You Have to Win the Game

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

Please note: Although legacy versions can be downloaded below, for the most up-to-date version of the game, you should download You Have to Win the Game on Steam or play in your browser on

Older non-Steam releases are below:

Download for Windows (32-bit, Windows XP SP2 or better required)

Download for Mac (64-bit, OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard or better required)

Download for Linux (64-bit, Ubuntu 12.04 LTS or comparable recommended)

For support, troubleshooting, bug reports, hints and tips hotline, etc.: jpittman at gmail dot com

169 thoughts on “You Have to Win the Game

  1. This game is super awesome!! I have more nice things to say about it than I know what to do with. Your NERD engine is wonderful and extremely polished. I hope to see more from you in the future!

  2. cool looking game. Unfortunately it wont run on my PC. First time running, the splash screen came up, then the bug reporter. I tried to fill it out but the program was making the machine so unresponsive i had to kill it.
    Second time running, it got to the menu pages but the program randomly halts for about a second. Playing with vsync, low screen resolution, windowed mode had no effect. taskmgr reports it is using 70-99% CPU.

    Win XP64
    AMD Phenom9950 quad-core 2.61GHz
    4GB RAM
    Nvidia GeForce 9800 GTX+

  3. This looks fantastic! Is it possible to publish a Mac version? I was thinking of trying to get hold of an old PC laptop just to play games like yours…

    Can you tell us about the CRT tube filter you used on the grabs? It game me a 30 year flashback!

  4. Hello there, just wanted to give you some feedback on your game.

    First off, I love the style of the game, everything is rock solid. Mostly.

    Bug: The Analog Stick can be used to move left and right, but not down, while the d-pad allows both
    Bug: The Game seems to take up a very big amount of cpu, could it be that it is kind of running unbound, without any proper restrictions? 50-75% cpu load on a 3.2ghz quadcore just isn’t normal in a main menu or even the game, when it comes to this, vsync is activated btw, to rule that out.

    Also, I want to start writing my own games and am looking for good input on what to write in, right now I’m taking a look at C++ with SFML, because I’d also like it to be cross plattform,
    But I’m still not really sure.
    I’d like to know what you are using for this game? Probably C++ or C# with directx, right?


    • My game suffered severe lag spikes on Intel Quad Core Q6600 2.4Ghz with 8 Gig of RAM and a GeForce 9600 especially near the Hollow King’s room. I mean the effect and the shaders in this game are sweet, but my comp runs Skyrim decently, and the fact it collapses beneath a CGA platformer is kind of hilarious.

  5. Hi, I just downloaded your game (thanks, Kotaku), and I am installing it now, but I am worried about the License Agreement that is in the installer. It seems like a boilerplate agreement, and you ask that people credit you if they redistribute it, but it actually gives anyone the right, “without limitation” to resell your game for a profit. I feel that it would be in your best interest to modify the agreement to restrict that right, and explicitly say that the game is free to distribute as long as it stays free.

    Free games and apps are often packaged and sold by unscrupulous marketers for a quick buck, often against the wishes of their creators (you’ll often see disclaimers on freeware that says something like “if you paid for this, you were scammed!”), but you’ve actually given away the right to profit from your work.

    It’s a wonderful gift that you’ve given your game away for free, but you’re still allowed to protect the ownership of your work!

  6. Game is awesome! I will say though getting to 80% and then loosing all my power ups kind of made me give up. Solid game though I will be keeping an eye out for more to come!

  7. Hey, going to play this in a bit based on the Kotaku review, did you think of publishing it to Tiggit? Always worth a go :-)

    All the best

  8. In “A Sickly Silver Moon” you can exit the main area by carefully wall/double-jumping up the left side. I noticed the open ceilings, and thought there might be more stuff to get up there. I thought it was the most evil challenge ever. Turned out I was my own worst enemy.

