Follow TV Tropes


Video Game / The Path

Go To

"Which path will you take: the path of needles, or the path of pins?"

Six sisters are tasked with delivering a basket of bread and wine to their bedridden grandmother who lives in the middle of the forest at the end of a dirt path. One at a time, each girl is sent with only two instructions: go to Grandmother's house and stay on the path. Sound familiar?

In this dark retelling of the classic tale, you take control of one of the red girls as you lead them into the woods, and although advised to stay on the path, nothing prevents you from exploring the forest, collecting flowers, chasing animals and exploring abandoned locations. Though be warned, you are not the only one in the forest. This is, after all, an adaptation of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, and at any given time, you may run into the wolf...

If you wish to get the full experience out of the game, stop reading now and play it for yourself. Most of the fun is in not knowing what comes next. It first came out in 2009 on PC, and you can buy it here. The game is also available on Steam here.


The Path is not really a game in the conventional sense, in that there are no enemies, no points, no levels, no bosses, and the goals are vague at best; in fact, the only thing that resembles a game in this is a grading system that grades you on how far you traveled and how many items you've collected along the way, though the creators tell you to disregard it. The Path is more of an experience, a combination of atmosphere and ambiguous storytelling to create a sense of real emotion rarely found in other things. It could be seen as a prototypical example of the Environmental Narrative Game, due to its minimalist mechanics and emphasis on storytelling and exploration. That being said, it is certainly not for everyone. The game, though short, is slow and borders on repetitive. It is not for the impatient, and with its subtle references to violence and sex, it is definitely not for kids.


Note that some of the trope names below can be spoilers in themselves.

Compare to The Dark Side of Red Riding Hood, which is freeware and equally gameplay-light, and contrast with Woolfe - The Red Hood Diaries, which takes an action-filled approach to the fairy tale.

