Last month, I created a short list of great visual novels made in the Unity game engine. I promised that I would eventually do the same for games made in Ren’Py. Well, today is that day! While Ren’Py is a relatively easy engine to create games in compared to Unity, that doesn’t mean there aren’t games that take full advantage of what the engine is capable of. Today, we’re going to look at great games that push the limitations of Ren’Py and make you go, “Wow! How did they do that?”
WARNING: There will be spoilers for Doki Doki Literature Club! and [redacted] Life in this article. If you’re afraid of getting one of those games ruined for you, please click off this article now.
Hanako Games has made countless great games in Ren’Py, such as the Magical Diary series and Long Live the Queen. However, I want to give a mention to Black Closet today since I haven’t touched upon it yet. Black Closet is unique in that it uses a lot of RNG and stat-building. The game has a set of random scandals for you to solve. During these sections, you can send a character to a location in order to investigate it. Of course, their success depends on their skills and stress levels. If you fail these, you risk becoming expelled from the school for letting these scandals get out to the public.
There’s also a traitor in the game who’s trying to undermine you. This traitor is one of the game’s main characters and they’re randomly selected at the start of each playthrough. So, Rowan could be a traitor in your first playthrough, but in your subsequent playthrough, it can be someone else entirely. The randomness of the game allows for multiple playthroughs, so if you haven’t played this game yet, then I highly recommend doing so.
Doki Doki Literature Club!
While I’m not a big fan of Doki Doki Literature Club!, it’s hard to deny just how technically great the game is. It’s perhaps the first game that I’ve seen take advantage of Ren’Py’s RNG feature, something I didn’t even know existed previously. There’s a very low chance for certain things to happen. For example, there’s a 1/6th chance for a picture of a dead Sayori to show up in the background of the classroom. I’ve had this unique occurrence take place during my playthrough of the game, but I was told by my friends that they never got this picture. So, in a way, every playthrough of Doki Doki Literature Club! will be unique. There’s also more, such as random little glitches and other occurrences. While they’re not as special or ominous as a Sayori hanging in the background, it does give you an idea that something…strange is going on.
Another feature I noticed was the game creating text files. As you progress through the game, there will be text files in the game’s folder. These files act as supplements for the game’s events and give you an insight into Monika’s deteriorating psyche. It also shows just how much “control” she has over not only the game, but your computer.
Obviously, I can’t go over every little programming trick Doki Doki Literature Club! uses. So, if you’re interested in learning more about the game’s tricks, you can watch an informative video about it here.
[redacted] Life was the first visual novel that showed me that Ren’Py is more than just a visual novel engine. [redacted] Life is a self-aware horror game. It’s fully aware that it’s a game and, knowing that, it tries to change things up in order to throw the player off their game.
For example, the game will shut down, and when the player starts it back up, it’ll load a completely different game. At first, you think you’re playing the horror game, [redacted] Life, a story about a man exploring a haunted house. However, then it starts up as this cute, slice-of-life about a high schooler with pink hair. The look goes from a dark game to colorful. Even the UI changes from black to pink, something I didn’t even know was possible to do. I honestly thought you were stuck with the one UI. But clearly, you can have the entire interface change. It’s a very effective trick. Of course, as the game continues, the real game that you were originally playing surfaces back up, and from there, a fantastic story is told.