Break out those puffy sweaters and vests—fall is officially here. Sure, it might be 90 degrees in Atlanta as I write these words, but you can still feel that crispness in the air at night, with the crispness of another cozy fall on the way. Fall is our favorite season for a number of reasons: the foliage, the weather, the soccer, the drinks, and yes, even video games. and not only him new video games that are pumped out every year between Labor Day and Thanksgiving (fall is the season for new games), but the many games of the past that have been able to channel the essential nature of autumn, that combination of comfort, mystery and loss that makes it the most evocative and emotional of all the seasons. Here are 10 games that tap into what makes the fall so special.
How much more typically can we fall than the man in one too many jackets staggering his way through a city haunted by its own literary demons? It’s no wonder he associates fall with games that are tinged with horror, but few of them feel as in touch with the fall spirit as Remedy. Alan Wake. There’s a small town, a spooky forest, and a haunted writer, providing a setting ripped from the pages of a Stephen King book or an episode of twin peaks, which also line the hallowed halls of my work canon of weird fall stories and are direct inspirations for the game. You jump through the woods at night defeating the forces of evil with a flashlight and pick up thermoses, which are probably full of coffee, even if I’ve always imagined it to be hot chocolate. It looks like a sequel that’s supposed to arrive next year will lean even more towards horror, and I for one can’t wait to see how it sits alongside the first.—Moses Taveras
Sure, every season gets its due in Nintendo’s lovable life sim, but none come to life as vividly or memorably as fall. Maybe it’s because it’s the first season I’ve experienced in the game, since the GameCube 20 years ago last week. (What, uh, hey, time, you want to cool it down a bit? You’ve already made your point.) When the leaves turn orange and brown and begin to flutter to the ground, and all the wolves, pigs, and bears in my town put on their sweaters, Animal Crossing begins to embody that amber-hued warmth and comfort that the season is all about. is known. And the best seasonal decor in the entire series are sets based on fall holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving. What’s better than the turkey-feathered TV from the original game showing a constant loop of football recaps? Not much, I tell you what. Animal Crossing and fall are a perfect match, each calming and comforting above all else.—Garrett Martin
Fall may be the coziest season, but it’s also the spookiest. The temperature begins to drop, the days get shorter, and by the end of October, ghosts and goblins begin to haunt front yards across the country. And when you think of ghosts and goblins, what video game series do you immediately think of? Also, uh, ghosts and goblins? That’s right, Castlevania, the game about goth boys whipping out creepy monsters and crawling to pieces inside the swanky house of an evil but extremely sexy older man. If you’re looking for a game that captures the terrifying side of fall, just about any Castlevania will do (skip the Nintendo 64 one, of course). If we had to choose one, it would be symphony of the nightNaturally, but the first three NES games are crucial in their own way, as is the beloved PC Engine. Blood Rondo.—GM
There is an inherent mystery to fall that other seasons lack. Again, a big part of that is because it gets dark earlier and earlier as the weeks go by, with the unknowable abyss of night eating up what’s left of day. And as beautiful as fall foliage becomes, it’s still a stark reminder of death and how we know nothing about what comes after. The cardboard computer is brilliant Kentucky Route Zero taps into a similar vein of unexplained and unpredictable mystery, with seemingly mundane settings spiraling into the bizarre and unspeakable. It’s like a road trip into the depths of the autumn of the soul, which I realize is a deeply pretentious statement, but one I’m not ashamed to write.—GM
Maybe it’s because I’m still fresh out of school, but with the arrival of fall comes a rush of complicated feelings: excitement at the prospect of a new beginning or the ability to have new experiences, as well as the sometimes crushing anxiety of people new to meet and pressures to contend with. In other words, great “new kid at school” energy. Life is Strange has always felt like the embodiment of that sentiment. The Max from the first game returns to Arcadia Bay after being away for years and true colorAlex is a young adult who goes to Haven Springs in search of a new life. While the writing has improved over time, one thing that has never changed is how much Life is Strange loves fresh fall tones and settings that stink of the season, even if the games don’t necessarily take place at that time. . All of this makes the series the closest thing we have to a perennial slump in gaming, and I think that’s beautiful.—MOUNTAIN
