Warner Bros. Television
The moment I knew Riverdale had twisted itself into something unimaginable was when Betty innocently asked what the show’s evil cult leader had planned for his brainwashed followers. The answer is burned into my brain, and it will scratch away at my consciousness until the day I die.
“Evelyn is going to drive the bus full of farmies off of a cliff as a distraction, while he takes off in his rocket.”
This brings up a lot of questions. Like, why can’t Edgar escape in the bus? Why does he need to create a distraction if he’s going to fly away in a rocket? And why does he have a rocket?
Riverdale started as an enjoyably campy teenage detective story. High school students Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead got tangled up in the mystery of who killed Jason Blossom, while also trying not to fail exams. It’s slowly become more and more unhinged — the latest episodes are part of a mini-series crossover with Chilling Adventures of Sabrina — but I believe this is the moment Riverdale chose its fate.
But here’s the thing: everything that makes Riverdale an objectively bad show would make it an amazing game.
The Side Quests Would Be Wild
In Riverdale, solving a murder is treated with the exact same level of importance as trying out for the football team. Characters start their own religions and turn water into
wine maple syrup. Mobsters burn down bus stops and Archie says, “But where will people sit to wait for the bus?” with so much sincerity that it hurts.
In the latest seasons, dramatic storylines are set up and resolved in a single episode. It’s exhausting to watch, but it’s exactly how Sherlock Holmes Chapter One is structured: small, bite-sized mysteries you can binge in one sitting. A narrative adventure game would be able to lean into Riverdale‘s feverishly nonsensical storylines and let us play a part in absurd. It’s no fun to watch Jughead take down a secret society in his school, but it would be a lot more fun to tail suspects, uncover evidence, and make a decision to determine the ending of a game.
The weird things that happen in the town of Riverdale give Life is Strange vibes, if Life is Strange threw itself off a cliff and fully committed to the supernatural. Imagine a game about solving a murder in a small town that has a side quest where you question locals about an alien that’s been stored in maple syrup for 50 years, or investigate a Dungeons and Dragons-style game that determines the fate of the entire town. Riverdale can’t decide if it wants to be taken seriously or not and it’s bad at balancing those conflicting themes — but a game could bring you along for the ride by making you an active participant in the madness.
There’d Be So Many Outfits
Riverdale is a show where the cheerleading team has a special uniform for funerals. When Archie starts a vigilante group, their superhero costume is “shirtless” and “red ski mask”. Cheryl wears capes to high school. Jughead’s most defining quality is his beanie. Similarly, one of the most enjoyable things to do in a game is dress your character in different outfits. The Riverdale game could tie this into the gameplay, so NPCs react to your character based on what they’re wearing. Or it could be purely cosmetic, and leave you with a wardrobe full of wigs, hats, capes and accessories to pick and choose from as you play through the story.
Fashion is an integral part of Riverdale — in that the fashion is equally as bizarre as the storylines — and a game set in the same universe would have a natural connection to this holy game mechanic. Please just let us unlock Cheryl’s red Serpent jacket as a bonus outfit.
It Could Live On As a Live-Service Model
Riverdale the show has existed since 2017 and, maybe, unfortunately, doesn’t show any signs of ending soon. The best way to watch it is to binge it for three days straight and then forget about it for months. A Riverdale game could leverage the show’s stubborn existence by living on as a live-service model, with new quests, storylines and outfits added over time. Games like Life is Strange and Hitman have tried to do the whole episodic release thing, and we’ve mostly all decided to agree that it doesn’t really work. But a staggered release would work for a Riverdale game because it would let us commit to a silly little story and then scrub our brains clean to return to society.
I’m a little bit ashamed to say I still watch Riverdale, but every time I watch an episode I think about how much better it would be if I was playing it. The show is a fever dream, the actors seem to know it and it seems committed to destroying itself. But that weirdness might just pay off in a game where you had control over how some of the mess unravelled. A Riverdale game also wouldn’t be able to do a musical episode, which would be a nice change.