Which COGs and HGs(including series) would you consider the most influential

I became a COG/HG convert in 2021 and also joined the forum the same year. And I’m also curious about the history, so to speak of, Choice of Games, particularly when it comes to the COGs and HGs published and trends and other developments influencing what kinds of COGs and HGs have been published since Choice of Games was launched.

I know there are many forum members who have been reading/playing COGs and HGs much longer than I have, some of you even since Choice of the Dragon. So I’m curious about which COGs and HGs you would consider to be the most influential and how you consider them to have influenced other COGs and HGs.

There are a couple which seem obvious, even to me, and a few others that also seem to have been important in that way, if maybe not quite to the same extent as the most obvious ones. Choice of Dragon is of course extremely important for having started it all. The Wayhaven Chronicles at least paved the way for other Visual Novels-like HGs and what seems to be a trend for HGs and WIPs leaning more strongly towards focusing on the “book aspects” rather than the “game aspects” and the second book was, AFAIK, the first HG or COG that included explicitly setting the height of your MC as a “mandatory option”(there had been other HGs, like Life of a Wizard, where you could choose a fantasy species/race for your MC that were known for being particularly short or tall, but this was done in a more implicit and less mandatory way than in The Wayhaven Chronicles). And since then, this customization has been included in an increasing number of HGs and was also included in a COG for the first time last year.

From what I’ve heard, Life of a Wizard was at least the first HG to include achievements, while I suspect that Zombie Exodus and Heroes Rise-The Prodigy were the first HGs/COGs to focus on, respectively,zombies and superheroes and certainly the first hugely popular HGs/COGs to do so and so may very well have contributed to both of those genres still, comparitively often, being used in other HGs and COGs. But apart from that I don’t really want to speculate. I do suspect that since regular COGs have to made in accordance with Choice of Games particular design philosophy, while HGs don’t, that there will have been more different trends and developments for HGs than COGs, and thus also more influential HGs than COGs, but then again there might also be other elements I haven’t taken into consideration that means there isn’t that much of a difference between the two after all.

Anyway, curious to hear the thoughs of other forum members here about this, both writers and non-writers, and particularly those who have been into COGs and HGs for a long time. Which COGs and HGs would you consider to be the most influential and in what way or ways would you consider them to have influenced other COGs and/or HGs?


I would say the most influential choicescript game of all time is Wayhaven. If you look pre Wayhaven, romance existed but was more of a side thing or prize for getting a relationship stat to a certain point and was just a few throwaway scenes that didn’t really add to anything. It was an element that was present that was nice to have, but not really a selling point.

After Wayhaven, I noticed more emphasis being put on ROs. It became one of the first things talked about when a new WIP was posted and was THE selling point. I noticed a lot of concepts for choicescript games gaining a following with their ROs alone, before having written a single line of code.


It’s a really interesting question, because for CoGs the production cycle is usually (always?) at least a year, and they are often created without WIP threads so trends are slower to emerge. Inspiration from the mechanics or structure of Stars Arisen, say, will likely not be visible until at least next year, etc. And there’s often the case of games with similarities being created in parallel.

By contrast, HG authors are more likely to put up a WIP thread earlier in development, so trends are easier to track - someone might have been inspired by eg, the structure of The Golden Rose when it came out, and start a WIP the same month. WIPs are also more likely to influence each other.

A few things I’ve observed in CoGs over the years -

  • Games where rigid binary gender roles exist and flip based on the PC’s gender (eg Pendragon Rising, Choice of Broadsides) have faded out. I don’t recall seeing one of them since HMS Foraker, which was based on Broadsides.
  • Nonbinary PCs are a requirement since 2018-ish. This may have affected the above; a world in which rigid roles exist and nonbinary PCs can go about their business without prejudice is harder to imagine (though possible I’m sure! I would be intrigued to see something about this!)
  • There used to be a lot of “choose your orientation, which changes RO genders at the same time”. That seems less common now, with selectable characters being picked separately from PC orientation.

I don’t know if I’d say Wayhaven was the most influential in every way necessarily, but I definitely agree with this. Wayhaven is an early example of a ChoiceScript game intensely focused on romance, which shares common DNA with urban fantasy romance/paranormal romance novels and dating sims - more so than earlier ChoiceScript games. Heart of the House is very suffused in gothic romance, but is certainly not a dating sim.

