'OXENFREE II' Is Best Appreciated if You've Already Played the First 'OXENFREE'

Sara Belcher - Author

Jul. 12 2023, Published 3:00 a.m. ET

Riley and Jacob opening a portal in 'OXENFREE II'
Source: Night School Studios

There are plenty of dialogue-driven thriller games on the market, but few have as intricate and intertwining lore as the OXENFREE franchise from Night School Studios. The sequel to the well-loved first game is officially out, but for those who have been eyeing OXENFREE II: Lost Signals for some time, you may wonder how crucial the first game is to the second.

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Should you play OXENFREE before starting OXENFREE II? Though the stories technically follow two different characters, you may find yourself a little lost if you're diving right into the second without taking the time to explore Alex and her friends' story in the original.

Warning: There are mild spoilers for both OXENFREE and OXENFREE II ahead.

Alex attempting to save Clarissa in 'OXENFREE'
Source: Night School Studios

Alex attempting to save Clarissa in 'OXENFREE'

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Can you play 'OXENFREE II: Lost Signals' without playing 'OXENFREE'?

The answer to this question isn’t exactly cut and dry. Yes, it’s entirely possible to dive right into OXENFREE II without following Alex’s tale in the first game – but there are a lot of pieces you’ll appreciate much more having played the first OXENFREE game.

“I think it’s possible for someone to play OXENFREE II cold, but I think there will be a lot of value in playing the first game and how it will reflect on the occurrences within OXENFREE II,” said the game's composer Andy Rohrmann in an interview on the studio's channel.

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Jacob and Riley on Camena in 'OXENFREE II'
Source: NIght School Studios

OXENFREE is a timeloop game, allowing you to play through multiple times to uncover new endings that ultimately lead to the same overarching conclusion: that Alex and her cohort are stuck in this cycle of going to Edwards Island and tapping into the spirits trapped in the in-between purgatory. Though the first game’s “secret” ending offers a way to break that cycle, OXENFREE II assumes you didn’t make it that far.

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“It’s [Alex's] journey of trying to rescue her friends from the island and unwittingly tapping into this portal that kicks off the events of OXENFREE I, but also the reverberations of that kick off the events of OXENFREE II," said Studio Lead Writer Adam Hines in the same interview.

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Much of the mystery Riley and Jacob work to uncover in the sequel is built on the foundation of the clues left behind on Edwards Island by Maggie Adler. Jacob has been studying her work, and even previously buried letters she wrote around Camena when he was a kid (for $10 a pop, he claims). She’s and Edwards Island are a consistent thread throughout this game, as OXENFREE II only builds on the lore created in the first game.

In the first tape from Night School Studios released on the developer’s YouTube channel leading up to OXENFREE II’s release, Studio Director Sean Krankel confirmed that the various anomalies players could tune into on the radio in the first game were from Parentage, the cult that plays a heavy role in the sequel.

“That’s what you’re hearing on the radio in OXENFREE I — the villains from the sequel,” one of the devs said.

That said, you could dive into Lost Signals and visit OXENFREE as a “prequel,” but the ending of the sequel won’t have the same effect on you if you don’t play the original first. There’s also no reason not to play OXENFREE first — the title is $9.99 on Steam and the Nintendo and PlayStation eShops. If you have a Netflix subscription, you can play it on your mobile device right now for no additional charge — so get to it!

OXENFREE II is now available to play on Steam, Switch, PlayStation, and Netflix.

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