It’s astonishing but perhaps understandable that in the brief two seasons Twin Peaks was on the air, it still managed to leave an impression that would be felt for literally decades to come. The atmosphere, aesthetic, surrealism, and character writing of the show hit the audience like a stone in a pond, the waves rippling outward and affecting several artistic mediums, from music and literature, to film, and even to videogames. Twin Peaks inspired art is, in a way, a befitting and symbolic homage to the show’s many repeating themes and leitmotifs, contributing to them by its very existence. With that in mind, there are several games out there that manage to capture the essence of what made Twin Peaks so hypnotically appealing. Here are nine you should give a try if you’re trying to recapture that magic.
Obviously the game that borrows the most heavily from Twin Peaks, Deadly Premonition is like a fever dream you had after binge watching the TV series. Some familiar elements are present, others are completely changed, but at its heart it retains the most important element of Twin Peaks’ creative identity: its lovable characters and endearing bizarreness. With its outdated graphics, campy cut scenes, and archaic gameplay conventions, it somehow also mirrors the remote isolation of small town living, especially with the added tedium of Agent Francis Morgan York’s daily routine and laborious commutes. In total, Deadly Premonition is probably the closest we’ll ever get to a Twin Peaks game, so enjoy it for what it is.
Alan Wake’s likeness to Twin Peaks hinges mostly on setting, and some of the Easter eggs scattered throughout the game. Players will find the Cascade Mountains-inspired locale to be unsettling in a deeply familiar way. The tone of the story itself is more Stephen King than David Lynch but there’s still supernatural elements, unanswered questions, and disturbing imagery throughout. The game is also a solid representation of an authentic Pacific Northwest environment.
Life is Strange
Life is Strange is far more conventional than Twin Peaks in terms of telling a character-driven story; its key players are fairly normal people but the emotions surrounding the events of the game are intense, almost devastating. Littered with Easter eggs and small references to Twin Peaks, the experience only touches on the TV series in a distant way. But for those who enjoy the unique twilight and imposing forested grandeur of the Pacific Northwest woods, and an emotionally driven gaming experience, Life is Strange is perfect in all the same ways Twin Peaks is. Hopefully the sequel, which was just revealed by publisher DONTNOD, will mirror its quality.
The Vanishing of Ethan Carter
While character driven and high on atmospheric appeal, at the heart of Twin Peaks was also an enticing, almost addicting, mystery. So addicting, in fact, it drove Twin Peaks to a hasty end. In The Vanishing of Ethan Carter, players get both the beauty of a temperate forest and a set of unanswered questions too tempting not to unravel, mirroring some of what made the series so addicting.
A strong current of supernatural dread courses beneath Oxenfree’s naturalistic teen dialogue almost from the start, as an unknowable evil lurks in its woods as much as in Twin Peaks’s. Like the demon spirit BOB, it even manifests itself by possessing the bodies of those who trespass on its island. Oxenfree might lack the surrealism and metacommentary you expect from a David Lynch production, but it has the ominous part down pat. —Garrett Martin
What Remains of Edith Finch
I can sum up the appeal of What Remains of Edith Finch in three words: setting, setting, setting. Like Alan Wake, this game pays masterful attention to detail in depicting the Pacific Northwest wood. They do it so well, in fact, that as a Washington State native I can even identify many of the plants. If it’s local authenticity you seek, What Remains of Edith Finch is the perfect atmospheric play.
Surrealism in games often boils down to fractured images and disjointed mechanics that confound what the player expects, with little interest in telling a perceptible narrative. More than perhaps any game on this list, Virginia aims to tell an actual story, but its extensive use of smash cuts and dream-like imagery makes it feel as surreal as almost anything Lynch has ever made. With an FBI agent lead and a mystery that may or may not be connected to aliens, Virginia could be a distant relative to Twin Peaks, but it so fully establishes its own world and goals that it never feels like an imitator. —Garrett Martin
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Deadly Premonition isn’t the only Japanese game to be inspired by Twin Peaks. Though less far less obvious than the connections in Deadly Premonition, The Legends of Zelda: Link’s Awakening was still impacted by the show, particularly the depth of its characters in relation to the size of the town. Says director Takashi Tezuka, in an episode of Iwata Asks:
“I was talking about fashioning Link’s Awakening with a feel that was somewhat like Twin Peaks. At the time, Twin Peaks was rather popular. The drama was all about a small number of characters in a small town. So when it came to Link’s Awakening, I wanted to make something that, while it would be small enough in scope to easily understand, it would have deep and distinctive characteristics.”
It may not evoke the setting of Twin Peaks, or its surreal imagery, but on some level, it still understands the show’s identity, making it worth another playthrough.
Kentucky Route Zero
Of all the games on this list, Kentucky Route Zero arguably is the best at depicting the atmospheric tone of Twin Peaks, despite not being set in Washington State at all. It makes sense, then, that writer and design of Kentucky Route Zero Jake Elliott has said that the show was an inspiration for him and co-creator Tamas Kemenczy, particularly in tone. If you want to feel haunted in a way that Twin Peaks achieved, Kentucky Route Zero is a great choice.
Holly Green is the associate editor of Paste Games and a reporter, editor, and semiprofessional photographer living in Seattle, WA. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.