In the last article, Progression and Emergence: Two Modes of Play, we discussed the difference between emergence and progression in games. Emergence is when a game has few rules but many variations, and progression is when a game has many predefined challenges that are ordered sequentially. The forms of emergence and progression in a game are highly dependent on the game genre. Since we’re a RPG site, we’ll be focusing on RPGs!

Computer RPGs immerse the player in a fictional world. The player assumes the role of a character or many characters (a party) and develops them while progressing through the game narrative. Many elements of RPGs are that of progression, where the designer dictates the story and the challenges the player must face. But in RPGs, the player is often afforded many different resources with which to build their characters and face the challenges in the game. This leads to more emergent elements like player strategies in building their characters and also in encounters with obstacles and enemies.

To fully explore the two elements of play in RPGs, we’ll break them down into three categories: game mechanics, game world and game story.



In RPGs, the storyline dictates where the player has to go next, but the player has many different options on how to tackle obstacles along the way. These options typically come in the form of resources such as player level, equipment and skills.

Like chess, the complexity in RPG mechanics does not come from its individual parts. A steel sword or level 3 fireball spell are simple in themselves, just as a pawn on a chessboard is. The complexity rises from the many interactions between all the parts. These interactions usually take place in the form of combat against players and enemies.

In combat, the player’s goal is to defeat the enemies, usually by reducing their health to 0. To do this, the player must attack them using the actions available to them, while also mitigating damage received by the enemies. This is where feedback loops come into play.

In most cases, attacking an enemy is a positive feedback loop because it lowers its health. Being attacked by an enemy is a negative feedback loop, since it lower’s the character’s health. If the all the character’s health reach 0 the player loses the encounter. Negative feedback tends to prolong battles since the player has to mitigate the damage received either by dampening it, reversing it or avoiding it altogether.

The more resources available to the player in and out of combat, the more complex the game becomes, leading to more emergent behavior. Because there is often more than one solution to a encounter, RPGs have strategy guides instead of walkthroughs.



RPG worlds tend to be usually larger than most players can grasp all at once. So not to overwhelm the player, most RPGs begin with a tutorial section, where they can teach the player the rules in a relatively safe environment. More advanced mechanics are then introduced as the player progresses through the world.

Sections of the world will often be blocked off until a specific condition is met. This is to keep the player from experiencing the story out of sequence or from facing challenges they don’t have the resources for. As conditions are met by the player, the world will open up, allowing more exploration and story progression. In Western RPGs, the world is usually open from the start with fewer restrictions than Japanese RPGs. The open world creates more emergence since its difficult to define every path a player can take.

RPGs benefit though from having locations that are structured around completing a sequence of objectives, such as dungeons. Dungeons tend to have more interesting gameplay since they are more structured. Dungeons can also facilitate exploration on a smaller scale, with optional paths and challenges that reward the player.



RPGs can be thought of as spatial stories. Most of the plot unfolds as the player progresses through the game world. Some RPGs have temporal elements, such as a day/night system, but these rarely have a large impact on the narrative.

Most of the interesting elements of the story comes from the dialog between the characters. These sequences are usually static but when they are interactive they can form “dialog trees”. Dialog trees offer the player choices in how the sequence will progress. Sometimes these choices just come down to player preference. Other times it can open up new scenarios or close off others. The most dire can kill off a party member. These can be interesting interactions, but are not emergent since all choices are predefined.

In terms of emergence, there have been far less advances in game stories compared to game mechanics and worlds. RPG stories are tightly structured to offer a certain experience. Even in open world RPGs, the main story or quest line of the game follows a sequence that needs to be completed to “win” the game. Most emergence comes from the player’s story or experience and not the game narrative itself.


In general, Western RPGs are games of emergence and Japanese RPGs are games of progression, but combine aspects of both in their design to create a compelling game experience. Which do you prefer? Leave a comment and let us know!

In the next article in the series, we’ll explore desirable emergence and non-desirable emergence with specific game examples from series like Fable and Final Fantasy.


When you talk about a RPG, you often describe it as linear or non-linear. These tend to be general descriptions and don’t account for the fact that many linear games have non-linear elements and vice versa. It’s more useful to describe them as games of progression or games of emergence. Most video games fall somewhere in-between the spectrum of these two types of play. But what is the difference between the two?

