Undertale was one of those titles that came out of nowhere for me. Despite having built up hype with its Kickstarter previously, I’d heard little mention of it until it was released in 2015. When I did decide to give it a go, I came to the opinion that it was the first of its kind in at least a decade.
I remember distinctly around Undertale’s release, complaining to my partner about the fact that I hadn’t played a game that moved me, or really affected me, in the way games I’d played as a child/young teen had. Part of me felt that that was just because I was older now, and that games couldn’t affect me that way anymore, and another part of me thought that game development was just not as good as it once was (my reasoning being developers were too focused on graphics and not enough on narrative). And then along came Undertale, with its cast of motley crew and it’s cheerful, lovely, horrific, bittersweet, seemingly simple, yet complex narrative, that was the first game in a long time that made me really feel something.
Undertale doesn’t look like much, at first. But the expert crafting of character development, gradually unfolding narrative, amazing sound track, and novel use of meta mechanics such as closing screens and saving every little thing you do, to later use against you, at first gave me the strangest feeling of nostalgia. I soon realised that it wasn’t exactly nostalgia I was feeling, but instead, feelings that I hadn’t felt in a very long time, making it seem like nostalgia. Undertale was a game that managed to deeply affect me in a way I didn’t expect and hadn’t experienced in at least a decade.
And then there was the community, and Toby Fox himself. There’s something very inspiring about seeing someone work hard to achieve something from nothing, and the resulting wave of love, sincerity and beautiful rhetoric after the games release was incredible; the reception by fans inspired by the game was a lovely thing to behold.
With Ready Up now closing its doors, for me it’s also a memorable time as a staff writer here. A number of us had played the game around the same time and it became all we talked about. For months on end we did nothing but created articles, videos, and podcasts discussing the game together, talking about what we loved, but also dissecting the game’s lore and backstory. It was one of the earliest moments at the start of my tenure where I collaborated that extensively with the team on pieces and was the beginning of many more, with a fantastic group of passionate people that I’ll now always hold dear.
Toby Fox created a masterpiece, and while (thankfully) the market hasn’t been flooded by games exactly like it, we’ve seen a wave of thoughtful, beautiful games with their own contextual art styles, music, and purposeful narratives since. My previous complaint about the state of the video game industry is no longer true. And so Undertale is not my game of the decade just for being an amazing game in its own right, but for how it brought people together, and how excited I now am for future games that will affect me as much as Undertale did.