Read the Manual!

Onion Games released Moon on Switch today and I‘ve been excited to play it for a while now. One thing that grabbed me in their launch newsletter was the note to read the game manual before you play. I’m not sure if I‘ve seen a studio ask this before. Back in the day, you’d usually learn that you'd need the manual in order to play (especially with ~80s PC games).


So in this thread, let's list games that you need the manual to play/enjoy.

Several NES RPGs. Notably - The Legend of Zelda. Knowing the story, what items are in the game and how do defeat certain enemies is pretty necessary otherwise it's more obtuse than a Souls game.

Oh, neat!

_Chulip_, which is also a Yoshiro Kimura work, heavily incentivizes use of it's manual. The more I see of Moon it definitely looks to carry a few similar concepts, so I'm looking forward to starting it.

Different thing but related so I'll mention it anyway, _Flower, Sun, and Rain_ is one of my favorite games and makes use of an in-game tourist guide to solve puzzles. There was also a physical version of the guide released back when the original PS2 version came out. Even though it probably would have been much more restrictive, it's the kinda thing I wonder if they could have just condensed into being the game's manual.


'The Homeworld 1 Manual was a 115 page book delivered with Homeworld. Manual was available both in pdf version on CD or printed, depending on edition.

It included a Historical and Technical Briefing (pages 1-39), a Gameplay Guide (pages 40-115), and a 2 page Quick Reference Card."

A personal favorite. It didnt really do anything particularly groundbreaking but you could tell it had a high level of effort put into it, and that was appreciated. It was laregly written in a way that allowed you to enjoy it as it it was a fictional in-universe briefing document, with discussions of strategy and micromanagement sometimes being conveyed as discussions between two military admirals. So the manual by itself ends up being it's own little 100+ page work of diagetic fiction, a mini sci-fi novel. Something more substantial than what youd usually finish reading in the car on the drive home from the store.

Xenoblade X kind of notoriously has a battle system so complicated, obtuse and poorly explained in-game that without downloading and carefully reading its digital 142-page manual you are pretty much resigning yourself to never being able to fully comprehend it, even after 100+ hours of play time.

@2501#5339 Thanks! Saved for later!

Space Shuttle A Journey Into Space - Atari 2600

Lots of the more complex Atari games are pretty unplayable without the manual. This one is on another level. has the manual:

And you can play it in browser. It's no Flight Simulator 2020, but incredibly impressive for it's time.

@hellomrkearns#5347 I should dig into the 2600 games on the Internet Archive. I‘ve been fascinated by Raiders of the Lost Ark’s use of two controllers for a long time.

@2501#5339 This might be the strongest sell I've seen for pulling my Wii-U out of the closet. Always wanted to play X, but never had a chance.

I love how succinct pinball rule sheets are. They all have to fit in the same post card sized space on the bottom left of the table.

In the old days you needed the manual with some code or whatever to be able to start up some games to prove you were not playing a pirated copy so there is that.

@Fishie#5369 my favorite example of this is Pool of Radiance's copy protection wheel:


@airconditioner#5364 X is… very strange and unfinished, but with no remaster on the horizon you might as well play it now while the servers for the tertiary online features are still up. The open world map is one of the best ever, and once the game actually lets you pilot mechs (which, fair warning, is several dozen hours in) it becomes an absolute thrill to traverse.

Chulip (also a Yoshiro Kimura game!) had a pretty robust manual with a walkthrough for how to kiss all the characters. Considering that game was basically unplayably difficult without a walkthrough, that was a pretty good idea too. There was a typo in it that I remember finding incredibly frustrating at the time, though.

Also Seaman had a ton of weird Japan-only books released around it. Interesting stuff imo.

My kids love reading manuals from the 8/16 bit eras and games that are inspired by them. They get the same fascination out of learning about enemy names and Birdo’s gender dysphoria that my friends and I did 30 years ago.