Romance aside, the Infinity series and Choice of Rebels serve as major influences to authors interested in intense dark fantasy and heavy-duty lore.

In HGs, structurally I have also noticed more of a trend towards long series with the same PC over time. That said that’s not so much a new thing - I feel like ZESH and Sabres of Infinity were early forerunners for this.

I would love to see critical or academic writing on this subject! Emily Short and Sam Kabo Ashwell are the main people I can think of but they haven’t written much about it in recent times - although Weyrwood and ChoiceScript were included in Aaron Reed’s excellent 50 Years of IF. ChoiceBeat is always a good read too!


I wonder if Tin Star would count as “influential”, since it really pushed the boundaries of what one could do with ChoiceScript (IMO), and it was the first million-word game (I think?).


I am still thinking this over, but here are a few thoughts:

  1. Choice of Romance and its consolidation, I believe, was the first real influence/game changer on romance in Choice Scripted games.

  2. Tin Star’s 1 cent sale really broke the “Steam barrier” for many new people into the community.

  3. Slammed is really an underappreciated innovator in both the sports category in general and the cross-over ties into the superhero genre.


I think you’ve hit on some of the big ones. One I want to touch on as influential in more of a cautionary tale kind of way is Deathless: The City’s Thirst, which did two really interesting things that people weren’t super happy with, and later games have mostly tried to avoid.

The first is that it was a sequel where you played someone else and the MC for the first game didn’t show up. This makes sense as a way to solve the longstanding problem of having a sequel spin off from the wildly different endings a first game can have (especially if it wasn’t originally planned as a series) but I recall people being really frustrated with it at the time, because they were hoping to continue the story of the character they were invested in. After that, you saw a lot of more direct sequels, and games like Aetherfall that were originally intended to have an unrelated spinoff sequel added a way to play the original MC.

Recently, there has been a comeback of the spin-off sequel, with Tally Ho and Creme both getting titles that are sequels not involving the main character. I wonder if expectations around that have changed over time, especially as people were often ALSO unhappy with the way some sequels had to contort themsleves to put the MCs in the same starting position (Grand Academy 2 is a good example of outcry around that).

The second thing was that the game tried to break out of the traditional “pick one stat and stick with it” problem from early choice games by adding actual puzzles that were not dependent on player stats, particularly a murder that you have to solve with your own deduction skills. This also got a lot of pushback, with a lot of players wanting their characters skills to be more relevent, and not finding this a satisfying solution.

Later CoG games have tried to solve the pick a stat problem in different ways, while still maintaining more character immersion. One recent approach is to use multiple stats, and having things like combined tests that test a bunch of things at once. I particularly associate this with Abigail Trevor and Kyle Marquis but it’s become more common in general.

The only recent game I can think of to attempt to intigrate actual puzzles is the Relics series, and in that one the author was careful to give an option to skip the puzzles with no negative consequences.

So, I think Deathless was ahead of the curve in identifying two major problems faced by CoG games, and trying interesting things to solve them, but is unfortunately mostly influential as revealing solutions that players were mostly not happy with, allowing later games to try new things.


Seeing how some sequels were received was definitely part of why I’ve made the sequel decisions I have (as well as wanting to branch out and do something different, explore other characters etc). I have immense respect for authors who account for all the previous game’s routes. I both understand why some authors have done a more narrow approach, and why players were frustrated with that - and I know myself well enough to know that a “direct” sequel with the same PC isn’t really something I feel confident doing anytime soon.


Its a controversial series now, but I really think the first Heroes Rise trilogy deserves a lot of credit for taking the direction of the games in the general form that they’re currently in. The games before that were more episodic and had much less focus on the cast beyond the main character, especially love interests that were present for one chapter only and then disappeared out of the narrative. Most modern CS games in their outline form resemble HR a lot more than the games before it.


I discovered CoG in 2011, when they had released only four games, all of which I’d consider essential classics: Choice of the Dragon, Choice of Broadsides, Choice of Romance (what is now part 1 of Affairs of the Court), and the first part of Choice of the Vampire. To play those four games in the order they were released is to witness the birth of a company and an art form. Dragon was an amazingly strong start, taking on the entire epic fantasy genre with simultaneous affection and irreverence - and each game that followed was even longer and more complex and ambitious than what came before. Over the course of those early games, CoG was learning what worked and what didn’t in terms of choices and stats and branching structure, developing the principles that are still at the core of their design philosophy today. They also experimented with different ways of representing gender and sexuality, from the invertible highly-gendered society of Broadsides, to a world where gender and sexuality were treated as non-issues in Romance, to the gritty realism of Vampire.

