Stray & Other Games in the Emerging “Cat” Genre | Recommendations

It’s been a while since a game has so completely captivated the hearts of gamers from all corners of the internet, and yet we collectively found ourselves delighted by Stray: the cat-based adventure game by BlueTwelve Studio and Annapurna Interactive.

I wouldn’t have predicted a cat game would be the one to finally unite all gamers in universal appreciation, but it seems fitting, when I think about it. The internet used to exist almost solely for sharing funny pictures of cats, after all. If anything, we’ve simply come full circle.

In fact, gamers across all their respective favourite genres have become so enchanted with Stray, that we can now browse games via the “cat” tag on the Steam store. Although, prospective cat-gamers be warned, there are some games on there that loosely, if at all, fit this niche category…

However, it’s the very fact that I clicked on the “cat” tag, saw such ill-fitting games and thought, “that is not ‘cat'”, that suggests there is, in fact, a definable genre within the video game industry called “cat”.

Which begs the question: what makes a game “cat”?

Stray

10/10 Highly recommend exploring every corner of the game! You never know what cute cat interactions you might find…

In case you’re unfamiliar with Stray, it’s essentially a half narrative-driven adventure game, half exploration “cat” game.

While you do get to spend a lot of time wandering around this fictional, post-apocalyptic wasteland as a cute kitty cat, there’s also a prominent storyline with a set chapter structure that ties in with each playable location. What I mean by this is that each time you venture into a new zone, a new chapter will begin.

Barring a couple of exceptions, when you leave a zone (and therefore end a chapter) you won’t be able to return, so be sure to explore as you go if you want to acquire all the collectibles. I did find this aspect of the game a little frustrating, as I’d often accidentally wander into the next chapter or zone before I was ready.

If you miss something and you want to return to collect it, you’ll need to replay the chapter from the beginning, which makes searching for every last collectible a little tedious if you’re not scrutinising every corner of every location. In this regard, I think having a manual save function would have helped streamline the gameplay experience for those of us who like to tick every box before moving on.

However, this minor gripe will only affect those of us completionists who don’t like to progress to the next part of the game until we’ve done everything there is to do in the current section. If this sounds like you, then I recommend using a guide to check you’ve found everything before moving on, as I did.

Napping next to this robot while he played the sheet music I delivered to him was well worth the time I spent collecting each piece ❤

The exploration half of the game is where Stray’s unique charm can truly shine. Roaming around each location, jumping higher than a human could (proportionately, that is), and, of course, knocking things off ledges, are just a few of my favourite activities in the game.

I enjoyed Stray the most when simply engaging with the world as a cat. You can rub your face on peoples’ legs while purring, take a nap in a cozy spot, and use the designated “meow” button whenever you see fit. It’s charming, easy fun, and a great way to spend your weekend.

I will say that Stray is a fairly short game, which has disappointed a few people who felt it wasn’t worth the price tag. I am inclined to agree with this view – not because I don’t think it’s a fun, polished game, but because it does fall a little short in content compared to other games at a similar price point.

However, I will admit the visuals are beautiful, detailed, and well-rendered, and I didn’t experience any gameplay issues (aside from one bug where I phased through a door, but this wasn’t game-breaking and actually kind of convenient, so I didn’t mind).

Gameplay duration: In total, I spent around 6 hours playing the game, but I did dilly-dally in the open areas to make sure I’d found every last badge, memory, and other collectible item. If you streamline the story, the general estimate is between 4-5 hours of total gameplay.

There may not be as many hours of gameplay as we might expect from a game within this price range, but the hours I got out of it were plenty entertaining, and Stray now holds a special place in my heart. As such, I’d still recommend Stray to any cat fan, but if you’re concerned about the price, I’d suggest waiting for it to inevitably go on sale in the future.

Looking back on my screenshots, it seems I spent a lot of time napping…

In regards to the PC vs. PlayStation debate, I’ll admit I really enjoyed playing with a controller. While I’m normally a PC gamer, there were some controller features that may not translate to a keyboard and mouse setup, such as the controller vibrating when the cat purrs, or hearing the “meow” sounds through the controller speakers.

Since I played Stray on the PS5, I’m not sure what the game is like when using a keyboard and mouse; however, I’m sure you’ll still get the same fundamental experience. If you have a controller option available, I certainly enjoyed using one and I recommend you do the same, but if you don’t have a controller and want to play on PC, I still think it’s worth getting in on the cat shenanigans anyway.