Mass Effect

Mass Effect is an example of a progression game


Progression games are relatively new and did not appear until the rise of the video game. In progression games, the player has to perform a predefined set of actions set by the designer in order to win or progress. These games offer a controlled experience and are often seen in games with storytelling ambitions such as RPGs (Mass Effect, Final Fantasy) and adventure games (Secret of Monkey Island, King’s Quest).

Progression games have walkthroughs instead of strategy guides. Walkthroughs detail all of the player actions required to complete the game.

Since there is not much variation in games of progression they don’t have a lot of replay value. They also are usually single player.


Minecraft creative mode is an example of an emergence game


Emergence games have a small number of rules that yield a large amount of game variations. These games can be thought of as being larger than the sum of their parts. Emergence is the original game structure and can be found in most games that require strategy. Examples include Chess, Texas Hold-Em and Monopoly.

Video games that focus on emergence can be thought of more as “play spaces” than games. Goals are often set by the player and not the designer. As such, there is no win condition. Simulation games (The Sims, Minecraft) and sandbox games (GTA) have a lot of emergent play.

One way to tell if a game is a game of emergence or progression is whether it has a strategy guide or a walkthrough. Strategy guides offer good strategies for situations encountered during play. If a game allows for strategies that lead to interesting interactions, then the game is typically considered a good game. Games with “dominant strategies” become limited and dull since they narrow the amount of options down to a few. Extreme examples are games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Connect 4 where by using the best strategy the player can ensure they never lose. In this sense, those games have been “solved”.

In game development, emergence is also a term used for player interactions in a game that the designers did not expect. These actions or behaviors can be labeled either as “desirable emergence” or “non-desirable emergence”. Desirable emergence is when the player discovers an interaction that improves the overall experience. If this is found in the testing phase, it is often implemented into the game as a new feature. Non-desirable emergence is when the interaction makes the experience less enjoyable either for the player or other players. These can be referred to as exploits, glitches or cheats and can easily ruin an otherwise good game. There are lots of examples of theses in RPGs which I’ll cover in a future article.

Because of the wide array of options, games of emergence have high replay value. Many emergent games are also multiplayer and competitive.

In the next article in this series, we’ll explore PROGRESSION AND EMERGENCE IN RPGS.

Do you prefer games of emergence or games of progression? Post a comment.

For further reading, refer to Jesper Juul’s “The Open and the Closed: Games of Emergence and Games of Progression


When RPG Maker does Steam’s Mid Week Madness, we don’t mess around. We go all the way. So what’s in the sale? EVERYTHING!rmvxarmxpAlwaysSometimesMonsterslabyrinthineskybornlordoftwilightDeadlySin2comipo

Thinking about picking up the makers on Steam? Done and Done.

Want to grab some expansion packs? There are too many to even link in the sale!

All of our previous RPG Maker content is 75% off! And on top of that, we are introducing 10 BRAND NEW PACKS to Steam for 30% off!

Or maybe you want to play some games! We still have you covered.

Included in the RPG Maker Mid Week Madness are NINE  great games made with RPG Maker, from 50%-75% off!

Or maybe you want to make your own Manga? Well nothing gets past us!

We also have all things Manga Maker ComiPo! on Sale! Including 3 new packs!

Also make sure to keep your eyes on our Facebook and Twitter for some Mid Week Madness giveaways and contests!


I want to touch on something that is not DIRECTLY related to RPG Maker, but more about gaming as a culture. I mean, I believe its safe enough to assume that most people make games because they love games, so let’s get started.

There has been a lot of articles out there. Many of them telling us how its the end of the line for the gamer identity.

Let’s start by saying this: I’m a gamer. I ended up working doing this primarily because I am a gamer, and I love games and the design of games. Video games, board games, tabletop RPG games, I love them all. (I even like sports, which, are really just games with physical activity). One of the centerpieces of my house is the game room which has massive shelves full of board games, RPG books, and video game and other geek paraphernalia. I even have my physical box copy of RPG Maker VX Ace up there because I was so happy to see it come out in a physical box. The only things I’ve even done this week are work and absolutely destroying Final Fantasy X-2 HD.