    • dude, i spent more time than the entire gameplay getting up that wall while drinking, thinking i was gonna uncover the greatest easter egg since adventure only to find a blank inviso-ceiling. super disappointing, totally suggest adding something of value to that section or just removing the temptation….

  9. Thought I was going to give up at 80%, but this game sucked me right back in. Now I’m stuck at 98% and I can’t find a treasure sack anywhere. Wish this had a metroid/castlevania style map system. Anyways great work on an addicting game. Little over 2 hours played time and enjoyed every minute.

  10. I managed to crash the game.
    I was at the stage called “A Sickly Silver Moon” and I climbed up the wall to the left. There, the stages are all black and you fall endlessly. It was difficult, but I thought there would be something up there.
    I hope this helps.

    And greetings for this awesome game! (I’m stuck at 98%…)

  11. Really good game, kept me entertained for hours (I even draw a map with pen and paper), but I’m on 99% and have searched the entire game several times. If I somehow send you my save, could you put me out of my misery and show me where the final thing is that I’ve missed?

    Thanks a bunch, thoroughly enjoyed this game,

  12. Just finished with 100%. Thanks for making it; it’s a great game.

    I could not get the magic symbol to work though. I have a US keyboard on a Dell notebook running Windows 7, and tried every key on the keyboard, plain and with [shift] and none of them triggered it. I even tried switching out my keyboard layout to another country with no luck. Fortunately, hacking ControlBindings.bnd worked. :)

  13. Hello. This game has one of the best and most fluid controls I’ve ever played. The accuracy of the jumps and grip the wall are impressive. After playing hundreds of games made ​​in flash, and several recent platform games, it is clearly noticeable that there was a concern for the responsiveness of the controls. I played with the keyboard and xbox controller, and accuracy in both cases was also excellent!

    The animation has a fluidity which is not in many games 2D today. The aesthetic choice was very well done.

    My only criticism is regarding the use of the terminal. Although I have not played computer games when I was young, because I just had a NES, it was relatively easy to understand what should be done, thanks to films like “Cloak & Dagger”, which I saw as a child. The idea is very interesting and combines perfectly with the theme and aesthetics of the game, but can be very unfair to younger players.

    I hope you make a new game using this excellent platform/framework created for this game. I believe that you can make a commercial game without problems. (sorry, I used the google translator)

    ps: I won the game with 100% :D

  14. Hi, I enjoyed this game immensely but couldn’t finish the game. I’m stuck in “Feline Foreshadowing”. After watching a walkthrough on youtube ( ), I noticed that’s something wrong with my keyboard, although he might have played with a gamepad, my controls’ responsiveness are far worse than his, in fact I can’t continue the game as I said before.

  15. Wow, I LOVE the clean CGA palette. Reminds me of a game Starquake I played a lot as a kid. And I love that your photo looks like a CGA monitor, FULLY ROUND.

  16. This is one of the best exploration games I’ve played because every location is memorable and none of the tight gameplay systems don’t outstay their welcome. It is important that there is no map because if it was there you would use it and when you use a map you are not having as much fun. For the people incapable of memorizing or the games that don’t build anything worth memorizing, a map will help, but in this case I’m very glad it wasn’t included.

    I also love the art style. But if it was me making the game I would add some music or sound effects in some areas and take out the jokes and movie quotes (nothing wrong with them except that they clash with the creepy atmosphere). There’s no need to be self conscious and jokey about this type of game, it would stand up to a completely serious presentation!

  17. Help! Stuck in the forgotton tunnels .. I managed to get the $ sack with only the double jump power up (and the 2 invisible block powerups) .. now im stuck there and cant get out!!! .. I think I broke the game :x

  18. The CGA card + CRT monitor simulation is… TO DIE FOR!
    The idea is beautiful, and the realization is (1) artistically sublime (2) technically spotless (3) truly evocative, i.e. effective in provoking fond memories.
    Seeing that made me so envious! Must have been fun, with so many different effects in action, all contributing to the final results from different directions!

