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Undertale logo.jpg
How will you behave in the Underground?
Genre Role-Playing
Gamming Style Single-Player
Platform Windows, OS X, Linux[1]
Release Date Sept 15, 2015 (Windows, OS X); July 17, 2016 (Linux) [2]
Developer Toby Fox
Publisher Toby Fox
Website http://undertale.com

Undertale is a retro-style indie role-playing game that was created by Toby Fox and released on September 15, 2015. The game is played on desktop and is sold for $9.99 on the game's website as well as Steam. Players explore many areas throughout the "Underground" world of the game, and encounter many characters that they must choose to fight or spare. The game involved strong emphasis on player autonomy and the choice between pacifism and violence, and the game responds and adapts to the ways in which the player interacts with the game's characters.

Awards and History

Undertale has been ranked #37 on metacritic's Best PC Video Games of all Time with a user score of 7.9 [3], and has won multiple awards and nominations such as Game of the Year from The Jimquisition and Zero Punctuation, as well as Best PC Game from Destructoid and IGN, among others [4]

Funding for the game was originally raised through Kickstarter with a goal of $5,000. The campaign started on June 24, 2013 and reached it's original goal within the same day. On July 25, 2013 the Kickstarter ended with a final amount of $51,124 raised [5]

Toby Fox created the game with GameMaker: Studio, a proprietary software for game creation that utilizes the Delphi programming language [6]. Toby is the main developer of the game, and he composed all the music that is heard within the game. He also enlisted the help of many artists such as Temmie Chang, who designed the game's logo and is credited as the game's "cutscene artist, overworld artist, animator, shop artist, and title artist," as well as conceptualizing many game characters such as Loox, Vegetoid, Papyrus, Lesser Dog, Greater Dog, Undyne, Aaron, and her own personal character within the game, Temmie [7]


Undertale is a game where you play as a human child that has fallen into the underground – a place where monsters have gone to live after being banished away from the human world. The game tasks you with wandering through the underground, trying to reach King Asgore Dreemurr, the monster that will supposedly send you back home to the human world. Throughout your journey you meet many monsters, and you can choose to either be a True Pacifist and spare them, or fight them and play a Genocide Route.

Main Characters

In order of appearance:


Flowey is the first character that a player encounters in the game, and he appears to be a harmless, friendly flower. When the player talks to him however, he tells them that he is going to give them "friendliness pellets," which in fact turn out to be bullets that hurt the character.

"Photoshop Flowey"

While Flowey is the first character that a player must face, he is also the final boss battle in the Pacifist Route. He tells the player how foolish they have been to not have killed the other monsters, as his philosophy is "Kill or Be Killed," and he threatens to harm the monster friends that the player has made within the game [8]. The player must then battle an enhanced version of Flowey (commonly known as "Photoshop Flowey"). After sparing this version of Flowey, he turns into the character Asriel, the diseased son of King Asgore and Toriel. The player learns how Asriel tried to take a human that had previously fallen into the Underground through the barrier to the human world by merging their souls together, which eventually killed both of them [9]. In an attempt to bring Asriel back to life, the scientist Alphys turned Asriel into a golden flower, but this reincarnation of Asriel fails to have a soul. When "Photoshop Flowey" makes this brief reappearance as Asriel he is able to see how the player has truly made friends and lets the monsters that he has captured go free.

In the Genocide Route Flowey is no longer a boss battle. Once a player kills Sans they go on in the game to find King Asgore and Flowey, who both beg the character for mercy. The game automatically makes the player kill both of these bosses.


After Flowey first attacks the player, Toriel comes and saved the player [10]. She takes the player in and allows them refuge in her house, acting much like a mother figure. When the player tries to leave her house and explore further into the Underground Toriel begs the player not to go, warning them of danger [10]. When the player eventually insists on leaving, Toriel becomes the first real boss battle.

Once Toriel is spared in the Pacifist Route she allows the player to pass, but states, "If you truly wish to leave the RUINS... I will not stop you. However, when you leave... Please do not come back. I hope you understand." [10], alluding to how the player must go on and either get back to the human world, or else they will die trying.

When the player eventually spares Asgore in the Pacifist Route, they are reunited with Toriel, as she saves the player from Asgore when he tries to steal their soul. It is here that we learn that Asgore is Toriel's ex-husband, and Asriel was their child together. This revelation casts perspective on why Toriel had so much apprehension to let the player go on to explore the Underground. She lost a child that she loved and does not want to see the child that reminds her of her own to have the same fate.










