Hark the good word because this week marks the return of Twin Peaks. After a 26 year absence with lingering storylines finally being (hopefully) closed, there is reason for many a fan to rejoice. This Sunday, the third season of David Lynch’s seminal work of television will premiere. For those unaware of what might be the greatest television series of all time, first off you should rectify the fact you have not watched it very, very soon.
Twin Peaks is the story of mystery in a small town which sees a tragedy trigger an unfolding tale of deceit, connections and secrets. On the fateful day in February 1989, the body of a young girl named Laura Palmer is found on the shore. This discovery of a vicious crime sets in motion a series of events that will forever rock the subdued town hidden in the forests of Washington. FBI detective Dale Cooper is called in to investigate the murder which tumbles into a whole lot more than anyone bargained for.
Twin Peaks was a phenomenal piece of entertainment that spanned numerous genres with a clear sense of intrigue. Lynch, considered a master of horror, alongside Mark Frost brought to audiences a baffling and engaging narrative that has hooked many a fan and viewer over two long decades. Yet, Twin Peaks did more than offer entertainment. It was a cornerstone of television that was so pronounced it was seen as a clear source of inspiration for many a creative mind. From novels, television series and even film, the importance of Twin Peaks to the general mediums of entertainment cannot be ignored or forgotten.
Video Games too, were vessels that saw writers, directors, artists and composers take strong inspiration from Twin Peaks. With Season 3 returning this week, we at SAGamer decided to take a look at just some of those games that took what Twin Peaks provided to heart. Whether it be from a general sense of storytelling, to narrative cues to even presentational aspects, here are 10 games that took inspiration from Twin Peaks. From the obvious (yes, we will get to that one) to even more subtle examples, get ready to walk with us through the Fire.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Let’s start off with a more obscure example of Twin Peaks influence and how far reaching it can be. Twin Peaks and The Legend of Zelda could not seem further apart except for very annoying owls. Yet when the legendary franchise decided to take its first step into the handheld platform of the GameBoy, Twin Peaks was a huge inspiration for the team.
Link’s Awakening finds the Hero of “whatever your timeline preference” waking up in a whole new area outside of Hyrule following a shipwreck. Link awakens in a small hut on Koholint Island after washing ashore. What made Link’s Awakening stand out was a much stronger focus on story and character interaction. The adventure follows Link as he talks to villagers and helps them out while trying to find a way to return to Hyrule to meet up with Princess Zelda (who is absent, but we get a flying whale so it’s all good).
While this might not seem at all to evoke strong Twin Peaks vibes, GameInformer spoke to director of the game Takashi Tezuka who confirmed some of those elements. Tezuka explained that at the time of development, Twin Peaks was on everybody’s tongue. This saw Link’s Awakening take weird new steps with the franchise by looking at what Twin Peaks did right. It is here that the links (get it?) become more apparent. From the Dream-like atmosphere (because the whole world is itself a dream) to the focus on a small town with weird characters, there is definitely a strong Twin Peaks vibe pulling through the game. Link, much like Agent Cooper, is an outsider being exposed to a new sense of abnormality for the first time. Yet Link, much like Cooper, takes it in stride and seems to join in with the gaggle of weirdos. This inspiration took a new step for the Zelda franchise whose vibrations can still be felt today.
Definitely the most obscure game to come up on this list, Mizzurna Falls requires a clear position on any list of video games and Twin Peaks. Released in 1998 for the PlayStation 1 Mizzurna Falls never left Japan. It is why so many have often ignored the game developed by Clock Tower developer Human Entertainment. In recent years, Mizzurna Falls has received more coverage due to more people finding the game and an ongoing translation project in the final stages of completion.
Mizzurna Falls was a clear riff on Twin Peaks in so many aspects it would almost be easier to list how it differs from the show. As a young teen named Matthew, you embark on a quest to find your missing friend Emma. Set in a small town out in the boonies, there are so many set pieces that bring you right back to Twin Peaks. The town has a similar structure and focuses on the interactions with off-beat characters on a quest to uncover the truth. Starting off with the discovery of a young girl’s murdered corpse, it sets in motion the quest to make sure Emma is all right.
Mizzurna Falls was well ahead of its time in 1998 and the PlayStation 1. Featuring a day/night cycle that changes how NPC’s react, exploration is key in Matthew’s journey for the truth. While never confirmed, many assume that Mizzurna Falls from a gameplay standpoint serves as inspiration for another game that will be on this list (yes, we will get to it).
There is not a lot of information on the general plot and story but from the setting and story set-up, it is not hard to figure out the influence. Matthew seems to take clear inspiration from James Hurley in the show although his chopper has been swapped out for a VW Beetle (the way more stylish option). Much like James, Matthew is going about this on his own to find his friend and learn the secrets she was hiding from him and the town.
Right now the translation of the in-game text is done and actual implementation of the patch is underway. Project Mizzurna is the team behind the fan translation project which still provide regular updates. While no time frame has been given, it will hopefully see release this year.
Life is Strange
Of the genre that should have seen the most mileage of Twin Peaks/Lynchian-esque formulas, the contemporary episodic adventure genre made popular by Telltale Games never really did. It would make sense with all the games pumped out by Telltale being existing licenses meaning that there was little room for deviation. Remember Me developer Dontnod Entertainment however, took the formula and made their own story. With this, Life is Strange became a clear example of Twin Peaks inspiration being used in the now cemented genre.
Oh Life is Strange with all your teenage angst. In a game focused so much on obscure movie references it is no surprise Twin Peaks finds itself slap dab in some hokey call outs. Beyond the titular phrase “Fire, Walk with Me” in the Diner mirror to a character’s license plate even reading “TWNPKS”, there is more to the inspiration than just references for the giggles.
