So, I finished Stranger Things, and I can honestly say few shows have ever affected me in the same way. Lots of critics have already talked about the homage to ‘80s films or its ability to subvert a lot of gender roles from those flicks, but I want to talk about something else. There are two modern video games that I think Stranger Things either draws heavily on or which parallel the series in startling ways. In either case, if you dug the series I suggest these titles.
The first is Beyond: Two Souls from Quantic Dream, and it’s the better translation if you’re a non-gamer getting into games. This game is almost better labeled as an interactive movie than a game proper. It is the story of a woman who discovers she can communicate with the afterlife, but who can manipulate the powers of a particular ghost to do extraordinary things in this life.
I’m trying not to spoil a plot point, but Jodie (our hero) is basically Eleven if she had gone further than the first season of Stranger Things had gone. She has amazing psychic powers at a young age, and those powers are intrinsically connected to a kind of unexplainable realm of violence and death. The Upside Down is never treated as the nether realm, but is somewhat heavily implied.
Beyond that, though, B:TS is what it would be like to walk Eleven through her own story rather than passively watch it go on. Don’t get me wrong. You can totally make the same sort of choices Eleven made and still end up with mostly the same story, but it adds an agency through player interaction. There’s even a nice combination of Brenner and Hopper played by Willem Dafoe in the game. If you want to re-experience Eleven’s journey through the first season of Stranger Things I can think of no better video game.
The second is a little more obtuse; Thief. Specifically the fourth and most recently released game in the series. This one may be a harder sell with its steampunk setting and a plot that’s nowhere near Stranger Things, but stick with me.
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The first thing I thought when I saw the monster in Strangers Things was, “Holy God, that’s one of the freaks from Thief,” and even as the story ends I’m convinced that’s the closest analogy. The open, groping head may have The Last of Us written all over it, but the stealthy, damaged nature screams Thief.
In Thief, the main character’s apprentice, Erin (who has her head shaved and gains superpowers in the game) has been locked in the Moira Asylum, which has been reconditioned into a research facility to study the effects of a mysterious stone on humans. The results are superhuman monsters who look nearly exactly like the Demogorgon.
This isn’t the only similarity. The protagonist periodically travels to the Thief version of the Upside Down, a weird, bleak mirror image of our world overgrown with vines and containing an oddly static mist. Though not as written as to be as dangerous as they appear in Stranger Things, they are places where it’s clear the evil forces of that world ultimately reside.
Erin and Jodie even share a rather inarguable physical appearance similarity with Eleven. Both are, at times, shaven-headed, mentally-super powered anti-heroines who do amazing things. The trio form, what I would call, a trinity of unique media portrayals of women that do some amazing things. If you loved Eleven, Jodie and Erin are worth checking out.