Review

Gone Home Review

  • First Released Aug 15, 2013
    released
  • PC

With excellent writing and remarkable attention to period detail, Gone Home turns the process of exploring a house into a captivating and deeply poignant journey of discovery.

Some places tell a story. Homes, especially. For the people who live there, every knickknack on the shelf, every little dent in the wall, every refrigerator magnet or faded photograph or chipped mug can be part of their shared history as a family, part of the tapestry of memories both joyous and painful that binds them together. Gone Home gives you a house to explore, and as you do so, that house slowly reveals to you the story of the people who live there. That story is intimate and honest and beautiful, and the active way in which you piece that story together, coming to understand the Greenbriar family through the things you find as you investigate their house, makes Gone Home one of the most captivating story-driven games in the medium's history.

You play as Kaitlin Greenbriar, the older of Jan and Terry Greenbriar's two daughters. After spending a year gallivanting around Europe, you've come to your family's new home one rainy night in June of 1995, and although you expected your folks to be there, you find the house empty. Making the absence of your family a little more ominous are a scrawled note from your 17-year-old sister, Sam, on the front door, and a few emotional messages on the answering machine from a young woman tearfully asking Sam to pick up the phone. This opening immediately pulls you in and makes you concerned about Sam's whereabouts and well-being.

Kaitlin's personality comes through in a few postcards you find that she sent from Europe and through some funny interaction prompts, but she is mostly just a vehicle through whom you experience the story. That story focuses on Sam, and periodically, items you discover trigger narration from her, as you hear journal entries she has written to Kaitlin. The story of a connection she forms with a classmate is a remarkable one for a number of reasons. Sam's struggles are presented with tremendous insight, making them so relatable that you can't help but understand what she's going through. This is simply one of the most human and grounded stories ever told by a game.

You'll repeatedly find yourself nodding along as she describes her feelings, because the writing precisely and tenderly expresses exactly what those experiences are like. The honesty with which she reveals herself to you through her journal entries, and the excellent voice acting with which these journals are narrated, is deeply moving. By the time you've solved the mystery of what's happened to her, both she and the place you explore as you find out about her will have left a lasting mark on you.

It's easy to get swept up in Gone Home because its environments are so convincing that you feel as if you're exploring a real place, at a very specific point in time. In fact, if you lived through the mid-'90s, Gone Home may feel like something of a time machine, as you find music magazines with the names of important alternative acts of the day on their covers and TV listings that indicate when shows like The X-Files will be on. But you don't need an emotional connection to the era to appreciate just how well Gone Home captures the texture of the time period; it draws you in through the sheer precision and authenticity of its details.

Sometimes friendship takes practice. Sometimes that practice means getting better at Street Fighter II.
Sometimes friendship takes practice. Sometimes that practice means getting better at Street Fighter II.

The '90s aren't just a background for Gone Home's story. Instead, the game is believably rooted in that era; the explosive popularity of Street Fighter II factors into Sam's friendships, and the huge Oliver Stone-fueled resurgence in JFK conspiracy theories impacts Terry's literary fortunes. Tapes you can listen to featuring music by riot grrrl acts like Bratmobile and Heavens to Betsy flesh out not just the time period, but your understanding of Sam as a person. Meanwhile, the game's excellent ambient score creates the sense that the entire house is thrumming with energy, despite being empty at the moment.

As you explore the house and find out what the Greenbriars have been going through, there are no puzzles to solve, no enemies to defeat. There's nothing to take you out of your journey of discovery. Instead, everything you find just reinforces the feeling that the place you're exploring is a real one, inhabited by real people. So much of the story is in the details; almost every letter or form or other document you can pick up and examine reveals something about the inner lives of one of the Greenbriars, and it's wonderful how the game respects your intelligence enough to let you piece things together yourself, rather than spelling everything out for you.

A form Jan submits requesting the permanent transfer of a colleague to her office speaks of trouble in the Greenbriars' marriage, for instance, while the notes Sam has exchanged with her classmate Lonnie, packed as they are with humorous doodles and cracks about teachers, portray the developing connection between the two of them in a way that rings incredibly true. These items aren't like the audio logs and journal entries you find in so many games that are clearly left around just to give you, the player, some narrative context. These feel like the authentic products of people going about the business of living their lives, which you just happen to be there to discover.

You won't forget Lonnie.
You won't forget Lonnie.