You’ll like Stray if you like: cozy, heart-warming games that make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside; exploration games involving hidden collectibles, puzzles, and beautiful vistas; and, of course, cats!

Game Name: Stray
Developer: BlueTwelve Studio
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s): Steam, PlayStation.
Age Rating: Everyone (10+) – ESRB
More information: Website.

A New Genre Called Cat

Now we’ve reviewed what will almost certainly become the progenitor of the inevitable rise of animal-based games, I’ll return to the original question: “What makes a game ‘cat’?”

There are many games out there featuring cats, and even some with a cat protagonist, but to capture the experience of being a cat – of seeing the world through a cat’s perspective – is something much more unique.

It’s not enough to simply have an anthropomorphised cat running around on two legs giving a token “meow” every now and then. It has to feel more immersive, more authentic than that.

Taking Stray as an example, for a start, the protagonist cat walks on all fours, and in every way that counts, acts like a real cat. He knocks things off ledges, meows all the time in place of using human language, rubs his face on people’s legs, naps in cozy yet inconvenient locations, gets under people’s feet, and has many of the characters coo over how cute he is.

I don’t think every game with a cat protagonist necessarily has to tick off all these “cat” behaviours in order to fit the genre, but the more quintessential cat tropes are included, the more the experience will feel authentic for the player. In other words, the less the protagonist feels like a human, the more “cat” the game becomes.

But… is it “cat”?

After playing Stray, and seeing that “cat” tag on Steam, I became curious to see if there had been anything like it before. Below is a list of some of the games I discovered on this tag, along with a review of the “cat” tropes I mentioned earlier, to see if we can define this emerging genre and determine once and for all whether or not a game is “cat”…

Cats and the Other Lives

If this game looks familiar, then it may be because you saw it in my review of the Steam Next Fest back in June. At the time of writing this post, Cats and the Other Lives is still only available as a free demo; however, it is scheduled for release later this year.

But… is it “cat”? Honestly, when I first saw Stray, I was immediately reminded of Cats and the Other Lives. In both, you play as a very good boy ginger cat, and the story is revealed to the player through the perspective of the feline protagonist.

Even the colour palettes are akin to one another, and the overall tone of each game is similar – that is to say, bleak, but softened by the simplistic whimsy of being a fluffy little kitty in a big, human world.

Doing cute cat things during somber moments makes the melancholic tone more palatable.

But, while there are certainly many elements in common between these two games, it’s important to remember that they’re not identical. I’d still recommend checking out the demo for Cats and the Other Lives if you’re looking for a cat-based, story-driven adventure game, just be aware that it isn’t merely a Stray replacement or derivative. Cats and the Other Lives is its own game.

That being said, out of all the non-Stray games listed in this post, Cats and the Other Lives best encapsulates that quintessential “cat” experience. Not only do you play the game as the four-legged furry friend, but you also actively participate in stereotypically cat-like behaviours, such as; scratching furniture, lapping up water out of puddles, meowing, and – in perhaps my favourite cat moment – darting around the screen to chase a laser pointer.

This was one of my favourite parts of the demo!

What makes both Stray and Cats and the Other Lives stand out is also what I believe to be the key feature of this supposed “cat” genre: essentially, the player’s understanding of the story and other characters is filtered through the lens of the feline protagonist, and every aspect of the gameplay is designed to immerse you in this “cat” experience.

This can be done in a variety of ways, whether it’s making the player’s mouse cursor hone in on the little red dot whenever it appears on screen to mirror the cat’s own compulsion to do the same, or simply by adding dozens of items to the game that exist for the sole purpose of allowing the player to knock them off whatever surface they appear on.

If any of this sounds appealing to you and you want to try out the “cat” genre to see if this unique type of game suits your tastes, then I can’t think of a better place to start than the free demo for Cats and the Other Lives on Steam.

Game Name: Cats and the Other Lives
Developer: Cultic Games
Publisher: Cultic Games, Maple Whispering Limited
Platform(s): Steam
Age Rating: Mature (“This game contains strong language, sex and references to alcohol and drugs.“)
Release Date: 2022
More information: Steam, Website, Twitter, Discord.

The “Cat President” Series

For a slight change of pace, you may or may not have heard of the “Cat President” series of visual novels by ‘Oh, a Rock!’ Studios. Currently, there are two games in the franchise: Cat President ~ A More Purrfect Union ~, and Cat President 2: A Purrlitical Revolution.