    But, a practical question to the author… share your secrets: how did you make the control so smooth (they are fun to play, responsive?). Certainly it is a matter of quick response, but I would assume that any game going at 60 FPS which responded to key-presses the next frame does the same, in this respect. So, it could it be just careful choice of acceleration/friction/speed values? Seeing how much this game controls feel better of basically any competitor, I would think that there is something else, but I cannot imagine what. Keeping track of subpixel position? Some arcane magic? It would be terrific if you could share something of what took you there.

  19. Double post! [with spoliers]

    Let me add a couple of suggestions:

    A) upon Starting a New Game or Continuing from the main menu, you could hear the familiar sound of a loading 5.25” floppy, as if the map and graphics were loading. When the loading sound is over (1-2 secs is enough), the game would start. A sound like here: (at sec 0.0.49)

    B) the typing sound (classy!) could be heard when the player actually typed on the keyboard (anything but the keys to move or jump), e.g. to input the magic word. BTW, I would include the “enter command” interface inside the actual old monitor, not in the… meta-interface. Then, I would remove the typing sound when the title or the final words are “typed” by the game (because they are not actually being typed in a keyboard).

    C) upon winning (not losing) the game with 100%, when the game restarts, the view could stay fixed as in the current final-congratulations screen, i.e. with the monitor seen a bit from afar. I think it would feel like this: “you finally won the game, so, while you still play it if you want, you the player now feel a little detached from it (as if feeling superior)”! (beside, it would be cool to exploit that you can animate the game even when the monitor is rendered from any point of view).

  20. Well, that was amazing – just finished 100% after three loops, not once realizing I’d seen the word a few times. I was overthinking it… again.

    Though on thing bothers me… WHY is the word… what it is? Is there something to it I missed?

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  23. Hi there ! I loved your game. Very simple yet very challenging. Reminds me of “I Wanna Be The Guy” !!!
    So congrats for your work and I hope to see more games like this one in the future !

  24. I love this game it’s very close to have I have been looking for in a game for a long long time. I finished it in one go and now I feel sad because it’s over :P Congratulations on this amazing game that hit’s all the boxes: great graphics, an appealing main character, awesome sound effects, really fun level design, solid gameplay and carefully placed difficulty.

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  31. Awesome game! I love how the game gets fresh air every time you get a power up and suddenly you have even more to explore.
    Cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor! cave editor!

  32. Very well created game. Good music, and old fashioned graphics.
    Nice touch with the borders being an old Macintosh computer. Felt it was an actual Mac game on a mac.

    Steam name: [AA] Tyster

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  35. Installer won’t run on Windows 8, x64. Only error message provided is “This app can’t run on your PC. To find a version for your PC, check with the software publisher.” Not saying it’s necessarily a problem with your installer, but I haven’t been able to find any more information on the error other than it sometimes occurs when running an x64 application on a x86 system. As I’m running x64, I don’t see that being an issue. Any chance you’ve run into this?

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  39. I finished your game 100%. Kinda feel though that the magic symbol should be more visible. What is this doesn’t really say magic symbol revealed here. I ended up looking up the answer then realizing i had passed it. The word is blood red kinda more of a indicator. Still fun challenging game enjoyed what i played.

  40. If you don’t have an electricity monitoring device, consider getting one so you can discuss it with your family and ensure that lights are off when no one is in the room. They are reusable and come in handy for uses such as carrying a gift or as wrapping paper. Using a sharp knife (it helps to keep it wet), cut the sushi into six or eight pieces, depending on how thick you want them. This is the maintenance phase where you will do the best ways to maintain the weight you achieved on the previous; this is good for lifetime; a new lifestyle – healthy and balanced. When you want an actual Chiang Mai food experience, a Khan Toke meal is really suggested.

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  42. Hey – I think something is wrong with the install file. Norton is not liking it at all, and has removed the file after several download attempts. I found a mirror of the file elsewhere and everything worked fine.

