Should you play Alan Wake before diving into Alan Wake 2?

Alan Wake 2 review screenshot
(Image credit: Remedy)

Should you play Alan Wake before Alan Wake 2? There's no straightforward answer as it depends on how much you want out of the new survival horror game. As I mention in my Alan Wake 2 review, Remedy Entertainment has delivered an expansive sequel and a deeply metatextual work. That means you'll definitely get more out of it of it if you're well-versed in the original Alan Wake and its DLC, and even Control, Max Payne, and Quantum Break to a lesser extent. But don't let that scare you off as it's still a wild ride even without that additional context. Here's what I think when it comes to playing Alan Wake 1 before Alan Wake 2.

Do you need to play Alan Wake before Alan Wake 2?

Alan Wake Remastered

(Image credit: Remedy)

In short: no, you don't need to play Alan Wake before Alan Wake 2 – on it's own, the sequel is a fantastic experience, and undoubtedly one of the best looking games of the generation so far. But should you play Alan Wake first? I'd certainly recommend that you do take the time to revisit the original if you're able to. For as far as Remedy has gone to make the game friendly to new players, there's no question that Alan Wake 2 is a richer experience if you have some grounding in what the hell is going on, why certain characters are presented in the way that they are, and why certain otherworldly actions are occurring.

I'm confident that you will have a great time with Alan Wake 2 if you haven't played the original. Remedy has designed it to be sort of standalone, in that Saga Anderson – one of two playable protagonists – arrives in the Pacific Northwest to investigate a series of ritualistic murders with little knowledge of the events which occurred when Bright Falls was dragged into a horror story back in 2010. Anderson offers a new perspective on the Alan Wake mythos, not to mention the wider Remedy Connected Universe, and is able to effectively introduce you to the weird plotlines, characters, and otherworldly action that occurs across the adventure. 

When you do switch over to Alan Wake's struggle to escape the Dark Place, I was actually impressed by just how far Remedy went to try and explain some of the more esoteric concepts it puts forward, but there is a large chance that you won't completely grasp the severity of the whole situation or importance of many recurring characters without having played the first game. Alice Wake, Tom Zane, Alex Casey, and others are central figures that play pivotal roles.

Alan Wake 2

(Image credit: Remedy)

You could go ahead and read something like our Alan Wake ending explainer to get a sense of it all, but it's no replacement for actually experiencing it for yourself (or at least watching a Long Play on YouTube). Remedy released Alan Wake Remastered in 2021 and it's the best way to experience the original game these days, especially as it includes The Signal and The Writer DLC episodes. The original game can be beaten in around 12 hours, which extends to around 15 hours if you want to go hunting all of the manuscript pages for extra context clues and plot points. 

In many ways Alan Wake 2 is a love letter to three decades of Remedy history. A stunning survival horror game in its own right, but one that transforms into something truly incredible if you're able to effectively pick up subtle plot points and Easter eggs. If you want to have you mind blown by all of the truly weird, experimental, and wonderful things that Alan Wake 2 explores then a return to Bright Falls circa 2010 should be on the cards for you at some point. 

Which Remedy games should you play before Alan Wake 2?


(Image credit: Remedy Entertainment)

And just as a final point, here's a cheat sheet on how older Remedy games will impact Alan Wake 2:

  • Alan Wake Remastered – Recommended, will give you a better understanding of the world, characters, and story. 
  • Alan Wake's American Nightmare – Optional, but will build a clearer picture of a central antagonist.
  • Control – Optional, will help you understand who the Federal Bureau of Control is. 
  • Quantum Break – Skippable, but you'll miss a few small easter eggs.
  • Max Payne – Skippable, but you'll miss easter eggs and impact of recurring themes. 

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Josh West
Editor-in-Chief, GamesRadar+

Josh West is the Editor-in-Chief of GamesRadar+. He has over 15 years experience in online and print journalism, and holds a BA (Hons) in Journalism and Feature Writing. Prior to starting his current position, Josh has served as GR+'s Features Editor and Deputy Editor of games™ magazine, and has freelanced for numerous publications including 3D Artist, Edge magazine, iCreate, Metal Hammer, Play, Retro Gamer, and SFX. Additionally, he has appeared on the BBC and ITV to provide expert comment, written for Scholastic books, edited a book for Hachette, and worked as the Assistant Producer of the Future Games Show. In his spare time, Josh likes to play bass guitar and video games. Years ago, he was in a few movies and TV shows that you've definitely seen but will never be able to spot him in.