Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it. Developed by Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy), the game features an original score by Ben Babbitt, along with a suite of old hymns and bluegrass standards recorded by...
User reviews: Very Positive (854 reviews)
Release Date: Feb 22, 2013

Sign in to add this game to your wishlist or mark as not interested

Buy Kentucky Route Zero - Season Pass

All Five Episodes of Ketucky Route Zero will be automatically available upon their release

HOLIDAY SALE! Offer ends January 2


Recommended By Curators

"A powerfully evocative and beautiful subversion of point-and-click rote, but occasionally opaque and disorienting."
Read the full review here.


"Smart, thoughtful, sweet and incredibly well crafted – it’s the perfect game to play in the small hours of a lonely night. Be warned though; it’ll leave you hungry for unknown roads and longing for an invitation to the blues."
Rock, Paper, Shotgun

"Evokes the feeling of old ghost stories told around a campfire. There's the familiarity of friends and family around a warm, man-made fire, but with it comes the unnerving tale of the strange and unusual. Kentucky Route Zero is beautifully bizarre and perfectly poignant, and most of all, deserves your attention."

9.5 - Destructoid

"However you respond to its ethereal imagery, this is a game which makes a rare suggestion: who a player is may be more important than what they do."

84/100 - PC Gamer

Steam Greenlight

About This Game

Kentucky Route Zero is a magical realist adventure game about a secret highway in the caves beneath Kentucky, and the mysterious folks who travel it.

Developed by Cardboard Computer (Jake Elliott and Tamas Kemenczy), the game features an original score by Ben Babbitt, along with a suite of old hymns and bluegrass standards recorded by The Bedquilt Ramblers.

The game is split into five acts. Acts I, II and III are available now. The remaining two acts will be released as they're completed. Taken as a whole, Kentucky Route Zero is roughly the length of a summer night.

Key Features

  • A focus on characterization, atmosphere and storytelling rather than clever puzzles or challenges of skill.
  • A unique art treatment inspired by theatrical set design.
  • A haunting score accompanies the ambient sounds of the bluegrass state.
  • Wander the highways of Kentucky.
  • Make some friends before morning.

System Requirements

Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    • OS:Windows 7
    • Processor:1 GHz
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:Directx 9.0c compatible video card
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
    • OS:Windows 7
    • Processor:1 GHz
    • Memory:1 GB RAM
    • Graphics:Directx 9.0c compatible video card
    • DirectX®:9.0c
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
    • OS:OSX 10.5 Leopard
    • Processor:1 GHz CPU
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0+ compatible video card
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
    • Processor:1 GHz CPU
    • Memory:512 MB RAM
    • Graphics:OpenGL 3.0+ compatible video card
    • Hard Drive:250 MB HD space
    • Sound:Sound card
Helpful customer reviews
29 of 33 people (88%) found this review helpful
12.8 hrs on record
Posted: November 1
There are roads in Kentucky that take you unknown, weird places if you allow yourself to go there. This game is a shortcut to those places wherein you don't need your imagination irl...instead the devs have done all the work for you. Enjoy the surreal, enjoy not having to work for strange magic, enjoy Ky. Rte. 0 ;-)

Btw, if you are ever in the area of Mammoth Cave, do try to visit Pig, Ky - there's an amazing BBQ joint with the most perfect fried catfish and hush puppies...I was literally dragged back to my grandmother's house in a weird space/time when I speak of this game, I know whereof I speak ;-p
Was this review helpful? Yes No
29 of 36 people (81%) found this review helpful
4.1 hrs on record
Posted: November 3
"When I had journeyed half our life's way,
I found myself within a shadowed forest,
For I had lost the path that does not stray,
Ah, it is hard to speak of what it was,
The savage forest, dense and difficult,
which even in recall renews my fear:
so bitter—death is hardly more severe!
But to retell the good discovered there,
I'll also tell the other things I saw"

—The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

I was talking with a few of my poet and literary friends and they were urging me to try this new game.
Here's how our conversation went.