You know, admitting this game might be one of my favorite of all time is probably going to catch me as much heat as the gamers are over guys got.

You know, admitting this game might be one of my favorite of all time is probably going to catch me as much heat as the “Gamers Are Over” journalists got.

And whatever gaming journalism wants to say, I’m not going to stop being a gamer or calling myself a gamer. And no one else should either.

This isn’t about being angry at people for criticizing individuals in gaming culture. I’m right there with them on that. There are people who have been legitimately harassed, and the people who do it should be ashamed. And shamed. In fact, I think if gamers as a whole spent half the time they do yelling “not all gamers” to anyone making blanket statements about us actually criticizing those who are giving us a bad reputation, we would probably be a lot better off. We can criticize opinions without harassing anyone.

Don’t we actually want debate? Don’t we actually want a climate where we can discuss ideas calmly and rationally and come to conclusions and have those conclusions challenged intellectually rather than with insults? Debate is wonderful, but there are some loud, hopefully minority, voices on all sides in nearly every online argument that seem to make any rational debate impossible due to their immature approaches.

And that’s the thing. I like to believe that the vast majority of us, though at times less loud when things blow up, are good, decent people. We have our bad eggs, without a doubt, but is it really any more than the rest of society? I’m not sure to be honest, but I’m hopeful in saying that it isn’t.

And its hard to be caught in the crossfire when you aren’t “part of the problem.” Like I said, I’m a gamer. I get it. I’ve been a gamer since the time when being a gamer was something the nerds did. I played D&D and spent all my time on a computer back in a time when that didn’t make you your standard imgurian/redditor, it made you the dork. I know how easy it is to want to circle the wagons when you feel like you are being picked on. And being told part of my identity is dead because everyone in that identity is a scumbag really feels like an attack.

Yes, I had the Black Border editions. Please don't make fun of me over it, Grognards. ;_;

Yes, I had the Black Border editions. Please don’t make fun of me over it, Grognards. ;_;

But instead of circling the wagons and firing on them, why not instead just let them in. We don’t have to yell at those who insult us. We don’t have to tell them how wrong they are. We don’t have to fill their twitter feeds and comment sections up with a bunch of vitriol. And honestly, with news pages, that is just what they want anyway, attention.

Instead, lets just show them who we are. Decent, normal folk whose hobbies just happen to be games. I would like for all of you to join us in our #ProudGamer initiative. On Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other online service you use, tell everyone something about your relationship with gaming and that you are a #ProudGamer. Lets not attack anyone over how wrong they are. Some bad apples gave them reason to think we are all bad, lets not sink to the level to prove them right.

And now back to Final Fantasy X-2. The game isn’t going to destroy itself.


by Volrath

There’s a school of thought that says characters are defined by what they do, not what they say. This may be true, but I find it only applies to characterization in a very broad way. It’s a good way to look at a character’s overall arc in a story, but not when it comes to the little details that make a character in an RPG (or any other game where story is a key part of the experience) really memorable. For that, you need dialogue.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that dialogue is one of the hardest parts of the whole game-making process to them. I’ve also heard a lot of players complain about forgettable dialogue in RM games. Why is this? Well, I think part of the issue is that a lot of gaming conventional wisdom inadvertently downplays the value of good dialogue. Have you ever heard someone say “I’m playing a game, not reading a book!” Obviously that’s a true statement, but you can easily take away a message that text, particularly dialogue, doesn’t need much effort since the gameplay is so much more important.

More problematic is the philosophy that “every piece of dialogue in the game should be conveying key information about playing the game to the player.” On the one hand, there’s some sense in that. We don’t want the characters endlessly babbling about minutia like some independent film. But on the other hand, have you seen what happens when this philosophy is strictly put into practice? Boring, stilted dialogue. When characters only communicate with instructions to the player, it sounds incredibly awkward because that’s not how people talk!

Dialogue is key to satisfying characterization. A game with a likeable cast will have them talk to each other in ways that offer insight into their personalities. In that sense, it does convey important information to the player, just not in regard to the actual gameplay. This takes careful thought and takes a while to learn. Practice makes perfect, but I have a few strategies to help you along in the meantime.

