The game begins in an apartment. The player is shown six sisters to choose from and is given no information about them other than a name. When the player selects a girl, the journey begins.
The player is given control of the girl, and is instructed: "Go to Grandmother's house and stay on the path."
As the player explores, they find various items scattered around. However, there is no 'interact' button. For a girl to pick up or examine an object, the player needs to move her close enough for a superimposed image of the object to appear on the screen, then let go of the controls. The character will interact and an image will appear on the screen, indicating what has been unlocked; every item a girl encounters in the forest shows in some shape or form in Grandmother's house, and some objects open up whole new rooms. Small text will also appear, a thought from the current character. Some items can only be picked up once and do not appear in subsequent runs. However, each character will have something different to say about an object, so the player has the option to access a "basket" to see what they have collected.
It is not required to find the Wolf. In this game, there are no requirements but the ending at Grandmother's house does change dramatically after the wolf encounter. The girl encounters the Wolf, there is a brief cut scene, and the screen goes black. Afterward, the girl is lying on the path in front of Grandmother's house.
When the player enters Grandmother's house, the style of gameplay changes. It is now in first person, and the character moves forward along a pre-determined path. If the player got there without interacting with the Wolf, they arrive safely, cozy up next to Grandmother and are sent back to the apartment. The girl the player guided will still be there, and can be played again. If the player did go to the Wolf, then everything in the house is darker, and if the player remains still for too long, darkness clouds the screen, and something growls. Depending on the girl, doors are scratched, or furniture tipped over and broken, or strange black threads are draped across everything. Instead of ending with Grandmother, the music crescendos as the player enters a final surreal room before falling down, and things black out again. Images flash on the screen, featuring the girl being attacked by her Wolf, before the player is relocated back in the apartment. The girl played is not there, and will remain absent.
When all of the girls have encountered their wolves, a girl in a white dress, who could be previously encountered by the sisters, becomes playable and visits Grandmother's house. The girl will then travel through the house, now a combination of all of the end rooms of the previous girls ending with the no-wolf room. Upon reaching the grandmother, the girl appears in the apartment covered in blood, but alive. The sisters all return through the door and the game starts over.
- Robin is the youngest sister and the more traditional Red Riding Hood. She is 9 years old, and is apparently intrigued by the mysteries of the forest, and just beginning to wrap her head around the concept of death. She also wears a red hooded coat. Her wolf is a literal one, but much larger and standing on its hind legs.
- Rose is 11 years old. She is kind-hearted and matured, having a liking for nature, and has an interest on flight and water. She wears a black dress. Her wolf is a bizarre humanoid covered in clouds who levitates off the ground by spinning.
- Ginger is 13 years old. She is a tomboy and has fun running around, hitting things with sticks, and climbing trees. She seems to dislike the idea of becoming an adult. She wears a short jumper. Her wolf is a girl resembling The Girl in White who plays games with her in a field of flowers.
- Ruby is 15 years old. She is somewhat dissonant, and dresses in a goth fashion. Her leg is in a brace, and she walks with a limp, but runs faster than any of her sisters. Her wolf is a young man at a rusty playground.
- Carmen is 17 years old. She enjoys attention (particularly that of men) and does what she can to get it. She wears form-fitting capri pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Her wolf is a middle-aged lumberjack.
- Scarlet is 19 years old. She is a musically talented girl who had to stop her passion to take care of her sisters. She wears a red mini poncho and flared pants. She is stern and orderly. Her wolf is a male piano instructor.
- The Girl in White is a mysterious girl who can be seen by the player if they wander off into the woods. If encountered, she leads the girls back to the path. If all of the girls have encountered their wolves and are unplayable, she becomes playable. She has no wolf or special encounters of her own. In the demo version of The Path, she is the only playable option.
Iain McCafferty of Videogamer.com called The Path "a hugely significant work in terms of what a video game can be beyond the realms of throwaway entertainment" and "potentially a seminal moment in video games." He claimed that "It will be years before a game made by the big budget software houses like Ubisoft or EA is brave enough to attempt anything remotely similar, but The Path shows promising signs that gaming is starting to grow up."
Heather Chaplin, of Filmmaker Magazine, pointed out how uniquely feminine The Path is: "For me, The Path is about what a remarkably fine line it is that separates childhood from adulthood, innocence from cynicism, and how utterly not black-and-white most things in life are."
Tim Martin of The Daily Telegraph cited The Path as a recent example of a "vigorous experimentation with techniques of narrative." He likened it to "an Angela Carter novel, as siphoned through The Sims."
Steven Poole of Edge opines that the game is a "a supremely boring collection of FMVs with pretensions to interactivity that very quickly wears out its joke about control and becomes a tedious slab of nihilistic whimsy," (presumably meant metaphorically, as the game is in fact completely real-time, with no full motion video sequences) yet noting that the game features a "lugubrious, Lynchian surrealism" and that "in its ornery and precious way, The Path is a triumph of atmosphere, coming much closer than the cruder shocks of games such as Silent Hill or Bioshock to a dramatization of what Ernst Jentsch and Freud analyzed as the "uncanny" in literature."
An in-progress, alpha-stage version of The Path was nominated for Excellence in Visual Arts after being exhibited at the Independent Games Festival in 2008.
The Path was first announced on the Tale of Tales Game Design forum on March 16, 2006 under the working title 144, on the pattern of their first-started, on-hiatus "Tale of Tales" 8 (chosen for the universal, language-independent nature of arabic numerals). This number originally referred to the six 24-hour periods of the six days in which the game was set, but in the released version refers to the 144 coin flowers.
According to the developer, the game is not meant to be played in the traditional sense, in that there is no winning strategy. In fact, much of the gameplay requires the player to choose the losing path for the sisters to run into encounters which they (and the player) are meant to experience. Even the story narratives are not typical for a game, as explained by the developer, "We are not story-tellers in the traditional sense of the word. In the sense that we know a story and we want to share it with you. Our work is more about exploring the narrative potential of a situation. We create only the situation. And the actual story emerges from playing, partially in the game, partially in the player’s mind."