Life is Strange is about a young girl named Maxine “Max” Caulfield. After a fateful encounter with an old friend Chloe, Max discovers she has the power to rewind time. This allows her to stop events by manipulating the world around her to solve the death prone Chloe’s problems. This revelation brings Chloe and Max together for the first time in many years and that sparks a new goal. Chloe’s best friend before Max was a beautiful young woman named Rachel Amber (a clear Laura Palmer type character). Rachel has gone missing and Chloe believes there is much more going on. With Max’s new found powers, they must take up the investigation.
From stories of corruption, drug use, criminals and mysteries unfolding, all tied to powers and prophecy, it hits a lot of Twin Peaks narrative notes. Every episode leads to new revelations all focused around a mysterious young woman who it turns out was holding more secrets than even her best friend could ever know. If you are starting to notice repetition, don’t shoot the messenger. Twin Peaks and the story as a whole is still regarded highly today because it works. The clear tropes might be evident but it is through the set-up made popular by Twin Peaks that so many games tend to follow it.
Life is Strange is a phenomenal game and easily stands far ahead in the genre. While a second season has been confirmed, developer Dontnod have stated that it will be all new characters and setting. Yet the Twin Peaks inspiration will most likely lean over into the next season whenever that arrives.
Surprisingly, when inspirations are discussed with regards to Silent Hill, many often overlook Twin Peaks from that immense list. Silent Hill as a franchise takes from a lot of horror, especially those of a psychological nature. Each Silent Hill has its own unique take shifting from purgatory like settings found in Silent Hill 2 to more cult driven forays in the original Silent Hill and Silent Hill 3.
As a franchise as a whole, the dream-like and shifting state of the world often come at odds. The questions of what is real feel very similar to the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. Really, most the focus of Silent Hill’s inspirations from Twin Peaks come from the end of the second season where Lynch creates his unique sense of “Dream Horror”.
The more common example used for Silent Hill’s inspiration often falls to the film Jacob’s Ladder, especially in Silent Hill 2. While I won’t go into too much detail for those who have not seen it, a lot of the thematic elements and questions arise in a similar fashion in most entries of the survival horror franchise. It is because of this that Twin Peaks gets overlooked but both combine to present the true inspiration of Silent Hill as a town and the stories that go on within it. There are a lot more inspirations found in Silent Hill, but Twin Peaks stands as one of the core examples of how Team Silent brought something magically horrifying to players over four wonderful entries. Through small town Americana and the horrors within, the influence can been seen throughout the franchise in different forms. Below is a screenshot from Twin Perfect’s video on the inspirations of Silent Hill. They go into more detail but here is just one screen snipped from the video with quotes:
Surprisingly however, the game in the franchise that really creates a sense of Lynchian dream is from a later entry: the underrated Silent Hill: Shattered Memories. A reimagining/remake/recreation (you can find every kind of “re-“ to describe the game in marketing) of the original Silent Hill which took a the inspiration to a more direct manner. Silent Hill: Shattered Memories was about Harry Mason on a quest to find his daughter in Silent Hill. Unlike previous entries, there was more focus on Harry interacting with actual members of the Silent Hill community. There was a more in and out of the horror with players never truly knowing at what point of the world they are in – the dream or reality (if that even existed). This is true for most games of the franchise but Shattered Memories worked with it in a pronounced manner.
While Twin Peaks is having itself a merry little revival, the cancelled Silent Hills has put a hard stop to the franchise. It is hard to say how far Silent Hills would have gone for a Lynchian direction but with Hideo Kojima and Guillermo Del Toro on board, but it would have been interesting to see. Still, if Twin Peaks can get a revival so can Silent Hill. Hopefully it will be outside of a Pachinko Parlour.
Where Silent Hill was a blend of mostly Jacob’s Ladder and Twin Peaks, Alan Wake was a mash of Twin Peaks and that general Lynch style with a load of Stephen King works. Developer Remedy Entertainment have always worn their love of Twin Peaks on their sleeves. Their first works in the video game world with Max Payne had small moments that referenced Twin Peaks. The television at times explaining the psyche of main character Max Payne closely fits how the television was at times used in Twin Peaks.
The studios first game following Max Payne however, delved a lot deeper into Twin Peaks than just a television set (although those are still very much there). Alan Wake was the story of a writer who felt that he needed to get away. By heading out the small town of “Bright Falls”, he and his wife Alice attempt to relax and hopefully cure his two year stint with writer’s block. After the first night turns bad, Alan is forced to try and find his kidnapped wife. All the way he fights shadowy figures with everybody’s favourite weapon: a flashlight.
As the game unfolds, there is a lot more going on in the town. The cabin Alan owns and its former owner hide a lot of secrets about the town and weird spirits that inhabit it. Alan Wake delves between early Twin Peaks intrigue and the second season’s full dive into spirits and horrors. There are a lot of smart little nods to Twin Peaks and while the plot doesn’t quite follow the basic premise, how it progresses and other story elements definitely match up.
Remedy love their Twin Peaks and Alan Wake felt like a love letter to Lynch through many aspects. While not as direct as others on the list, the inspirations are clear to anyone who has been graced with Twin Peaks in their lives. While Remedy is onto its next project maybe some Twin Peaks glory might bring it back. For those hoping to now give Alan Wake a try, unfortunately it just recently got delisted due to music licensing issues. Hopefully you bought the game at the super low price over the weekend as it is well worth a treat.