Fire magic is WAY better than ice magic! What are you talking about?!

Fire magic is WAY better than ice magic! What are you talking about?!

Characters should argue. Arguing is one of the most effective tools in characterization. You can tell a lot about someone by how they argue. Are they curious to hear other points of view? Do they feel the need to shut down differing opinions immediately? Do they resort to petty insults to distract from the fact that they are losing? Do they shut down immediately due to fear of conflict? This kind of stuff gives lots of insight.

Also, I’m not talking about silly arguments like a girl getting mad at a guy because she thinks he’s checking out her butt. I’m talking about meaty arguments about tough issues in the game’s world. Our world has plenty, after all. Why do you think we discourage threads about politics or religion on the forums? Because they get people very riled up and hostile. What are the issues that provoke these reactions within your game’s world? Having your characters argue is also good for world-building.

Being turned into a frog comes with strange speech-related side effects...

Being turned into a frog comes with strange speech-related side effects…

Characters should speak differently. There’s a couple of ways to do this. One is to give your characters different accents, which is usually fun. Another is to come up with certain speech mannerisms for each of them. Think about people you know in real life. If you’ve spent a lot of time with them, chances are you’ve noticed certain words or phrases they use a lot. Creating a sense of familiarity, like having your player think “there he goes with that phrase again, what a weirdo” or something to that effect, increases the involvement with the characters.

Think about the Star Wars prequels. One of the main complaints a lot of people had was that most of the characters all sounded like suits at a stockbroker’s meeting (except Jar Jar Binks – annoying as he was, he certainly had a memorable way of speaking). Contrast that with the original films, where you have the mixture of Luke Skywalker’s farmboy naiveté, Han Solo’s roguish wit, Princess Leia’s bossiness, C-3PO’s prissy mannerisms and two characters that communicated in growls and beeps. It was fun to watch them interact because they all spoke in distinctly different ways.

Edit. I’ve been encouraging you to put more thought into dialogue, but that doesn’t mean going too crazy. It’s good to develop a sense of when a scene should end. It took me a while to get good at this. I look back at some of my old stuff and while I think most of the dialogue is decent, a lot of conversations take their sweet time ending. For some reason, I felt that after the meaty stuff had been said, the conversation still had to wind down the way a lot do in real life. “Okay, I guess we’re done.” “See you at lunch.” “Right, see you.” This stuff doesn’t add anything and is just excess fat. Trim it.

So what do you think makes for good dialogue? Any other tips? What games have the best dialogue? Let us know!


While RPG Maker has RPG right there in the title, a lot of people use our software to make other styles of games. I’ve seen all kinds of games made in RPG, from turn based strategy to platformers to scrolling shooters. But the most popular type of game made with RPG Maker outside of RPGs is very clearly, adventure games.

And I like adventure games. My first introduction to the genre was through the NES games Uninvited and Shadowgate, and its a genre I’ve kept an eye on since then.

The problem though, having played quite a few RPG Maker Adventure games, is that a lot of people seem to miss the goals of an adventure game. Adventure games have three major goals: Story, Exploration, and Thinking. So let’s talk about those goals:


The story in a Adventure game can be pretty complex, but to be honest, it actually doesn’t have to be. The aforementioned Uninvited and Shadowgate both have a very basic story

The entire story is pretty much: This guy is a bad guy, you are at his castle, find him and kill him.

The entire story is pretty much: This guy is a bad guy, you are at his castle, find him and kill him.

In the other direction, you can have complex narratives that don’t have to be bound by the same arbitrary combat pacing as most types of games.

The important part of the story in Adventure games is that it has to be enough to give context to the gameplay. This is true of all games, but in the case of Adventure games, story will drive the gameplay more than any other. Your first consideration should be what is the story. How does this story challenge the main character. How do these challenges translate into good adventure gameplay.

Some games can be designed gameplay first, but not Adventure games. Always start with story.

And the type of story that works best for Adventure games (though other kinds can work as well) is something that involves mystery and problem solving, and the reason for that is:


In an Adventure game, you want the player to be exploring. Now, while you are probably thinking of exploring as in locations, there are plenty of other ways to “explore” a gamespace.

