Searching for dream houses
December 14, 2011 10:53 AM   Subscribe

I keep having dreams about fantastic, labyrinthine houses. What video games have similar qualities?

In my dreams, of course, the houses seem to have floor upon floor and basement beneath basement, staircases full of twists and turns, rooms with strange things in them, porches with trees growing through them, secret passages, etc. You know how dreams are. Anyway, I'd like to play some sort of game where the majority of the setting was a sprawling, fantastic house like this, and you get a good chance to explore it and get to know the layout (not just see it in a cutscene or be railroaded from room to room by the plot). I have a Windows XP computer at my disposal, no consoles or whatever, and I'm open to pretty much any genre. 3D graphics would be nice, but point-and-click would do in a pinch. Any suggestions?
posted by rivenwanderer to Computers & Internet (25 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I get this same feeling when exploring a deep cave in Minecraft. It's more naturalistic and randomized, but it may be fun for you. I bet someone has designed a lot of sprawling levels that you could freely explore in the game as well.

I'm not sure what the status of the Myst games are these days, but classic Myst and the Rivend offered beautiful opportunities for exploration of fantastic worlds at your own pace.
posted by Think_Long at 11:02 AM on December 14, 2011

Best answer: The first thing that comes to mind is The 7th Guest, though it may not have aged well.

I haven't played Amnesia: The Dark Descent but it sounds like it might get right at the qualitative core of your dream, at least if you're willing to recast it as a nightmare.
posted by 256 at 11:04 AM on December 14, 2011

I know this exact atmosphere. Myst, Riven, Resident Evil(original/remake), Call of Cthulhu, Psychonauts might all fit the bill.
posted by MangyCarface at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2011

Not answering your question per se, but you should really read House of Leaves if you enjoy mentally wandering in labyrinthine houses.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 11:12 AM on December 14, 2011 [4 favorites]

You are in a maze of twisty passages all alike.

OK, sorry, I assume that antiquated text adventures aren't going to work for you here, but I think that Think_Long pretty much nailed it. I too thought of both Myst and Minecraft as the closest thing I could think of, particularly given that most games that feature houses of any kind are of the sort that they would probably be closer to something from the "H.P. Lovecraft, drunk with a head injury" variety, rather than the dreamscape quality you seem to be seeking.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:14 AM on December 14, 2011

This, plus a vague creepiness, are what gave me nightmares as a small child when my parents played Myst and Riven.
posted by ChuraChura at 11:22 AM on December 14, 2011

Came in to say Myst as well.

You might also like the Submachine online games - they're not really about the architecture or exploring, but they sort of feel like they are while you play.
posted by Mchelly at 11:23 AM on December 14, 2011

Maybe roguelikes? Like Dungeon Crawl or Nethack. They have dungeons, not houses exactly, but they are definitely labyrinthine and if you play in ASCII you could probably just imagine a house instead of a dungeon. Also, free, and very fun.

I know you said no consoles, but Luigi's Mansion for the Gamecube is more-or-less exactly this. You explore a big labyrinthine house and clean out the ghosts with a vacuum cleaner. It's whimsical, not scary, and there's lots of cool rooms. (It might not have the dreamlike feel you're looking for, though.) You could get this quite cheap. (Or maybe computers can emulate a Gamecube by now? I don't know.) Also, Luigi's Mansion 2 is coming out soon for the 3DS. Also for the Gamecube is Eternal Darkness, but as the title suggests it's pretty dark and scary.

You should also consider the Castlevania series. Symphony of the Night, generally regarded as the best, was for PS1 but you could almost definitely emulate it. It's a 2D side-scroller, but it's totally focused around exploring and navigating a cool castle.

Maybe also Ico?
posted by vogon_poet at 11:26 AM on December 14, 2011

Clive Barker's Undying is an older FPS game that has what you're looking for.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 11:41 AM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

I hardly ever play video games but I absolutely loved Ico.
posted by mannequito at 11:53 AM on December 14, 2011

Maybe roguelikes? Like Dungeon Crawl or Nethack. They have dungeons, not houses exactly, but they are definitely labyrinthine and if you play in ASCII you could probably just imagine a house instead of a dungeon. Also, free, and very fun.

If you go the roguelike route I definitely recommend Brogue, it's a good introduction to the genre and the emphasis is more on exploration that some of the bigger more complicated roguelikes.

D is another Myst-style FMV game that involves exploring a creepy castle. Also some of the games in the Thief series are good for this sort of thing, although there are different levels rather than one big house to explore.
posted by burnmp3s at 12:29 PM on December 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Uninvited is one possible option. It's a point and click game. It's older (1986 but they did a 1993 windows port). Googling it I found this download site (I haven't downloaded it myself, so good luck). The screenshots on both these sites aren't from the Windows version, so the graphics look horrible compared to what you'd see if you can get the Windows download to work.

like vogon_poet, I also thought of Eternal Darkness, which I thought was a very good game only available on a Gamecube (though it looks like you can get one of those used for $17 on Amazon so it might still be worth considering).
posted by cali59 at 12:35 PM on December 14, 2011

I'll second Eternal Darkness and Amnesia: The Dark Descent, especially the latter. It has a prequel by the studio called Penumbra that may also be of interest.

