Play Undertale Before It Leaves Xbox Game Pass Next Week
You are filled with determination.
Most RPGs have conditioned us to kill. Undertale encourages us to do the opposite. Toby Fox, the solo developer behind the indie RPG, created a rare game that suggests an alternative to fighting. It teaches us early on that the choices we make have consequences in a weirdly less gamified yet still gamified experience that shifted the lens for what an RPG is. That’s even more of a reason you should play it on Xbox Game Pass before it leaves on March 15, 2023.
Undertale seems simple at a glance: The player character drops into a monster-filled from who-knows-where. Toriel, the game’s iconic “goat mom,” scoops them up and tries to teach them about how to be nice to the other monsters. It’s up to you to take that advice or not. I know I didn’t, seeing as the next monster I ran into tried to shoot me.
Pokémon, Persona, Final Fantasy, and almost every other RPG series on the market revolve around a system where players fight enemies without asking where that XP really comes from. What exactly happens to the monster you defeat? Do they have feelings? Those are all questions that Undertale tackles (and answers) in its short 2- to 3-hour campaign. Well, it’s only two or three hours if you only experience one ending. You really need at least two playthroughs to see a difference in the endings, so maybe it counts as six hours.
Undertale has three main endings: Neutral, Genocide, and Pacifist. Many players will get the Neutral route on their first try, if they didn’t realize that hurting monsters was a taboo thing to do. Neutral also has multiple small differences in dialogue, depending on who the player befriended and how many monsters they defeated. Genocide and Pacifist require more investment. In Genocide, you have to defeat every creature possible. In Pacifist, you need to spare each character instead. Each of these routes also has an alternate ending depending on if you completed one or the other first.
Instead of attacking a creature, you might pet, compliment, or flirt with it. Then, once disarmed, you can spare it. That gimmick alone isn’t what made Undertale such a widely beloved RPG, though.
The characters, writing, and soundtrack come together to tug at the heartstrings of its players. Sans and Papyrus play the funny bones duo that the player meets in their first monster town, but even they have their own touching lines spoken in the direst situations. Undyne is a comically passionate soldier. Still, her drive might impress even her most unfeeling opponents (sometimes, you).
You’ll come across some lines worth thinking about, no matter the ending you reach. Some characters have even gone on to become internet memes, enough that even those who haven’t played Undertale might recognize. I’m looking at Burgerpants, who apparently can’t go to hell because he’s all out of vacation days, and Napstablook, who likes to lie on the floor after a big meal and feel like garbage.
I still think about the main character, staring at themself in the mirror. The text reads, “Despite everything, it’s still you.”