Little Inferno (2012)

by Nish
7 minutes read


An inventive and contemplative indie game, Little Inferno captures the hearts of players with its unique premise, compelling narrative, and subtle social commentary, all centered around a cozy fireplace.


In Little Inferno, players are greeted with the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace, a virtual fireplace that becomes the center of the game’s universe. As players burn toys, electronics, and an array of whimsical objects, they not only find amusement but are also subtly drawn into a critique of consumption and passive entertainment.


“Little Inferno,” developed and published by the American independent game developer Tomorrow Corporation, is a unique puzzle video game that was first released for the Wii U in November 2012. The game later became available on Microsoft Windows, iOS, OS X, Linux, Android, and Nintendo Switch.

The game is set in an icy world plagued by dangerously dropping temperatures and constant snowfall. The player is situated in front of a brick fireplace, which they use to set various objects, such as toys, dolls, and electronics, on fire. The game encourages the player to burn any combination of objects to see how they react when lit ablaze, as most of the objects have unique properties.

The player assumes the role of a small, largely unseen character who possesses the fictional “Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace,” which they use to incinerate various objects to keep warm. This is necessary due to a seemingly unending drop in the game world’s temperature.

The objects release money when they are burned, which is used to purchase more burnable objects from mail order catalogs. In order to progress the narrative, the player must burn the newest objects available to them, unlocking new catalogs and expanding the selection of (more expensive) objects. There is no scoring system, nor are there any penalties or time limits imposed on the player, allowing them to freely experiment with burning any combination of objects.

“Little Inferno” is classified as a sandbox game as it offers few traditional objectives to complete and has no states of failure. The game was designed as a satire of similarly themed video games in which the player dedicates long amounts of time to performing tasks considered to be unrewarding.

The game uses a drag and drop interface to position and ignite the objects. The PC versions are controlled using a mouse, while the Wii U version can be controlled with the Wii Remote pointer or with the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen.

The story saw players burn down their home towards the end of the game, escaping the loop of ordering and consuming items in the fireplace. “Little Inferno” then became an adventure game, with an explorable town filled with new locations and characters, though most residents were still indoors, burning items in their fireplaces.

Creator Kyle Gray explained that the fireplace burning simulator isn’t a message about global warming or free-to-play games, but about not wasting the time in your life. “It was more about getting out of a job you hated, or a bad relationship or anything like that,” Gray said. “In Little Inferno, everyone’s stuck doing the same thing over and over.”

“Little Inferno” garnered widely varied reactions upon its release. Some reviewers praised the unique gameplay concepts and satirical narrative, while others believed the gameplay was too simplistic.

“Little Inferno” is a game that challenges the norms of traditional gaming. It’s a game that encourages players to question their actions and the value of their time. It’s a game that, quite literally, plays with fire.


The Player, Sugar Plumps (the neighbor), Miss Nancy (creator of the Little Inferno Entertainment Fireplace), The Weather Man


Gameplay revolves around selecting items to burn in the fireplace, which in turn generates money to buy more items. Some objects interact in unique ways when burned together, offering puzzles for the player to solve. The game encourages exploration and experimentation within the confines of the fireplace.


Little Inferno stands out as a testament to the power of video games as a medium for storytelling and commentary. Its engaging, if unorthodox, gameplay and poignant narrative invite players to look beyond the fire and consider the implications of their in-game actions and real-world consumer habits.

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