Ethical Implications


At first glance, Undertale is simply a game that where players wander around the underground and kill monsters in order to continue on their journey. However, a player can choose to be a pacifist and “spare” the monsters they encounter by solving puzzles [11] . During these battles the player must determine how to speak to the monster they are “battling” by reading the monsters’ reactions to each option, and essentially talk the monsters into letting them go.

Toby Fox, the creator of the game, seems to steer players into the pacifist direction by giving monsters humorous and lovable personalities that make the player not want to kill them [12]. There is a particular character, Toriel, who players meet early on in the game. Toriel takes the player in and acts as a motherly figure. Eventually the character must leave Toriel’s house, but Toriel doesn’t want to allow it. She becomes the first boss battle of the game, and players must choose to fight or spare her. Sparing is a much harder action to complete, but players often feel a sense of dedication to Toriel and have to make a hard decision between what is easy, and what is framed as the moral option.

Fighting monsters does have a few benefits. Fights are often won sooner, as monsters can only lose HP, and because of this players often don’t have to complete as many stages of the battle as they do when they spare the monsters. Also, when players kill monsters, they gain a higher level of HP.


One of the defining features of Undertale is how “smart” it is. The game remembers every decision the player makes. If a player kills a single monster in any play through of the game, they will never again be able to earn a “True Pacifist” ending [11]. In fact, in subsequent play throughs many characters will mention things about how they remember the player, and perhaps have some preconceived feelings [13] In this sense, the game acts as a commentary on how once you kill, or even bully, you can never take back your action and in turn you have to deal with the consequences[13].

The game also acts as a commentary on video game mechanics, as players don’t complete levels in the same way that they would in a typical game. Players do progress through different stages of the game, such as Toriel's Home, Snowdin, and Hotland just to name a few, but they are shown to be on level one until they kill a monster. This makes a statement about how in many video games players must engage in violence. Undertale offers an alternative to this typical aspect, but it still does grant the player a choice in whether or not to engage in violence. The fact that pacifist players don’t gain levels throughout the game (along with not gaining extra strength through HP) can confuse new players and make them feel as though they aren’t progressing in the correct way[14], but when players do learn what the level number means, it is often too late, and they have solidified their fate and will never be able to be a “True Pacifist”.

Near the end of the game, players enter King Asgore’s castle, and they are met by Sans. Sans takes a look back on how the player has played the game, and becomes a boss battle accordingly. In the Pacifist Route, Sans congratulates the player on their choices and sends them on their way[15]. In the neutral route, he is sad and gives the player a moment to reflect on their actions, but he again lets them pass. In the Genocide Route however, Sans becomes the final boss battle, and is regarded by many as the most difficult boss within the game[15]. In the Pacifist Route, Sans is a very friendly character that always seems to have the player’s best interest at heart, and he has many close relationships to monsters throughout the game, particularly his brother Papyrus. The ways that players interact with Papyrus has a large impact on the way that Sans views and interacts with the player. Killing Papyrus will immediately put the player on Sans’ bad side, but he will not automatically battle them unless they have also killed the other bosses. His good nature is humorous, but his part as the final boss in the Genocide Route also acts as a commentary on how the nicest characters are not always weak. Sans is often underestimated, but is actually very powerful.


  1. Undertale "Platform" http://undertale.com
  2. Wikipedia. "Undertale" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undertale
  3. Metacritic "rank" http://www.metacritic.com/browse/games/score/metascore/all/pc/filtered?sort=desc
  4. Wikipedia "awards" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Undertale#cite_note-Jimquisition_Awards-60
  5. Kickstarter "funding" https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1002143342/undertale/updates
  6. Wikipedia. "GameMaker: Studio" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/GameMaker:_Studio
  7. Wikia "Temmie" http://undertale.wikia.com/wiki/Temmie_Chang
  8. Wikia "Flowey" http://undertale.wikia.com/wiki/Flowey
  9. Wikia "Asriel" http://undertale.wikia.com/wiki/Asriel_Dreemurr
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Wikia "Toriel" http://undertale.wikia.com/wiki/Toriel
  11. 11.0 11.1 Killscreen "pacifism" https://killscreen.com/articles/undertales-not-peaceful-it-pretends/
  12. AVClub "humor" http://www.avclub.com/article/undertale-dares-players-make-mistake-they-can-neve-228716
  13. 13.0 13.1 Steamed"remembers" http://steamed.kotaku.com/players-still-havent-figured-out-all-of-undertales-secr-1733048190
  14. GameFAQs"confusion" https://www.gamefaqs.com/pc/180989-undertale/answers/413120-should-i-be-leveling-up-on-the-first-run
  15. 15.0 15.1 Wikia"Sans" http://undertale.wikia.com/wiki/Sans

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