5) Detention (Red Candle Games)

Remember when I said two horror VNs defined the genre for me this year? Yeah, say hello to the other one.

Detention is terrifying: period. Its imagery is stark, hellish and unforgiving; mastering the 2D plane to keep you on the edge of your seat for what is nothing short of a journey through a teenager’s personal Hell. Interestingly enough, the core of that Hell is a very real world fear: tyranny. Specifically in this case, the Taiwanese government; led by a vengeful Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his defeated Nationalist army shortly after the rise of Mao Zedong and the formation of the People’s Republic of China. Under Kai-shek, Taiwan imposed martial law and cracked down on anything or anyone that could be seen as supporting Communism in a period known as the White Terror.

The fact that it’s based off Taiwanese history only adds a particularly grim layer onto this unsettling experience. It’s the themes in its orbit, especially of grief and trauma, that I will carry with me for years to come.