The roots of transformation stories lie in mythology and literature, from fables told by ancient storytellers to the latest fantasy novels. Prose has many advantages for the genre: it can help the reader get into the head of the transformed character better, it is often better at concealing changes until the right time, and, of course, it saves on special effects. Thus, it was only natural that when video games began to use text to create a more immersive world, the theme of transformation would follow. Though the commercial heyday of text adventures has passed (and with it such games as Infocom’s 1986 sci-fi spoof Leather Goddesses of Phobos, in which the player’s brain is swapped with a gorilla’s), the medium lives on in the Internet, with or without illustrations. Individual writers and collaborators alike have contributed to interactive tales of TF that range from the merely thought-provoking to the raunchy. Without further ado, it’s time to look at 5 of the best transformation text games.

5) Counterfeit Monkey

The nation of Anglophone Atlantis takes wordplay to its logical extreme. Not only is everything in the country themed around literature and puns, but they’ve actually weaponized the language by developing devices capable of altering reality itself by changing the names of items (in English, of course). You can turn a lock into a clock, or a blouse into a louse, just by using waving a device at them, or even conjure people out of the blue. Of course, people themselves can be affected, and that’s a bit of a problem. You see, being “gelled” and transformed into inanimate objects is a common punishment used by the repressive government—a fate that you, as a professional smuggler named Andra, are currently trying to avoid by escaping from the island.

In order to do this, however, you’ve set up another type of transformation altogether: you (a woman) have merged with a man named Alex, creating an entirely new woman by the name of Alexandra, whom nobody should recognize. And with only a letter-remover to start with, you’re going to have to do some pretty quick changes. The game is primarily a story-based one with puzzles to solve, but it positively encourages you to zap everything around you not just to advance the plot but for the sheer fun of it to see what new words you can come up with.

Alex’s reaction to becoming a voice in the subconscious of the protagonist and the conflicts they can have, not to mention his thoughts on sharing a female body, make for some interesting musings on TF in the form of narration. Ultimately, an interesting commentary on how words have the power to transform how we see the world around us, and good fund—sorry, fun.

4) Transformation Arena!

Strictly speaking, this is more of a platform for individual scenarios than a single transformation text game, and as such it lacks a single overarching storyline, but it makes it work with its open-source nature. The creator previously worked on a text-based Rock-Paper-Scissors game involving transformation, which entertainingly combined incremental changes to characters (such as corruption, TG, and reality shifts) in text blocks with illustrations provided by anime-style art generator “Kisekae 2”, and after a highly popular response to the small number of scenarios in that game, chose to open up the concept to multiplayer and player customization. Transformation Arena! has a bare-bones UI and relatively simple mechanics for just that reason, and if you’ve played a JRPG, you know what to expect: hit points, magic points, poison that does ongoing damage, confusion to cause random actions, and so on. The best part, at least for fans of slow transformation, is that as with the rock-paper-scissors above, TF doesn’t occur solely at the end of the match, but incrementally as players lose more HP, accompanied generally by text that varies in length from a brief snippet to long paragraphs. You may frequently find yourself tempted to play to lose—but I would recommend doing so against another human player, as the AI tends to be absolutely brainless and unable even to land a hit when you want it to. Still, there’s nothing that’s satisfying quite like doing double damage and watching your enemy shift twice in one round.

The customization aspect of the game is a primary draw, and you’ll find not only OCs but also preexisting characters from other media as well as many different varieties of TF to inflict upon them. This creative freedom is the game’s best and worst feature in different ways—while there are some characters that are frustratingly bare of description or have almost no text to accompany the pictures, there are many creators who have put a lot of time and effort into long, descriptive blocks of text. Thankfully, there’s no shortage of ways to filter for content you’re not interested in, sorted by character: almost every imaginable kind of TF can be included or excluded in your searches, as can characters who are complete or illustrated throughout. And, of course, if you prefer to exclude explicit sexual content, you can. But there’s a bit of something for everyone, tame or risqué. If you like a spark of competition in your TF fiction, give it a shot, and then make your own characters.

Transformation Arena! online, free(Adult Content)

And if you love the arena aspect to this game, be sure to check out TF Card Battle too.