Virgil: Have you guys heard of the Kentucky Route Zero game, I just tried it and it's great.

Me: But it's $24.99, c'mon really?

Dante: You know the punishment I assigned to the greedy and avaricious.

Me: I know I know... but still I don't want to play a game where I watch pixels move on a screen

Homer: Stop ridiculing this masterpiece. You insult The Muses and mighty Zeus.

Me: Alright Alright... but if there's no action in the first five minutes I'm going back to my multiplayer shoot em' up

Proust: Don't worry, you won't be bored. After finishing it you're definitely going to want to tweet the authors and discuss the work.

Me: Whatever Marcel... why should I want to play a game about rednecks who drink whiskey

Proust: Every gamer, as he games, is actually the gamer of himself. The developer's work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the gamer so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this game. The gamer's recognition in himself of what the game says is the proof of the game's truth.

Me: Okay I'll try it.

(ten minutes later)

Me: This is good

(twenty minutes later)

Me: Unreal unreal maybe my friends know something about the art of telling good stories

(An hour later)

Me: (speechless)

Was this review helpful? Yes No
14 of 15 people (93%) found this review helpful
1.0 hrs on record
Posted: November 16
Review currently in progress, to be updated as more episodes are released.

There's something just slightly off about Kentucky Route Zero.

Not the sort of "off" that turns you away and makes you consider whether it ought to be locked up with its unnerving peers, but the kind that leaves you puzzled and transfixed upon the play of sorts being performed before you. The unusual atmosphere and odd interactions with characters is at once unsettling and hypnotic, its logic clashing with reality yet somehow seeming entirely natural in this bizarre segment of road you've found yourself lost on.

The plot trickles out through nebulous exchanges with persons that may or may not even exist, giving you answers as they simultaneously create an abundance of new questions you haven't time to ask. This ambiguity could very easily be the downfall of the game, but there's a self awareness to the narrative's construction that holds it together as it continues to distort its world into a mysterious cloud of disconnected yet overlapping plot lines.

I'm being intentionally unclear with my descriptions because Kentucky Route Zero relies so heavily upon the player's unknowing of what exactly it is. Were I to have come in already versed on its events, I have little doubt that the magic that kept me engrossed as I tried to fit the misshapen pieces together would have been lost, and what I would have been left with would be an artistically inspired but far less stimulating experience.

After only playing the first act of five, I haven't a great deal more to say about Kentucky Route Zero besides how immensely it made me want to explore more about it and learn its secrets which it has only just touched upon. It's hard for me to pinpoint exactly what makes it so interesting to me, but more than anything it is likely the endless possibility of what could be in store after what was essentially a prologue of sorts.

Perhaps I'll have better answers when I've been through the remaining acts, but regardless of what they contain, Kentucky Route Zero has already established itself as wholly compelling. It feels like the road I'm heading down could take me anywhere, and I want to see everything along it.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
11 of 12 people (92%) found this review helpful
3.6 hrs on record
Posted: October 11
I don't play many point and click games, but I really have to say that this is probably the best I've ever played. While technically barely a "game," its ability to draw emotion and bewilderment in equal amounts consistantly make it a memorable experiance-at least the first three acts have been. The soundtrack is also a must have.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
9 of 10 people (90%) found this review helpful
3.5 hrs on record
Posted: October 24
This is exactly how game could be if produced by someone like David Lynch :).

Strange, twisted, mystery and catching story with very nice atmosphere and art, both visual and sound/music.