A player, for instance, could be exploring the background of the story. Finding out information that will help him understand the motives of another character, or where he might find an object he is looking for. Exploration is about finding things. Finding tools, finding information.

Sometimes the exploration doesn’t even have to add directly to the adventure itself. Sometimes, you can instead give information just to flesh out the world, to help the player better immerse themselves in the landscape, as well as offering up a few red herrings to keep the players on their toes. And when its time to weed out those red herrings form the valuable information, and use those tools we’ve found, there needs to be:


This is where a lot of Adventure games go wrong. They automate too much. You have X in your inventory, OK, it is automatically used when you click on Y. You find a plank, it is put down to get across a crevice. You find a key, it fits a lock.

Resist the urge to make it this simple! Adventure games should be about thinking. Take the absolutely wonderful Sanitarium as an example.

Also, a bit of a creepy game.

Also, a bit of a creepy game.

All the items and information you learn doesn’t necessarily have any immediate or obvious use. Sometimes you have to combine items, sometimes you have to get a clue in conversation that leads you to asking someone else about something important. Sometimes you learn a whole bunch of clues from a whole bunch of characters that you have to add up to get the answer. And one of the most important things, is the game doesn’t let you just click on an object and you automatically use the right item.

Every time you use an item, you have to specifically select the item. This means you can’t just randomly click everywhere. You have to THINK your way through the situation using the items you have. If I use this Giant metal cross and attach it with jumper cables to that engine, and put gas in it using this hose, I can turn it on and electrocute this space plant. None of this “I use the plank on the crevice”.

Real. Thought. Please. Always. Try to make your player actually THINK to play your game if you are trying to make an Adventure game. Either through creative use of information and items, puzzles, or BOTH. Both is even better.

Does anyone else have any suggestions for adventure games made in RPG Maker? Or like to suggest some RPG Maker games that get it right? Join us in the comments section below!


Every time someone plays your game, a lot of their opinion is going to be formed within the first few minutes of play, and since we are drowning in media options, it may be the ONLY opinion they will develop of your game. Having played a ton of games in the last month during contest judging, I got a lot of chances to think about what gives me a very sour initial impression of a game, so I thought I’d share them with you.

1. Introduction Length

I know I’ve talked about introductions before, mostly to complain about scrolling text, but there are way worse sins in an intro than scrolling text, and the two biggest ones are in being TOO LONG, or TOO SHORT.

When the intro is too long, I start getting sleepy, just want to mash the buttons to make text go faster, and miss out on information because I feel like it is being fed to me by having it dumped on me like shovels full of manure. Get in there, tell the information you need, then start the game already!

But then people take that advice way too far. And we end up with a game with an incredibly short, or even NO intro at all. I played several games where I was just dropped into a situation, no dialogue, no context. I not only didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing, I didn’t know why I was supposed to be doing it. I just had to wander around until I hopefully figured something out.

The Game That Gets It Right: Final Fantasy VII

4waysYou see a few quick cinematic scenes that set the mood, then BAM, Cloud is jumping off a train and the game is on. This is an intro.

2. Not Teaching Me To Play the Game

Look. Everyone hates tutorials when they know how to play, but don’t go too far the other way either. Tutorial levels exist for a reason. And with PC Games? It gets even more important. With a controller, I only have so many buttons to try out to experiment with how to do things.

But seriously, when I’m playing on the PC and you don’t even give me an option to look at the control assignments? You are failing at your job. A standard keyboard has 101 keys. Then I have a mouse and 2 more buttons on that. I don’t have the time to hit every one trying to figure out what works what. You have to TELL me somehow.

The Game That Gets It Right: Mega Man X

4ways2The intro stage to Mega Man X is probably one of the best Intro stages ever made. It teaches you to play, and it does it fast. Everyone should play the first stage of this game just to learn from it.

3. Spelling and Bad Grammar

Nothing, seriously, NOTHING turns me off to a game faster than it being obviously written by someone with a terrible grasp of the English language. (Obviously, if the game is meant to be in English. If not, I couldn’t tell you if it was bad anyway).


I know that in the RPG Maker scene, we come from all around the world. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with people from all the permanently inhabited continents, and with English being a second language for a lot of people, their grasp is not perfect, and that is NOT their fault. Learning a second language is not the easiest thing.

