Before I Forget is an unforgettable indie that deserves a bigger audience

before i forget
(Image credit: 3-Fold Games)
GOTY 2020

goty 2020

(Image credit: Future)

In addition to our team-selected Game of the Year Awards 2020, individual members of the PC Gamer team each select one of their own favourite games of the year. We'll post new personal picks, alongside the main awards, throughout the rest of the month.

Since it released in July, not enough people have talked about Before I Forget. It's a shame, because it's secretly one of the best indie games of the year, even approaching the tragic beauty of What Remains of Edith Finch. Perhaps this game about an invisible illness was simply overshadowed in a year dominated by another one. But even though our collective threshold for more woe has been reduced in 2020, Before I Forget remains as urgent as ever.

Before I Forget is the first game from Bristol developer 3-Fold Games. It can be finished in around an hour, but will stay with you far longer. You inhabit the mind of Sunita Appleby, a pioneering scientist as she searches for her husband Dylan at home in leafy London. None of this I learned from elongated exposition or an NPC talking at me, but from Post-It notes, magazines, and awards that clutter Appleby's house.

Curiously, Sunita learns about herself as we do, expressing as much surprise and awe at her trailblazing achievements as a complete stranger. You and Sunita are quickly one and the same, reinforced by your first-person perspective. In her search for her husband, monochrome, unfamiliar rooms bloom with warm colour as Sunita recalls the memories triggered by her possessions. Sometimes smells and trinkets transport you into a nostalgic reverie as you revisit happier times, like when you and your husband first met. 

But while Before I Forget is the celebration of a life well-lived, these sunnier moments are always tinged with melancholy: Sunita suffers from dementia. The evidence of that goes further than the six-year-old unread emails and notes to buy peaches stuck to a cupboard full of them, though. Your flat becomes a suffocating prison as you get lost on your way to the bathroom, ultimately a distressing, failed quest. Straight corridors bends this way and that into a labyrinth of angry, claustrophobic walls.

In these moments Before I Forget is as much as a horror as it is a narrative exploration game. Its scares are rooted in the mundane, which is precisely the power of this short little indie: when boiling the kettle or going to the toilet in the sanctuary of your own home is terrifying, fear is insidious.

So maybe Before I Forget may have been a bit much to bear this year, as we're forced to reflect on an illness that takes away what, when all is said and done, makes us human: our memories. Still, it mustn't be forgotten. Before I Forget is a mature, crucial experience that helps us understand a disease that affects a tremendous number of people. It's a reminder that now, more than ever, we should be considering those who are most vulnerable, especially this Christmas. If you missed it this year, spare an hour and a little cash—some of the proceeds now go to Alzheimer's Research UK—on this warm, sensitive gem.

Harry Shepherd

UK — After collecting and devouring piles of print gaming guides in his younger days, Harry has been creating 21st century versions for the past five years as Guides Writer at PCGamesN and Guides Editor at PC Gamer. He has also produced features, reviews, and even more guides for Trusted Reviews, TechRadar and Top Ten Reviews. He's been playing and picking apart PC games for over two decades, from hazy memories of what was probably a Snake knock-off on his first rig when he was seven to producing informative guides on football simulators, open-world role-playing games, and shooters today. So many by now he steadfastly refuses to convey information unless it’s in clickable online form.