Return of the Obra Dinn

Return of the Obra Dinn is a first-person mystery adventure game created by American indie game developer Lucas Pope, known for his previous acclaimed title, Papers, Please. The game was released in 2018 for Windows, macOS, and later for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.


In Return of the Obra Dinn, players take on the role of an insurance investigator for the East India Company in the early 19th century. The player's task is to investigate the fate of the crew of the Obra Dinn, a merchant ship that disappeared at sea and has recently returned to port with no one alive on board.

  • Time Travel: Players are equipped with a mysterious pocket watch that allows them to witness the moment of a crew member's death by exploring their corpse.
  • Deduction: Using the information gleaned from these death scenes, along with a crew manifest and other clues found on the ship, players must deduce the identity, cause of death, and, if applicable, the killer of each crew member.
  • Non-linear Investigation: The death scenes can be explored in any order, and it's up to the player to piece together the events that transpired on the ship.

The game features a unique visual style, with 1-bit monochromatic graphics that resemble old computer displays, adding to the eerie and atmospheric setting.

Story and Setting

Return of the Obra Dinn takes place in 1807 and begins with the titular ship drifting into port with no crew alive on board. The player, as the insurance investigator, must board the ship and use the Memento Mortem pocket watch to uncover the fates of the 60 crew members, passengers, and officers.

As the player investigates each death, a larger narrative unfolds, revealing the events that took place during the ship's ill-fated voyage. The story touches on themes of greed, betrayal, and the supernatural.


Return of the Obra Dinn was met with critical acclaim upon release, with praise directed at its unique gameplay mechanics, atmospheric storytelling, and distinctive visual style. The game won numerous awards, including Best Art Direction and Best Narrative at the Game Developers Choice Awards, and was nominated for several others.

Fun Facts

  • Lucas Pope single-handedly developed the majority of Return of the Obra Dinn, including the game's design, programming, writing, and music.
  • The game's development took around four and a half years, with Pope working on it in his spare time while also working as a contractor for Valve Corporation.
  • The Obra Dinn's design is based on the real-life ship, the Obra Dinn, an East Indiaman that disappeared at sea in 1802 and was later discovered adrift with no crew on board.

Return of the Obra Dinn is a unique and captivating mystery adventure that showcases the creativity and talent of solo developer Lucas Pope. The game's innovative mechanics, combined with its haunting atmosphere and compelling story, make it a standout title in the indie gaming scene.