This game contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Playground: This is the place you find Ruby's Wolf.
  • Airplane Arms: This is how the Girl in White runs.
  • All There in the Manual: All six girls have their own LiveJournal page. The official website details information otherwise unmentioned in-game, such as the characters' ages.
  • Alien Geometries: Grandmother's house, seems normal at first, but the alternate pathways and post-wolf situation makes the layout well beyond what should be possible in the house.
  • Alpha Bitch: Carmen seems to aspire to be this, if she isn't one already.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Ginger is a tomboy who expresses no interest in guys. Her wolf encounter is her and another girl chasing each other before happily laying in a field of flowers together, leading to speculation that her story is an LGBT Awakening.
  • Animal Motifs: While there are obviously several mentions of wolves, birds also play a prime role in the game's symbolism— from the dead fledgeling Robin finds in the graveyard, to the bird outside its cage in Rose's version of Grandma's house, to the crows on the wire during Ginger's harrowing.
  • Attention Whore: Carmen loves the thought of men looking at her. She is described as strutting and teasing guys, but never going farther than that.
  • Badass Longcoat: Scarlet's wolf.
  • Bald of Evil: Carmen's wolf.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Carmen seems to believe in this, but is ignorant of the actual lifestyle.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Grandma puts it best: "Wolves lurk in every guise... the sweetest tongue has the sharpest tooth."
  • Big Little Sister: Minor example: Rose is slightly taller than her older sister Ginger.
  • Break the Haughty: Each character's personality flaws lead to the encounter with their wolf.
  • Break the Cutie: Some of the girls, mostly the younger ones, seem to encounter the wolf out of naiveté and innocence rather than knowingly making poor decisions. This mainly applies to Robin and Rose.
  • Broken Record: The creators point out that it's not just a looping animation, but that the Woodsman is transfixed on constantly hitting one specific tree that will never fall.
  • Camera Screw: Normally, the camera follows you from behind, but at certain parts in the forest, the camera will jump to a fixed point, changing the controls from "forward is where the camera faces" to "forward is where the girl is facing". Also, when you run for a few seconds, the camera pans back, giving you a limited view of what's ahead.
  • Character Blog: Every one of the sisters has their own livejournal that they updated regularly until the release of the game. Even Grandmother had her own journal; although she never posted anything, she did comment sometimes. Every journal also had rather cryptic comments from someone who sounded like a wolf.
  • Character Focus: As far as the sisters go, Ruby is the one on all of the merchandise, was the first character designed and made playable in the game, gets the most fan art and cosplayers, and was featured in the trailer.
  • Character Select Forcing: There are some items that can appear for all girls, but only one or two can interact with. The items that unlock rooms, the balloon or the piano are examples.
  • Children Are Innocent: Robin, Rose, and Ginger, the younger of the six.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Rose seems to be this: lost in her own thoughts, drifting through her own world, and always has her thoughts on flying or floating.
  • Color Motif: All of the girls are associated with red (obviously), white, and black. Some of them have different colors for the finale. Scarlet's wolf and her version of Grandmother's House are green instead: it's the direct opposite of red, often associated with The Fair Folk, and one of the rooms is a backstage area, which is called a "green room".
  • Colourful Theme Naming: The names of all six girls are associated with the color red, and in fact, "Red" can be used as a surname for all of them to create a small color-themed pun: Robin Red (breast), Ginger Red, Rose Red, Ruby Red, Carmen (Carmine) Red, and Scarlet Red.
  • Coming of Age Story: The creators have stated that this is the general theme. You have no real control over the girls. You can either watch them stray from the path and make their own mistakes, or do nothing. Them blacking out at the sight of the wolf is a moment of realization for them, and them entering Grandma's house is them growing as a person.
  • Curiosity Killed the Cast
  • Darkness Equals Death: Subverted. Grandmother's house has limited lighting (and is associated with darkness) but is safe. After the wolf encounter, the rooms are more brightly lit even if they are a bit more hazy or blurred. The only exception is standing still after the wolf encounter, which darkens the view but isn't otherwise dangerous.
  • Dark Reprise:
    • In Rose's version of Grandma's house, you can hear her nervously singing to herself the safe song that plays when you're on the path.
    • Ruby and Carmen sing it in their versions of Grandma's house, too.
  • Death by Irony: Each wolf represents what each girl wants. Word Of God says that each wolf represents temptation as much as it does death.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ruby seems to be this. "A scarecrow. And no birds. Efficient! Wish I had one to keep the idiots away."
  • Death Seeker: Not Ruby. Word Of God notes that she just seems to like being gloomy and morbid.
