Spiritfarer, as described by the game developer, Thunder Lotus Games, is a “cozy management game about dying," but it contains so much more than that. Thunder Lotus first introduced Spiritfarer in 2020. The game’s unique approach to the concept of death, and its tear-jerking story update have made it an indie must-play.
Players take on the role of Stella, a ferry master on a boat that guides the deceased, presented in the shape of animals, into the next life. Gameplay consists of completing specific quests and unraveling the stories of those that board the boat. As the story progresses, Stella uncovers her own story and finds out how she got to this strange world.
There are many aspects of Spiritfarer that make it memorable, and not just in the overall feeling it leaves in the player, but how it evokes it. A lot of this emotional delivery is found in the stories and journeys with different spirits that Stella must accompany to the Everdoor, the portal into the afterlife. Of course, as with all stories, some characters are easier to like than others.
Thunder Lotus took characterization to a level that is rarely seen in other games. Every Spiritfarer spirit that joins Stella during her ferry master journey brings a whole new flavor to life on the boat. Some spirits are caring and friendly while others are demanding, unappreciative, strict, or even downright hostile. What makes it interesting is that each Spiritfarer spirit plays an important role in Stella's story, regardless of their personality.
So which Spiritfarer spirits are the easiest to get along with and which ones do players usually try to hurry and escort to the Everdoor? Starting with the best and ending with the worst, let’s jump right into the list.
This list will contain spoilers; if you haven't played the game, please beware.
So, first of all, Lily is not one of the Spiritfarer spirits that can be sent through the Everdoor. She was added in the “Lily update” in 2021 and was revealed to be Stella’s sister, who speaks to her while Stella remains in a coma in real life. Lily is represented as a figure made out of butterflies in the dream-like animal world Stella has imagined. She is found closer to the end of the game and helps Stella prepare for her own departure through the Everdoor.
This toad spirit is Stella’s uncle. He is the happiest of all the Spiritfarer spirits, at least on the outside. He enjoys all the food Stella cooks for him and is handy around the boat. Atul’s departure from Stella’s boat gave my emotions a heavy blow, and I’ve noticed other players feel the same way.
Astrid is Stella’s friend and adopted grandmother represented by a lynx. She has a big heart, not only seen in her character’s gameplay interactions, but also in her backstory. Astrid saved Jewish children in World War II by hiding them in the basement of a restaurant her mother owned. Throughout life (and death), Astrid made it her priority to help others.
Summer is Stella’s aunt who died from cancer. Her representation character is a snake, a form that isn’t accurate to her personality at all. Summer takes it upon herself to aid Stella in spirituality and understanding life. She also has an interest in music and teaches Stella a song that helps resources grow in the garden area; this stems from Summer's interest in biodynamic farming while she was alive. She was also extremely influential in Stella's life, inspiring her to become a nurse.
Buck is another unique Spiritfarer spirit in that he cannot be taken to the Everdoor; this makes him a constant companion for Stella throughout her travels. He is a green dragon that represents the spirit of a boy Lily knew and that Stella had only heard about. His personality is depicted in what Stella learned about him from Lily and in what stuck with her over the years. Buck has a heavy interest in tabletop RPG games, which is presented in all of his dialogue and specific mini-game. In real life, hearing about Buck sparked Stella’s own interest in role-playing games.
Gwen is the first spirit the player will encounter in the game. This deer spirit is the representation of Stella’s childhood friend who had lived a troubled life. She helps gently guide the player through the beginning of the game and gets the overall story started with her own specific requests. She doesn’t act super close to Stella, but it is always hinted that she does care for her.
Alice is a mole spirit that represents Stella’s first patient after she became a palliative care nurse. She is a sweet spirit who often mistakes Stella for her own daughter, hinting that Alice suffers from dementia, which gets worse as the game progresses. Alice lived most of her life as a housewife who was devoted to taking care of her children and only experienced adventure through books.
Gustav is an owl spirit. In life, he was a German art curator that had held a lot of respect for not only art but history and architectural structures. This extensive knowledge, however, made Gustav develop a sort of snooty personality. Stella met him while traveling through Japan. Gustav is a helpful spirit in the sense that he will sometimes provide Stella with expensive goods to sell, such as tchotchkes. He also adds to the boat's atmosphere by occasionally playing the violin.
Stanley is the only child spirit in the game. He was an 8-year-old boy who died from an unknown illness. He was also the youngest patient Stella ever cared for. Stanley isn’t found at any location in the game, rather, he is grown as a mushroom in the garden by a mysterious seed. He often gives Stella odd requests to fulfill, adding a different and innocent presence to the game.
Beverly was added to the game in the Summer 2021 update and is the second owl spirit in the game. She was Stella’s neighbor in life and often talks about her family and farmhouse, even becoming upset when her guest house on the boat is not up to her standards.
Jackie and Daria were added in the final major update for Spiritfarer. Even though they are found in separate locations, this hyena and bat duo are linked together in the list because their stories heavily influence each other. Jackie, the hyena, is the grouchy caretaker of Daria, who is suffering from an unknown illness and finds solace in music; the two have a difficult relationship. However, both characters were a welcome final addition to the game.
Giovanni is a lion spirit and is the ex-husband of Astrid. Throughout his lifetime, Giovanni lived life to the fullest, which often led to the detriment of his relationship with Astrid. He often enjoyed the richest things in life, which include the best foods and clothing. He also leaves the ship to enjoy the company of women, much like in real life when he cheated on Astrid. However, before being escorted to the Everdoor, Giovanni expresses regret for living in a way that hurt Astrid.
Elena is the only dog spirit in the game. She was a cold and strict teacher during her life and was one of Stella’s patients. Her mean personality and rude behavior carried over into the afterlife and offers an extra challenge for Stella to deal with while Elena is a guest. She is never pleased or satisfied and never allows Stella to hug her (until the end). Elena’s story is really where her character shines. She was in charge of students that never listened, so she challenged them by “laying down the law” with her approach to teaching; though her end goal was to help her students learn through hardships in order to grow into leaders.
Mickey, the buffalo, was a patient in Stella’s care, and Bruce, the hummingbird that carries Mickey, was his brother that never left his side while he was in the hospital. They lived a life of crime which ultimately leads Mickey to suffer from gunshot wounds.
These two are the most difficult Spiritfarer spirits in the game due to their mean ways. They often lower the mood levels of other spirits by bullying them and are rude toward Stella in nearly every interaction. It’s worth mentioning that Mickey cannot speak and that Bruce does all the talking for him. As in real life, Bruce has to come to terms with his brother’s impending death, which causes him to become hostile. These two brothers could be said to represent the stages of grief. So, even though these brothers are the most difficult Spiritfarer spirits to deal with in the game, their story nevertheless leaves a gut punch to the player’s emotions.
No matter the ranking of the spirits in Spiritfarer, the Thunder Lotus team has truly created an original and heartfelt gaming experience through its delivery of characterization and unique perspective on death. With the introduction of the final update, it’s worth going back to revisit the beautiful gaming experience Spiritfarer has to offer - this time in its entirety.