Kind of materpiece adventure game for me.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
8 of 10 people (80%) found this review helpful
4.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 17
Truly incredible. Scary, smart, different. Amazing narrative. Act III was particularly remarkable. Can't wait for more.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
8 of 10 people (80%) found this review helpful
21.8 hrs on record
Posted: September 12
Can you imagine a rainbow at night? That's Kentucky Route Zero. Lovely but dark with a great concept, atmospheric places and a fantastic soundtrack. Deep sounds build an important part of the game, impossible without but also impossible with spoken words. And a very interesting gameplay where you switch roles to answer questions. Weird things happen here so choose your answer wisely because some options are unique. Like this game unique and very deep but also dangerous, when you start Kentucky Route Zero you will tunnel through time until you fall into the zero. You cannot stop you want to know where you can go next. A warm journey through cold and endless nights.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
6 of 7 people (86%) found this review helpful
5.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 1
Kentucky Route Zero takes you on a surreal journey like none that I've experienced in a long time. I especially like how the games shifts which character you control without telling you, but it always makes situational sense. This is truly an interactive story - beautifully woven narrative and some subtle and not-so-subtle imagery sprinkled throughout that makes you wonder what this story is really about. Do yourself a favor and go play it now.

Side Note: Playing this game makes me wish I had better reading comprehension skills. It's something I've struggled with my whole life, but this game in particular makes me wish I could process prose more completely. I'm absolutely certain that there are subtleties in the writing that I'm missing, but that doesn't make the game any less enjoyable.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
7 of 9 people (78%) found this review helpful
5.3 hrs on record
Posted: July 2
*SPOILER-FREE*I can't recommend this game enough. I planned on sleeping last night, but I decided I would start up act 2 last night and play through until I finished 3. I ended up totally engrossed in the story of the Zero, on the edge of my seat, envoloped in mystery until the big hours of the morning. Needless to say, I liked it.

Basic info: No puzzles, mouse only interaction. That means you can play this on your laptop, in your bed, upside down.

Basic story: You're a delivery truck driver, Conway, and this is your last delivery. Ever. But you can't quite figure out the address...

Now for the gameplay: what's that like? First of all, there is only one kind of puzzle in the game, and that's at the very beginning. This game doesn't try to be a puzzle game, at least not in the traditional sense. You'll never have to go find that one stupid piece of whatever to fit into the ambiguos slot to progress. Most of your time will be spent reading the humanlike interactions you have with everything around you and the stories they tell you and the stories you tell them.

The dialogue and descriptions are all meaningful in the most insignificant way. Your choices don't matter, but at the same time, they are what make up the game. Your choices are what make Conway, his/your companions, and the world of Kentucky Route Zero something uniquely yours. There are no wrong paths in this game, and as soon as you realize that, you can invest into your conversation decisions that sculpt the worldviews of the cast of characters and their perception of Conway, as well as yourself.

By the end of this masterful ordeal, you're playing Conway as much as you're playing yourself. People will make comments about Conway that resonate within your psyche because you made Conway who he is, so they're really talking about you. Or maybe they're not.

The beautify of this game is left to your own interpretation of the events. So please, don't watch a let's play of this game. Play it for yourself.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
8 of 11 people (73%) found this review helpful
4.7 hrs on record
Posted: November 2
Let me preface this by typing out why I really thought this would be a game that I enjoy and would be able to recommend:

I played and loved pretty much all of the classic point & click adventures in their golden era. From the Sierra adventures to Maniac Mansion, Monkey Island, all the Lucasarts games really, Simon the Sorcerer, Baphomets Curse, you name it.

In more recent times I really enjoyed the Telltale games and also the more philosophical approach of The Stanley Parable for example.

If you are in a similar position and thinking about getting this, it is actually not enough to tell if you will like this game or not. I cannot recommend this to you with a straight face.

First off, the graphical fidelity is really limited, as you might have seen already, but I wouldn't really count that as a negative point. The art style is very distinct and on point, and amplifys the creepy and uneasy mood throughout the whole game. They also manage to get some stunning panoramas and effects out of this minimalistic style, it definitely works for this title.

As for the gameplay, there really is not much to speak of. It mainly consists of walking, driving and dialogue. The conversations aren't voiced so get ready for reading. A lot. Also a lot of really basic small talk that has no connection to any part of the story whatsoever. There are also frequent, short (mostly optional) detours from the main path that happen entirely in text form, no visuals.
As far as I've seen there is no form of puzzles or decisions in the game that have any impact on how it unfolds. I disagreed with people that said this is the same in Telltales games. Although the end result is pretty much always the same, there is at least an illusion of choice and advancement, using a thing with another thing to make something happen. Getting the player busy. There is none of that in KRZ, if anything it is very close to a graphic novel where things play out for you, not through you. (This is also evident in the way it is broken up. Acts and Scenes.)
It does a few really neat things, like seamlessly switching the character you control without you actually realizing it.

