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Best of Three is an Interactive Fiction game created by Emily Short in 2001. The gameplay consists of a single conversation with Multiple Endings, along the lines of her earlier game Galatea. The conversation system would be reused for a later game, Pythos Mask.

You play as Helen Tsakis, who's meeting her former high school crush, Grant Stern, for the first time in two years at a cafe. You're not that enthused to see him, and want to prevent any embarrassing bits of history from coming back up... including a prank with your friends as part of a secret group you were in. You can discuss classic literature, religion, his college life, your parents, and various other topics.

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Can be played here.


Best of Three contains examples of:

  • Adjective Animal Alehouse: The game takes place in the Weeping Donkey Coffee Shop.
  • Classical Music Is Cool: Grant likes classical music. In particular, Mozart's Requiem, which he finds "as articulate, and as moving, as a speech in words".
  • Cope by Creating: In high school, Helen vented her frustrations with her unrequited crush on Grant by writing poetry. It's something of an Old Shame for her.
    Like all the angst-ridden teenagers of all time, you once kept and wrote in a notebook the various trials and tribulations of Being In Love With Grant (sometimes in prose, but more often, more’s the pity, in a kind of Dickinsonian verse, touched with long dashes— and heady words— and Thoughts most suitably conceived in a chaise longue[...]
    • Also in high school, Grant wrote a very angsty poem to cope with his parents' divorce.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Parodied. When Grant returns Helen's pen, he says that he kept imagining her writing with an inferior Bic pen. Helen can either thank him or say, "oh, when I lose my pen I use a quill dipped in goat’s blood." Grant is surprised by this response.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: In this game, conversation options are picked with the numbers 1-4. In Pytho's Mask, you choose dialogue options with the letters A, B, C, or D.
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  • Deadpan Snarker: Helen is not happy to be seeing Grant again after the incident where he stole her pen. She takes the opportunity to snark at him when he says something foolish.
    Grant: I tried to find you in the phone book, but I couldn’t figure out how to spell your last name. I think I read the whole S section twice.
    Helen: Considering that it starts with T, that’s not surprising.
  • Dialogue Tree: The game runs on one. You're given 1-4 options to respond or ask Grant questions. Alternatively, if you don't like your choices, you can type "topic [noun]" to see if you can discuss that instead. You also get a limited selection of traditional IF commands, such as being able to sip your drink or examine the area.
  • Gray Rain of Depression: It's raining hard nonstop outside, and this goes along with Helen's disapproval of Grant and general boredom with her town.
  • Hates Their Parent: While Helen is okay with her father, she resents her mother. Helen's mother constantly belittles her, didn't want her to apply to college, and tried to guilt trip her into taking care of her younger brothers.
    Helen: We don’t discuss things in my house. We communicate by a process of applied guilt.
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    • Grant is also mostly fine with his father (whom he describes as not abusive and not restricting), but has a huge beef with his mother for leaving them.
  • Ironic Name: Discussed when Helen mentions that her five-year-old twin brothers have a pet frog named Fuzzy.
    Grant: "Fuzzy"? Are they old enough for irony?
    Helen: Apparently they were under the impression that he got to be that color by getting moldy from being left out in the rain, and they always refer to bad fruit or cheese as ‘fuzzy’.
  • Jerkass Realization: In one ending, Grant realizes why Helen is so upset at him; she had wrote a poem in English class, and Grant gave her insulting, overly critical comments while unaware she wrote it. When this comes up, Grant genuinely apologizes by saying he didn't realize it would be taken so seriously, and that he didn't really mean most of what he said. Helen can accept his apology to get them on better terms and have a happier ending.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrator tends to add in some snarky comments. It calls you out for not knowing what to say when you reconnect with Grant, and later states that you are about to come up with a "rude retort" after one of Grant's comments before you get distracted.
    “Oh, hi.” [Two years you had to make up a witty, spontaneous line for this moment. Nice work.]
  • Minimalist Cast: The only three characters who appear in person are Helen, Grant, and the unnamed waiter. Many others are mentioned, but don't appear.
  • Multiple Endings: The game has multiple different endings. For example, you may reconnect with Grant and want to go out to a movie with him, or you'll end up staying silent and feeling exhausted.
  • Never My Fault: Subverted. After you run into Grant on a dark, rainy night, he pats his pockets and realizes that it's gone missing. He accuses you of having made him lost it, sees your pen and thinks it's his, then steals it from you. Although, he does return it later when he feels guilty (and finds that he left his own pen at home).
