Twin Peaks was a revelation when it first arrived on television screens in 1990. Conceived by Mark Frost and David Lynch, the show redefined what the small screen was capable of, injecting idiosyncratic characters and dark and disturbing imagery into the long-stagnant world of American TV drama.
Even today, its influence can still be felt, living on in popular shows like True Detective, American Horror Story, and The Killing. However, its legacy isn’t confined to just the one creative medium.
Many video game designers have drawn inspiration from the cult show over the years, creating experiences similar in style and tone. This has resulted in some wonderfully bizarre games, which I feel are worthy of a closer look given the impending release of the new season in May 2017. So, go grab yourself a cup of coffee and some cherry pie, because we’re about to discuss 7 videogames inspired by the classic show:
Life is Strange
A missing teen. Supernatural abilities. A town in the Pacific Northwest. Life is Strange borrows several elements from Twin Peaks.
Dropped into the shoes of teenager Max Caulfield, you explore the picturesque setting of Arcadia Bay over the course of the game, uncovering clues as to whereabouts of a girl named Rachel Amber.
Seem familiar? That’s because it’s remarkably similar to the events of Twin Peaks’ first season, which focuses on the murder of Laura Palmer and the subsequent investigation by FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper.
As if that wasn’t enough, Life is Strange makes no qualms about including more overt references to the show. For example, in the Two Whales Diner, you can find the phrase “Fire Walk with Me” scratched on a bathroom mirror. This phrase appeared in the TV series and eventually became the name of the 1992 prequel film directed by Lynch.
Virginia owes a debt of gratitude to many TV shows, including The Outer Limits, The X-Files, and Fargo. The most obvious influence, though, is clearly Twin Peaks. Even the score, by Lyndon Holland, is highly evocative of Angelo Badalamenti’s soundtrack for the show.
This is particularly noticeable during one scene in the Sojourner’s Truth bar, when you stop to listen a group of musicians playing on stage. Here the music pays homage to the house band that repeatedly performs at the Bang Bang Bar in Twin Peaks, matching the same reverberated guitar tones and plodding bass lines.
Music isn’t the only thing that the game shares with the show. Dreams also play a prominent role in both stories. In Virginia, protagonist Anne Tarver’s thoughts about her case are communicated to the player through dream sequences, similar to how Cooper’s visions offer him insights into his investigation and his growing guilt over not finding Laura’s killer.
Remedy Entertainment’s psychological horror Alan Wake takes a lot of setting inspiration from Twin Peaks, too. Surrounded by gloomy woods and forested valleys, Wake’s town of Bright Falls is extremely reminiscent of Twin Peaks.
It even comes with its own version of the Double R Diner, appropriately titled the Oh Deer Diner. Both of these establishments are renowned for their cherry pie, and are frequented by a peculiar cast of characters that come to play a significant part in their respective stories.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. Sam Lake, one of the writers on Alan Wake, confirmed this connection in an article for Eurogamer back in 2005.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
David Lynch isn’t someone you’d normally associate with Nintendo games. Nevertheless, during an edition of Iwata Asks, Link’s Awakening director Takashi Tezuka revealed that Lynch massively impacted his work on Link’s Awakening.
Specifically, he states, “I was talking about fashioning Link’s Awakening with a feel that was somewhat like Twin Peaks. At the time, Twin Peaks was rather popular. The drama was all about a small number of characters in a small town. So when it came to Link’s Awakening, I wanted to make something that, while it would be small enough in scope to easily understand, it would have deep and distinctive characteristics.”
This design philosophy explains the more Lynchian elements that appear in the game, such as the prevalence of owls, minor characters with unexplained powers, and the fact that it takes place within a dream.
If, like me, you’re a big fan of the classic adventure game Maniac Mansion and its co-creators Ron Gilbert and Gary Winnick, you likely cannot wait for their upcoming adventure game, Thimbleweed Park. Set in the fictional town of the same name, it’s been described by its creators as a spiritual successor to Maniac Mansion as well as a campy satire of shows like Twin Peaks.
You’ll switch between five unique characters, solving puzzles to unravel a dark mystery. What’s more, all of this will be accompanied by the same black humor we’ve come to expect from these two developers. Be prepared for plenty of Twin Peaks references and some clever gags at the show’s expense.
Kentucky Route Zero
The adjective that perhaps best describes Kentucky Route Zero is otherworldly. Beginning innocuously enough with a moving truck pulling into a middle-of-nowhere gas station, it gets more and more fantastical as time goes on, developing into a patchwork of ghostly happenings and absurd imagery, as your character travels further along the fictional Route Zero.
It’s this atmosphere that has provoked many to make comparisons to Twin Peaks — an assessment that the development team welcomes.
In an interview with Gameological, Jake Elliott, the writer and design of Kentucky Route Zero, comments, “Tamas Kemenczy and I are always talking about David Lynch, and he’s a huge influence on us as far as tone. One thing about Lynch is the pacing of his stuff. It’s very slow.”
If you’ve been looking for a game that captures the strange feel of Twin Peaks without stepping over the line into parody, you can’t really go wrong with Kentucky Route Zero.
Depending on who you talk to, the action-horror game Deadly Premonition is either a masterwork or an awkward mess. This dramatic divide in opinion has earned it a reputation for being one of the most polarizing games ever made.
Deadly Premonition’s director Hidetaka “Swery” Suehiro undoubtedly loves David Lynch’s work. An early version of Deadly Premonition was so similar to Twin Peaks, in fact, that it’s rumored they had to change it to tone down the similarities.
Regardless, several of the locations and characters in the finished version still share loads in common with people and places from Twin Peaks. The protagonist, FBI Agent Special Agent Francis York Morgan, takes on many of Dale Cooper’s traits. He frequently monologues, enjoys coffee, and has supernatural visions. Sigourney, the Pot Lady, is a play on Catherine E. Coulson’s Log Lady. The Galaxy of Terror bar is almost identical to the roadhouse in Twin Peaks.
Twin Peaks’ influence has been resulted in some fascinating, iconic videogames. Some show their creators’ admiration of the show in subtle ways, while others draw unashamedly from the source. Considering Twin Peaks is set to return to our screens later this year, it’s the perfect time to show an interest in these games, as you make preparations for the premiere.