Graveyard Keeper is a Dark, Brutal, and Hilarious Grind

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Graveyard Keeper is a simulation role-playing game developed by Lazy Bear Games and published by tinyBuild. Originally released in 2018, Graveyard Keeper was ported to Nintendo Switch in June 2019. Our hero, the Graveyard Keeper, is in fact a modern man just trying to get home to his family on a dark and rainy night. His love calls to check on him as he is walking across the street, and before he can answer her call, he is struck by a car and transported to a foggy dreamscape where a man with a red eye informs him that he has turned a page in his life and a new chapter awaits. Our hero protests, “But I need to go home! Can I go home?” The man informs him that his home is a graveyard now, and that is where our adventure begins.

Our hero is trapped in a foggy dreamscape. Can he ever get home?
Our hero is trapped in a foggy dreamscape. Can he ever get home?

First, you—the Graveyard Keeper—must dig up Gerry, your predecessor. You soon discover that Gerry is a skull, and although the man with a red eye had led you to believe that Gerry would answer your questions, Gerry instead asks you questions that you aren’t sure how to answer (like “Where are we?”) and doesn’t remember much about anything. But he does remember a donkey and the sound of a bell, which he asks you to investigate. As it turns out, the bell signifies that a donkey has hauled in a new corpse from the town. Also, the donkey can talk. And the donkey is also a communist who resents his capitalist employer and his meager pay of 5 carrots per day.

The Graveyard Keeper is getting used to his strange new home.
The Graveyard Keeper is getting used to his strange new home.

Next, Gerry tells you to carry the corpse into the morgue and perform an autopsy, slicing away a bit of flesh to trade for a beer at the tavern. You object—”This is not right!”—and Gerry agrees. “Nothing is right here!” he says. But Gerry assures you that he will help you get home if you just trade some corpse flesh for a beer at the tavern and bring Gerry the beer. (Of course, things are not quite that simple. But we’ll get to that in a moment.) Next, Gerry leads you to the adjacent graveyard, where a corpse burial tutorial ensues. Burying corpses yields burial certificates, which can be traded for money at the tavern. You’ll head there next.

"WARNING!!! Do not use goat skulls and upside down stars for decoration!"
“WARNING!!! Do not use goat skulls and upside down stars for decoration!”

At the Dead Horse Tavern, you’ll try to trade your meat for a beer when speaking with the tavern keeper, Horadric. But Horadric informs you that he cannot accept any meat unless it has been stamped with the Royal Meat Stamp. He explains that, many years ago, an incident involving inappropriate meat prompted a rule that all meat must be approved by a royal authority. He informs you that there are two ways to obtain a Royal Stamp: send a form to the royal court for a large sum of money, or get a fake stamp from a guy named Snake. But Snake hasn’t been around in a while, so you might want to ask Ms Charm for his whereabouts, and she only visits the tavern on Lust Day.

The Dead Horse Tavern.
The Dead Horse Tavern.

This is the way the game works: an ever-growing web of interrelated quests and tasks is tied to a robust collection of over 30 NPCs, many of whom are only accessible on certain days of the week. (And in totally inaccurate medieval fashion, the days of the week are named after the six of the seven deadly sins and signified with symbols—but the game is billed as “the most inaccurate medieval cemetery management sim of the year,” so all is good.) For example, on Pride Day of each week, your boss—The Bishop—visits the church to check your graveyard’s progress. Once you have cleaned up the graveyard to his standards, he will promote you to cleric and expect you to lead weekly church services. From there, you will decorate and upgrade the church as you continue along The Bishop’s quest line.

Gradually. you will develop the graveyard and upgrade the church.
Gradually. you will develop the graveyard and upgrade the church.

Other days of the week include Wrath, when the Inquisitor visits Witch Hill to hold witch burning parties; Sloth, when you may find the Astrologer at his lighthouse; Gluttony, when the Merchant comes to the village; and Envy, when Snake visits the church’s cellar. And while tending to these NPCs and their quest lines, you must remember to also tend to the bodies brought in daily by the communist talking donkey. The bodies decay rapidly (unless kept in fridge pallets, which can be crafted) and should be autopsied and buried promptly. And you can’t forget to decorate their graves, either—you are a Graveyard Keeper, after all. For grave-decorating, you’ll need to build a workshop where you can refine raw materials like wood and stone. But don’t forget to gather and stockpile your raw materials! You’ll need a lot of them, so you’d better get to work.

Here's what a developed workshop might look like.
Here’s what a developed workshop might look like.

As you can probably tell, Graveyard Keeper is a brutal grind that might not be a good fit for casual players. Navigating its web of interconnected tasks, quests, and NPCs can feel overwhelming, even with the help of guides. (Our favorite guide for this game is from Neoseeker.) But in our experience, Graveyard Keeper is so worth the grind. Progression feels deeply satisfying because it takes so much time and work. We’re in love with the hi-bit graphics. The dark premise is delightful. And game’s writing—from the storyline to the dialogue to the side-notes in written tutorials (“WARNING!!! Do not use goat skulls and upside down stars for [graveyard] decoration!”)—is laugh-out-loud hilarious.

We’re in love this game’s hi-bit graphics and dark premise.

And on top of it all, there’s lots of DLC to dive into. We already purchased Breaking Dead ($4.99) which allows you to turn corpses into zombies and put them to work for you. (This is incredibly useful and highly recommended.) There’s also Stranger Sins ($9.99), an extra 6-12 hours of gameplay that has you build and run your own tavern, among other things. We bought it, but we haven’t played this DLC yet. And there’s also a recently announced Game of Crone with a scheduled release date of October 27. Game of Crone offers another 6-12 hours of gameplay and involves running a refugee camp and dealing with a terrorizing vampire, among other things. (There is no confirmation yet that Game of Crone is coming to the Switch version of the game, but we assume it probably will.)

We already have Breaking Dead and Stranger Sins installed on our game. Could Game of Crone be next?!
We already have Breaking Dead and Stranger Sins installed on our game. Could Game of Crone be next?!

Graveyard Keeper is a dark, brutal, and hilarious grind that’s not for the faint of heart. We include this warning not because of the game’s dark premise but because the game is quite demanding. You might be tempted to think that Graveyard Keeper just a spooky version of Stardew Valley—a lighthearted farming sim with a simple and straightforward premise—but you would be wrong. Graveyard Keeper is hard. But if you’re willing to put in the work, you’ll likely have a blast, especially if you play during spooky season. So if you like what you’ve seen in our review, why not give Graveyard Keeper a try this Halloween?

Platform – Nintendo Switch eShop Download
Developer – Lazy Bear Games
Publisher –  tinyBuild Games
Price –$19.99
Genre – Adventure, Role-Playing, Simulation
Size – 289 MB

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