If you like exploring Minecraft caves, Terraria is also fun, though it's 2D.

Also, this isn't exactly what you're looking for, but a big part of the draw of Skyrim (and its predecessors, Morrowind and Oblivion) is that they are HUGE and richly detailed worlds that are totally open to exploration. If you just want to wander around in something beautiful, then Skyrim especially is a good option. While the hugest part is the open world (basically an entire country you can explore) it has thousands of houses, castles, fortresses, palaces, caverns, mansions, mines, and dungeons you can explore.
posted by Lifeson at 1:08 PM on December 14, 2011

Best answer: You definitely want to play Ico. Unfortunately it's a console game; fortunately it's all fancy and remastered and HD for PS3. If you're savvy you could play it on an emulator on your computer. I know what sorts of dreams you're talking about; I'm similarly inclined, and there has been no other game that has come as close to putting what's in my head into visual form as Ico has.
posted by Mizu at 1:10 PM on December 14, 2011

Response by poster: I'm actually already a huge Myst/Riven fan (see also my username), and I liked the Submachine series and wandering Minecraft caves. I'm open to things that are more horror or action-oriented, too. Ico and Amnesia are both sounding pretty promising (and you're right, House of Leaves is definitely on my to-read list for this reason).

Keep the suggestions coming, everyone, there have been some great ones so far! :)
posted by rivenwanderer at 1:14 PM on December 14, 2011

This is not a game, but an illustrated book that involves wandering around a crazy dream house: MAZE, The World's Most Challenging Puzzle. It's quite a pleasure to hold the actual book, or a clickable online version is available.
posted by Wulfhere at 1:33 PM on December 14, 2011

BTW, in the online MAZE, you can click "make large" and "make color" in the upper right to get better quality illustrations.
posted by Wulfhere at 1:37 PM on December 14, 2011

You can build your own in The Sims 3. It's not quite the same as what you're asking about, but it can be very satisfying to build it yourself from the ground up.

I believe in the current version of the game you can build up to 5 stories high, and down to 3 sub-basements. Some of the lots are pretty big, so that gives you a really huge potential amount of real estate to explore/create.

(Damn, now I want to do this! If you build one, upload it to the Exchange and drop me a line, I'd love to see it!)
posted by ErikaB at 5:13 PM on December 14, 2011

This made me picture a game I played once, and still have visions of. This would have been between 1999 and 2002, and my coworkers would frequently play it networked. Pretty sure it wasn't Doom or Quake, could possibly have been (that other one whose name escapes me and I can't seem to Google). Anyway, this particular level I recall had a big house and loads of underground tunnels connecting to different parts of the house and surroundings.
At any rate, Doom and Quake should run on any old PC no problem, and tons of custom levels have been made - you could even make your own!
posted by attercoppe at 5:27 PM on December 14, 2011

Fatal Frame games, though its horror. And console.

Silent Hill 2 (maybe others, but 2 is often the best), though its just really mind screw and horror and twisted and insane and I cant play it with the lights out.

Alone in the dark, maybe. Old and or of varying quality remakes/sequels.

Maniac Mansion!

Resident Evil 4 has a big house and a castle.

RL, Winchester Mansion.
posted by Jacen at 6:50 PM on December 14, 2011

American McGee's Alice fit the bill for me.
posted by ydant at 7:00 PM on December 14, 2011

Seconding Silent Hill 2.
posted by Occula at 9:00 PM on December 14, 2011

You'll more than likely have to run this in a *cough* emulator but there's an obscure Japanse Playstation (as in PS1) game entitled LSD: Dream Emulator, which might fit the bill--at least until somebody makes that Gormenghast game I've been waiting so patiently for.
posted by Life at Boulton Wynfevers at 2:39 AM on December 15, 2011

Shivers, although old and kind of hokey, involves exploring a large abandoned museum with lots of different rooms and passages. I really liked the museum design.
posted by castlebravo at 9:32 AM on December 15, 2011

Oh! The other game that's evoked my dreams in shocking ways was Prince of Persia (2008). You can play it on Windows. I played it on PS3 so idk about gameplay, but you get into a sort of hypnotic rhythm exploring ruins and gorgeous dilapidated architecture. It's got a beautiful aesthetic and lovely music. Reviews of it were mixed as it was a large departure from the Prince of Persia franchise, but it's one of the few games I've ever beaten, let alone played multiple times.
posted by Mizu at 10:11 AM on December 16, 2011

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