Gone Home executes on its ambitions flawlessly. The things in the Greenbriars' home take on an emotional heft as you come to understand the stories they tell, and although they're absent, you feel the presence of the Greenbriars all around you. Gone Home is an important game because it does something games rarely do: it tells a believable story, grounded in the real world, that focuses on women and treats all of its characters, women and men alike, as complex individuals. But the reason to play Gone Home is not for its importance. It's for the elegance with which its tale is constructed and communicated, and the captivating way that it makes you an active participant in peeling back the layers of one family's ordinary lives as their home tells you their stories. Like many of our own memories, those stories cut deep.

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The Good

  • Incredibly rich and convincing '90s atmosphere
  • Heartbreakingly honest, poignant writing
  • Respects your intelligence and lets you piece the story together

The Bad

About the Author

Carolyn is old enough to remember the 1990s. In fact, it was in the 90s that she played Myst, a game that captivated her by creating a fascinating environment that had a story just waiting for her to discover.
1883 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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zyxahn

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I hate having gay and lesbians jammed down our throats just as much as anyone. This game was beautiful. Very touching story that had me not wanting to go into the attic at the end. Very, very well done. Masterful story telling. I hope to have in VR on the PS4, someday.

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DuaMn

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They are coming for our games.

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SteelSunglasses

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In my opinion, this is the most overrated game of all time. Critics praise it as that best game of all time.

I wonder why.

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deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

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This game is a pile of crap. It makes you think you're playing a horror game, but in reality, it's just a lesbian love story where you walk around and read dream journals and nothing happens. The end.

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game_god_

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I searched every nook and cranny of this game expecting something to jump out at me the entire time because it tries to make you think it's a scary game, just for it never to happen and the story just be about a girl running off with her girlfriend..... this game really upset me. Wasted my time.

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Itzsfo0

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amazing awesome game

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deactivated-5b2c8e0382c99

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@Itzsfo0: This game is crap.

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draco934

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didn't the reviewer get canned?

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SolidTy

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@draco934: Yes.

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_Binx_

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Just finished this gem of a game. I wanted to play it when it came out, but I quickly gathered that it was a pretty short game, so I waited for a significant price drop and eventually forgot all about it. So glad I accidentally stumbled across it again. What a terrific, beautiful, and immersive experience this was. It is short, yes - I finished the game in about two hours - and I didn't skimp on any of the reading. But for me, it was just perfect. It was exactly what I was hoping it would be; an engrossing, real, and relatable story. Not that I am or was a lesbian teenager, in fact I'm a married (straight) guy in my late twenties, but the way the story is told is so authentic that any empathetic person can't help but relate to it.

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_Binx_

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Also, a comment to the score of unhappy users below complaining about the game and Gamespot's score: Check out other reviews. This game is widely praised, and rightly so. Most negative comments are about the length, gameplay, and topic. The former two suggest a lack of research into what this game is and what it isn't. The latter is just bigotry. There is nothing "preachy" or "glorifying" in the way this game presents its subject matter, in fact it is incredibly honest and real.

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Astrokidwell

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@_Binx_: I think what you're writing as far as why people dislike it is dead on. The length or the gameplay .... which is literally what a game is. Its gameplay is how good the game is and its length is how long you get to enjoy it. This game failed miserably in both aspects. The third you add is the topic. I didn't mind the topic one bit, I don't have respect for that being the only reason its getting these scores. A bad game should not be scored well because the reviewer likes the political message involved, even if its one I happen to agree with. Finally stop for a moment and think about the house you were moving around in. You trashed it. You literally walked around throwing all of your families possessions around digging into their personal things. How would they notice though because since it turned out that no one was in danger as the ominous tone suggested the state of the house upon your arrival simply means your family is a bunch of lazy slobs who leave a tornado mess everywhere they go. Honestly your parents bedroom? Who packs by ripping all their drawers out of the dresser?

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Valgua1977

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Edited By Valgua1977

A very boring game. The ending is so shockingly stupid and comes so soon that I started laughing thinking it was an in-game joke, It was not. The game was actually over. How this piece of lazy garbage could get 9.5, putting it ahead of almost all other games, is a complete and total mystery.

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AAKn

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2 words OVER RATED

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middlecreekguy

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I just finished the game yesterday. I'm a 53 year old married man and I enjoyed this story. Took me a few months to finish. I just took my time and kept coming back to it. The voice acting and music are what kept me coming back for more. Well written and a good unexpected ending. I want that house.