    Norton is also telling me that this file has only been up for a week…

  43. Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I found out about this perusing Steam Greenlight (gave it the upvote, the trailer was very appealing) and I’ve really been enjoying the game. Still at 98% but it’s been a very fun experience, and encouraging me to remember the value of patience! I think the general retro aesthetic is well executed and the gameplay really hits that great spot of all the enjoyable parts of old school platformers without the really frustrating elements. I agree with some remarks I’ve seen around the place that if possible a soundtrack might go well with the game – watching the trailer, the lovely Sycamore Drive piece playing over it really contributed to my interest in trying it out. Regardless, it’s a very enjoyable game, so thanks!

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  45. Thanks so much for making this game! It reminds me also of past times, again like StarQuake, Spiky Harold, Manic Miner, Roland in Time on my old Amstrad, and many, many more. I wish more games had such an awesome implementation of a simulated screen! Hell I’d love to see this kind of screen emulation in actual emulators, too. VICE has a fairly good screen emulation but yours is curved, and as strange as other people mind find that, it adds a whole new dimension.


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  47. Awesome game :)
    I enjoyed it a lot
    Controls are smooth, old fashioned design is very well rendered and difficulty is hard enough to make it worth it.

    You did something really great ! Congrats !

  48. I have to say that this game was fun. But there are some shortcomings :
    – first of all : i have a dual-core CPU + multithreading and it was raging to run the game. When i look at the stats, it seems 3 of the 4 threads were totally used.
    – second : i’m french and it was annoying to find the place of the magic key.

  49. I’m wondering if the speed problems are related to specific graphics cards or drivers? I’ve been running this on a dual core 1GHz PC with a Radeon 3600 card(bought about five years ago), and have had absolutely no speed issues at all.

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  51. Hard to finish. I make circles with my mind. I love this game but i’m lost. My brain have been smashed and burned definitively. Help ! lol… Great really oldschool game. how many souvenirs ?! Like a certain Bruce Lee nearly on C64… Nice. Arghhh. May the force will be with me !?…

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    • Technically yes, although not using my engine’s built-in localization tools ( What you can do instead is open the console with tilde (~) while the game is running and enter “dumpcontent”. Then exit the game and go to My Documents\You Have to Win the Game\ and there should be a new folder there called “Content Dump” containing all the loose asset files from the game. Copy the “Rooms_Normal.xml” file from this folder into the “Mods” folder, and make your changes to the new copy.

  55. I cant’ install the latest patch (June 2013): Brambler installer says “checksum failed, no changes were made”. I uninstalled the game and then re-installed it, but it asks every time to me to patch the game and it doesn’t work.

  56. /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\
    \ /
    / Bramble Patcher v1.0 \
    \ by J. Kyle Pittman /
    / \

    Downloading PatchNotes.txt (100.00% of 4.53 KB done)
    Finished. Checksum matched.
    Downloading VolverVersion.npk (100.00% of 562 bytes done
    Finished. Checksum matched.
    Downloading TheGame.exe (100.00% of 1.00 MB done)
    Finished. Checksum failed.

    1 file did not download correctly. No changes were made.

    • Thanks for the report. I haven’t been able to reproduce this yet, but this does give me some idea of where to start looking. The executable file is 1.58 MB, so it looks like the file size is being reported incorrectly by the server in some cases.

      In the meantime, you can get an installer for the latest version here:

      I’ve also updated the patcher to specify accepted content and transfer encoding values when making HTTP requests, just in case the results were being compressed unexpectedly or something like that.

  57. I have the same problem as Joe above. The patcher reports checksum fail everytime and i cant update th game, specificaly when i jump under a platform in many rooms the sprite dissapear and the only way to continue is to quit the game and then continue from the last save point.
    My computer is a notebook hp qompac 614 with vista and ati vga.
    Can you give me a direct link for the latest patch? Or better give us an ftp address to dl the latest patch manualy.
    On a desktop i had succesfully update tha game from 2013-10-10 to 2013-10-16 and the problem with th sprite is almost non existent. I say almost because i sa the magic again in the room with th moving vertical platform and the stalactite wher you enter from the right and yoyu must grub the platform to trasport to the left of climp the stalactite to go to exit from the top. In this room i land on the platform and jump under the right platform. I saw the magic trick again!