3) Transformania Time

If the above game was a customizable, competition-based themed only loosely around the concept of an arena, this one leans wholeheartedly into its theme—a TF-based game show, in which the players compete to see who fully textually transform their opponent, body and mind. The focus this time is on detail and frequently quite slow progression, with each body part given its own status and transformed progressively as the round goes on, often in great detail. They’re even thoughtfully shaded from blue to purple to pink to show gender changes. And how, you may ask, does one represent a game show in a primarily text-based format without illustrations? Simple: minigames. Each round is one of a number of fast-paced races against the clock, and the result gives two or three stages of transformation for either you or your opponent—shifting clothes, chests, minds as you frantically click at shapes that pop up, play memory games, or try to guess where a discus will be in a few seconds. (I recommend trying it on easy first, unless you have the reflexes of an Olympian, or, of course, you’d also like to lose.) The game gets regular updates of new characters from the creator and from the fanbase despite being on the older side after its release in 2013, and it’s customizable as well. Loading new characters as simple as using a dropdown menu or, if downloaded, pulling up the text files containing their data in your documents. There’s even a character creator in the folder of the downloadable version. Those scenarios the users have already come up with certainly can’t be faulted for their entertainment value, either, nor some creative TFs, such as a macho big game hunter into a strong anthro lioness, an anime fan to a female tanuki, or a haughty rich woman to a literal gutter rat. Obvious care and effort went into it, and though it’s all very, very explicit, some transformations move beyond the merely titillating to the actually thought-provoking. Overall, it’s something most of us can only wish we saw while channel surfing…

(It should be mentioned that the creator also made an MMO by the same name, but sadly this doesn’t have as much to recommend it. While there are certainly a variety of TFs, there are rarely enough people online to encounter them, you have to wait real-world time after using action points, and becoming inanimate is—logically—even more limiting to what you can do. Stick to the single-player game.)

Transformania Time online, free (Adult Content)

2) Corruption of Champions and Trials in Tainted Space

These two transformation text games under perpetual construction by the same developer are similar concepts in different genres, yet share enough mechanics and references to each other to be considered “sister” games, their wikis next to each other in the same category. You may have noticed that the abbreviations are CoC and TiTS, and they’re indicative titles in every way. Fenoxo’s massive, largely open-world sandbox RPGs allow a virtual free-roam through thematic universes, letting you take in exactly as much TF as you want with a sense of progression and even potentially wholesome relationships. But to start from the beginning: in CoC, you play as a village’s “champion” chosen to battle against the demonic evil that emerges from a portal to another world. Whether you actually end up defeating it or joining it, as the name suggests, is another matter! Meanwhile, in TiTS, you are Captain Steele, only child of a billionaire tycoon and adventurer, chosen to carry on the family legacy. In both cases, the first thing you do is describe yourself in great detail: not just backgrounds and stats, but species (in the case of TiTS), your skin tone, genital details, build, chest size, and so on. All of this is subject to potentially unlimited change over the course of the game, but for now you’re given an open-ended task, and left on your own to essentially sink or swim in numerous areas. Of course, right from the beginning, expect to encounter a wide variety of enemies with transformative items and attacks that alter your body and mind—becoming a goblin or a hermaphroditic shark, for instance, or giving yourself the genitals of a canine species through a pill from a body-tailoring vending machine (a dream come true for many of us if it really will exist in the future, no doubt). Most everything you can find will transform you in some way or another, and even if it’s generally blindingly obvious what a certain item will do, it’s hard to resist trying it out anyway.

Both games share similar combat mechanics: in addition to physical attacks that deal damage, there is also a lust mechanic, both offensive and defensive, with certain attacks allowing you to raise the enemy to a frenzied state of arousal and thus end the fight or be reduced to such a state yourself. It can be reduced by, well, the obvious actions to yourself, defeated enemies, or willing NPCs. (Don’t feel bad—you don’t actually need to vent on enemies, and they’ll gladly do it to you if they get a chance.) Despite this novelty, combat is not terribly innovative, but the games shine somewhere else: the world.

Both games are inhabited by a huge variety of NPCs in many different species, all possible sexes and genders, with their own problems and realistic approaches to you. While everything in the games’ universes might be slanted towards sex, and you have the option to ultimately corrupt or redeem and alter most of the NPCs’ bodies if you desire, many of them won’t even approach you if they don’t think you can help them in their personal quests, so don’t expect to immediately take the Captain Kirk approach to interspecies diplomacy. On the plus side, if you do recruit them, you’ll find that you can interact with them, both in the sense of wildly kinky sex and various assists throughout the game. For that matter, there’s a decent amount of inclusion and body-positivity among NPCs in the loosely good-aligned quests, as you can help many people get closer to what they want to be.

