Video Games

Review: The Cat Video Game That Public Health Authoritarians Will Love

Stray began development in 2015, so it's not intended to be an allegory about COVID-19 lockdowns, but it sure seems like one.


After an unfortunate plunge, the nameless main character in Annapurna Interactive's new video game, Stray, finds itself in a sealed-off city populated by semi-humanoid robots. The city is safe from the unknowns of the outside world, and danger only befalls the hero when it tries to escape.

Development for the game began in 2015, so Stray is not intended to be an allegory about COVID-19 lockdowns. Still, similarities are hard not to notice. The city, a public-health authoritarian's dream, was created to protect long-dead humans from the outside world. The few robots wishing to return to the outside after centuries of lockdown are mocked by their friends and hunted by the police. Mutated bacteria that feed on the robots are, ironically, harmed by sunlight once our hero manages to open the city's domed roof.

But yearning for a return to normal is natural, as there's only so much cat-napping, floor-scratching, sheet music–fetching, and meowing to be done in lockdown. The nameless main character is a cat, whom the game's creators have given some very realistic feline tendencies. Thankfully, that cute orange cat making its way back to freedom saves the day and reopens the city.