Should you play Alan Wake 1 before Alan Wake 2?
In brief, Alan Wake 2 could be thoroughly enjoyed in its own right, but I feel like you will be missing out on a lot of important details and context if you skip the first game. Alan Wake 2 takes place 13 years after the events of the original, mirroring the time gap between the launches of both games. The main character, Saga, is of course new to the world of Alan Wake, so new players can learn about the universe through her eyes potentially. However, tons of details and rewarding easter eggs are abundant for players of the original game. Alan Wake 1 is also a classic, and this is a perfect excuse to go and grab it.
Short answer: Yes, if you can. Alan Wake 2 is a direct continuation of the original, and makes tons of references to the events of the first game.
What is Alan Wake?
Formerly a Microsoft-published game, Alan Wake is a dark thriller set in the fictional mountain town of Bright Falls. The eponymous writer, Alan, has arrived in Bright Falls with his wife, Alice, in an attempt to reset his creative juices. Alan has struggled to produce new writing material for a while, and the couple hope that visiting Bright Falls for a change of scenery and a change of pace will help.
Bright Falls is inspired quite heavily by David Lynch's Twin Peaks, and pays homage to the horror soap opera repeatedly throughout the game. If you've seen Twin Peaks, you have a good idea for how Alan Wake ultimately plays out. Supernatural forces coalesce in and around Bright Falls, and Alan discovers that a horror novel he can't remember writing seems to be coming to life before his very eyes — and he is the unwilling main character.
Alan Wake launched originally on the Xbox 360 in 2010, but was recently remastered and upscaled to modern tech in the form of Alan Wake Remastered. Alan Wake Remastered is currently on sale, making it the perfect time to jump in and play.
Why you should play Alan Wake Remastered before playing Alan Wake 2 (no spoilers)
Alan Wake 2 launched on October 27, 2023, for Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 5, and PC, 13 years after the original game. Alan Wake 2 also takes place 13 years after Alan Wake 1, and puts you in command of new character Saga, who has arrived to investigate a series of grisly murders in and around Bright Falls.
In our full Alan Wake 2 review, we detail how Remedy has doubled down on horror for the sequel. Right from the opening, Alan Wake 2 pulls no punches in ramping up tension, fear, and gory spectacle — while also calling back to the original game.
Without spoiling Alan Wake 2, it's my belief that players should, if possible, aim to complete Alan Wake Remastered before diving in. Alan Wake 2 follows on from Alan Wake 1, and I imagine some of the early story delivery could be utterly bewildering without experiencing the ending of the previous game.
That being said, Saga is a new character in the series, and she's new to Bright Falls. Her experiences could be similar to that of a new player since she's just as confused as you might be while playing through the game's initial sequences. Still, Alan Wake 2 delivers a ton of easter eggs for players of Remedy's previous games, it might even be worth playing through Control as well — although to a much, much lesser extent. Remedy has previously confirmed that they're building a "cinematic universe" of sorts through its mainline games, and as such, there are plenty of connections players of those games could make while experiencing Alan Wake 2.
I won't go as far as to say your experience will be ruined if you skip Alan Wake 1. Indeed, the game offers a ton of context through Saga's experiences and the people she meets. Alan Wake 2 stands as its own experience, taking place in new events thirteen years after the original game. But undoubtedly, I feel as though my experience is elevated as someone who has played Alan Wake, and I think yours will be too. You could always grab a recap of the original game on YouTube if you don't fancy buying it. This Alan Wake recap from GameSpot is a good shout for example, or this one as told by writer Sam Lake himself on IGN.
However you decide to experience Alan Wake 2, the game is absolutely incredible, and has raised the bar for visuals on Xbox Series X|S and PC, and will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the best Xbox games and best PC games of 2023.
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Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!