Well then, the story. This is where I seriously got lost. I can't really tell all that much without spoilering anything, but I can tell you that it is basically all over the place. There is a goal or finish that you know about, but it gets replaced with another goal in the first few minutes of the game, and this new one never gets questioned, just accepted as necessary.
Come to think of it, everything in this game just gets accepted, nothing is questioned. As a result, nothing gets explained or "solved" either. It's like a very elaborate acid trip. A ride you hop in that trails you along, getting crazier and more confusing by the minute. And you really have no choice but letting it happen and not thinking too much about it, moving on.

You would think that the game would make fun of itself through it ridiculous developments, but it doesn't. Apart from literally one or two very brief instances (one "running gag" and a kid), the tone of this game is dead serious.

The soundtrack is used very sparingly, but to great effect, and it's phenomenal. If anything, I really recommend getting that.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
5.4 hrs on record
Posted: October 24
This is, hands down, THE best narrative experience I've ever encountered in a video game. Its weirdness... The craftsmanship of the characters, sounds, and environments... I've never come across anything like it before. Numerous times I just stopped playing and stared at the monitor, thinking outloud, "Wow" in just sheer wonder and amazement at how creative and compelling the scenes are.

If you're in the mood for something a bit off the beaten path, definitely give this game some of your time. It reminds me of O Brother Where Art Thou and I loved that movie for having many of the same qualities.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
5 of 6 people (83%) found this review helpful
3.8 hrs on record
Posted: October 26
I've been putting off playing this game in favor of more action packed, shiny distractions. That was a mistake. The game (story? narrative? memory?) doesn't ask you to suspend your disbelief for its rich, aluring, surreal atmosphere; it doesn't need to. It draws you in, inviting, aluring, mysterious and yet sometimes disturbingly familiar. Simple and satisfying, that is Kentucky Route Zero... but be warned: once you figure out some of what's driving you along this highway, you might just stop looking for an off ramp.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
4 of 5 people (80%) found this review helpful
5.5 hrs on record
Posted: November 14
If you're jaded of the same old killing and fetch questing of AAA games and looking for something different, then this game is for you. Great artistic direction and compelling story. Just sit in a dark room with headphones and let this game take you on one heck of a journey.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
5 of 7 people (71%) found this review helpful
6.8 hrs on record
Posted: August 20
If David Lynch and Guy Maddin had a love child born in Kentucky and interested in deconstructing the codes and structures of adventure games, he would try to do something as uniquely brilliant as Kentucky Route Zero and probably fail.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
10 of 17 people (59%) found this review helpful
3.5 hrs on record
Posted: July 18
Steam asks me to say "yes" or "no", so I choose "no" in this instance. With that said, if you are interested in what games can do, this is a must play. Absolutely.

Between the art and the soundtrack, Kentucky Route Zero is beautiful. You watch scenes literally construct and deconstruct. The ever present ambient music calms you. Personally, the musical performance at the Lower Depths in Act III justified my purchase (though I did buy it on sale). The unfortunate part is that it isn't a game and there isn't a plot. There aren't even characters. It's simply a world that you explore. There's a foundation for a strong game, but the execution relies on one aspect (atmosphere) and abandons everything else.

I admire its ambitions--the dialogue selections become a personality test for the player through (sometimes seemingly endless) dialogue selection, and the pacing, when done well, is done VERY well--but, for me, it hasn't (as of Act III) been successful. Random things happening to / at / in the vicinity of empty shells of characters drives me away. I found myself skipping dialogue, hoping to push everything along. Conway limps through the entirety of Act II, nearly slowing the game to a hault by discouraging you to explore the world. Even magical realism and surrealism need a tether; and that may occur in the remaining two acts but that's a little too late for me.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
3 of 4 people (75%) found this review helpful
5.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 13
This game is a piece of art. It makes you feel sad in a beautiful way as it wraps you up in a magical realist tale in the heart of the Bluegrass State.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
4 of 6 people (67%) found this review helpful
4.8 hrs on record
Posted: August 2
Weird doesn't even begin to describe this game.

