Cult classic horror game Yume Nikki unexpectedly appeared as a free download on Steam today, alongside a two-week countdown timer teasing “the next Yume Nikki project.” For years, the unofficial English translation had mostly been available as a downloadable .exe on various fansites, with a browser version launching in July 2016, making its sudden arrival on Steam quite an exciting moment for fans of the homebrew Japanese horror game.
The new Steam version lists its publisher as AGM Playism, a Japan-based distributor focused on localizing and publishing indie games from around the world. IGN has reached out to Playism for comment regarding Yume Nikki’s arrival on Steam.
An embed for the countdown timer, hosted on a Kadokawa domain, has a message in Japanese that reads, “Yume Nikki: Dream Diary. Will be released soon.” (The title Yume Nikki literally translates into dream diary.) At the bottom of the page, it lists developer Kikiyama as the copyright holder for Project Yumenikki. Below that, it lists Kadokawa Corporation, a Japanese company which operates several publishing, film, and cross-media brands, including Dark Souls developer FromSoftware.
Kadokawa announced a mobile visual novel called Yume Nikki: The Fourteenth Door late last year, according to Famitsu. Possible posters for the project were also spotted by fans at last year’s Comiket, a popular comic book/dōjinshi festival in Tokyo. Whether any of this is linked to the countdown timer is up for speculation, but seems likely given the Kadokawa link.
This wouldn’t be the first time Yume Nikki has been adapted into a licensed spin-off. An officially licensed Yume Nikki light novel and manga series were published back in 2013 by PHP Institute and Takeshobo, respectively. In 2017, digital publishing company J-Novel Club acquired the rights to localize the Yume Nikki light novel, Yume Nikki — I Am Not in Your Dreams, as well as one based on another cult hit Japanese RPG Maker game, Ao Oni.
Yume Nikki was initially released in 2004 by Kikiyama, an anonymous developer presumably based in Japan. The RPG Maker-created adventure game has earned cult classic status over the last 14 years, beginning with its popularization on the Japanese forum 2channel. Its influence spawned a number of RPG Maker spin-offs and fangames, like .flow, Yume 2kki, and Yume Nikki 3D, and helped inspire like-minded freeware RPG Maker adventures like Ib and Lisa the First. Though still very much a cult hit among a small group of enthusiasts, Yume Nikki’s impact can be spotted even in more popular games like Undertale, with the design of W.D. Gaster directly inspired by Uboa, one of Yume Nikki’s most iconic encounters.
Moments like Uboa, which players have a 1 in 64 chance of triggering by following a specific set of instructions never explained in the game itself, are among the reasons for Yume Nikki’s popularity. In Yume Nikki, you play Madotsuki, a hikikomori (or shut-in) who refuses to leave her small apartment. Only by interacting with her bed and falling asleep will Madotsuki allow herself to exit her room and explore a series of interconnected dream worlds, accessible via an ominous hub of doors called the Nexus.
In related news, games writer Lewis Denby dropped the first few episodes of his Yume Nikki podcast Dream Diary earlier today, to coincide with the sudden Yume Nikki announcements. The podcast traces the rise of Yume Nikki and the mystery surrounding its anonymous creator.
Full disclosure: I was asked to speak about Yume Nikki on the podcast late last year, but declined.
Chloi Rad is an Associate Editor for IGN and really loves Yume Nikki. Like… a lot. Follow her on Twitter at @_chloi.