Mushroom Musume: I love my mushroom daughter

The logo for Mushroom Musume. It shows a little spotted mushroom in a clearing, surrounded by plants, with a floating fairy nearby. The title wraps around the edges.

Someone on cohost was asking for roguelike recommendations, and I had to suggest one of my favorites, a game I was obsessed for a month straight, and one of the oddest, coolest genre mashups I've ever played.

Mushroom Musume is a highly replayable princess raising game. You play as a hermit that wants a daughter so badly you decide to raise a magic mushroom, and she grows up and goes off on adventures.

Mushroom Musume plays *extremely* like a roguelike. You will raise several daughters, and each of them will take a wildly different path, based on random events and choices you make. A single daughter can live a full life from dirt to dirt in less than 30 minutes. The first act of a run is spent as the hermit, making choices on how you raise your daughter - what do you feed her? are you strict or lax? do you teach her magic or how to farm? - and these affect her mushroom species and her statistics in the second act, where your daughter leaves home to explore the world, where the game begins in full.

A picture of my mushroom daughter, Imamu. She is a cute girl wearing a button up dress with a ribbon, but she is dripping, and on her back is the merged body of a second daughter, the mushroom half. She has a strange texture and tentacle-like appendages everywhere. Her species is 'Looming Blood Cordyceps'. She has several traits: 'Found Siblings', 'Domineering', and 'Monstrous'. Both faces are smiling happily.

Every day your daughter will run into some strange situation or meet some new person, and you are given choices for how she interacts. Some of these have random dice rolls affected by your stats and resources, and can also manipulate your stats further. Choices you make earlier in her life will affect her later: friends will come back a second time, skills will come in handy. If you meet an artist and convince him to teach you to paint, later on (with some luck and magic) you can impress a noble with a stunning portrait. In the final act of each run, your daughter will decide to pursue a great cause, such as slaying a monster, attending a gala, or climbing a magical mountain. Sometimes your daughter lives a wonderful, full life of adventure. Sometimes she is ripped to shreds before her time. Sometimes she falls in love. Sometimes she settles down for a boring, safe retirement.

I was amazed at how well this works as a roguelike, even though it's a visual novel, even though it lives in the Ren'py engine. Once you've raised a few daughters, some events will become familiar, and you can skip past the dialogue you've already seen. But you can try making a different choice, and some of these have incredibly dense, surprising outcomes. The writing was so frequently compelling that I would raise daughters just to retry a particular event, only to discover that I unlocked a brand NEW choice because of that daughter's particular circumstances. When you get in a flow, you can retry runs very quickly... it becomes a bit sad and thoughtless for your loveable daughters, but it also fits incredibly well alongside the often unforgiving world of Mushroom Musume. You will likely lose several of your daughters to bad choices or bad luck, but even then, you'll experience something enthralling. Grab a new pot and try again.

A visual novel window. It portrays a skeleton making a 'come at me' pose to showboat to the crowd behind him. The dialogue box says: 'Nervously, you take your place opposite the skeletal wrestler, flexing his nonexistent muscles. This mushroom is going down! He yells dismissively, looking back at the crowd for support.'

Here's the thing: This game is so chock-full of secrets! It's been a while since I've seen something that just surprised me over and over and over. You catch a fairy to feed your daughter and she changes shape and suddenly the screen is neon pink and blue. You can stumble into entire subgames full of dungeons to explore. I have never played a VN or princess sim with this level of surprises tucked away. I have raised over 60 mushroom daughters and I have not dug up half of what this game has planted.

And then, there's the tone. The vibes. The vibes are impeccable. It's got all the great hallmarks of a princess sim: sometimes she falls in love, sometimes she dies horribly. Between the stylized photo-backgrounds, the absolutely adorable mushroom girls, and the haunting music, this game oozes a magical vibe. Not your fun, lovable wizard magic, but the unsettling unpredictable magic of witches and nature, where things are often gross and brutal and weird. Of course, it's still silly at times. You can become a pro wrestler. I would get so attached to some daughters, and others I would throw to the wind to see what happens, but I really did love them all, at least a little bit. This is what the game's all about.

I love roguelikes and I love secrets and I love weird games and I love mushroom girls, so here we are. Mushroom Musume rules. Treat your daughters well, or don't.

You can get Mushroom Musume on

Lily 💜