Heroes Rise: The Prodigy was the first game by someone who wasn’t either a founder or close associate of the company from the beginning, the first with a title that didn’t follow the Choice of Whatever format, and took a somewhat different structural approach that would prove base-breakingly controversial. It also launched the career of one of the most popular, successful, and prolific ChoiceScript authors of all time, and seems to come up almost as often as Choice of the Dragon in discussions among fans of the games that got us hooked.

Max Gladstone’s Choice of the Deathless was the first game to tie into an established fictional universe. (A minor correction to what @zhirzzh said earlier - The City’s Thirst wasn’t a sequel. Although it’s been called “2nd in the Deathless Series,” it was always intended as an otherwise unrelated story set in the Craft Sequence universe, and in fact it takes place well before the events of Choice of the Deathless.) Choice of the Petal Throne was the first licensed game created with the cooperation (but not the direct involvement) of the copyright holders of an existing property, which has been done several times since, most notably and successfully with the Vampire: The Masquerade collaboration.

As for HG, Zombie Exodus pretty much singlehandedly put it on the map. To newer fans, the idea that the publisher of Wayhaven Chronicles and Fallen Hero was ever just a rinky-dink amateur brand probably seems absurd, but if you look at the earliest releases (which you should, especially if you’re interested in the history of CS games, but also just because most of them are free to play and many are pretty fun, if you accept that you’re looking at some hobbyist’s passion project rather than a polished piece of work), that’s exactly what it was at first. I tried out every HG title then in existence shortly after I fell in love with CoG’s original four, and Zombie Exodus was the only one that felt as if it could have been published by CoG. Of course, a handful of other excellent writers emerged over the course of the next couple years, including Allen Gies, J. Leigh, Mike Walter, and Paul Wang. Walter and Wang have gone on to be both popular and prolific, and Wang was the first HG writer to cross over to writing for CoG, with 2014’s Mecha Ace.

Special note should be made of the games that have won prestigious honors. Crème de la Crème, Night Road, and Jolly Good: Cakes and Ale, all among the most popular and highly-regarded ChoiceScript games ever written, were honored by the IF community at the XYZZY Awards as some of the best of what interactive fiction had to offer. Meanwhile, a handful of Nebula nominees (The Road to Canterbury, Rent-a-Vice, The Martian Job, The Magician’s Workshop, The Luminous Underground, and Sins of the Sires), although generally less commercially successful and with far less of a fan following than the likes of Heroes Rise or Zombie Exodus, have explored the more literary possibilities of longform IF and marked CoG as a force to be reckoned with in the rarefied world of high-art gaming.

Also, although it’s not a CoG or HG title, it would be a crime not to mention Dan Fabulich’s port of Alter Ego, which is pretty much the reason any of this exists in the first place.


Big thanks to all of you that have chimed in with your opinions so far. It’s been really interesting to see your choices for the most influential COGs and HGs so far and too learn much more about the historical context about the released COGs and HGs.

I did make one possible discovery, after reading the comments of @HannahPS about the first HGs series with the same PC over time, that may be a good reason for expanding and/or amending this list somewhat. Because judging from how the HGs are ordered, it seems like the second part in The Lost Heir trilogy was actually released earlier than both the second part of the Zombie Exodus series and the Infinity series(though the first part of the Infinity series was released before the first part of the The Lost Heir trilogy), so there certainly seems to be a case to be made about that series being one of the pioneers when it comes to those kind of series, and I guess, also for Waywalker University, since that HG was released even before first part of The Lost Heir trilogy and, as far as I can understand, was always intended to be a part of a series and have gotten one follow-up so far. The first part of The Lost Heir Trilogy also was the first HG that was set in the same story universe/world as another HG as well, but I don’t know how that adds up with the first COGs that got a follow-up, whether this happened before or after the Choice of the Deathless follow-up.