BUT, that isn’t an excuse for releasing a game with bad spelling and grammar. If you can’t edit your game FIND SOMEONE WHO CAN. Search the forums, make friends. Find someone who can write English well.

The Game That Gets It Right: Pretty Much Every Modern Pro Game

Outside of the Classic days (Hi, Zero Wing). This just isn’t something that happens in modern pro gaming. And it shouldn’t happen in amateur game making either.

4. Where’s the Gameplay?

Every single time I sit down to play a game… I want to play a game. Now yes, there are other considerations. I love good stories. I love good art. I love good music. But I can experience all of those things in movies. The difference in playing a game is that its a GAME. I want gameplay.

And I don’t want to play through a lengthy portion of walking around and talking to people before I even get to it. Introduce your core gameplay early and regularly. Don’t save it for after you’ve established the setting, characters, backstory, motivation, etc. Get that gameplay out there so that the player can actually tell what kind of game they are playing!

The Game That Gets It Right: Resident Evil 2


Short cutscene and then BOOM, right into the fire. You start off dodging zombies before you even know what is going on, and after you get to the police station, the puzzles start up immediately.

So what turns you off in games? Ever been guilty of any of mine? Join us in the comments section below.



Tyler Warren is back with another set of whimsical battlers. Inspired by classic games such as Dragon Quest, these battlers are a great addition to any fantasy game. This time, we’re battling dragons! And slimes! And other things that are as weak or as powerful as you can make them.

Click here to read more.


Magnificent Quest is a truly magnificent music pack. Inspired by classic anime and jrpgs, this pack is filled with themes for every area of your game. Composed by Joel Steudler, each theme is of the highest quality. This pack also includes 3 bonus music themes and a whopping 20 MEs.

Click here for samples and more info.


The Emporium of Copper and Steel is a music pack inspired by the Steampunk era. Composed by Murray Atkinson, this incredible pack features themes for any Steampunk adventure, as well as a few hidden gems for the Wild West adventure. Pst! If you’re eagerly awaiting PVGames’ new Wild Steam pack, you will want to be owners of The Emporium of Copper and Steel – they’ll be a perfect fit!

Click here for music samples and more info.


by Artbane

At the time of writing this article, the 2014 Indie Game Maker contest is still underway. There is a $10K grand prize for the best game of any genre. Then prizes are broken down into 1st, 2nd and 3rd between two categories: RPG and Non-RPG. Before the contest I never thought of games broken down like that, but when you’re in a RPG Maker community most of the games you get are going to be RPGs. When I first started following RM that was all there was. But over the years, there’s been a rise in the amount of Non-RPG RPG Maker games coming out.

Horror, adventure, interactive fiction, even shooters! With the addition of the RGSS, almost any genre is possible. Amazingly enough, a lot of the top Non-RPG games were developed before the RM code was even editable! It really demonstrates the versatility of the engine. Many of these games are not very technically advanced. They utilize the map editor and some of the event functions but little else. What usually sets them apart is their excellent narrative and aesthetics. But still…

Why are these developers using RPG Maker?

This probably warrants a deeper analysis than I can give. But if I had to guess, it would be that RPG Maker is a very popular and accessible engine compared to say Unity or even Game Maker. It requires little to no programming experience and most games can be coded entirely through event functions without ever having to break up the script editor. This allows designers, artists, writers and musicians the chance to make a compelling game experience without a huge barrier of entry. The RGSS allows savvy programmers even more freedom to make the game they want.

It didn’t take long for developers to realize that RPG Maker could be used to make more than just RPGs. While the database is setup for RPG style gameplay, it is not necessary to create RM games. You can focus most of development in the map editor. Maps can be crafted using custom tilesets or even parallaxes and pictures created in image editing software like Photoshop or Gimp. Dialogue and cutscenes can be coded via events which give you most of the functionality you need to create a compelling narrative experience.

I’ll discuss why RPG Maker is such a great tool for crafting these types of games in a future post. For now, let’s move on to some actual examples of Non-RPG RPG Maker games!