Just to clarify, I haven’t played either of the Cat President games myself, but from what I’ve seen and heard about them, they’re similar in style to games like ‘Hatoful Boyfriend’. That is, comedic parodies of the dating sim genre that use a visual novel format, with a blend of photos and illustrations for the visual aspects of the game.

But… is it “cat”? These two games appear fairly high on the list on the Steam store when you search by the tag “cat” or “cats”. They’re certainly cat-oriented, but as far as creating a quintessentially feline experience, they don’t feature the same hallmarks of what I consider to be the “cat” genre, as seen in Stray, or Cats and the Other Lives.

However, the two aforementioned examples are also fairly similar in that they’re both story-driven adventure games with a platformer style of gameplay. If we limit “cat” games to only cat-based games with these kinds of mechanics, then the genre would get pretty stale, pretty quickly.

In the case of a visual novel, the only way the player actively engages with the game (and therefore the main character) is through player choices. These determine both an immediate response from the other characters in the scene, as well as the general flow of the story towards one of several potential endings.

To make a visual novel recreate that “cat” experience would be fairly difficult, as the player choices presented in these games are often dialogue-based. Therefore, unless you have a race of super-intelligent cats or some sort of translation device, the only dialogue options a player should theoretically have is “meow”.

The Cat President series is set in a future America where, in order to remove corruption from the political system, all humans were banned from politics altogether. Naturally, cats stepped up to replace them. As this premise may suggest, the cats in this game – aside from a myriad of cat puns and a few token cat-like behaviours – act and talk, for all intents and purposes, as humans do.

While these games are highly regarded in the reviews and, on the whole, seem like fun, cat-oriented visual novels, I don’t believe they provide an immersive “cat” experience and therefore don’t quite fall into this emerging “cat” genre of video games.

Still, the Cat President games look strikingly similar to Hatoful Boyfriend and also seem to be parodies on the dating sim genre, so anyone who wants to play a tongue-in-cheek romantic visual novel featuring distinct, cat-like characters may wish to give these games a go.

Game Names: Cat President ~ A More Purrfect Union ~, Cat President 2: A Purrlitical Revolution
Developer: Oh, a Rock! Studios
Publisher: Oh, a Rock! Studios
Platform(s): Steam, itch.io
Age Rating: N/A
More info: Website, Twitter, Discord.

A Building Full of Cats

A Building Full of Cats is a hidden object game by the all-cat development team, Devcats. Hidden object games are basically “Where’s Wally?”, but a video game version and, in this case, you’re looking for cats, not a bespectacled man in a striped jumper.

Devcats have a portfolio full of similar, cat-oriented games, so if you do play A Building Full of Cats and like it, you may want to check out their other games too, including; Zodiacats, Sudocats, and the upcoming A Castle Full of Cats. Aside from the obvious common theme of cats, each game has a similar, relaxed feel, focusing on non-stressful puzzles and cute artwork.

But… is it “cat”? This is where the concept of a “cat” genre gets even trickier, as the cat theme is clearly strong across all of Devcats’ titles. If you’re looking for something cute, cozy, and cat-oriented, then you’ll certainly find what you’re looking for in A Building Full of Cats.

However, if we consider the genre “cat” to mean experiencing a game through the perspective of a cat – and actively participating in cat-like behaviours – then even this highly cat-themed game doesn’t quite fit the bill. If you’re looking for a unique gaming experience that puts you in the teeny tiny toe beans of a feline protagonist, then you won’t find it in A Building Full of Cats.

In which case, we either need to broaden the scope of the genre to include any game that features cats as a major theme, or strike this feline-finding game from the list. While I’m inclined to do the former, the next entry in this list proves that merely featuring cat-like themes may expand the scope of the genre a little too much…

Game Name: A Building Full of Cats
Developer: Devcats
Publisher: Devcats
Platform(s): Steam
Age Rating: N/A
More info: Website, Twitter, Facebook.

Cat’s Kiss (18+ only!!)

Disclaimer: Cat’s Kiss is an 18+ hentai game on Steam that came up as one of the first results when I typed “cat” into the search bar on the Steam Store. Please do not click on any of the links to Cat’s Kiss unless you meet the age requirements!

While I personally have nothing against 18+ games – and often play them myself – I genuinely was not expecting to see this pop up when I clicked on the “cats” tag via the Stray listing in the Steam store.

Before anyone gets concerned about an 18+ game showing up as a related result to a child-friendly game, it’s worth noting that Steam won’t show these games to you unless your settings say you’re happy to see listings with mature themes, but even so, I can’t say that Cat’s Kiss was quite what I was looking for at the time.

