2023 has been a banner year for games. From Tears of the Kingdom to Baldur’s Gate 3, Star Wars Jedi: Survivor to Resident Evil 4, the hits keep coming. This is as crowded a field as I’ve ever seen, and while it’s cause for celebration, the revelry is bittersweet. For I know people will sleep on smaller titles that deserve the world—like Smushi Come Home.
A bit of backstory: I demoed Smushi Come Home back in March during PAX East 2023. When I met up with publisher Mooneye Studios on the show floor, I knew nothing about the game save for its charming aesthetic, cute fungi protagonist, and (then) title, Shumi Come Home. (Legal issues forced the publisher to eventually tweak the name.) I had zero expectations, yet a brief playthrough—accompanied by solo developer SomeHumbleOnion—blew me away.
I knew Smushi Come Home was something special then, and having played the full game, I still believe it now. In an already impressive year, this small but mighty game deserves your time.
Far From Home
Smushi Come Home stars the titular Smushi, a petite mushroom with a massive heart. One day, when playing on an island with his three siblings, Smushi is abducted by a hungry bird and transported to a neighboring forest. Though he manages to escape, the victory is short-lived. Lost and shaken up, Smushi must navigate the environment and find his way home.
Smushi may be separated, but he’s not alone. Shortly after the altercation, he stumbles upon a lush grove with lovely little denizens. From a bipedal snail who studies local fungi, to a Beedle-inspired merchant who sells you handy trinkets, the creatures of Smushi Come Home are ready to lend Smushi a helping hand. By conversing with people and completing various errands, you’ll unlock new tools, abilities, and pathways to progress.
Smushi Come Home bears similarities with several contemporaries. Its sprint meter and leaf glider—tools you acquire fairly early in the narrative—are obvious nods to Breath of the Wild. Its 3D-pixel art style pays homage to A Short Hike, its use of everyday human objects screams Pikmin, and its positive, can-do story feels right at home within the budding “wholesome game” genre. This is an indie that wears its love proudly for the games that came before it.
Make no mistake, however: Smushi Come Home may take inspiration, but it’s far from an imitation. Its writing pops with flavor. Its world is meticulously crafted, with caves to explore, secrets to find, and mini-games to play. Navigation is a joy, whether you’re climbing a hill, swimming underwater, or trying your hand at an obstacle course. There’s a lot to discover on your way home, and Smushi Come Home gives you ample opportunity to savor the journey.
Short But So Sweet
Much like A Short Hike before it, Smushi Come Home is a bite-sized experience that manages to feel so much larger. Each new area has its own personality, from cozy woods to tropical waters. There’s a new discovery around nearly every corner, whether it’s a fungi species to record in your journal, an inventive puzzle, or a hat to add to your wardrobe. This is a gorgeously realized adventure, without all the fluff of a traditional open-world game.
Sadly, this leanness comes at the expense of longevity. Though Smushi Come Home is a dense experience, it’s not a particularly lengthy one. An average playthrough will take you about two to three hours, while a completionist run took me upward of five. Yes, it’s a short runtime, but Mooneye Studios is hardly demanding a ransom (the game retails for $19.99).
For those gaming on a serious budget, that brevity might be a deal-breaker. For me, it’s a welcome respite from the sea of 100+ hour games out there. Not every title needs to be The Odyssey; sometimes The Little Prince does just fine. Smushi Come Home is just that: a poignant novella of a video game that has a vision and executes it with aplomb.
That’s not to say I don’t have nitpicks. I played Smushi Come Home on Steam Deck and found the default camera controls far too slippery; thankfully, I was able to fiddle with the sensitivity to get the controls just right for my liking. The game also has some technical issues, including some poorly cut dialogue transitions. But these are just that—nitpicks. Like so many of Smushi Come Home’s good-natured characters, I have trouble finding fault.
What else I can say about Smushi Come Home without spoiling its finer moments? Its characters are charming, its gameplay is soothing, and it has a great sense of style. (Just listen to that feel-good soundtrack from composer Failpositive.) And while the experience is a bit on the short side, it’s one that hardly feels undercooked.
If you’re looking for a breather between AAA epics or simply searching for a wonderful indie, Smushi Come Home has enough charm to make you blush. Come for the adorable mushroom; stay for the tender narrative and cozy vibes. This is one homecoming you don’t want to miss.