Writing this review for The Stanley Parable is a bit like trying to write a review for some sort of religious experience. Only people who have played the game are probably going to be able to really grasp the amount of praise I am hoisting upon The Stanley Parable. Given that, I am just going to start off with a big statement.

The Stanley Parable is the most important game of the last 10 years.

That’s saying a lot. There is a lot of contention for a title like “Game of the Decade,” and it wouldn’t be fair for me to just leave it at that. The last 10 years have been filled with games like Bioshock, Half-Life 2, League of Legends, and Civilization IV, and to take this little title and put it up alongside those big hitters is a bit like throwing a little leaguer onto the field with the White Sox. This isn’t an exaggeration at all, but proving it is going to be difficult because so much of the experience of the Stanley Parable is discovery. I can’t say anything about the story, about the gameplay, or about the world and characters without ruining the experience in almost every way. Depending upon the player, this is a game that will challenge how you approach gaming, how you approach decision making, and how you think about reality.

So what, exactly, is The Stanley Parable? The most comprehensive description I can give without ruining the experience is that The Stanley Parable is a story about making choices. You are going to learn that so quickly upon starting that game that I don’t think I can ruin it by saying that. The gameplay, the story, and the characters all form a discussion about choice, both in gaming and in reality.

It might actually be better to say what The Stanley Parable isn’t. First off, this isn’t a game with groundbreaking gameplay. Without the story, the Stanley Parable would be barely passable as a high school programing project. However, this also isn’t just a movie you play, as I have heard some games described. This isn’t like the traditional Japanese visual novel, or wholly narrative experiences like To The Moon. The Stanley Parable is well and truly a game. The way you play it has impact and meaning, and you are not just walking through set pieces and cut scenes.

What makes The Stanley Parable truly unique is that the gameplay and the story are one in the same. This is a game that really doesn’t compare to anything else on the market. In this work of art we finally have a game that has truly taken the medium and made it into the story. In a way it reminds me of Rear Window or Inception in that much as those were movies about movies, The Stanley Parable is a game about games. That sort of self-reflection and self-critique is new ground for a game to be breaking, and only a few other titles have really tried it at all.

Another aspect of the game that makes it amazing is the amazing variety of content contained in a very small package. I feel I have played most of the game at this point (although I’m honestly not sure… and that is part of the fun) and I’ve only put 5 or so hours into it. Gamers are constantly clamoring for more content, to the point where games with 30 or 40 hours of gameplay are normal. However, the Stanley Parable is proof that you can do more with less. I had played through several different play-throughs when I convinced a friend to sit down and play it as I watched. I proceeded to watch him go through several more play-throughs, none of which even remotely resembled my own. He saw different things, heard different dialogue, and had a completely different experience that explored different aspects of gaming and reality.  The game was extremely responsive to style, as well. I could see that the choices he and I made lined up with certain views of gaming and choice, and the dialogue and world responded to those choices in a way that made each choice you made feel impactful. The game is a critique on who we are as gamers and what it is we have come to expect out of gaming, and by the choices we make we are given our own somewhat customized critiques. It’s that responsiveness that pulls The Stanley Parable up into the pantheon of great games. Here we have a game that is truly a statement. It critiques aspects of both the gaming world and the real world, and pushed itself into the realm of media we call “art.”

Where it is different from other “artistic” games, however, is in the way it interacts with us. Many so called “art games” are nothing more than movies masquerading as games. They take a linear story and force the player to walk a single path from beginning to end. It seems like game developers who want to create artistic games or who want to tell complex stories shy away from the medium itself and just try to become directors of a film.

The Stanley Parable owns the medium. It takes pride in being a game, and uses that fact to drive the story and to make the critiques it does. Something like Metal Gear Solid, a game often lauded for its storytelling, could just as easily be a movie. The fact you are making decisions and playing the game has no bearing on how events play out, and the message of the game is not conveyed at all though the gameplay. The Stanley Parable tells its story and conveys its messages entirely through gameplay. Making a movie about it would be like writing a novelization of The Fountain. It would lose all meaning, and just wouldn’t make sense in the medium at all.

So do yourself a favor, and play The Stanley Parable. I try to look at the games I review in a critical light, I try to find flaws in their execution, and I honestly cannot find a single flaw in this game. It is a masterpiece of gaming. It does exactly what it is supposed to do, and it tells its message both subtly and cleanly. Nothing in this game is extraneous, and nothing is missing. If the third time is the charm then I can only assume there were two twisted and deformed incarnations of this game before now. To top it all off, the game is Portal levels of hilarious, and the sharp wit of the dialogue will both sting and have you rolling around in stitches.

Why are you still reading this review even? I’m done, stop paying attention to me. Just go play the game already, and experience it for yourself. You can make the choice to buy The Stanley Parable on Steam for $14.99. It was produced and developed by the team at Galactic Café.

ss_523aa042385c6b1c8f6c9870ecffef18627d9064.1920x1080 Stop it already; the rest of this review doesn’t even exist. In fact you appear to have left the review entirely. Go find your way back to the website, please, so we can get on with this reviewing business.

Overall Score
100 %

The Stanley Parable is comprehensively one of the highest quality and most important games of the decade. Breaking down the score into sub-categories would be meaningless so enjoy having only category for the scoring.

About The Author

David grew up in the Detroit area without becoming a degenerate. He loves exploring the world in every way imaginable. His favorite pastimes include video gaming, board gaming, watching anime, and speaking in the third person.

One Response to The Stanley Parable