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This Is Why Deadly Premonition Became A Cult Classic

In July 2020, Deadly Premonition 2: A Blessing in Disguise was released as a Nintendo Switch exclusive — reinvigorating interest in the original cult classic. But what was it about the original Deadly Premonition that was so compelling? Gamers wanted to know: how did an objectively terrible game become a phenomenon of its own?

In Deadly Premonition, players are cast into the role of Francis York Morgan, and out-of-town detective investigating a series of murders that leads him to the quaint (but strange) town of Greenvale. Players will observe the townspeople, ask questions, conduct investigations, and occasionally be sent down into a mystical hell world to fight zombie-like enemies known as Shadows.

Despite having a pretty low Metacritic score, there's actually a lot to enjoy about Deadly Premonition — for the right person. On the surface, it's just bizarre: the voice acting is inconsistent, the graphics are dated, and everything feels slightly off. But, as pointed out by The Verge in a review of the sequel, it all somehow adds to the charm.

Because of these quirks, it's also a great game to experience with another person. Once people have played Deadly Premonition, they want to talk about it — and convince other people to play it, too.

Deadly Premonition: a love letter to Twin Peaks

A survival horror game, Deadly Premonition is essentially writer/director Swery65's love letter to the show Twin Peaks. If you've seen Twin Peaks, you could probably tell just based on the premise. But like the show, the game doesn't take itself entirely seriously. Instead, it alternates between unsettling horror and aggressive campiness.

The protagonist of Deadly Premonition speaks to a voice in his head, follows clues he discovers in his coffee, and fights zombies by smashing them in the face with a guitar. Perhaps because the game pokes so much fun at itself, players are inclined to as well — and are more forgiving of the game's flaws.

But what exactly makes a cult classic a cult classic? It has to resonate very strongly with a specific group of people.

In Deadly Premonition's case, there's just nothing else quite like it. The sandwich scene at the dinner epitomizes this; a janky, awkward scene about how a turkey, jam, and cereal sandwich functions as self-punishment, somehow still played straight.

There's a lot going on in Deadly Premonition

Streamers have spent hours unpacking Deadly Premonition and what Swery65 put into it. Swery65 is known for his dense, experimental games, including D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die (a dark, episodic mystery game that had its second season canceled) and The Missing: J.J. Macfield and the Island of Memories (a queer horror platformer).

Spoilers for the series follow.

There are an exceptional number of hidden clues and easter eggs in Deadly Premonition, in part because players can watch the townspeople throughout their day and investigate the town freely. Even a character as small as a dog that you meet in the game is technically a larger player — in fact, the entire town is laid out in the shape of his body. Attentive players may notice clues to the identity of the killer as early as the very first chapter. In fact, these clues are laced throughout the entire game — and some are fairly obvious: the killer's license plate literally reads "IAMTHE1."

Combined, the ridiculous atmosphere and surprisingly dense lore of Deadly Premonition turn the game into something that's both rare and unforgettable, even if the gameplay may be found wanting. And fans of Deadly Premonition can now pick up Deadly Premonition 2 for the Switch to continue the experience.