Paper Lily, a new anime horror RPG whose first chapter is currently available for free, has cracked the top 10 highest-rated games of 2024 on Steam just a few days after its release.
If you're a fan of RPG Maker-style horror games, you'll probably remember 2021's bite-sized and highly acclaimed Project Kat, the self-styled "unconventional RPG horror game in which there is always another way." Well, that game is a prologue to Paper Lily, which at roughly four hours (for one ending, anyway) is more akin to a full-length game, although it's only one chapter of a bigger saga. Starring new protagonist Lacie, the story is a direct continuation of Project Kat, but developer Leef 6010 says you can go into Paper Lily without having played the prologue.
"Something terrible has happened. You can’t bear to think about it - but you can’t live like this anymore. You stopped attending school, you haven’t left your house in months, you have no reason to get out of bed anymore. There are no choices left," reads the Steam description.
With existential psychological horror themes, a colorful anime pixel art aesthetic, and a fourth-wall breaking, self-referential meta narrative, it's hard not to be reminded of games like Doki Doki Literature Club and Undertale, but there are also subtle traces of horror IPs like The Ring and even Death Note.
Gameplay, like Project Kat before it, primarily involves exploring various environments in search of clues to solve objectives and progress through the story. Puzzles can be approached from a number of different ways, and the gameplay and dialogue choices you make will lead you down one of several narrative paths and endings.
At the time of writing, Paper Lily has 461 user reviews on Steam, and 454 are categorized as positive, positioning it as the storefront's ninth best-rated game of 2024 according to Steam 250 and SteamDB. (There are small weight differences in the algorithms for these review aggregates, but they're generally quite close and reliable.) Folks generally seem most impressed by the clever writing, challenging puzzles, and replayability via the multiple endings.
To be clear, the first chapter of Paper Lily is entirely free to play on Steam. There's a paid "Supporter Pack" that includes "some random cool stuff to look at for like 15 minutes," as well as a paid soundtrack, but the game itself is free. That said, it's unclear whether future chapters will be free as well.
For more frightful fun, here's a list of the best horror games to play today.