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Return Of The Obra Dinn is the perfect recommendation for folks who don't play games

Is your granny a Miss Marple fan? She’ll love this merchant murder mystery

A skeleton lies on the deck of a ship while the player holds out a stopwatch in Return Of The Obra Dinn, with the RPS 100 logo in the top right corner
Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/3909

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve recommended people play Return Of The Obra Dinn. It's the one game I'm confident recommending to anyone to folks who play games frequently, but also to those who don't. My biggest triumph was recommending it to my dad, a 62-year-old retired manufacturing manager from Wales, who loved it so much he not only recommended it to a friend (who also loved it) but also said my mum should try it too - and I agree! It’s all subjective of course, but for me, its banger of a story, accessible it is, and how you can practically run it on a potato make it a wonderful gateway into gaming in general.

When recommending Obra Dinn, the story sells itself. A mysterious merchant ship floats to shore after missing for six months and it’s your job to find out not only what happened to it, but also figure out the tragic ends of each member of its sixty-person crew. Every. Single. Person. It's one hell of a hook, and will pull the ear of any mystery fan. It's got plenty of twists and turns, but also thrills and chills. It’s basically Jonathan Creek set in 1802.

Sailors brandish guns below deck in Return Of The Obra Dinn
Image credit: 3909

Return Of The Obra Dinn is also pretty easy to get to grips with. If Grandma knows how to use a computer mouse, she’s halfway there. Teach her WASD, ESC, TAB and that’s the entire control scheme. There are some shortcuts here and there (using A + D to flick through the book’s pages instead of your mouse), but ultimately that’s it. Gaming literacy is minimal in Obra Dinn, and with no complex systems to learn, enemies to worry about, or time pressures to contest with, Grandma will be bookmarking her Miss Marple book for the foreseeable future.

Hardware-wise, you can practically run this game on a Tamagotchi as Obra Dinn’s only 2GB to install, making it very friendly for laptop users. It also has lots of accessibility options, including different colour options if its monochrome colour palette feels like an attack on your eyeballs, as well as remappable controls, text visibility options, subtitles, clearly navigated maps and more. If you’d like a more in-depth analysis of Obra Dinn's accessibility, Family Gaming Database has an extremely helpful page with a detailed description.

If you’re worried about not being smart enough to crack this mystery nut, there are also plenty of in-game tools to help you too. Each character has a ‘triangle rating’ showing how difficult they are to solve, with one triangle being easy and three being difficult. You best leave that pesky three triangle profiles until the very end. There are also maps that detail how its events unfolded.

The result of all these elements smushed together is a smart, riveting mystery that is within everyone's reach. When I feel like I’ve fallen out of games, this is the one that makes me fall in love with them all over again. I want everyone to play it, even if it’s just to debate how difficult it was to identify those three Russians! It can’t have been just me, right?

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