You Have to Win the Game is a free exploration platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic.
User reviews: Very Positive (3,642 reviews)
Release Date: May 6, 2012

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Free to Play
 

Recommended By Curators

"When not working on AAA titles at Gearbox Studios, J. Kyle Pittman apparently has the time to make gems such as You Have to Win the Game."
Read the full review here.

About This Game

Originally released in May 2012, You Have to Win the Game has now arrived on Steam with a more difficult remixed campaign and Playable Cat DLC*!!

You Have to Win the Game is a free exploration platformer with a retro 1980s PC aesthetic.

Run, jump, and avoid deadly pitfalls as you explore the ruins of a lost world in search of hidden treasures and rare artifacts!

Experience the thrill of four-color CGA graphics and monotonic PC speaker sounds! Or take a peek at the future of home entertainment with the SIXTEEN-COLOR EGA GRAPHICS option!

Want a tougher challenge? Try YOLO mode! You only live once -- one wrong move and it's back to the start of the game!

System Requirements

Windows
Mac OS X
SteamOS + Linux
    Minimum:
    • OS: Windows XP SP2
    • DirectX: Version 9.0c
    • Hard Drive: 20 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: 32-bit executable
    Minimum:
    • OS: OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard
    • Hard Drive: 20 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: 64-bit executable
    Minimum:
    • OS: Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or similar
    • Hard Drive: 20 MB available space
    • Additional Notes: 64-bit executable
Helpful customer reviews
37 of 41 people (90%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
6.4 hrs on record
Posted: January 23
A free game that is a loving tribute to the platformers and "open world" of the ZX Spectrum/Commodore 64/NEC computer days, where the world was divided between different screens that formed the whole of a world much like VVVVVV was, rather than the scrolling with the character that came with Pitfall and Super Mario Bros. Make no mistake while this is a tribute and love letter to many a classic game in level lay out, early 80s tube computer box outline, and art style for it's game world, it is very much a game for modern design and ease of getting into.

A game where you have plenty of opportunities to learn exactly what to do due to natural and clear explanation of what to do in what is shown and required (touch an enemy and die, longer pit requires to hold the jump longer, etc), and true to it's roots it never gets too confusing in what to do or where to go unless you yourself have lost your way. It rewards mastering the jumps and wall jumps (a power up), it gives the chance for pixel perfect jumping when desired in it's normal mode, nothing is impossible to reach once you know how and can (power ups, 2 of them), and there is never a situation where one can get stuck.
As it is old school it can prove challenging to those who require a clear cut map, as none is provided and instead has one memorising the world and it's lay out until you have a good idea where to go next. As death is never a issue in it's normal mode, with Super Meat Boy like instant-respawn and an infinite number, however one is never punished for exploring and through time you learn the routes to take until they become second nature. Take as many tries as needed, never respawn too far from doing it again or leaving to try something else, it's open to you with the normal mode. As it is screen to screen, a static image as only you and enemies and some objects move in it, you learn what each one looks like with a way to remember them by a quote at the bottom to make each one stand out beyond just it's unique lay out.

Never more than a game about collecting all the money bags in the world and platforming save for one end game puzzle, which you are told how to solve by clues written on the wall, your only worry is your own skill at platforming. You jump, you wall jump eventually, you slide down, you move. The enemies are things that move from left to right or shoot small bullets in a set pattern, nothing to worry about because they never do anything different and thus you can take your time until you master them. Then, quickly speed past them and that may just be the best tactic to get through a specific screen.

As a platformer fan, as someone who loves to explore a game world, and one who enjoys creative designs with limitations on what is actually shown at any given time, I find this to just to be a spectacular and amazing game that does so many things right and is a pure example of a platformer. A game where my first play through was filled with numerous deaths, gave me the greatest sense of satisfaction in earning an achievement (Steam) when I beat the game by never dying, proving that I had mastered the game and knew exactly what to do.

Yet it doesn't even end there. For it offers a Master Quest style challenge, named Extra Spicy Mode, which completely changes up the lay out of every screen, the order in which you travel the world, the challenge offered, and you collect power ups in reverse making it that much more of a different experience. A wonderful thing to go through after I had just "mastered the game and knew exactly what to do". One section required me to do a pixel perfect landing on what normally is death for example, another learning not to jump to keep yourself alive as normal on a vertical positioned platform, and it made me work through it and improve my skill that much more without ever being unfair.

There are issues that can prevent many people from finishing it because it is challenging, those who quit games easily/rage quit may find little to love here as it's all on the player, at times easy for some to lose track of where they are or going due to no map, it won't be for all fans of platformers who want the Super Mario Bros influenced style of always moving right and holding down speed and jumping only, and there is no action/attacking some crave. Yet it is still one of the best examples of this type of platforming, a loving homage to a style very rarely seen today, and of course it's free so there is no loss in trying.

Also you can play as a cat.
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23 of 26 people (88%) found this review helpful
1.5 hrs on record
Posted: March 29
You Have to Win the Game is a short but sweet exploration-based retro platformer seemingly designed with the sole purpose of plunging a bullseye arrow into my nostalgia heart. The game has the look of the early PC games I grew up on, complete with CGA graphics (you play it through an in-game CRT monitor emulated on the screen), but designed with the modern pixel-perfect platforming sensibilities of games like VVVVVV and Super Meat Boy. Thankfully, it's not nearly as hard as those games, and can be easily completed in around an hour or so with a little bit of determination. Checkpoints are liberal, and there is no penalty for dying. And for those who enjoy a tougher challenge, there are harder modes available, along with a collection sidequest for 100% completion.

And the best part? It's absolutely free. Seriously, as in no-strings attached, no microtransaction bull$h%t, 100% free. One might think that may mean the quality probably isn't that great, but I assure you it's rock-solid, and clearly made with love and care by someone who was inspired by those early days of PC gaming as much as I was. If you're a fan of 2D platformers, or games having a retro-style with a bit of challenge to them, check this one out.
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19 of 23 people (83%) found this review helpful
2 people found this review funny
4.5 hrs on record
Posted: March 23
There are lot of rubbish on Steam for money. This is a good game for free. And in this rare case free means really free, not a free to loose, pay to win bait as usual.

Maybe those who born in the GHz era cant really value it. I dont know. I played games like Alley Cat when that tech level was recent so it brought back old memories. :)

Imho if you are 2-3x times older than the typical cs:go player and played on PC decades ago you should try out You Have to Win the Game.
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19 of 26 people (73%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
0.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 10
Holy F### this game is hard!

"You Have to Win the Game"? I think not, lol.

Seriously, it is actually a well crafted game, and for people who are good at games like Electronic Super Joy, Love, and so on, this game will provide a fun challenge. If you are like me though, the 100th death or so is the point where I had to decide just how much I valued my gamepad. Turns out, I value my gamepad a whole lot more than I value this game, so rather than smash the controller, I deleted this game.

That said, the quality of this game cant be denied, and it happens to be free as well, so there is no reason not to play it and decide for yourself. It is designed to make you angry but also get a sense of achievement when you finally do get your timing down and do something. you also get a very real sense of frustration when you fail to do so and end up having to try the same thing over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over..................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................♥♥♥♥!
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16 of 24 people (67%) found this review helpful
1 person found this review funny
4.3 hrs on record
Posted: January 6
You can play as a cat, that's insta-winning the game. :^)
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