You are on a path in the woods. At the end of that path is a cabin. In the basement of that cabin is a princess. Your job is to kill her. No matter what she says, no matter what she does, she cannot leave that cabin. If set free, she will end the world, and you are the only thing that can stop her. You are on a path in the woods. In every conceivable direction is a cabin, and in every cabin is a princess. Your job is to kill them all.
There are very few things that can get me to play your horror game. One of them is a branching narrative, like with many of SuperMassive’s games. Another is interesting gameplay and puzzles, like with Resident Evil. Finally, you could have some fascinating themes. Slay the Princess, despite being essentially a visual novel, checks all of those boxes. Then again, this isn’t really a horror game – this is a love story.
Slay the Princess starts off simple, with you on that aforementioned path in the woods, but quickly raises many, many questions that need answering. Who is the princess, and why is she so dangerous? Why are you the only person who can kill her? Why does picking up the knife or not completely change the princess’s personality? Why, when she inevitably kills you, do you end up back on the path in the woods? Who are all these voices in your head? Who even are you? WHY DOES SHE HAVE SO MANY EYES NOW?
Well, Slay the Princess is something of a rogue-like, but also not really. All of your choices will change the princess in one way or another, leading you to encounter completely different versions of her. Without spoiling anything, your overall goal is to “collect” multiple versions of the princess and bring them back together. You do this by making different choices in each run.
For example, you might start off promising to free the princess, then when her guard is down stab her in the back. Then, in turn, next time she’ll immediately try to kill you. You can encounter up to three princesses in a single “run”, though I usually only found two. Even without that overall goal, it’s fascinating to see how things change based on your choices. In another run I chose to not enter the cabin at all, and in the next the Narrator put a wall around the forest. There’re so many things, big and small, that can completely change how the story unfolds. Even asking certain questions can change lines of dialogue later down the line.
This is even more impressive because all of the dialogue is voiced. Nichole Goodnight and Jonathan Sims do fantastic jobs as the princess and the voices in your head respectively. Both have such incredible range I was shocked there were only two voice actors in the game once I reached the credits. I was especially convinced that the Narrator and the other voices had to be different people. While some forms of the princess have filters over her voice, none of the voices who tag along as you progress do.
I was equally impressed with how much could be conveyed through the game’s mostly monochromatic art style. There’s some disturbing imagery in there, like the princess chewing off her own arm, but there are some beautiful views too, like the cabin being surrounded by a field of red flowers.
The story follows this trend. It’s very well written, and somehow manages to recontextualize all of the horrors and terrible events you experience to be almost beautiful by the end. I did get a bit confused by certain things in said ending, and what’s actually going on could stand to be explained better, but it still nails it where it counts.
If you are going in for the scares, there is quite a lot that will disturb you here. As much as I personally would like a non-horror version, the princess can take on some forms that I simply do not wish to look at, which is a good sign for fright aficionados. This is less about individual scares and more about confronting the existentially terrifying though, so thankfully there are no jumpscares or anything like that.
If you plan on playing with a controller or on Steam Deck, I have some bad news for you. The game’s engine, Ren’py, doesn’t play nicely with gamepads. You won’t be able to see the cool parallax effect without mouse movement, and the longer lists of dialogue options won’t scroll properly, often not following your selection until you forcibly scroll further down. It’s still playable from start to finish, but it can become very annoying.
David is the kind of person to wear his heart on his sleeve. He can find positives in anything, like this is a person who loved Star Fox Zero to death. You’ll see him playing all kinds of games: AAAs, Indies, game jam games, games of all genres, and writing about them! Here. On this website. When not writing or playing games, you can find David making music, games, or enjoying a good book.
David’s favorite games include NieR: Automata, Mother 3, and Gravity Rush.
Slay the Princess
Slay the Princess is a beautiful narrative of pain, death, love, and transformation. It has so many choices and routes that it's impossible to see them all in one playthrough. While some may come for the terrors of blood, bone, and the unknown, the tender core is what will keep the game in your mind.