Road 96 is a first-person adventure game set during the mid 1990's in the fictional nation of Petria. The player takes the role of various runaway teenagers attempting to hitchhike to Petria's northern border to escape a tyrannical regime during a pivotal presidential election cycle. Along the way, they'll meet various characters who are connected to a tragic incident that took place 10 years ago which made Petria into the authoritarian nation it currently is today.
The player takes control of various generic teenagers who are never seen during gameplay, but are procedurally generated through random variables such as age, gender, health, and money. As the player interacts with NPC’s in the story, they can also attain skills that can affect their interactions with other characters they can meet on their journey or help them out in various situations along the path.
Each segment of gameplay is generated procedurally along a linear narrative that changes the amount of objects or NPC’s that the player can interact with, and which story scene will generate next in the storyline. Every choice or action the player takes will affect the outcome of one scene and potentially change the outcome of the story at the end.
The objective for each segment in the storyline is to make it to the northern border of Petria without dying or being apprehended by law enforcement entities. Players can eat food items to get a short boost of health or rest at different locations along the route to get a long term restoration. Players can also use money to buy items or services from NPC’s such as music cassette tapes, food, or lodging.
In 1986, a terrorist attack at the northern border of Petria claimed the lives of many people. This incident, which became known as The Collapse of '86, emboldened the already authoritarian government to intrude into the everyday lives of its citizens to ensure President Tyrak ruled forever with an iron fist. Now in a extremely contentious election cycle, many teens are choosing to leave home and start a new life in Petria's neighbor to the north rather than wait for the outcome of a potential victory for the incumbent President Tyrak.
Along the way are various characters with different occupations and political views concerning President Tyrak and the election, but are all connected to The Collapse of '86.