  • Delinquent Hair: Ginger has flaming red hair, Ruby has blue-black hair, and Carmen has purple highlights. The rest of the girls all have very dark brown hair.
  • Does Not Like Men: Scarlet seems to see men as disgusting perverse creatures who only make messes.
  • Does Not Like Shoes: Ginger.
  • Downer Ending: Maybe so, maybe not.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Ruby seems to have a drug problem, and says she wants to start smoking so she can be that much closer to dying.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: All of them except for Ginger. Ruby dyed her hair black.
  • Eldritch Location: Grandma's house, if you unlock the secret rooms. In the case of Ginger's version, you see Grandma's room through blinds, but somehow double-back while moving in the same direction.
  • Endless Corridor: Rose's first secret room first appears to be a line of toilets when she enters a door. Ruby has a line of lockers preceding a gym for the Wolves sports team. Both eventually stop, but the corridor itself extends suddenly from what appears to be an empty room.
  • Environmental Symbolism
  • Evil Counterpart: Ginger's wolf, the Girl in Red, is the counterpart to the Girl in White. Her foreground overlay is even rendered upside down.
  • Expy: Several. Ginger is modeled after a young Natalie Portman, Rose's hair is a variant on Lain's hair, and Ruby bears a striking resemblance to Beetlejuice's Lydia.
    • Not to mention that the Girl in White is explicitly based on the deaf-mute princess from a previous video game project they worked on.
      • Also note her resemblance to designer Auriea Harvey at age 8, shown here (scroll down).
  • Eye Scream: During the sequence of flashing images after Scarlet's "death" in Grandma's house, her eyes appear to be bleeding, and their image is juxtaposed against the image of her wolf's long fingernails.
  • Fan Disservice: Grandma's house in Carmen's ending. As she walks through it, we hear orgasmic female moans which overlap with the sound of a chainsaw.
  • Fan Vid: This fan-made trailer of what a movie version might look like.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: If you stay on the path, you fail. If you leave the path, you die/are attacked.
  • The Fair Folk: Scarlet's wolf seems to be this, as it is named "Fey wolf".
  • Fashionable Asymmetry: Ruby's one silk stocking, probably to draw attention away from her leg brace.
    • Or to it, as it would be much less visible if she wore two.
  • Femme Fatale: Carmen wants to be one.
    • Ruby claims to (she talks about how men are disposable after you get what you want, by a car). Evidence suggests that she's really more into dangerous guys instead, though.
  • Foil: The Girl In Red to The Girl In White, according to this.
  • Fertile Feet: When Robin kneels over a gravestone to pray, flowers begin to blossom from the grave.
  • Fille Fatale: Carmen is very aware of her sex appeal, enjoys flaunting herself to older men, and the tie-in blogs even refer to her as 'Sexy Red'. She's also sixteen.
  • Fractured Fairy Tale: Played straight and averted. The soundtrack contains two narrations of very eerie versions of the story of Little Red Riding Hood, but they are both real versions of the story. One is a more cheerful traditional rendition of the tale as we know it, but without the happy ending added on later. The second is a much darker story, which was one of the oldest versions of the fairy tale, and while it seems darker and creepier, it ultimately has a happy ending.
  • Friend to All Living Things: Rose.
  • Gainax Ending: The girl in white is the last one sent out. Since she doesn't have a wolf, she needs to go to grandmother's house, go through the six hazards that the daughters were killed in, and meet the grandmother. Back at the first scene, she has blood on her dress, and the daughters walk back in the room.
  • Gameplay Grading: At the end of every run through, it will give you a completely superfluous letter grade, based on items collected.
  • Gamer Chick: "The cake is a lie. The cake is a lie."
  • Geographic Flexibility: The way the forest is designed, it's almost impossible to truly know where anything is. The livejournals of the girls point this out, when Robin wants to know where the abandoned playground is because she never saw it before, and Ruby comments that you can only find it if you're not looking for it.
    • As Rose notes in her journal, no matter how fast she tries to run, it always ends up turning into night by the time you reach Grandma's house.
    • If you run towards Grandma's house, it becomes night time. If you run from the house back to the paved road, it returns to daytime (even in the post-wolf portion, but that takes a while).
  • Girlish Pig Tails: Robin, the Girl in White, and the Girl in Red have them.
  • Goth: Ruby.
  • Gotta Catch Them All: Littered around the forest are 144 coin flowers and 34 additional memories to collect.
    • The coin flowers are meant to be a parody of this trope. Collecting six in a row gives you a hint to where a memory is, but collecting all of them does nothing. At all.
    • There are some items or objects that the characters can interact with (e.g. a broken down couch in the middle of the forest) but trigger no memories and don't appear in the map. You might not notice it if you beeline to just the objectives.
  • Granny Classic: If the girls' livejournals are good indicators, Grandmother is your classic old lady figure. She even gave Robin her treasured red hooded coat.
  • Grimmification: Little Red Riding Hood darkened and modernized.