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gpac200

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@middlecreekguy: you would REALLY like Life Is Strange!

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Shehi

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So... This 9.5 Gamespot-rated game is actually 6 user-rated?! Hehehe... Man, Gamespot has become something like mainstream media, poisoning the minds of gamers with liberal BS.

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Haanabi89

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@Shehi: I'm sure they're sorry for having an opinion.

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JKS83

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@haanabi89: Having a opinion is fine. But I'm sure the game wouldn't have got the score it did if the girl ran off with a boy instead.

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Shehi

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@Sajius Thanks for sharing mate! Really nice article... http://asiandatingmonthly.com/is-there-anything-good-about-men/

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JamesMayFanboy

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I don't mind the alternative (so as not to spoil.....) story here. Indeed, it was well written and the voice acting was good. And to be honest, I wasn't even really disappointed at all until I got to the end and it was like, wow, is this all there is?? What's the point in making the spooky atmosphere? The dark main menu screen? The lighting that is meant to be creepy? The story that misleads you into thinking something is going to happen? The initial voicemail of a frightened Katie? The dark/rainy/thunderstorm atmosphere outside???


I won't even complain that it wasn't enough of a game or that it didn't fit the parameters of one for me. It's just that it was utterly misleading. I was expecting SOMETHING creepy or to find out Sam met some horrible fate or to discover something horrible in the house, didn't you???


I kept thinking I was building up to something awesome. I mean, I figured that Sam had run off like the first 20% into the game then not too far after that we found out who Lonnie really was. But I kept waiting for some other shoe to drop and I get to the end of that attic and...... this is it? Seriously? And we even find out by the end the marriage looks like it's being saved and Rick is married?? So nothing there either?


So in the end, I just have to say screw you to the devs. You totally misled us and not in a good way. It's like buying a Mario Kart game and finding out it's a first person shooter. And then that FPS constantly teases you like it's going to be Mario Kart, then you get to the end of the game and it gives you a big middle finger. It wasn't what I paid for

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Handwipe

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Edited By Handwipe

@jamesmayfanboy *semi-spoilers* I can't understand why you would be disappointed with the ending. After the ominous dread they made you feel as you progressed through the story, I was actually pleasantly surprised at the end. Until you get to the attic, you feel like Sam's fate will turn out much worse than it did. You weren't "mislead", just surprised. It's called good storytelling. Get over it.


Overall, an excellent first person interactive story from The Fullbright Company, and I can't wait to see what they come out with next. Oh and James, your opinion sucks.

3 • 
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ianpac

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Edited By ianpac

@homerlvsbeer It is a reflection of the media saturated environment where people seek out news and entertainment that aligns with their personal politics. Carolyn is not reviewing this as a game but as a personal reflection of her militant feminism and her missing out on the growing up pains as a girl. She admits this in her annual review,. This is a biased personal commentary not an informative professional review for game players. She is the Bill O'Reilly of game reviewers thinking her beliefs resonate with the general public.


It is a short boring storyboard that had potential but was not realized. A professional reviewer would give this 5 or 6 at best.

3 • 
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poploghoplo

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Edited By poploghoplo

how to play this game can any one explain ???

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ianpac

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@poploghoplo It is not a game. You just walk around opening drawers to find notes on a teenage lesbian love story. That's it, nothing more

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JKS83

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@ianpac: I don't think the game could've gotten anymore boring if you put Dr. Phil in the game trying to psycho annualize the lesbian lovers.

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ray_the_gamerz

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Edited By ray_the_gamerz

Indeed it's a good game with a great story. For those who has experienced the 90's, this game may bring you back to the past. Ridiculously, I think this game could be a good lesson for parents. What bothers me the most is that the game has too strong feminism issues, which most of the ideas I don't agree with.

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supermajic

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Edited By supermajic

To people refusing to acknowledge this as a 'game'. I challenge you to attempt to come up with a definition of a 'game' that describes everything you readily accept as a game and also disqualifies experiences like Gone Home.


Anyway I enjoyed the game. My knee-jerk reaction upon seeing the score and the reviewer was the same as a lot of people here but then I actually read the review and it seems mostly justified.I'd give it an 8 myself. The game may not be as ambitious as the bigger titles of the year but it achieves what it sets out to do almost flawlessly and provides a highly original experience. Games rarely explore the more banal aspects of life, which are often far more relevant to our lives than the same themes games tend to explore over and over again, far removed from the majority of us. If you manage to lose yourself in the game you can feel fleeting moments of understanding of the lives of others who've had the same experiences as those in the game.