College football isn’t the only sport that starts in the fall, but for millions of fans across the country (and especially in the South), it’s the biggest. The SEC’s renewed dominance of the NCAA is as much an annual fall tradition as Halloween and leaf raking. Player rights and payment issues brought the EA Sports series into the dark nearly a decade ago: The last new college football video game came out so long ago that none of the eight finalists on its cover are still playing football. at no level. (That last game, 2014 NCAA Football, has actually become a rare and expensive collector’s item.) Modders have kept the series alive for years with up-to-date rosters, but college football fans who don’t play on PC and aren’t into the mod scene have had to make do with painstakingly outdated games from two generations ago. EA has announced a new series launching in 2023, but for now, to get your fix of college football in video game form, you’ll need to look to the past, and that kind of reflection on the passing of time is totally autumnal. of things to do, too.—GM
night in the woods is my favorite game to revisit. Every fall, inexplicably, I have the urge to jump back in and experience Mae’s season of malaise and subsequent self-discovery. She fits very well with my own depression, and I never fail to feel lighter on the other side of my depression. night in the woods. Not because its conclusion isn’t quietly creepy, or because it poses clear answers to my own struggles, but because it reminds me that I’m not alone at the time I normally feel most locked in and vulnerable. Now I also exclusively think of autumn as a “strange autumn”. So thank you Mae, for everything you’ve given me. I hope you’re hanging on, because I’m sure as hell.”MOUNTAIN
I love a good ghost story, and while I’m no horror expert, few spooky stories have nailed quiet, otherworldly terror quite like free oxen has. And let’s be honest, this list and the season aren’t complete without something else seemingly terrifying. I know those Halloween decorations are already being put up, after all. Taking place on clearly haunted Edwards Island, free oxen follows a group of teenagers as they make their way through a descent into hell that defies all reason. The time loops and transdimensional radio signals that open geometric tears in reality are just the tip of the iceberg of an accessible, novel and terrifying story. Like the best campfire stories, free oxenThe story of twists local history into something altogether more terrifying and then brilliantly brings it to life. A sequel is coming out relatively soon and this has to be the first time in my life that I’ve felt like going back to a haunted island.—MOUNTAIN
Adam Robinson-Yu’s relaxing little game might be set in the summer, but it’s definitely appearance like it’s fall in Hawk Peak Provincial Park, with beige and amber foliage regularly peeking through the verdant green fields you’ll float over as you try to reach the top of the park’s central peak. Spiritually and thematically, a short walk it’s 100% autumn, with that bittersweet combination of warmth with an almost unfathomable sense of loss and decay that defines the season. It’s not a sad game overall, but its emotional climax can leave a mark, especially if you’re sensitive about relationships with parents. (And hey, who isn’t, right?) It echoes elements from so many other games on this list, from the cuteness of Animal Crossing, to the anthropomorphic bildungsroman of night in the woodsto the family drama of Life is Strange and What remains of Edith Finchand the result feels downright autumnal.—GM
I don’t read as much as I used to, but when I was a kid, you couldn’t take a good book out of my hands if you tried. Every fall, I was the kid who finished his schoolwork as fast as possible, pulled a grimoire out of his backpack, and hovered over him for as long as God and my teacher allowed. What remains of Edith Finch It reminds me to immerse myself in a literary world that mixes my reality with the magic of the world that seemed to elude me. Although his story of a family curse can be downright harsh in some places, What remains of Edith Finch‘s all-too-brief exploration of life, as well as its visual poetry, feels like a warm jacket on a crisp fall day. It helps that it also takes place in the positively autumnal Pacific Northwest. You may have noticed that I associate the fall with some sort of otherworldly magic or weirdness, and how What remains of Edith Finch turns between the fantastic scenarios that he has imagined for the family in his heart, I can’t help but think that his creators agree with me.—MOUNTAIN
Senior Editor Garrett Martin writes about video games, comedy, travel, theme parks, wrestling, and whatever else comes your way. he is on twitter @grmartin.
Moises Taveras is the assistant game editor for paste magazine. He was that kid who was really excited about Google+ and is still sad about how it turned out.