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Thirsty Suitors Is a Hilarious and Refreshing Game Made for the South Asian Community

I feel seen by this game.
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Screenshot of the game Thirsty Suitors featuring a very large character holding a smaller character in their hand.
Courtesy of Annapurna Interactive
Thirsty Suitors
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If you're South Asian, this game will speak directly to you. If not, it's a hilarious romance action game. The gameplay is simple and fun, and the characters are endearing.
A little short at around 10 hours, but it's only bad because I wish it were longer.

Growing up as the child of Indian immigrants to the United States, I’m very used to feeling like I’m on the outside looking in. As a kid, I felt like I didn’t belong anywhere; my skin color set me apart from my mostly white peers growing up in Oklahoma, and I didn’t quite fit in at the temple either. My Indian friends and I felt like in-betweens, not quite belonging anywhere, and it’s something I’ve gotten used to as an adult.

That’s why it came as such a shock to feel like I belonged, to feel seen, among the misfit characters in the video game Thirsty Suitors.

Thirsty Suitors Is Wildly Creative

The premise of Thirsty Suitors, from Outerloop Games, is that you play as Jala Jayaratne, a South Asian (by way of Sri Lanka and Bangalore, India) American woman returning to her small hometown for the first time in three years. Jala left Timber Hills without so much as a word, leaving brokenhearted exes in her wake, along with a loving family. She has some apologies to make, starting with her older sister Aruni, who’s getting married—but Jala doesn’t even know her soon-to-be brother-in-law’s name.

Courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

The story seems simple, and it could be a little boring in someone else’s hands—but thanks to the unique gameplay, excellent art style, and wonderful scripting, it’s anything but. Jala must confront each person in her life, everyone she’s wronged in the past, and fight them in order to forge ahead with a new friendship.

The battle mechanics are a lot of fun: Jala can attack normally, or she can taunt her suitors, making them thirsty, angry, or even impressed, and then take advantage of their status effects to inflict extra damage with special attacks. These rely on specific button presses and timing, but if you struggle with that, accessibility tweaks can help. The battles with suitors are long, but they reveal a lot about both Jala and her opponent.

It’s not just the people from your past that you can fight. There are other random encounters along the way. Jala’s grandmother, Paati, tries to play matchmaker and sends along suitors from matrimonial ads, while the local skate park is being taken over by a creepy guy wearing a brown bear suit (seriously). The skate park is an interesting mystery with an ambiguous ending, but the suitors had me laughing out loud every time I ran into them. It was genuinely a delight to fight these guys off.

Besides her personal journey and the skate park, Jala chats with her parents, tries to make amends with her sister Aruni, and skates around town visiting her aunt, shops, the diner, and the bar. She even cooks with her parents, making traditional Indian and Sri Lankan recipes, a personal highlight for me.

My only complaint with Thirsty Suitors is the game’s length—at around 10 hours to complete the main story along with suitor side quests, it feels short. However, the narrative is tight and well plotted, and if it had been any longer, that might not have been the case. Compared to the epic, exhausting, never-ending games that are increasingly popular, though, the length of Thirsty Suitors feels like a breath of fresh air.

This Game Is for Me, and That’s Revolutionary
Courtesy of Annapurna Interactive

The gameplay of Thirsty Suitors is great, but it’s the story and characters that really stuck with me. It’s easy to get dazzled by the flash of the game—the bright colors and art style are fantastic, and they really draw you in and make you want to keep playing. But it’s the characters that have stuck with me.

Jala is not a great person at first glance; she’s made a lot of mistakes. She’s not really home by choice, but because her latest mistake has caught up with her. The player has discretion over how she acts toward others—is she a heartbreaker? Is she a people pleaser?—but the result is the same: making amends for the hurt she’s caused, accepting responsibility, and forging a new path forward.

There’s also a lot of substance here. This is a game made for the South Asian American community—those who immigrated as kids or, like myself, were born in the United States to immigrant parents and found themselves caught between two worlds. The main purpose of this game is to make us, who are often so forgotten in modern media and pop culture, feel seen. We’re so used to seeing ourselves in people who don’t look like us, don’t act like us, and don’t have our mixed backgrounds and cultures because it’s all we’ve had.

And often, the representation we have now in pop culture isn’t actually about us. Instead, it’s about educating other communities about us. Sure, I can relate to those characters, but it’s not really feeling seen. That’s why it’s so revolutionary to experience something that feels like it was made for me and for people like me, which clearly Thirsty Suitors was.

The game is brimming with its cultural heritage. It features the good—food, loving families—but doesn’t paper over the bad: Jala’s loving parents accept her queer identity, but she has other LGBTQ+ South Asian friends whose families have cut off contact. At home, Jala chats with her parents and raids the fridge at night for her favorite childhood dishes: parathas, jalebi, and dal. Certainly anyone without a South Asian background can enjoy playing the game and making these dishes, but to me it’s comforting and familiar because it’s what I know. Jala also confronts her parents about cultural trauma and expectations, something that our communities often don’t talk about enough.

And that’s what’s amazing about this game. Many of these characters are purposefully exaggerated caricatures, but they feel familiar and the conversations (and the pain behind them) are real.

In the end, Thirsty Suitors is a game about a group of misfits who try to find peace. And it was nice, for just a little while, to feel like I belonged among them.