    But he doesn’t look back; and you stand there in the rain and contemplate the aesthetic incompetence of a universe that would bring the bane of your existence back into your life just to steal your favorite pen.
  • Noodle Incident: Helen compares 3Nigma's pranks to a "crypto-chain letter" incident. Grant says that "by the time it reached me the computer guys had already solved it". Helen comments, "bastards", and the exact details are never explained.
  • Not Helping Your Case: When Grant accuses Helen of having stolen his pen, he says that he hopes she gets reincarnated as a dung beetle. Helen can take offense to this and bring it back up, to which Grant simply corrects her wording, not the fact that he insulted her.
    “You called me a dung beetle!” In the next booth, someone giggles. Grant cuts them off with a look.
    “No,” he says, to you. “I expressed the hope that you might be reincarnated as a dung beetle. Very different.”
  • Not so Above It All: Discussed. Grant discusses well-known yet cliche romance novels, which he looks down upon for being too structured and not realistic, seeing them as mindless fluff that "desensitizes readers to actual thoughts". Helen admits that she has read a few, to Grant's disbelief.
    Helen: Fine. I read these things from time to time, but it hasn't obliterated my capacity for rational thought. So get off your elitist high horse and admit that there are things that even you enjoy irrationally, and that this is not itself the highway to stupidity.
  • Oblivious Mockery: What ultimately made Helen get over Grant was an incident in English class. He ended up writing scathing insults, such as "startlingly devoid of imagination", on poems that he was unaware Helen wrote. Helen realized that he was an "acute asshole" all along, and throw away her book of poetry about him. Grant has a Jerkass Realization and apologizes, mending his relationship with Helen.
    Grant: I really had no idea that anyone would take the stuff I said that seriously. You know, this thing happens at some point where you realize that you’re able to use words better than average and it becomes the source of reassurance, and sometimes you get so carried away in your eloquence that you say things that you don’t remotely mean.
  • Overcomplicated Menu Order: The cafe actually seems to encourage these, with the waiter suggesting a fancy, complicated order. Grant in particular has a long one.
    Grant: I’d like a small pot of freshly boiling water and two Earl Grey teabags in a mug. Do not attempt to begin brewing the tea yourself, please. On a separate plate, I will require a strip of lemon peel— the full circumference of the lemon at the center, that is, no half-measures— and two cubes of raw sugar. That would be the light brown kind. Also one cookie, the driest you have.
    The waiter is actually quite impressed and makes it to him. In contrast, Helen can either order a cappuccino or nothing.
    Waiter: What, just a cappuccino? No special instructions? You don’t want the steamed milk in a bowl on the side? Piece of kumquat peel? Half-dozen pomegranate seeds?
  • Pen Name: Discussed. Helen and Grant's old English teacher, Ms. Littenburg, now writes cheesy romance novels that she publishes under the name "Mystique Lacey". Both of them recognize that it's actually her writing.
  • Promoted to Parent: Deconstructed. Helen has to take care of her five-year-old twin brothers, which she doesn't appreciate. It's because her mother has left for three years to date someone new, while her father can't even hold down a part-time job and spends most of his time writing cheesy poetry. She's being forced to get a business degree and a job, so she takes "night courses in various intensely tedious subjects so she can be around and look after the kids during the day".
    Helen: If she finds me not working, she will decide that I’m obviously not busy and thus available to take over for her when she’s exhausted and overwrought. And she’s always exhausted and overwrought.
  • Pronouncing My Name for You: The reason Grant couldn't connect with Helen is because he had the wrong impression of her last name. He thought it was "Sockis", and kept looking under "S" in the phone book, while it's actually "Tsakis". Helen has to spell it out for him.
  • Slice of Life: There are no fantasy elements or unrealistic situations. It's just a conversation between two realistic characters facing their past.
  • Speech-Centric Work: The entire game is driven by your conversation with Grant.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Disgusted by his tea that he forgot to put sugar in, Grant says that it "tastes like old socks".
  • Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Often discussed.
    • Grant's high school lab partner was Seph Antibe. Helen can question that name, to which he explains that it's short for "Persephone".
    • The winery owner, Rick Dark, has two twin daughters named Pinot and Noir (his wife thought it was cute). Helen and Grant agree that those are "evil names to give children".
    • Helen's twin brothers are named Lucas Castor and John Pollux. She comments that at least they got away with "normal-ish first names", and most people call them Lukey and Johnny.

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