There is a cat character in Cat’s Kiss, although she’s the love interest (so to speak), not the protagonist. Furthermore, she’s not actually a cat, but a human with a curse that makes her turn into a cat. It’s up to the protagonist to give her a kiss each morning to lift the curse, and, well, you can probably guess the rest.

But… is it “cat”? I can definitively say that Cat’s Kiss is *not* “cat”, or at the very least, it isn’t the same kind of game as Stray. There’s no intent to immerse the player in a cat-like perspective, nor does the cat character actually act like a cat. You don’t get to scratch furniture, knock things off ledges, or chase red laser pointers, and experiencing the game as a cat isn’t the point at all.

Out of all the entries in this list of cat-themed games, Cat’s Kiss is the least “cat”. However, I wanted to include it anyway, since it was Cat’s Kiss appearing in my “cat” tag search on Steam that inspired me to write this post in the first place.

If you’re a fan of 18+ erotic games and cute cat girls, then consider indulging yourself with Cat’s Kiss, by developers Narrator & Storia. For what it’s worth, it does seem pretty cute and I like the art style a lot, so I’m not upset that Steam recommended it to me, even if it’s not exactly what I was looking for at the time.

Game Name: Cat’s Kiss
Developer: Narrator, Storia
Publisher: Narrator, Mango Party, Lewd Formosa
Platform(s): Steam
Age Rating: 18+
More info: Website, Twitter, YouTube.

Recommendations

Since I’ve only played Stray and the demo for Cats and the Other Lives, those are the only two I can recommend with certainty. I sincerely enjoyed them, so I wholeheartedly suggest adding Cats and the Other Lives to your Steam wishlist, and checking out Stray when it goes on sale.

As for the games listed that I haven’t played, I’m most intrigued by A Building Full of Cats. I’m curious to look at the other cat-themed games by Devcats as well, especially since they seem to have a special interest in this cat-based genre. I don’t think they provide the same experience as Stray, but they seem tailored towards cat lovers all the same.

Furthermore, I’ve heard of ‘Oh, a rock!’ studios before, so I may give their Cat President series a go. I tend to be dubious of dating sim parodies, as it’s easy to stray into the territory of mocking the genre, rather than affectionately teasing it, but I’ll go into it with an open mind and see what happens. Hatoful Boyfriend is a rare gem, so I’m interested to see if ‘Oh, a rock!’ studios can provide a similar experience.

Continuing on the theme of expanding my cat-game repertoire, I may have added Cat’s Kiss to my Steam wishlist… It’s not an otome game, I know, but a maiden can enjoy hentai games from time to time, too! Due to budget and time constraints, I’ll wait for it to go on sale before I buy it, but I can’t deny that I’m intrigued…

Final Thoughts

So, there you have it – my very serious analysis of the emerging “cat” genre of video games. In all honesty, though, I did find the response to Stray fairly interesting, especially since gamers from across the board stepped out of their preferred genres and platforms to give a cute cat game a go.

When I first saw the fundamental concept for Stray, I thought for sure that similar cat-based games must have been published before – since it’s a widely known, indisputable fact that chronically-online gamers all love cats – but when I did a quick cursory search on Steam, I couldn’t find anything quite like Stray.

I should clarify that I didn’t check on console platforms or mobile game stores – mostly due to time constraints – so there could be more feline adventure games available elsewhere. That’s not to say that there aren’t many cat-oriented games already available, but specifically exploring a game’s world as a cat, and experiencing a game’s story through the perspective of a cat, seems fairly rare, if not unique.

Going back to the point about platforms and consoles, the “cat” genre (or cat-based adventure/exploration genre) does lend itself well to using a controller. At several points during my playthrough, I found myself wishing Stray was available on Switch, as I’m sure there are many Nintendo gamers who would enjoy playing it on console, but who might not own a PS5.

After my Stray playthrough, I can see that there are definitely features available in console games that are difficult to replicate with a keyboard and mouse, i.e controller vibration and audio. This experience has inspired me to look into console games more in the future, but for now, I’d still recommend playing Stray on either console or PC, just wait for a discount to make sure you’re not disappointed!

Bonus Screenshots

More Info (Stray)

Game Name: Stray
Developer: BlueTwelve Studio
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platforms: Steam, PlayStation.
Age Rating: Everyone (10+) – ESRB
More information: Website.

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