Narrative games where you lead the main character

Was listening to the new IC podcast today and Frank talking about how he found the concept of leading the narrative like in Pac-Man 2 interesting reminded me greatly of this article I read this morning:

It got me wondering what other games are out there where you indirectly lead a character around to interact with stuff?

My immediate thought is basically every Lucasarts point-and-click adventure.

At first this seemed like a cop out answer, but thinking more about it there is quite a bit of dialogue in which the main character will admonish you, the player, for asking them to do something impossible or ridiculous. While you are still clearly embodying the main character in these games, there's just enough playfulness where you can imagine that you are leading around someone. They may not have autonomy, per se, but they are occasionally aware of your influence.

Gumshoe on the NES was sort of the non-adventure game variant, where you use the zapper to make the little dude jump and shoot obstacles around him, but he otherwise kinda just does his own thing (mostly in an attempt to accidentally kill himself, as he is very dumb). There was one Japanese PSX game that was similar with the guncon and I wanna say a rabbit?

EDIT: Rescue Shot

The control method doesn’t apply to the protagonist, but the deception games have a roughly similar thing going on

Also that lifeline game for the ps2 where you have to give verbal commands over the mic to the protag

@GeorgeRRFartin#16649 this description reminds me of games like Lemmings and Kirby: Canvas Curse. I could never get into games like this, though…indirect control schemes where inaction will lead to the protagonist(s) dying just causes too much anxiety for me

I'm gonna submit Contact for the DS. At the beginning the scientist character talks to you, the player, and tells you that your actions will directly influence the main character, even warning that you may cause him harm or to die. This is, however, unbeknownst to the main character. I love that kinda stuff in games.

@milo#16662 wow Contact was on the tip of my tongue! I didn’t mention it because, even though you are narratively only indirectly controlling the main character, the mechanics of the game still essentially amount to direct control. This feels more like fourth-wall breaking (like the Lucasarts games I mentioned).

I won't be too critical, thought, because I LOVE this game and do not think it gets the recognition it deserves--any opportunity to discuss Contact is a good one :)


Haha yeah I thought maybe it didn't fit the theme _exactly_, but it was just too close I had to bring it up. And it is indeed a great game!!

The Impossible to spell the first time Republique from the equally impossible to spell the first time Camouflaj is an entire game built around guiding the protagonist with a security system


This is the one I was going to mention but couldnt remeber the name of. I bought it before the episodic content was released and then waited a few years and then played it up through chapter 4 of 5.

I dont remebet why I didn't finish the last chapter but now it waits for me along with Kentucky Route Zero in the "episodic games where I found a reason to put off finishing the last episode", which is a bad habit of mine. Sometime in non-episodic games I'll get to what feels like the final moments before the big boss and then stop. And procrastinate. And then, often, forget. Sometimes out of some perverse desire to not want things to be over because I'm enjoying them so much (maybe knowing theres some kind of robust "new game +" after the ending helps. I did not have this problem with getting the first ending of Neir: Autonoma.)

This “lead a secondary character along” feature was also part of the CoD Modern Warfare embassy level, but very pared down

バザールでござーる/Bazar de Gozarre was a mascot in a charming ad campaign for NEC during the mid 90s, popular enough apparently to warrant a Lemmings-like game on the PCE. You select the actions the monkey takes at certain points in the level and watch the results play out.

@bodydouble#16744 This game is really fun and clever. Made by Pokemon people. The looks, gameplay, menu, and all the fluffs feels like modern mobile puzzle game. Also kind of like STEM programming games that my nieces were playing.

NEC still maintains Bazar de Gozarre website but unfortunately the website content got reduced recently. There used to be a pretty extensive Bazar town thing with tons of animations, databases, and bits that's made in Flash. Not sure anyone saved it. Probably in flash heaven. But they made new cute 2021 calendars so that's cool...

Wonder Project J and J2 are pretty much exactly this. In J you‘re a robotic fairy, and J2 a robotic bird that’s basically just a cursor with a personality. Your goal is to teach and lead around androids Pino and Josette, respectively. They both pretty much control identically to Pacman in Pacman 2. You can scold and praise them when they do something, they‘ll remember and probably avoid/continue/improve on what they did. It’s pretty neat!

Gameplay of Wonder Project J

N64 Works on J2

They're neat! Gorgeous games, fantastic animations, brimming with personality. As N64 Works will mention, it does make me think about Mega Man Legends a lot, or Castle in the Sky, a setting style I'm particularly really fond of.

One mechanic that is kinda cool in concept, but a little frustrating is that the Circuit J, the chip that allows your android to learn and retain information, is limited in capacity, so it is possible for them to un-learn things while they learn new things, so there's incentive to continue helping them learn to preform tasks correctly.

I have litterally never in my life ever heard anyone else talk about this game. I was saving it in case I ever won the “what's that obscure game” thread again, but that‘ll probably never happen. I’d be curious to know if any of you have heard of it or played it before.

You can only directly interact with the spider by rewarding it or punishing it, but the spider remembers and learns and will try to train itself.

You can interact with the environment in ways the spider cant, and you're trying to help it escape the laboratory it was born in.

When you start the game you can chose how pre-trained the AI is. If you pick the setting with the least training you have to litterally help teach the thing how to walk and use its legs, which was a facinating option, but tedious and aggravating. I loaded it up like that once just to see, and I watched as the spider twitched its legs in the starting room. I watch it jerk its legs back and forth rhythmically but make no forward progress, and waited to reward it for taking its first steps. An odd memory. I didnt bother trying to play the game at that setting and instead played with a moderately pre-trained AI.

I would like more "virtual pet" games like this. I think relating to our games and even other kinds of consumer technology in a "tamagachi" like way has not actually been explored nearly as much as it could be.

Edit: I guess "black and white" has some aspects of this, but it also doesn't really feel like that counts because its hard to think of your "pet" as the "main character" in that. It's more like a highly advanced minion that serves you.

@Moon#16836 I had that Galapagos game for the mac. My brother and I could not figure out how to play it. I also remember renting pac man 2 and being completely baffled

@“Moon”#p16836 I have never heard of this, but it reminds me a lot of “Pet in TV”, or I guess a pretty large number of teach-the-robot games.