Even with my deeper immersion in the tabletop world, I haven’t stopped playing video games, because there are just so many good ones, damnit! And since a lot of them remain unknown, I wanted to share some great puzzle games I’ve enjoyed, some from a while ago and some more recently. Hopefully my list will contain at least a handful that you haven’t heard of. Because there are so many exciting games to talk about, I’ll be dividing this list into three posts:
Available on: Mac and Windows
What is it?
Return of the Obra Dinn is set aboard a ghost ship whose entire crew and passengers have all mysteriously died or disappeared. The goal is to identify each person’s name, cause of death, and attacker, if applicable. This is accomplished by using the tools given to you by the game, such as the ship manifest, a map, glossary, a sketch of everyone aboard the ship, and, most importantly, a special stopwatch that allows you to access the memories of the dead as you walk around the ship and find their corpses... but things are not so simple as seeing how they died and recording it. There are multiple layers of deductive reasoning necessary to solve each detail, including but not limited to: parsing information from small bits of dialogue, finding out what other crew members were doing during someone else’s death, using character ranks and affiliations, country of origin, etc.
This is the best deduction game I have ever played. I have never felt more like a real detective trying to piece together obscure pieces of information. We are about a quarter of the way into the game, and I can't wait to sit back down and keep playing.
It prevents you from making wild guesses by only verifying your deductions once you have filled in three people’s fates. Getting those verifications is immensely satisfying.
There is a lot to keep track of, and the game provides an adequate method of reference so you don’t need to do the mental gymnastics of figuring out who was in what memory when. Although you do not discover the memories in chronological order, they are recorded chronologically in your reference book, and you can always go back into a memory to see if you missed something.
Available on: Windows, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch
What is it?
The game centers on the character of Edith Finch, last in the Finch family line, which has a perceived curse that causes members of the family to die in unusual ways. Following her mother’s death, Edith returns to their previously abandoned home to learn about her relatives and their deaths by exploring different areas of the house. Each space offers insight about one particular relative’s past and allows the player to dive into each of their stories and experience it for themselves, accompanied by Edith’s voice narration. As the player has no goals beyond exploring and discovering, it could be said that What Remains of Edith Finch is more of a narrative experience than a game, but with that said, it is a piece of art worth experiencing.
A captivating and touching narrative. There are emotional beats to the storytelling that you don’t often experience in games. It spans from sad to funny, but it is always charming.
Despite not being very “gamey” in the traditional sense, it offers plenty of surprises and fun interactions. You don’t always play the role you think you will, and there were many moments of delight throughout this experience.
Available on: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android
What is it?
Her Story can be described as an interactive movie game in which the player searches through a database of video clips from police interviews and uses them to solve the case of a missing man. There are over 200 video clips, some longer than others, featuring the missing man’s wife as she answers unknown questions to an off-screen police detective. The player can find clips by searching for certain keywords, but the caveat is that with every search, only 5 videos in the database are shown to you, even if many videos with that keyword exist. The core gameplay revolves around finding new keywords to search by watching the clips and catching new details to narrow down the searches and watch the previously unseen videos.
A mystery that keeps you captivated until the very end.
A unique gameplay mechanic.
The videos feature a performance by an actual human woman, adding to the realism of the story.
It has a solid detective feel as you piece together limited information using deductive reasoning.
What are your favorite narrative-driven puzzle games?