  • Growing Up Sucks: A common interpretation of the game. The original story has been interpreted by some to be about puberty. In the case of each girl, they more or less are taught a "life lesson" by their wolf before they reach Grandma's house. At the end of their "path" (or life) lies nothing but death. So hence, in each case, the girl is more or less losing their childhood innocence; Carmen loses it in the most obvious way, but Robin, for example, loses it by learning about death (she meets her wolf in a cemetery and has thoughts that are very much not at ease with the nature of death).
    • It seems to be the general view that Ginger has, believing Scarlet to be proof that growing up makes you boring and uptight.
  • Harmful to Minors: Poor Robin.
  • Hartman Hips: Carmen.
  • High School Is Hell: Pretty much literally for Ruby, judging from Grandma's house turning into a gymnasium and a hall of lockers.
  • Homage: The developers must have really enjoyed The Company of Wolves.
  • Iconic Item: Robin's red hooded coat. Scarlett's shrug is also in reference to the original stories of Little Red Riding Hood, where the girl wore an item similar in appearance.
  • I Coulda Been a Contender!: It's implied that Scarlet had to give up her dreams of being a pianist to take care of her family.
  • Idle Animation: Each girl has their own; you can even swivel the camera around and watch them.
  • Ignoring by Singing: The safe song that plays on the path is definitely reminiscent. Appropriate, given that the path represents blind obedience and ignoring the forest.
    • A failed attempt of this happens with Rose, Ruby and Carmen who sing it desperately as they get confronted with the horror of post-wolf grandma's house.
  • I Just Want to Be Loved: Carmen and Scarlet, although the latter is willing to take the secret of her loneliness with her to the grave.
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: Ruby
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: Ginger's secret room does this.
  • Ironic Echo: A popular quote in the game that gets thrown around a lot is Robin's "Wolves are just dogs."
  • Ironic Hell: Grandma's house.
  • Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: Mostly delivered via poetry (what the girls are thinking), brief cutscenes, heavy symbolism, and images flashing across the screen for a quarter of a second.
  • Killer Rabbit: Robin's wolf is supposed to be a combination of pretty adorable and insanely creepy, something cartoony and childish that would be exactly the kind of image a child would have in a nightmare.
  • Kill 'Em All
  • Knight in Sour Armor: Scarlet's journal seems to indicate that she is quite the pessimist, only talking about the end of the world, and how uncivilized people are these days. Despite this, she still seems to remain dedicated to obeying rules blindly. The panic that consumes you is the fear of order.
  • Last Note Nightmare: The ending to the song "Forest Theme". In the last two minutes, it suddenly shifts from soothing singing (though see Lyrical Dissonance below) to a harsh and raspy voice screeching "And I will eat you". Also the in-game version of "Girl In Red", which ends with a static scratchy noise that almost sounds like screams that slowly overpowers the rest of the music.
  • Leitmotif: The path and the woods have their own, as do the wolves.
  • LGBT Awakening: Possibly one for Ginger. She and her wolf (a friendly girl about her age) interact in a way that could be read as romantic, and her wolf encounter is by far the gentlest and happiest, implying that it's a metaphor for a positive life experience rather than a traumatic one.
  • Light Is Not Good / A Light in the Distance: Nearby major landmarks have a brighter light in their general direction. It's also where you find the wolf.
  • Little Dead Riding Hood
  • Love Freak: The creators describe Rose as a passionate believer in true love, as it's the only love she knows.
    • Carmen's journal seems to indicate that she too is also a passionate believer in love and romance. Though she seems to believe the only way of finding love is through sex.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: The "Forest Theme," as mentioned above (see Last Note Nightmare) does sound very soothing, until you listen to what's being said. It starts off dark and goes downhill from there.
    ''Don't let the wolf into your bed/He'll take your soul and eat your head..."
  • Madness Mantra: At the end of "Forest theme". "And I will eat you! And I will eat you! And I will eat you! And I will eat you eat you eat you!"
  • Magical Negro: The girl in white. Maybe even literally. If you encounter her after straying from the path, she will guide you back out of the forest. If you stand still and away from objects long enough, your character will act helpless and the girl in white will be drawn to your aid.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: The six sisters that are the protagonists.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is all this stuff really happening, or are they just metaphors?
  • Meaningful Name: Or perhaps just a punny one. It's not such a surprise that the sisters' surname is Red, but their first names allude to the color as well: Scarlet, Carmen (or carmine), Ruby, Ginger, Rose, and Robin.
  • Men Are Uncultured: Scarlet thinks so, anyways.
  • Mind Screw: Grandma's house, especially after encountering a wolf. Special mention goes to Rose's wolf.
  • Nature Hero: Ginger, who loves the forest so much that she has no qualms abandoning her nine-year-old sister at Grandma's house so she can play in the forest alone.