And I agree that it would be nice to see more critical and academic writings on the subject, but also more historical overviews that aren’t necessarily that academic. I did enjoy Aaron Reeds 50 Years of IF, but while it was very good and thorough on parser-based IF and on the roots of IF in general, it was IMHO quite light on the evolution of choice-based IF. I know that the large number of choice-based IFs is a comparatively new phenomenon, I know of both pre-widespread Internet computer games that worked in a somewhat similar way to choice-based IF and I also know that inbetween the arty hypertext project in the 90’s and the start of Choice of Games and the rise of Twine as a tool for making IF, there both some short choice-based IF and also add-to stories, which, if not necessarily quite IF, has a lot in common with choice-based IF. And I would also had liked to have heard more in his entry on Choice of Games about its sources of inspiration and how it started and evolved. If someone could write about those two things, I would be really interested in reading it, anyway.


I’m pretty sure the first ChoiceScript games to get a sequel with the same protagonist were Choice of the Vampire and Heroes Rise. The Fall of Memphis (originally released as a separate app rather than an IAP) and The Hero Project released a few weeks apart in summer 2013, with the first HG sequel, Way Walkers: University 2, coming out about a month later.


Yes, I saw now, looking at the list of the HGs, that the Waywalkers:University sequel was released not that long after Paradox Factor and Sabres of Infinity, but well before both the second book in the Infinity series and the Zombie Exodus series and the first book in The Lost Heir Trilogy. But I don’t have easy access to the time of release for those HGs, so thank you for that. Anyway, maybe there’s then a case to be made for that sequel to be influential, though given the fact that the Heroes Rise sequel was even earlier and that series was massively popular at that time(and that this seems to be a time when HG was just starting to come into their own), it may instead be another way in which the Heroes Rise series was really influential.

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Some of us were always planning series. :slight_smile: And the influence on that choice goes back a lot further than the 2010s. Look to our genre shapers like Tolkien and Anne Rice.

I’m glad Lucid’s been mentioned, and I think Life of a Wizard was much more influential (in its mechanics and use of achievements) than Lost Heir.

Choice of Robots was massively influential, and I’m a little surprised we’ve got this far without it coming up. At the time it came out, writing very different final chapters to end the game with a high degree of narrative variability hadn’t been done in choicescript. The success of Robots turned it into a CoG design recommendation. Kevin Gold’s ambition, and his ability to make his game feel bigger and more responsive than anything else out there at the time, kicked off a whole new level of expectation. On the coding side, Robots was also the introduction of implicit control flow, which I recognize as influential despite not using it myself.


What is implicit control flow?

A Study In Steampunk at least for me was incredibly influential. It was one of the first gender-locked COG’s that really had me invested in a romance and had some really saddening routes.

Finch my beloved :weary:


Choice of the Dragon has already been mentioned, but I can’t help but add on. Not only is it the first game which automatically makes it iconic, I think after hundreds of COGs and HGs, a lot of us forget just how mindblowing this game looked to people who have never really been into interactive fiction before.

I distinctly remember sometime around 2015, there was an extremely popular tumblr post with what I think at least a hundred thousand notes (could be a bit less maybe, it was a long time and I’ve spent a half hour just now trying to find it to no avail… but it did exist trust me!!) that consisted of screenshots from Choice of the Dragon, highlighting how you could choose your name, gender, appearance, and romance, as well as the fun, cheeky/sarcastic tone of the game, and people were going nuts over it. It really just did an amazing job, hitting all the boxes at being the perfect “introducing people to a game medium they’ve never had experience with before” game. It certainly had an impact on me, as ever since seeing that post I’ve become deeply invested in CoG.

But my favourite game is still Tin Star :stuck_out_tongue: :cowboy_hat_face:


ps @Snowflower it’s always hilarious that whenever i go into some thread discussing favourite/best/most iconic games i always find you promoting Tin Star, keep up the good work, Tin Star supremacists stay united :smiley:


ICF turns off some of the fiddlier requirements of Choicescript to make it quicker to type but arguably more bug-risky for programming novices like me.


I actually understood that!

Thanks for the link!

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Honestly I would say Choice of Robots, it truly went viral on Tumblr after release, and I think that was the first time I and many others first heard of Choice of Games.

And yes, the very variable endings were a part of that, I remember seeing so many people talk about their different paths and robots.