The narrative is unremarkable and it is supposed to be. If you have empathy and drop your pretensions about what the game 'should be like' you can find a a rich, tangible world that you can really connect with.

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maxgallow

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Edited By maxgallow

@supermajic: The story was so simplistic it could’ve been written by an 11-year-old

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pcmembers

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@supermajic "If you have empathy and drop your pretensions about what the game 'should be like' you can find a a rich...". the whole purpose of websites like this is to increase video game quality and analyse the game from every professional angle so you can justly compare and rate it. just because its different and makes you emotional doesn't mean its a rich and flawless game.


maybe it gets high score for creativity but that is one aspect. graphic, audio , multi-player support , gameplay ... this is how here you determine how good a game is not just by how it makes you feel.

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supermajic

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Edited By supermajic

@pcmembers @supermajic All these things: graphic, audio , multi-player support , gameplay are totally arbitrary indicators of the overall value of a game. Why would multi-player support matter in a highly personal experience? Why do Crysis/BF4 quality graphics matter when you can feel immersed in a consistent and detailed environment?


How 'good' a game is is totally subjective. It is a matter of opinion. Just because something has amazing graphics, audio, gameplay, is creative etc doesn't mean everyone will like it. There is no right method to determine how 'good' a game is.


Anyway how do you judge how 'good' graphics are? By how closely they resemble real life? What about a cel-shaded game? Does that not have good graphics? Should the score be lessened because the graphics are stylised? Even graphics are just a matter of opinion anyway.


There is no such explicit purpose of websites like this as you mention - that might be an effect but it is not necessarily the purpose of a review.

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supermajic

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Edited By supermajic

@pcmembers @supermajic Absolutely, we'll end up going in circles. I do understand your point of view though and i'm not invalidating it. I think it's good that people have these arguments and criticise reviews. If all reviews were to be the way I think they should be, a lot of people would be uninterested and same goes for how you think about reviews. You have to find a balance, and naturally, some people will always be alienated.


"you are judging it for what it isn't"

I guess what I'm saying, is that by definition a car requires a component that moves is (the engine), a game has no standard definition and there is no one component that all games share. There is no 'engine' equivalent in games. Multiplayer support is available in some games but it is not a requirement of a game. A game, in my opinion, is not "missing" multiplayer support, because games do not require multiplayer support to be a game.


The objective of a car (in a general sense) is to move from point A-B effortlessly. So the engine shall be judged.


The objective of Gone Home is to provide a personal, intimate, immersive experience. So multiplayer support is irrelevant. In my opinion, a multiplayer experience of Gone Home is more likely to take away from the game's potency.


Likewise, a text adventure's objective might be to provide an experience where one can simply imagine the non literal aspects of a game. If it is brilliantly written and achieves everything it aims for and satisfies the reviewer, does its lack of graphics really matter?

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jackie113

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Edited By jackie113

I Just finished the game and was shocked when it was over. I realized I hadn't unlocked the file cabinet in the dad's office so I went back to a save game and did it. Nothing much. I wonder what else I missed and still finished the game. But it's not worth going back and playing over to see. I'll just read a walkthrough.


I hope all the great reviews are not simply because of the subject matter. I Maybe it's cool to rate highly a game having to do with homosexuality no matter how good the game actually is.


The game was OK, it had good atmosphere and the story was sweet, but it left me feeling rather cheated. It would have been great as a side-story to a bigger game perhaps (maybe in the form of a mini game type thing.) But as a stand alone game it falls short.

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seanmp5

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Edited By seanmp5

Any chance that you found the combination to the safe in the basement? I can't seem to find any useful walkthroughs.

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supermajic

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@seanmp5 Yes! It is just at the beginning of the secret passageway that begins upstairs from your room. It is a small piece of paper (yellowish from memory) on the ground as you walk in.

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bfa1509

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Edited By bfa1509

Lonnie gets a 9.5 from me.

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Gone Home

First Released Aug 15, 2013
released
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Linux
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

Gone Home is a first-person game entirely about exploration, mystery, and discovery.

9.5
Superb

Average Rating

867 Rating(s)

6.3
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature
Drug Reference, Sexual Themes, Strong Language