  • Neat Freak: Scarlet is heavily implied to have an obsessive need for cleanliness.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Ruby is fascinated with the darkness of the forest, and considers cold and decaying things to be beautiful.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: The woods and Grandma's house.
    • If you wait in Grandma's house after meeting the wolf, the screen darkens and you hear wolvish noises.
  • Of Course I Smoke: Ruby, when offered a light by her wolf.
  • Ominous Fog: All around the woods. There's also a lake surrounded by even denser fog. Rose's wolf is an enigmatic humanoid-like shape covered in dense fog, wandering over the lake.
  • Parental Abandonment: There is no mention of parents throughout the game, with only passing references to their mother on both the website and each of the girls' LiveJournals.
  • Parental Favoritism: If you are good and obedient and go straight to grandma's house, she'll have a single framed picture of your character hanging over her bed. This also applies if you wander into the forest but don't meet the wolf.
  • Playable Epilogue: The demo for The Path, "Prologue", looks more like it takes place after the game. All of the landmarks are dark and pillars of smoke are everywhere, with ash falling from the sky, and strange marks on the ground.
  • Playful Pursuit: Ginger and her wolf chase each other through the field of flowers, laughing. It can be read as either friendly or romantic.
  • Primal Fear: As you run faster in the woods, the screen gets blurrier, the camera tilts well downward so you can hardly see anything in front of you, and the coin flowers become invisible. This is to simulate the feeling of running blindly in panic with no idea where you're going.
  • Promotion to Parent: Scarlet.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: The position of locations within the woods move from game-to-game, as well as from character-to-character.
  • Red Riding Hood Replica: The game is very based on the tale, having six sisters in red clothes with red Colourful Theme Naming delivering food to their grandmother with the possibility of encountering a wolf-figure.
  • Refusal of the Call: At any time, a character can choose to go back home instead of visiting Grandma. Behind the starting point is a phone used to call for a pickup, but you can also use the menu to return. Attempting to run back to the city will simply teleport you one map-length toward the house.
  • Reverse Psychology: To succeed, you need to disobey the shown instruction.
  • Sadistic Choice: You spend each character's time in the forest really learning exactly who they are and what makes them tick, and when you get to the wolf, it's either waltz them into what will guarantee a miserable death, or get out of the forest and not complete their scenario.
  • Savage Wolves: Of the wolves, Robin's wolf is in a scary animal form. She grabs the back of the wolf during the encounter.
  • Scary Black Man: Though it's hard to tell in-game, the woodsman is black.
  • Sexy Walk: Carmen tries to pull it off.
  • Shout-Out: Ruby, anyone?
  • Sinister Scraping Sound: The theme song of Scarlet's wolf contains the sound of a knife being sharpened.
  • Spirit Advisor: A possible interpretation of the Girl in White.
  • Stay on the Path: Except you mustn't.
  • Stealth Pun: Scarlet's wolf is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Ginger's wolf is a wolf in sheep's clothing.
  • Surreal Horror: The woods, especially if it's night. Did we mention Grandma's house?
  • The Ghost: The girls' mother.
  • The Lost Woods: The woods, once you wander away from the path a sufficient distance. It will be impossible to find your way back without help from the Girl in White.
  • There Can Be Only One
  • The Spook: Rose's wolf is the creators' favorite of all the wolves, as it's something that is utterly and beautifully impossible to describe in words, other than they cry when seeing the scene with it.
  • The Tease: Carmen loves the attention she gets from men and often teases them to get it. She doesn't go beyond that, though.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Ginger is the tomboy, her sisters are girly girls.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: One of the most common interpretations for Rose's path is that she has a terminal illness, possibly multiple sclerosis, which would make her a perfect case of this.
  • Trickster Archetype: The Girl In Red seems to be this.
  • Unkempt Beauty: The creators were originally planning to make Ginger look much more boyish, but decided to make her look more feminine because they saw something poetic in a girl who doesn't seem to be aware of how lovely she actually is.
  • Video Game Geography: The forest uses a wrap around mechanic, although backgracking on the path and running past Grandmother's house has some special handling.
  • Visual Innuendo: After each girl's encounter with their wolf, they wake up with body language that suggests... ahem... rough treatment; they move sluggishly and limp across the bridge to Grandma's in a torrent of rain. Also, several of the wolf encounters seem somewhat sexualized- Carmen's encounter in particular seems uncomfortably reminiscent of rape.
  • Violation of Common Sense: The only way to proceed in the game is to do the opposite of what the game first tells you to do.
  • White Shirt of Death: The Girl in White at the very end.
  • Wise Beyond Their Years: Rose tries to be this.
  • Wolf Man / Our Werewolves Are Different: Robin's wolf.
  • World of Symbolism
  • The World Is Just Awesome: Rose seems to think the world is just beautiful.
  • Yellow Brick Road: Subverted; see Violation of Common Sense.