Undertale is a game that a lot of people don’t like because a lot of people do. Its rabid fanbase poured free from the boundaries of Tumblr and /r/undertale and into mainstream social media. Undertale is everywhere, with memes made out of its most famous lines and moments adapted to other games and aspects of pop culture. If you weren’t yet a fan of Undertale in the months following its release in September 2015, you probably had a bad time.
I played Undertale sometime around the turn of March, after the initial hype died down. Before that, I heard it all. How Undertale, despite its apparent Earthbound-esque simplicity, is deceptively complex and clever. How it subverts traditional role-playing game tropes, manipulating player expectations of what an RPG should be. How it uses its gameplay systems, primarily combat, to further its theme and story. Characters supposedly develop just as much as they do through overworld text as they do through their attacks and actions in battle.
Let me be clear. Subversion is nothing new in video games. In a world with releases like The Stanley Parable, Spec Ops: The Line and the more recent Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and the Terrible Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist, subversion is almost expected from darling indie releases. What makes Undertale special is that it operates on an interactive level. It is effective in the same ways as The Stanley Parable: you have the freedom of choice. It doesn’t seem heavy handed when the game isn’t making you do anything you don’t want to do.