Employing pretty unorthodox narrative style Kentucky Route Zero tells a story of a delivery truck driver Conway on his way to the mysterious Dogwood Drive.

The game supposed to be point-and-click adventure but in reality clicking is just means to involve you in the story. You won't see an inventory or puzzles, and the dialogue choices don't have consequences as such. The narrative moves at an uneven pace while keeping you interested. One second you might be controlling Conway but the next you're choosing dialogue option for the person he's talking to. The character you're controlling can be changed literally mid-stride, while two of them just running around. One scene can be told from a perspective of your main character and the next from the perspective of a guy he's seeing for the first time. I would say that is quite innovative for a game narrative.

This game is text-heavy with many dialogues and has beautiful eerie atmosphere. This weird atmosphere and shifting narrative reminds me a lot of David Lynch movies. That would certainly be the way to "gamify" his works. The game is divided into acts and scenes (out of five of which only three are currently released) and has a distinct theater play feel to it.

While most of the playing time is running, clicking and dialogues, among the the odd activities you encounter here are a karaoke session, flying on a giant eagle and playing text adventure on an old oscilloscope.

I would recommend playing this game if you're ready to read a lot and would like to experience gloomy atmosphere and surreal Lynch-esque story through rather experimental storytelling. This is a true work of art.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
4 of 6 people (67%) found this review helpful
2.1 hrs on record
Posted: October 5
Great atmosphere. Interesting and silent quest.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.7 hrs on record
Posted: November 1
This has honestly been one of the most intrigueing forms of media I have ever experienced. It delievers something that no movie, music, or video game can show on its owm, but instead intwines them all together in a beautifully, haunting new world. For fans of point in click adventures, this is truely unique. For fans of people who view video games as a medium of art, this is made for you.
Was this review helpful? Yes No
1 of 1 people (100%) found this review helpful
6.6 hrs on record
Posted: December 18
The full review is below, but here it is condensed version:
- Interesting art style
- Great writing
- Amazing soundtrack
- Game isn't too challenging
- The walking speed can be annoying (though you don't want to run through the game)
- The songs feel awkward sometimes
- The whisperwave hipsters

I've never been moved so fully by a game so as to write a review, until now. Kentucky Route Zero is one of the best and most intricately orchestrated games I've played in a long time, and,though the game is lurching at first, it's worth the investment.

The game is surreal, poetic, and funny but not to the point of excess in any of these aspects. It's riddled with memory, imagination, the surreal, and how they intersect with reality. The replayability of it is vast, just as the world the developers created. It's the most complete I've felt a game to be, and, there's so much in it that you will end up missing a lot. By the time you've omitted your first option in the game, you'll want to go back into it so as to see what exists after that choice.
The writing, as well, is compelling enough to just be a text adventure. But the developers were kind enough to put an original and interesting art style to the game. The way they manipulate the world of the game, and, the way they portray it, rarely seems dull and is deceptively simple. The reality, though, is that this game is
One might think that usually, games like this lack in any substance as far as soundtracks go. But the sounds of this game make such a complete atmosphere to a point where the sounds seem so natural that it's an almost imperceptible addition to the game. The only portion that seemed awkward at first was the music they included in the game, but once you get past the fact of it existing, you realize it's actually good.

This game is one of the best out of 2000's releases, and, hopefully, other's will believe it to be as well. I'd definitely say the game was worth the money I put down. Maybe more.

"Ezra: Do you think they'll start it over after the ending?
Shannon: Yeah, they do that sometimes.
Conway: You want to see the beginning after the ending?
Ezra: Maybe it's better that way."
Was this review helpful? Yes No