them make decisions, gives a back-story to every bizarre event that occurs, and keeps us laughing throughout. The Stanley Parable's creator has said that he thinks half of what makes the game good is its narration, and he's probably not wrong. The narrator's British voice adds charm and character to The Stanley Parable as well, setting the tone with thoughts and opinions and fourth wall-breaking remarks. It also guides players through a gaming world that would otherwise be too original for its own good. It doesn't hurt that the narrator is played by a man whose acting gigs are pretty much all narration voiceover work -- obviously he's going to be perfect for the job! Players may be reminded of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Pushing Daisies while being led around The Stanley Parable due to the narrator, and this is a huge point in the game's favour.
There are a lot of things about The Stanley Parable that not only make it unique but make it importantly so. So often we find ourselves saying, "more games should be like this," and The Stanley Parable is certainly one of those cases. It really pushes you to think about the choices you're making. Hitting one button will lead you in a new direction; going down the hallway the narrator told you to ignore will send you on a new path. It pushes you to think about the choices Stanley was making even before you started playing him, the choices that led him into this parable. You don't run in guns blazing to kill your enemies. Instead, decisions must be considered, and guns aren't really an option. It also thinks really deeply about gaming in a way most games don't. If you don't listen to the narrator and go through door number 2 instead of number 3, you might wind up in the same hallway, forced to do the same exercise, this time with the narrator telling you off. And isn't that just gaming for you? If you don't go down the path set for you, it'll just lead you in a circle until you're back where you belong. Lots of games have incredible lessons to teach and themes to live by: The Last of Us deals with loss and how it affects us all. Mass Effect has much to teach us about letting technology get out of control. The Stanley Parable features themes that are more about gaming itself: what's to be expected, why we should want something different from our gaming experience, and similar unique themes.
The #1 Stanley Parable Feature: Humour
Often in gaming, the humour is low-brow, tacky, or childish. There's reason for this: the audience is predominantly male and often younger. Fart jokes are supposed to go a long way for both these audiences, and whether or not they do, no one's bothered to correct this line of reasoning. Don't be offended, guys, games aimed at girls don't really even have jokes that can pass as humour. We'd welcome a good fart joke, even. Unfortunately, good writing means writing for the dumbest person in your target audience, and this means that gaming is riddled with cringe-worthy humour. The Stanley Parable has a rather intelligent audience, though.
This isn't a game for just anyone, despite the fact that it's very easy to play. The difficulty lies in the themes and your ability to take the game into your own hands. An every-day guy with three brain cells to rub together might not "get" a game like The Stanley Parable. He might just follow the narrator's prompts to the end of the game and play it through once or twice before deciding to go back to Call of Duty or Madden '09. The dry wit in The Stanley Parable, the parody, the homage to games like Portal and Minecraft, these are what make the game truly amazing. They take an already unique and mind-bending experience and add flavour. By adding humour, The Stanley Parable manages not to take itself and its larger-than-life themes too seriously. It continues to be a game -- something fun and silly -- instead of an exercise in patience and a crash course in the philosophy of decision making. Without a sense of humour, it'd be a husk of what it ended up being, which is a clever and self-aware game that will lead you down interesting hallways of your psyche for hours.