Please For The Love Of God Play Zero Escape

Image Source: Zero Escape

My parents were staunchly anti-video games for basically my entire childhood. I was told over and over and over again that video games were evil and would rot my brain. Oddly enough my parents did get me a Nintendo DS, I assume because games like Brain Age made it look educational? Whatever the case, I have so many fond memories of that system, and I’ve played a lot of hidden gems that were swept under the radar by the DS’ absolutely massive library. One such series is Zero Escape, which is a puzzle visual novel with insanely fun escape rooms and, in my opinion, one of the greatest stories in video game history. Hell, one of the greatest stories period.

The first game, 999: 9 Hours 9 Persons 9 Doors was written and directed by Kotaro Uchikoshi in 2009. It follows Junpei, a college student kidnapped by the mysterious Zero who is placed on a sinking ship with 8 other kidnappees. They must solve puzzles scattered throughout the ship, escaping through a door labeled “9” before the ship sinks in 9 hours’ time. Sounds straightforward enough, but there’s much more going on behind the scenes. I shan’t say more because this really isn’t a series you want spoiled for yourself but trust me, this game gets nuts. I love it.

Kotaro Uchikoshi is a master of his craft. His plot twists are perfectly foreshadowed and yet completely unpredictable. His character writing is absolutely top-notch, with characters like Junpei, Akane, Seven, and Luna all holding places in the pantheon of my favorite characters of all time. And oh, don’t even get me started on his villains. Few video game characters make my blood boil quite like [REDACTED], and I could write an entire essay about why [REDACTED 2] is a masterclass in writing morally grey characters. 999 has two sequels: Virtue’s Last Reward and Zero Time Dilemma. Both are a great time but 999 can be played as a standalone as well. A remastered version of 999 is available on Playstation, Xbox, and PC and is bundled with Virtue’s Last Reward as The Nonary Games. Zero Time Dilemma is available on all those platforms as well, as is Kotaro Uchikoshi’s newest series, a spiritual successor of sorts to Zero Escape called AI The Somnium Files. All are absolutely worth a playthrough, and I cannot recommend them enough.