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What is Only Up!, the climbing game blowing up on social media?

It’s a whole heck of a lot weirder than the Pixar film

A player climbs towards the sky in Only Up!, running along a rickety bridge surrounded by massive red balloons and balloons in the shape of a Shiba Inu head. Image: SC-KR Games
Cass Marshall is a news writer focusing on gaming and culture coverage, taking a particular interest in the human stories of the wild world of online games.

If you’re a gamer in any capacity, your cup likely runneth over with great games to play right now. There are hits like Diablo 4, Final Fantasy 16, and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, to name a few. But many people, from big influencers to humble players, are choosing to spend their time on an unlikely candidate: Only Up!

Only Up! is similar to Getting Over It With Bennett Foddy, a surreal platformer that put the player in the role of a shirtless man crouched in a cauldron, using his mighty sledgehammer to climb a magnificent and surreal peak. Only Up!, which was developed by SC-KR games, is a 3D platformer with a similar premise. The player has to climb past giant disembodied feet, Shiba Inu balloons, and massive networks of oil tankers and scaffolding. The game took off in China and was eventually streamed by Ludwig Ahgren, which led to it exploding in popularity on Twitch and TikTok.

As Ludwig points out, at the time of his video’s recording, the majority of the reviews are in Chinese. The game piqued his interest, and he gave his viewers a tour through the surreal dreamscapes, wild dialogue — often delivered by an invisible narrator, but sometimes it comes from a dog, and it’s never explained why — and incredible views.

Only Up is a great game for streamers, because it has plenty of “oh no” moments where the player dramatically plummets back to Earth. The game is also unafraid to psych you out; at one point, there’s a crown and a message of congratulations. Is that the end of the game? Absolutely not, you fool. You absolute rube.

Despite the game being undeniably weird, it’s picked up major traction on Twitch. Influencers like Pokimane, xQc, and DrDisrespect have all toured the stunning vistas of Only Up! It also has built-in timers, which is like catnip for speedrunners. All of this has led to Only Up! climbing the rankings; as of June 26, it’s the fifth most popular game on Twitch, casually chilling with titans like League of Legends and Diablo IV.

There’s an element of luck to every game’s success, and Only Up! seems to have stumbled into incredible mainstream success. It’s a deeply strange experience that constantly throws surprises at the player, and if you miss the heyday of Getting Over It, this is the closest thing we’ve seen to a renaissance.

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