Twin Peaks upped the ante on what a television series could offer with cinematography and storytelling, which up to the early '90s could only be found in theaters. Laura Palmer and the story of her death captured the nation's imagination, but it wasn't only the machinations behind her downfall that made Twin Peaks so intriguing. In fact, Laura's death almost took a backseat to the complications and nuances of the lives of the citizens of Twin Peaks.
Most TV series are content with making the main cast the center of the universe, but Twin Peaks did something more. On the show, every inhabitant of the Pacific Northwest town became a main character, and every one of them felt vital and necessary in a way that few television shows have been able to do since.
Since Twin Peaks debuted in 1990, television writers and directors have been inspired by its eclectic, genre-defying style. Its ability to inspire didn't stop at TV though; there have been quite a few video games that have emulated the off-beat, supernatural stylings of David Lynch's iconic series. Below you can find some of our favorite video games that channel that Lynchian vibe so well you feel like you might be in the town of Twin Peaks.
Alan Wake takes place in and around Bright Falls, a town in the Pacific Northwest that bears more than a little similarity to Twin Peaks. The most obvious connection, besides the setting, is the character of Cynthia Weaver, a woman who obsesses about the working order of Bright Falls' lights and who hugs her lantern close to her at all times, much like Twin Peaks' Log Lady.
The supernatural forces present in Alan Wake are reminiscent of Twin Peaks as well. Sometimes the forces are menacing and frightening, as they take over the citizens of Bright Falls one by one, using their bodies to attempt to kill Alan. Other times, they're slapstick and absurd like Alan using a disconnected light switch called "The Clicker" to combat the final boss. This habit of changing from horror to comedy is a hallmark of Twin Peaks' writing and makes this a great game for fans of the series.
The closest you'll probably ever get to a licensed Twin Peaks game is Deadly Premonition. You take the role of an FBI agent, Francis Morgan, who has come to the town of Greenvale, Washington, to investigate the murder of 18-year-old Anna Graham. This is a direct analog to Coop's arrival in Twin Peaks to investigate the murder of Laura Palmer.
The similarities don't stop there though. There's a policeman that cries at murder scenes (like Andy), a Pot Lady who is a copy of Log Lady and even dwarves who have bizarre speech. All this is presented in an open-world format in which you have to eat, sleep, refuel vehicles and keep track of everyone's schedule.
Deadly Premonition is one of the most polarizing video games ever made. Some people believe it's a masterpiece and art; others can't stand it. The game launched for Xbox 360 in 2010, and it received a director's cut in 2013 for PlayStation 3 and PC. Technical issues marred the original release of the game, but you can get the director's cut working fairly well on PC with some modifications.
The 1996 PC adventure game Harvester wears its badge as one of the most “violent adventure games of all time” proudly, but it’s less of a violent tale than an homage to the nuclear-family-gone-wrong trope and, of course, Twin Peaks. It’s an interactive point-and-click adventure game with FMV sequences that’s garnered a lot of controversy over the years.
Starring a man named Steve with amnesia, it follows Steve’s journey to reclaim his memories and his past while stuck in the middle of a bizarre town called Harvest. Harvest appears frozen in the 1950s, and all of the inhabitants are eccentric parodies of real people, including Steve’s parents. He’s always being goaded to join the Order of the Harvest Moon’s Lodge for some strange reason, which he ends up doing only to be given an ultimatum by the end of the game that will shake his very core.
Without spoiling too much about Harvester, it’s a game with disturbing twists and turns, especially the big reveal at the end. Surreal and corrupt events take place in several areas of Harvest, especially when it comes to a sadistic teacher and the perverted father of your bride-to-be Stephanie. In Harvester, nothing is as it seems, and you’ll never be able to figure out how everything comes together in the end. Like Twin Peaks, it focuses on wacky townsfolk, out-of-the-ordinary behaviors and other strange goings-on to keep things moving. You won’t always be quite sure of what’s going on, but you’ll always want to see what happens next in Harvester.
Life Is Strange
Part of Twin Peaks' allure is how the supernatural makes the totally ordinary into something downright bizarre. When Max Caufield gains the ability to rewind time, she becomes entangled in the search for a missing girl, which ends up with Life Is Strange evolving into a struggle against an event that could destroy her entire town.
Max and her friend Chloe's search to find out what happened to Rachel Amber is an analog to the search for Laura Palmer's murderer in Twin Peaks. You can also find Twin Peaks references dotted throughout the game. The most obvious example is in the bathroom of the Two Whales Diner, in which a mirror has "Fire Walk With Me" scrawled upon it. Fire Walk With Me was the name of the 1992 prequel to Twin Peaks, which saw a theatrical release as well as a poem with some significance in the original TV series.
Variable State’s Virginia has always cited The X-Files and Twin Peaks as inspirations as well as American film and television of the 1990s. IT was an interesting dialogue-free experiment in storytelling, and even though it fell flat when it came to delivering the rich narrative it promised, its Twin Peaks influences rolled off of it in waves. Following FBI agent Anne Tarver as she worked to investigate the disappearance of a young boy named Lucas Fairfax, it invited players to draw their own conclusions about certain characters and events throughout the game.
As the story progresses, Tarver focuses more on her partner Maria Halperin than the case at hand, just like her superiors have instructed her to. By the end of the game, the real world and the surreal have collided for a bizarre series of betrayals and revelations that don’t quite make sense, but certainly, provoke questions. Just like the murder of Laura Palmer and all the issues surrounding it, you’ll have plenty of questions about the Fairfax case and why the FBI head honchos have Tarver investigating her own partner to begin with.
Virginia wears its Lynchian heart on its sleeve and even implements cinematic effects like jump-cuts and bizarre edits to push the player forward, weaving a tale that’s nuanced, yet veiled in secrecy, and moments that may or may not have happened. Twin Peaks fans will certainly get a kick out of its multiple references to '90s media and the show itself.
More gaming news and updates
Check out the latest from Mic, including our list of video games that made fun of their players, a personal essay about dealing with anxiety through Breath of the Wild, a look at the racist and sexist experiences in esports and a plea for better character customization options for black characters.