Something to be borne in mind, though, is that CoC, being the older game, has a far more primitive interface than the slick one used in TiTS, and lacks the latter’s tile-based world system. If you prefer smoother, less random navigation, you may want to start with the sci-fi entry, as although the sequel Corruption of Champions II is in progress with a similar map, it hasn’t gotten very far yet. So go ahead, dive in, pick up some companions along the way, and see what you look like when you’re through!

Corruption of Champions and Trials in Tainted Space online at Fenoxo’s site, free (Adult Content)

1) Flexible Survival

It’s 2008. A nanite has outbreak occurred in your city, spreading rapidly and producing all kinds of bizarre creatures, anthropomorphic animals, and…other things. Virtually all of them have sex on their minds, and they can and will infect anyone they come across, slowly changing their bodies and eroding their will to resist the changes. You’re a survivor. Your goal: keep sane and as human as possible while scavenging food and water to await the arrival of the armed forces to, you hope, rescue you. It’s a difficult mission…or it would be, if this were a serious game, but as with the previous entry, this plot is often just an excuse to have fun exploring all the kinds of transformations out there, and there are a lot of NPCs, from rubber foxes and gangs of roving hyenas to ninja cats and tigress prostitutes, virtually all of whom have defeating, sexing up, and TFing you on their minds.

You start simply as male or female, but what it lacks in initial character customization it makes up for in preferences: you can get a wide variety of perks and optional rules active to tweak the kind of content you want to see when adventuring to suit your preferences. If it’s too hard, you can even, in single-player mode, simply cheat to ensure you have a good time.

The in-development game proudly advertises itself as being inspired by hack-and-slash RPGs, and it clearly shows in the game’s very fluid combat system, which not only shows the damage roll you make but gives you minimal experience even if you lose. It even includes options to surrender immediately or throw the fight, should you so choose. At certain increased levels, you can, as you might expect, raise your stats, and you’ll need to, since the difficulty rolls of certain tasks can get downright fiendish during late quests. You’ll also earn currency to spend at the store that’s still open during this apocalyptic crisis, though you may wonder what the purveyor has in mind, exactly.

The need to carry food and drink with you creates an inventory management puzzle when balanced against quest items, and even then not all items are safe—that bottled water you thought was safe might just be tainted and before you know it you’ll be sprouting wings, a rubbery tail, or some other random mutation!

Of all the games on this list, this one has the most extensive and (yes) flexible system of showing transformations, as you may find yourself with legs from one species, the head of another, and a pair of breasts from others—and any kind of combination of genitals. If you leave them on, there are animal heat and even pregnancy mechanics.

Some transformations induce stranger effects yet, such as being split into multiple bodies of both genders, and a great deal of TFs include an epilogue showing how well you adapt to your new place in the ecosystem of the transformed city. Most of the foes you face were written or suggested by the extensive fan base, including some of the writing team of this very blog, and they’ve done an exceptional job presenting a wide variety of encounters from the enticing to the downright disturbing, yet all entertaining.

Once again, NPCs both those who can be recruited and those who are static, are an important part of the experience, and FS makes them even more interesting as they may or may not appear or cause other questlines to happen depending on your choices. Want to recruit a cuddly feline character? Better rescue him from danger first. That friendly rat girl? If you feel like being a jerk, you can corrupt her and turn the other rats into more monstrous, sex-crazed foes to fight. And then there’s that multi-branch quest involving the mysterious anthropomorphic jackal shopkeeper…there are just so many things to do that it’s easy to forget there’s also a main quest involving restoring the city to something resembling order at the behest of various mysterious power brokers.

And if at last you find yourself getting tired of battling it out in single-player, there’s also an entirely separate multiplayer MUCK with its own encounters and challenges, though before diving into that it may be worth your time to read up on the introduction available on the well-written wiki. What’s more fun than being transformed and transforming others? The same, but with your friends, of course!

Flexible Survival online at Nuku Valente’s blog, free (Adult Content)

Want more free TF games? Check out our list of the top 5 free transformation games.