Leftovers Plays With Memories of Past Interactions With Strangers

Leftovers is about a kid sharing some extra food around their apartment complex. Mom made too much, so you may as well give it to the neighbors. Except, that involves walking around the halls of the building. Knocking on doors. Talking with a lot of strangers. Strangers who seem a bit…off. Not that they needed to be all that strange to make this an unsettling experience. For me (and probably a lot more folks out there), the idea of interacting with that many strangers is frightening all on its own. And this game plays upon that fear in such a way that it dredges up old memories and made them terrifying.

Meeting new people can be challenging. What do you say to someone you don’t know? What do you talk about? How do you deal with not knowing anything about them? I know finding a new cool person can be exciting, but its scary territory when you have no idea what to expect from someone. What if they’re weird? Creepy? What if they think you’re weird or creepy? There’s so many unknowns when you’re talking with someone new.

Leftovers takes that little fear and twists it a bit more. While you might be nervous talking with new people as an adult, it was so much scarier as a kid. I’m of a generation that still got sent out to sell stupid junk door-to-door for school fundraisers. If your sport team or after school group needed money, you’d get sent out to sell chocolate bars or wrapping paper or some other useless thing to your neighbors. I don’t know how much that still happens now, but I do know that I hated doing this. It was so unnerving to just knock on doors and ask for money. Nothing ever happened to me, thankfully. Even so, those uncomfortable memories still stuck with me.

When I think back to walking up to strangers’ doors, I remember the uncertainty. You never knew who would open the door. This game plays on this fear by having you taking food to your neighbors. Mom doesn’t want you back until you’ve given it all away, which means you’ll be knocking on pretty much everyone’s door. Now, while my fears were unfounded as a kid, you have every right to be nervous in this complex. Your neighbors are a bit unsettling, to put it lightly.

Leftovers is full of bizarre, unsettling faces. Just the same, your neighbors are human. They’re not disturbing creatures. Their features are exaggerated and uncomfortable to look at, though. The grins are a bit too wide. Their pupils are blank. Dark lines swallow their eyes. They seem misshapen. It’s like they skew towards a kind of monstrosity, but they aren’t actually monsters. It straddles this eerie middle ground that makes you feel like your imagination is playing tricks. At the same time, it still feels like danger awaits behind every closed door.

They loom really, really close to you when they speak with you. That’s partially because, like I said, you’re a child. The whole world is much larger than you are. Doors stretch up far over your head. When someone opens that door and pokes their head out, they have to peer down at you. There’s this sense of overwhelming danger just from the way these people look out and down at you. The way they lean towards your face, and their features take up so much of the screen.


Leftovers continues to play with your nerves with what the neighbors say. It’s not outright hostile or frightening most of the time. It’s just strange what people want to say to you. Some of your neighbors say some uncomfortable things about your mother. Others seem weirdly hostile. Further neighbors seem too nice (those ones frightened me even more than the others, honestly). It feels like, no matter what they’re saying, there’s a threat behind the words. Something always feels wrong.

And when they have questions, how do you want to respond? The various neighbors often have something to ask you. You answer these questions by nodding to say yes or shaking your head to say no. The questions are typically very innocent stuff about who you are or what you’re giving them. Still, because of the odd faces and eerie people, it feels like the wrong answer will get you killed or hurt. You sense that you’ll go missing if you say the wrong thing. And because you’re a kid, you know how quickly it would go down. It all feels so terribly uncomfortable, and you can’t help but feel extremely vulnerable. But your mom said you can’t come home until the leftovers are gone.

I had these same fears going door-to-door as a kid. The people definitely didn’t look as weird as these folks, but they did look weird due to the discomfort around the interactions. As I’m still alive writing this, though, nothing bad ever came out of knocking on doors. They were just childish fears. Memories I hadn’t though of in years. Even when I did, I quickly dismissed them. Just a kid being nervous. Leftovers shows you that you were right to be scared as it goes on, though.

When conversations shift to murder and missing animals, you can feel that sense of vulnerability increasing. A wrong answer sees you disappearing into an apartment, never to be seen again. It’s very easy to end up in a conversation that gets you killed as the game progresses. In doing so, my childhood memories of going door-to-door come flooding back. They change as I reexamine them in my mind, though. This sense of my own mortality churns my stomach. What if I’d knocked on the wrong door as a kid? Said the wrong thing? Would my parents have ever found me?

Leftovers really makes you feel like a vulnerable child. That perspective makes you feel so small as you’re talking to these people. It feels like you’re talking to giants. Giants who don’t look quite right, too. These giants exude danger, as well. Rightfully so, as you’ll find out as your progress the overarching story. In creating this sense of danger and vulnerability around strangers, it reminded me of all of the strangers I would interact with as a child and the fears I felt back then. While those fears felt foolish, this game takes us to a place where they’re well-founded.

In doing so, it rewrites those past memories in a way, making us wonder how much danger we may have been in without knowing it. It loads them with terror (when they’d previously just been nerve-wracking experiences). The game is a disturbing experience all on its own, but the way it made me feel new frights when looking at my own past was incredible. And very upsetting.