Horror is the most popular Non-RPG RPG Maker genre. It’s also the most common search related to RPG Maker games. It might be surprising to an observer who hasn’t played these games. One would think it would difficult to create an effective horror game experience in a 2D game engine. But some of these titles illicit more horror than even their high-budget counterparts.

We start with…

Yume Nikki

Yume Nikki

Yume Nikki is a surreal psychological horror adventure game developed by Kikiyama in RM2K3. It was released in 2004 and is one of the most downloaded if not THE most downloaded RPG Maker game of all time.

Players explore the dreams of the character Madotsuki and encounter surreal and disturbing scenes. It’s a real weird and imaginative experience and one of the most influential in the community. It even has its own manga series!

I couldn’t find an official game page but here is a direct download link!



Ib is a horror game created by Kouri with RM2K. This game follows the nine-year old Ib on a visit with her parents to a local art museum. Things soon takes a twisted turn as the lights go out and the pieces of art come to life. The game focuses on exploration and puzzle-solving and has multiple endings.

There is a massive fanbase around this game; especially revolving around one of the protagonists named Garry. Just google image search Ib and see for yourself!

Ib Game Page

Dreaming Mary

Dreaming Mary

A more recent horror game is Dreaming Mary. It was developed by accha in RPG Maker VX Ace Lite which has very limited features. The developer says the game was inspired by Ib and Yume Nikki but is not exactly a horror game. It also has multiple paths that the player can take and it’s possible to circumvent almost all of the horror elements. There is some unsettling subtext for those who are more sensitive.

Dreaming Mary Game Page

Those are just three examples. There are many more amazing horror games out there. Some others I’ve played and enjoyed are The Witch’s House, God of the Crawling Eye, and Rust and Blood.


Horror RM games are very popular not just within the community but on YouTube as well. Unlike their RPG counterparts, they’re shorter and more entertaining to watch. The entertainment value might have something to do though with the player often being a total wuss. Pewdiepie and Markiplier are two of the biggest YouTubers and much of their success is due to their very vocal reactions during horror playthroughs; including RM horror games. Last I checked, Pewds was playing Corpse Party which is a horror series originally created in RPG Maker.


Most of the RM horror games I listed above are very subtle in their creep factor. They play up the dark atmosphere and ambience. Much of the horror comes from the unknown or the uncanny.

In some of these titles there is also a sense of hopelessness or inevitably. Once the mystery is known, the games tend to be less effective. But some titles are so surreal and abstract you are never quite sure of what you’re seeing. And that can be very unsettling.

I’d suggest playing the games listed above and making your own conclusions about why these horror games are so popular.


While I do love RM horror games, there are a few tropes that keep popping up in them that I wish developers would rely less upon.

Ao Oni

Ao Oni

Monster Chases are a popular mechanic in many of these titles. I used to make these back when I first started using RM2K. All the developer has to do is set an event on follow path and player touch, and then when the event touches the player, trigger a game over. Since these are very easy to design they tend to be overused and can be very frustrating. Ao Oni, The Crooked Man and even the commercial version of Corpse Party rely heavily upon these.

Hidden in the Shadows

Hidden in the Shadows

Overuse of spotlight filters is another common problem. I do like these when used well like in SnowOwl’s Rust and Blood and It Moves. Lower visibility means you’re not seeing everything on-screen which taps into that primal fear of something dangerous lurking in the shadows. When used poorly though it becomes fatiguing to figure out where you are going.

Mad Father


Jump scares. Cheap but effective; at least when used in moderation. Typically how these work is the developer takes a disturbing image and then adds it as a picture to overlay the map. I have seen them used in clever ways like in It Moves with one disturbing image that continually gets less transparent and obscures your vision slightly. But really these should be used sparingly.


As I mentioned, there are A LOT of RM horror games out there. If you need more ideas for horror games you can check out the following video

Top 10 Free RPG Maker Horror Games

In the next article I’ll cover more genres of Non-RPG RPG Maker games.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you guys. What do you think of horror RPG Maker games? What are some of your favorites? (If they’re not listed here make sure to leave a download link for other readers to check out!).



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If you’re using software other than RPG Maker, we’ve got some good news! You can pick up a copy of Pixel Myth: Germania for non-RM use, too.

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