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  59. Had a lot of fun playing this game. Nice graphics, great gameplay, really good game, addictive, love it.
    Remember me all the time i spent on games like this on my amstrad cpc in my childhood.
    Thanks for this masterpiece of retro gaming.

    Hope to see more awesome 8 bit from you in the future!

  60. Thank you for making this great game free! I like the retro graphics very much (without CRT filter), any tips how to do it myself and what software did you use (hopefully something more advanced than MS Paint :)) ?

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  62. I’m having the same issue as a few others have mentioned: I can run the game fine, but when it starts it just gives a black screen (except for a few “streaks” from the animation of menu text scrolling off screen). I can hear the action, jumping when I hit buttons etc, but can’t see anything.

    • I’m not familiar with that particular issue. It sounds like render targets are being addressed incorrectly, but I couldn’t say why. The only suggestions I could offer would be to try disabling antialiasing and/or the game’s CRT simulation. You can change these in the Options menu if that’s visible or by editing your config file at My Documents\You Have to Win the Game\Config\Config.ini and setting these:

      AntialiasQuality: 0
      CRTSim: false

  63. I just wanted to say well done! This game is amazing an fun to play! You should make another similar game. I would buy a game like this with a map and some more power ups involved. ***If anyone is having issues with the screen just being black all you have to do is turn of the anti aliasing settings and it will fix it***

  64. The linux version tries to create a Config directory at the filesystem root instead of “~/.local/share/Minor Key Games/You Have to Win the Game/”. So it gets a Permission denied error because of this and then crashes.

  65. Thank you so much for releasing a native Linux version!
    It runs flawless and out of the box on my Linux Mint system.

    I have a feature request: please add a demo record / record replay function if possible.

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  67. I’m not very into new retro games, specially the hard ones, but this game really caught me by the gameplay. The controller response is just perfect and I loved the game design! The CRT filter added to the retro graphics works incredibly good!
    I’m very happy that the sequel was announced! I’m gonna miss the “3 color graphics”, but I think the loss is worth!

    Regards from Brazil!

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  74. I need help. I’m at 87% and I got the lose. I forgot to get the wall jump and I’m in the board Worth It? I am stuck at the checkpoint and I cant do anything. I really want to go back a checkpoint and continue and not start over. If any of you can help, please do. Thanks.

  75. I want to try this game, but this game not working.
    I try on Steam & also try TheGame_2014-01-30.tar.gz, but this game not work.
    i dont know why. I use Ubuntu 14.04

  76. So I’m playing on the Extra Spicy mode since I beat the original and it is definitely much, much spicier! But I’m stuck :( I’ve only managed to get one power up and it’s the spider jump one and I finally got to this room but now I’m pretty sure I’m stuck :(

    • Yeah, that’s where I’m stuck too. If you’re really exact, you can wall-jump from the first gray block up onto the first gray block. I believe that’s the key to getting through there. However, it’s very not easy. Thank god for checkpoints!

  77. I just wanted to thank you for this game. YOLO’d classic. Just wanted to share this accomplishment and let you know that I joined the ranks of the elite YOLOers today. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  78. Hello, I would like to know what graphic engine do you use? This is a very good game and I’ll have a good time on it, thank you very much! Have a good day. :)

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  80. Hey
    I installed YHTWTG on Steam and when i run it, it comes up with an error stating:
    Direct3D Initialization Error: D3DERR_NOTAVAILABLE

    Not available

    Unable to proceed

    File: .\src\NRenderer.cpp
    Line: 283
    Can anyone please help me
    Thank you!

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